Nov 18

The West Block Transcript: Season 6, Episode 30


Episode 30, Season 6
Sunday, April 2, 2017
Host: Vassy Kapelos
Guest Interviews: Governor John Hickenlooper, Maxime Bernier, Scott Gilmore
Location: Ottawa

On this Sunday, the government will soon introduce legislation to legalize marijuana. But they have their work cut out for them. We’ll talk to Colorado’s governor about the challenges he’s faced in his state four years after weed was legalized there.


Then, next month, Conservative Party members will choose their new leader. A big crop of candidates is vying for the top job. We’ll speak to one of the contenders leading the pack, Maxime Bernier.

Plus, unrest within the Conservative umbrella: we’ll talk to one long-time Conservative Party member about why he thinks it’s time for a new party.

It’s Sunday, April 2nd. I’m Vassy Kapelos, and this is The West Block.

Liberals are set to make good on their election promise to legalize marijuana, but the process won’t be easy. In a moment we’ll talk to someone who knows the ins and outs of making recreational pot legal better than anyone. But first, here’s a look at how things will roll out here at home.

After months of speculation, we have a date. [Crowd cheers] Pot is set to be legal in Canada by July 1st, 2018. And the legislation to make that happen is coming in a few weeks. It will likely set the legal age for recreational weed at 18 years old. But provinces can set it higher if they want.

Provinces will also get to decide how marijuana is bought and sold and at what price. Ottawa will be in charge of licensing producers. The big questions: How much money will the Feds make from legalizing weed? Are police forces equipped to handle the dangers of edibles and drug driving? And can it all be done in 15 months?

Colorado legalized cannabis just over four years ago. What lessons can we learn from them? Joining me now from Denver is the governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper. Governor, thanks for being with us. I appreciate it.

Governor John Hickenlooper: Of course, my pleasure.

Vassy Kapelos: Originally, sir, you were opposed to marijuana being legalized. But as governor you’ve obviously had to oversee the whole process. Do you still oppose the legalization of marijuana?

Governor John Hickenlooper: Well we certainly look at it differently now than we did back then. Almost every elected official I knew opposed it back in 2012. But now we’ve made an awful lot of progress and I think it’s still an experiment process but we’ve made so much progress that I’m not—you know back then if I’d had a magic wand I could have waved the wand, I would have reversed the vote. Now, I’m not so sure. You know certainly the old system was a train wreck and it looks like the new system might actually work.

Vassy Kapelos: What specifically changed your mind over the course of the last three years?

Governor John Hickenlooper: We had a lot of fears that we would see a real spike in teenage use. We would see real issues around edibles, a large increase in overall consumption and we haven’t seen any of that. You know it seems like to a large extent the people that didn’t used to smoke marijuana still don’t. And the people that smoked it when it was illegal still do smoke it. And we haven’t seen a spike in teenage use or young people’s consumption. Pretty much all consumption’s been flat with the last few years, a slight increase among senior citizens. So, make that what you might.

Vassy Kapelos: [Chuckles] I don’t know what to make of that.

Governor John Hickenlooper: I know.

Vassy Kapelos: [Chuckles] What has been the biggest challenge, I guess though, in the process of legalization from your perspective?

Governor John Hickenlooper: Well first, you don’t ever want to be in conflict with federal law, so that’s been a real challenge. So, like banks—no bank would risk their charter from the federal government and bank the industry for the first few years, so everything was in cash. And this is, in its third year, this was a $1 billion industry. So that’s a lot of cash going around. Now we have a number of smaller banks that’ll risk for a small number of clients they’re willing to bank those marijuana operations. So that’s been addressed. Part of it was just trying to create a regulatory framework from scratch. When we first started working on this, we didn’t worry about edibles. I mean, I didn’t ever expect there would be this gigantic industry around edible marijuana, THC infused cookies, baked goods, candies. When we first started, they were making edible marijuana that looked just like gummy-bears and was very attractive to infants and kids. And we had to go through a legislative process that said no, no, no, no that’s a bridge too far. We’re not going to let you go there, things like that.

Vassy Kapelos: So did you end up legislating edibles? How did you deal with the edible problem?

