Quebec Liberals still undecided on marijuana legislation

Premier Philippe Couillard at press conference in Val d'Or Friday, September 15, 2017. Raquel Fletcher/Global News

Premier Couillard’s Liberal caucus wrapped up its pre-session retreat in Val d’Or Friday afternoon.

Even heading into an election year, the government made no pre-election announcements that might entice Quebecers to vote for them.

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The government also failed to make a decision on marijuana legislation.

“There’s no war in the caucus,” Health Minister Gaetan Barrette assured.

To the contrary, Barrette said the Liberal caucus had a lengthy and constructive discussion about pot.

The problem he said is that the federal government’s July deadline does not give them enough time — the provincial government is not sure yet about the minimum age, where to sell it, or how to ensure that marijuana and edibles stay out of the hands of children.

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“It’s about social acceptability; it’s about feasibility,” Barrette said.

The government will hold two more public consultations before the end of the month on how to regulate marijuana distribution once it becomes legal in July 2018.

Unlike the Parti Québecois and Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) caucuses several weeks ago where opposition leaders unveiled specific party platforms, the Liberals don’t seem to be in campaign mode.

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The premier avoided answering specific questions about tax breaks, an extra week of vacation or extending the pilot project that allows Uber to operate in the province.

Instead, it appeared Couillard doesn’t think he needs to butter up voters with early election promises.

“In an uncertain economy, you need a team that has proven its mettle. No time for experiments,” he said.

The two-day caucus took place in Val d’Or, where a labour shortage is so pronounced, the downtown McDonald’s isn’t able to stay open. The premier said filling these jobs is one reason why immigration is an important economic driver for Quebec.

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Couillard admitted that immigration will be a delicate subject to debate once back at the National Assembly. Friday, the CAQ accused the premier of not taking a clear stance on the niqab, a debate Couillard said he does not want to get dragged into.

READ MORE: Quebec premier concerned about anti-immigration banners

“We know that this is the way Mr. Legault does politics. If there’s a fracture in our society, what he wants to do is put a knife in the fracture and play with it to make it even more painful,” Couillard said.

The premier said he will steer the political discussion away from this hurtful debate by talking about issues that are important to Quebecers.

“How many women with niqabs have you seen in the last 12 months? I mean, it’s not a practical issue for most Quebecers,” Couillard said.

The new session begins Tuesday afternoon.

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