By Peter O’Neil
MONTREAL – Liberal delegates shelved on Wednesday a series of hot-button policy proposals that, if passed at a full plenary session of delegates here Thursday, would have called on a future Liberal government to legalize and regulate the marijuana industry, lower the age of consent for anal sex from 18 to 16, and expand the Vancouver supervised injection site pilot project for drug addicts to all major Canadian cities.
While party members narrowly supported those three proposals at a policy workshop, the Liberals subsequently voted to prioritize three other less controversial suggestions from the party’s grassroots.
The three priority resolutions, which will be voted on by delegates Thursday, call on the next Liberal government to adopt an affordable housing strategy, combat child poverty and ban automatic and semi-automatic weapons.
”I’m not discouraged,” said Sarah Waters of Coquitlam, B.C., a 24-year-old delegate who spoke in favour of the supervised injection site resolution.
Waters works at a home for paroled federal inmates in Vancouver, many of whom have addiction problems and are HIV-positive as a result of sharing needles.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has extended the injection site’s permit to operate until the end of 2007, but has cut off research funding at the facility in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The Harper government has also refused to allow similar projects elsewhere in Canada, and has said it will focus on other approaches to reducing drug use and drug-related crime.
”I think that is something that isn’t going to be going away,” Waters said. ”All of the leaders have all stated their support for safe injection sites, which is exciting, and I think we’ll see some commitment to it later on.”
The marijuana resolution triggered the only fireworks at Wednesday’s ”social and justice policy” workshop, with party members heckling each other while arguing for and against the motion.
It was advanced by Marijuana Party founder Marc-Boris St. Maurice, who left the legalize-pot party to join the Liberals two years ago.
He told reporters Wednesday he thought the Liberal party is the best vehicle to advance his cause.
Adam Tromblay, a youth delegate from Fort St. John, B.C., dismissed concern that legalization will increase crime.
”If we remove marijuana from the hands of criminals we can much more effectively deal with the issues surrounding it.”
Ontario delegate Bob Goulais, who argued against the pot resolution, later questioned St-Maurice’s Liberal credentials, saying: ”This workshop has been duped.” St. Maurice, 37, who presented the resolution on behalf of the young Liberals of Canada, responded by waving his membership card.
The Liberals tried unsuccessfully in the last Parliament to decriminalize pot possession.