A pair of veteran members of Parliament had a spirited exchange Thursday over the “integrity” of the former Liberal justice minister who advised the government on marijuana legalization.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale even invited his Conservative critic Tony Clement to repeat his accusations outside the House of Commons, where parliamentary privilege shields him from lawsuits.
Conservative MP Tony Clement asks a question in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 13, 2017. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Clement rose in question period shortly before the Liberals unveiled their long-awaited bill to legalize cannabis and highlighted a report from The Globe and Mail detailing McLellan’s links to the marijuana industry.
The Globe wrote that McLellan, who chaired the task force that helped mold the government’s approach to pot, is a senior adviser for law firm Bennett Jones LLP, "the ‘go-to’ advisory firm in the marijuana sector." The report noted a dozen lawyers at the firm have stakes in a company expected to profit from legalization.
"Anne McLellan's firm promotes itself as the go-to advisers to the industry, and at least 12 of its employees stand to make millions from their ownership stake in one of the pot companies," Clement said. "She, herself, is criss-crossing the country, promoting the Liberal policy, and handing out her own business cards.
"How deep in the grass does all this Liberal cronyism go?"
Goodale: 'Good luck'
Goodale was succinct in his defence of his former colleague, with whom he served in previous Liberal cabinets.
“If the honourable gentleman wants to attack the integrity of Anne McLellan, good luck,” Goodale shot back, sparking laughter and applause from the Liberal benches.
The remark evidently lit a fire under Clement, who said he would do just that when McLellan and “her law firm” stand to capitalize on Liberal connections.
“While she was designing the framework for this new system, her legal colleagues were waiting in the wings to make big pot profits. Is this new legislation merely a smokescreen for Liberal cronies to fill their pockets?” Clement bellowed before tossing his question card.
Anne McLellan, leader of the federal task force on marijuana, speaks during a news conference in Ottawa on Dec. 13, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Goodale said the “clear answer is no.” He then invited Clement to step outside.
“If the honourable gentleman would like to make those suggestions outside the House, I am sure Ms. McLellan will meet him in court,” Goodale said.
The Liberal government’s pot legislation will, if passed, allow adults over the age of 18 to buy and grow small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Selling the drug to a minor, however, could result in as much as 14 years behind bars.
With a file from The Canadian Press