Governor John Hickenlooper: We legislated them.

Vassy Kapelos: In terms of taxation I should say or pricing cannabis, how did you figure out what the magic number was how to balance recouping the cost of regulation and not taxing too much so as to allow criminals to sort of undersell or undercut the government and create a black market?

Governor John Hickenlooper: Right, well that’s the key is to get the taxing right and we’re still adjusting it. And part of one of the real focus is, part of what we really made a priority, was to use that tax revenue for the unintended consequences of marijuana use. And the initiative when it was first put on the ballot for Colorado voters, it said that the first $40 million would go to the construction of school buildings, school infrastructure. But then after that, it would be used to address unintended consequences. And we’ve lowered the tax a couple of years ago. The goal is to keep lowering it as much as we can until we get rid of that black market.

Vassy Kapelos: Our federal government is grappling with a lot of these issues. They’re set to introduce legislation. It’s kind of different than your situation because it will be country-wide.

Governor John Hickenlooper: Right.

Vassy Kapelos: What advice do you have, I guess for our federal government on the issue of federal leadership? What should we Canadians be hoping to see in this legislation?

Governor John Hickenlooper: Well, I think that what I’ve read, I think you’re in the right direction. Obviously public safety has to be paramount and if it’s not your first priority then there’s something wrong. So making sure that like, toddlers can’t get into marijuana. So if you’re going to have edibles, they have to be in the same kinds of containers that you keep narcotics, your pills, your prescriptions. They have to be closable and difficult for a toddler to open, that kind of stuff. Making sure that you’re really focused on monitoring and measuring so you have a good baseline how many kids are smoking marijuana right now so that you can begin to see is there an increase once it’s legalized because again, I think almost everyone I know, no one thinks that teenagers should be smoking a lot of pot. It’s just not healthy for them.

Vassy Kapelos: In terms of public safety, did you find there was a challenge with resources in so far as enforcing the regulations that you had imposed after legalizing? Did you find that there was not enough resources to kind of do that?

Governor John Hickenlooper: So, we are adding resources this year just because we did find out that this great market, these caregivers, the kind of [00:07:30 fake rose??] was more of a problem than we thought. But we didn’t do too much into resources for public safety just because you know we didn’t think that there would be more marijuana being smoked, and indeed there isn’t. And if we’re doing this legally, that means that a big chunk of the narcotics industry is kind of going away. We’re going to have hopefully less drug dealers. So ideally, it shouldn’t create an increased problem for public safety. Now obviously, a lot of our police officers and a lot of our detectives, they disagree and feel that it’s kind of expanded their problem and we’re trying to negotiate that now and make sure that what we really need the resources for that we have the resources.

Vassy Kapelos: And finally, how much of a work in progress, I guess, is this process of legalization for you in Colorado? Do you feel like you’re at the point where the legislation is working and things are working, or is there still a lot of work left to do?

Governor John Hickenlooper: Well, I think there’s always going to be a lot of work left to do just because it’s changing. And for at least the next five or ten years, I think we’re going to be learning things and you know no one’s ever really studied the consequences of increased marijuana use in different age groups and what intensity of THC and how do we measure if it someone’s driving? Right now, the only way to accurately measure the concentration of THC in their blood is through a blood test, whereas with alcohol, obviously we can have a breathalyser. Those kinds of regulatory frameworks, we’re going to keep trying to get them right and get more detail so that we don’t want to be intrusive.

Vassy Kapelos: Just quickly before I let you go, do you think it’s a good thing that Canada as a country is legalizing marijuana?

Governor John Hickenlooper: I think they’re doing it the right way. Worry about public safety. Worry about children and infants. You know make sure that you’ve got the resources where you need them. And certainly states like Colorado, Washington; we’ve been doing this for a few years. We are only too happy, you know, one of my senior staff guys who’s a Harvard educated lawyer superstar, he goes out and helps other communities now, other states. I’m sure he’ll help anyone in Canada that wants his advice of what are the mistakes we made and how can you avoid making the same mistakes all over again? Hopefully you guys will learn from our mistakes and improve what ultimately might—I mean I think it’s still an experiment, but I think it might turn out to be a better system.

