Ottawa | Canada’s Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has outlined his priorities for the upcoming parliamentary session, including lifting indigenous communities out of poverty, cutting carbon emissions and legalizing marijuana.
The government’s legislative agenda was presented in a throne speech delivered in the Senate by Governor General David Johnston. The Liberals laid out a more streamlined agenda yesterday than most of Trudeau’s predecessors for their first year in office, but the proposals are likely to have a deeper and farther reaching impact.
They include plans to rewrite the nation’s environmental assessment regulations, which the previous Tory administration had gutted; restricting ownership of or banning handguns and assault weapons; replacing Canada’s first-past-the-post voting system before the next election; and becoming the first G7 nation to legalize marijuana. Under Canada’s current system, a candidate that wins a plurality not necessarily a majority of votes can be elected to the House of Commons. An estimated one million out of Canada’s 35 million people regularly smoke marijuana, according to 2014 surveys.
Trudeau himself raised eyebrows by admitting to having smoked pot at a dinner party with friends since being elected to parliament in 2008. He has also said that his late brother Michel was facing marijuana possession charges for a tiny amount of pot before his death in an avalanche in 1998. Trudeau has said that this influenced his decision to propose legalizing and regulating cannabis.
The ceremony kicking off the 42nd parliament included a military march and a performance by native singer and drummer David Charette of the Wikwemikong First Nation. Trudeau and his wife were present glad-handing with groups of Syrian refugees, students and recent immigrants.
The prime minister, just back from a whirlwind international tour taking selfies with fans and dining with Queen Elizabeth II, renewed his pledge for Canada to accept more than 25,000 Syrian refugees, and to work with the country’s allies in the fight against terrorism.