Who Toked? Who Didn’t?

Parliament stonewalled while politicians admit pot-smoking
By Matthew Little
Matthew Little
Matthew Little
Matthew Little is a multi-media reporter for The Epoch Times.
August 28, 2013 Updated: August 28, 2013

OTTAWA—The final weeks of summer have seen more politicians make pot-smoking confessions following Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s frank admission that he smoked marijuana once after being elected an MP.

Trudeau’s marijuana admission has sparked a national conversation about legalizing the drug and Canada’s stance on the issue. It has also prompted reporters to ask other politicians whether they have smoked marijuana.

Those questions have kept the issue burning, with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford both saying Wednesday that they have smoked marijuana.

Wynne, 60, told reporters that she toked 35 years ago, but rarely.

She said that while legalizing the drug is a federal issue, Canada should have a national debate about it. 

“I think it is one of those contentious issues that we need to debate,” she told reporters in Toronto.

While Wynne’s admission doesn’t carry the same relevance as Trudeau’s admission to the Huffington Post’s Althia Rag that he had smoked since being elected an MP, it was much more surprising than Ford’s.

When asked later Wednesday if he had smoked pot, Ford answered “Oh yeah.” As he and reporters present laughed about his casual admission, he added “I’ve smoked a lot of it,” then walked away without answering how recently that was.

Ford was arrested for impaired driving in Florida in 1999 and had a marijuana cigarette in his back pocket. He has faced allegations of crack cocaine use more recently, though denies using the drug.

At an Aug. 23 event commemorating the victims of communism and announcing federal funding for a memorial to that effect, Employment Minister Jason Kenney and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander also spoke to the issue.

As a reporter started to ask Kenney during a scrum whether he had ever toked, Alexander joked that he didn’t have a light. Kenney went on to say he would let Trudeau’s actions speak for themselves.

“I would like to make a public confession that I do drink coffee,” he joked, and added he had not smoked marijuana previously.

While Kenney made light of the issue, newly minted justice minister Peter MacKay earlier criticized Trudeau for a lack of judgement, saying the Liberal leader had flouted the laws of Canada. 

“He is a poor example for all Canadians,” said MacKay.

However, MacKay was criticized by University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran, who said in a letter to the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society that it was misleading the public to imply that Trudeau broke the law by smoking pot.

Although it is illegal to grow, sell, or possess marijuana, smoking it is not a criminal offence. 

MacKay’s slam was also challenged by comedian Rick Mercer, who tweeted a picture of a younger MacKay drinking from a beer bong. Some twitter users criticized Mercer for comparing MacKay legally drinking to Trudeau’s recent marijuana use.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters last week during his Arctic tour that he has not tried the drug, citing his asthma. He declined to comment specifically on Trudeau’s admission. 

More Sobering Issues

While Trudeau’s marijuana admission has garnered significant headlines, politicians have been more concerned about several other issues that have come up in recent weeks.

Those include the civil war in Syria, Canada’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, and an upcoming auction of wireless spectrum that has dominant Canadian cellular providers crying foul about the rules around American giant Verizon’s possible entrance.

But it is the ongoing scandal surrounding improperly claimed expenses by Canadian senators that would dominate question period if Parliament were to resume mid-September as was originally scheduled.

With new evidence suggesting the Prime Minister’s Office was more involved in decisions surrounding how to deal with the scandal than Harper had previously accounted for, opposition parties have ample ammunition to challenge the PM over the issue.

That leaves the NDP alleging Harper is delaying Parliament to avoid facing questions about how involved his office was in directing implicated senators on how to deal with the scandal. 

The Tories have said Parliament is being prorogued to refocus on core priorities like the economy. Proroguing parliament lets the government reset the legislative agenda by dropping bills currently on the order paper.

Matthew Little
Matthew Little
Matthew Little is a multi-media reporter for The Epoch Times.