Vassy Kapelos: We’ll leave it there. Thanks very much, Governor.

Governor John Hickenlooper: You bet. Thank you.

Vassy Kapelos: Still to come is the Conservative Party umbrella too big? Is it time for a new Conservative Party? We’ll talk to someone who thinks it is.

But first, next month Conservatives will name a new leader. We’ll talk to one of the frontrunners, next.


Vassy Kapelos: Welcome back. Conservatives will pick a new leader in less than two months and the race has been heating up. There’s accusations of vote rigging, charges or race baiting, and more recently anti-gay comments, causing angst within the party.

Joining me now from Quebec City is Conservative leadership candidate and MP Maxime Bernier. Mr. Bernier great to have you on the show.

Maxime Bernier:  Thank you very much. I’m pleased to be with you.

Vassy Kapelos: I know the membership deadline has recently passed, and I was wondering how many memberships have you been able to sign up.

Maxime Bernier: We were very successful. We’re very happy and I don’t have the number right now because I was travelling. I didn’t have time to speak with my team, but you know, our goal was around 25,000 new members and I think we have a lot more than that. So we’ll wait. But actually, the most interesting in that is we have people from all across the country that wanted to join our team and be with us because they believe in the freedom ideas of our campaign.

Vassy Kapelos: I know Mr. O’Leary publicly released the number of memberships he was able to sign up. It sort of seemed like a bit of a challenge. Do you think you were able to sign up the same number of memberships or did you increase that number?

Maxime Bernier: Well it will be about the same. I don’t have the last number, but it will be about the same. The most important for us is to be sure that people understand our platform. And when they understand the platform and they know that we are fighting for real Conservative values, they are on our side. And that’s the most important for me.

Vassy Kapelos: Let me ask you about those values. Given the number of people in this leadership race, it seems as though some in order to get noticed are putting forth positions that might be perceived as controversial. Things like value screening, the comments from Brad Trost last week about not marching in pride parades. How damaging from your perspective are those positions to the brand of the Conservative Party?

Maxime Bernier: I mean first of all, you know, it is not a part of our campaign. Our campaign is based on freedom, fairness, respect, and what we are telling our members and Canadians, it is what we want to achieve. And others, as you just said, want to have some media attention. And their one issue, a candidate like Kellie Leitch, it’s all about immigration and Canadian values, and you look at her platform, she doesn’t have anything else. For us, we have a comprehensive platform that’s important. But people will understand that people are doing that to have attention, but at the end, you know, the members will choose the leader, and that leader will be the face of the party and will be the face to communicate with Canadians our real Conservative values.

Vassy Kapelos: You mentioned your platform, and I want to ask you about that platform. You said that you would, for example, end supply management in the dairy sector. You would open up the airline sector. You would stop subsidizing Bombardier. You would deregulate the telecom sector. A lot of that is about taking government out of things. What role do you actually see for the government?

Maxime Bernier: Well the government has a role and what I want? I want a government that won’t interfere in provincial jurisdiction, a government that would be strong in his responsibilities, and we have a lot of responsibilities in Ottawa, like foreign affairs. I have a policy on that. I want our foreign affair policy to be based on the security and the prosperity of our country. I want on the economy, we have a role to play on the economy and that’s why I want to have a smaller government to be able to balance the budget. The second budget must be a balanced one and being able to lower taxes for every Canadian. And as you know, I want to give them a $30 billion tax break that will be a thing that we’ll do after achieving the balanced budget. That being said, our platform is comprehensive and we believe in free market, so why giving subsidies to Bombardier or GM? And you know what happened this week with Bombardier. That’s a shame that what they did with the money and as you know, I’m a Member of Parliament from Quebec. My own Quebec government gave a billion dollars to Bombardier and the federal government added, as you know, more than $350 million. So if Bombardier wants to have some money, they can go in the capital market and they will be able to raise money. But I’m against corporate welfare, not only for Bombardier, for GM, for small or for big corporations because we will use that money. It’s about $5 to $8 billion a year. We’ll use that money to lower taxes to every single entrepreneur in this country. That’s a fair policy and that’s a policy that people appreciate.

Vassy Kapelos: But with all due respect, it isn’t just the Quebec government that subsidized or gave money to Bombardier. It was actually your party. When your party was in government, you subsidized Bombardier. You also subsidized GM.

Maxime Bernier: Absolutely.

Vassy Kapelos: So, what changed?

Maxime Bernier: Absolutely, you’re right. And I was the industry minister at that time, and you know, that was not part of our platform. That was not part of the agenda of our government, so we did it. But now that it’s time to stop, I’m the candidate and I don’t to do any compromise with our principles and my principles. And so that’s why I’m saying and they incorporate welfare, so that would be effectively that would be important.

Vassy Kapelos: But do you admit—sorry.

Maxime Bernier: But when I’m saying incorporate welfare it is grants and loans and subsidies to businesses. If an entrepreneur is not able to have a loan from the private sector, why the taxpayers will take the risk? So, with that we’ll be able to save a lot of money, and I would be able to lower the corporate income tax from 15 per cent to 10 per cent, and I will be able also to abolish capital gains tax in Canada. That’s the only way for having more private investment and more growth in this country.

Vassy Kapelos: Were you wrong then, sir, to sign off on those subsidies when you were industry minister?

Maxime Bernier: I think absolutely that was not in line with my values, but you know, I must admit that our government, they didn’t campaign on that. And that’s a big change that we want to do. So that was not part of our platform, so that’s why we didn’t do that. Same thing for supply management, the Conservative Party of Canada, its senior members decided to support supply management. I was part of that government. It was also part of our agenda. We campaigned on supporting supply management. Now I have the opportunity to build a platform in line with all values and my values and people appreciate that. They know that they are paying twice the price for dairy, poultry and milk products and we must stop that. They will save $2.6 billion a year and it’s $500 for each family in Canada. So they know that I don’t want to work for a [00:17:20 cocktail??]. I want to work for 35,000 million Canadians and I’m proud of that. I’m proud to be the only candidate and the only Member of Parliament who is against corporate welfare and supply management.

Vassy Kapelos: Thanks for your time, Mr. Bernier. Good luck in the race.

Maxime Bernier: Thank you very much. Have a nice day.

Vassy Kapelos: Up next, is the Conservative Party umbrella too big? And is it time to create a new Conservative Party?


Vassy Kapelos: Welcome back. As the Conservatives prepare to pick their new leader next month, some within the party are openly musing it may be time for a new party. They say the Conservative Party umbrella is too big, veered too far to the right, and has lost the middle ground. Social entrepreneur and long-time Conservative, Scott Gilmore is promising to host dinners across the country after the leadership convention to get the conversation started. Mr. Gilmore joins me now. Thanks for being here.

Scott Gilmore: Pleasure to be here, Vassy.

Vassy Kapelos: How many people are coming to dinner so far?

Scott Gilmore: Hundreds, unfortunately—

Vassy Kapelos: Really.

Scott Gilmore: Or fortunately depending on how you look at it; bad for my balance book, but good for the country. We’re going to be hosting dinners across the country. People are signing up at 杭州夜生活newconservatives杭州龙凤. And the intention is to have a conversation about does the party reflect our values? And if it doesn’t, what do we do to change that?

Vassy Kapelos: Did the response surprise you?

Scott Gilmore: It shocked me, frankly. I wrote this column, Confessions of the Self-Loathing Tory, very much in the sense that this is my view and I didn’t expect it to be a very common view. But I’ve been stunned at the thousands that have responded, and like I said the hundreds that have signed up. And, that everybody has a very similar story which is they believe in fiscal Conservativism. But at the same time, they’re more socially moderate, like most of this country is. And when they compare their values to the values of the majority of leadership candidates, they’re left wanting.

Vassy Kapelos: There’s always been multiple sides to the Conservative Party though. There’s been the Reform side, the Red Tory, the Blue Tory. What changed? What was the trigger for you that you sat down and decided, I’m going to go public saying there should be a new party?

Scott Gilmore: Paragraph two of that column, actually. [Chuckles] I sat down to write a state of play for the leadership race and I began going through some of the positions of the leaders. And when I took a look at them, whether it was sending troops to the border to stop refugees or not believing in climate change or not willing to walk in a gay pride parade, I was left asking myself how is it possible that I’m supporting a party where these ideas are not just tolerated and welcome, but they actually reflect the most popular leaders?

Vassy Kapelos: Is there no leader? Is there no candidate that you think sort of matches because when I read through your column, I started thinking well this kind of sounds like Michael Chong?

Scott Gilmore: Right.

Vassy Kapelos: So is there nobody there that is worthy, you think, of leading the party in a direction that you think is [00:20:17]?

Scott Gilmore: No, I think you can go through—there’s 14 candidates. I think almost every one of them has some good ideas in there. Maxime Bernier, for example, he’s clearly a fiscal Conservative. He believes in getting out of corporate welfare, but at the same time he wants to cut immigration. He’s against refugees. He wants to loosen gun control laws. Michael Chong probably reflects my values the closest, and he reflects the values, I think, of most people who would describe themselves as Red Tories. And I would argue he’s probably the only candidate in this race who’s capable of beating Trudeau because his values are the most reflective of Canada at-large.

Vassy Kapelos: So, the question I have for you is because the biggest criticism I hear from Conservatives of Michael Chong is he might as well just be a Liberal. So, why make a new party? Why not just vote for the Liberal Party?

Scott Gilmore: So, it’s comments like that that make me think maybe there’s no room for us in the current Conservative Party because I’m not going to speak on Michael Chong’s behalf. But I’m not a Liberal because I don’t believe in big government. I believe in fiscal Conservatism. I don’t believe in identity politics. I believe we need a strong defence. And these are all values that aren’t shared by the Liberal Party. And so, I shouldn’t have to be forced to hold my nose and vote Trudeau when I call myself a Conservative. And I think I have Conservative values that are shared by millions of other Canadians.

Vassy Kapelos: When is the last time you felt at home in the party or that you felt it reflected your values?

Scott Gilmore: Well, you know, no party is going to reflect your values 100 per cent. I felt fairly comfortable working with the party under the Tories. And I did, I assisted them on a few different things and supported them. And over the last three or four years, and particularly over the last 18 months, I would argue it’s become very difficult to do that.

Vassy Kapelos: Why? Just because of those candidates or–?

Scott Gilmore: Well things like, you know, Chris Alexander and Kellie Leitch standing up and talking about, you know, a barbaric practices hotline. You know, I spend a lot of my time working overseas on the importance of the rule of law and the importance of different factions of society, whether they’re religious or linguistic being able to get along together. And then to see somebody who represents my party standing up on TV and talking about how we should have the hotline to snitch on our neighbours that was preposterous, and that was added on to other things that were going on in the party at that time that made me think this is getting to be a little too much.

Vassy Kapelos: If things like that don’t reflect our values, what in your mind is the “perfect” Conservative Party or the new party? What would it stand for?

Scott Gilmore: So Vassy, if you were to go across the country or if you’re viewing audience were to think back to the last time they had a conversation with somebody about their politics and they asked the question how would you describe your politics? Nine Canadians out of ten are going to say they’re fiscally Conservative but their socially moderate. We hear this all the time, and we have two national parties that claim to be that but neither are. And so how would you describe my politics? I wouldn’t say it’s right or left. I wouldn’t say it’s right. It’s not libertarian, it’s not Red Tory. It’s I’m fiscally Conservative and I’m socially moderate. Those are values that are widely shared in this country but they’re not widely shared in the House of Commons.

Vassy Kapelos: It will be interesting to see how those dinners go and how it progresses.

Scott Gilmore: Yes, you’re invited: 杭州夜生活newconservatives杭州龙凤 to sign up.

Vassy Kapelos: [Chuckles] Thanks very much for being here, I appreciate it.

Scott Gilmore: Thanks Vassy.

Vassy Kapelos: That is our show for today. We’re always eager to hear from you. You can find us online at 杭州夜生活thewestblock杭州龙凤. You can also reach us on 杭州桑拿会所 and Facebook. Thanks for joining us. I’m Vassy Kapelos. See you back here, next week.