POLITICS
06/08/2018 18:43 EDT | Updated 06/08/2018 18:43 EDT

2 Senators Vote In Favour Of Pot Bill Hours After Being Sworn-In

A Conservative senator said some found it "unusual."

Senator Peter Harder. the government's representative in the Senate, waits for the start of a vote in the Senate chamber on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on March 22, 2018.
Chris Wattie / Reuters
Senator Peter Harder. the government's representative in the Senate, waits for the start of a vote in the Senate chamber on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on March 22, 2018.

OTTAWA — Hours after being sworn-in as senators Thursday, Pierre Dalphond and Donna Dasko voted in favour of passing the government's legislation to legalize marijuana, despite not participating in months of Senate work on the bill.

The Senate approved the legislation by a vote of 56-30 with one abstention. It was a vital vote in the upper chamber, which has been studied and debated by senators for six months.

It now heads back to the House with over 40 amendments for MPs to review.

Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos called Dalphond and Dasko's participation in the landmark vote "unsurprising" for two "Trudeau-appointed" senators.

"I think many of our colleagues found that very unusual," he said.

Housakos was appointed to the Senate by former prime minister Stephen Harper in 2008. Despite his criticism, the Tory senator said he has the utmost confidence his new colleagues are competent Canadians who will make a great contribution to the Senate.

But he explained he found it "completely disingenuous" for anyone to arrive in the institution, at the tail end of months of study in five different committees, and take a position on a bill "as important as this, as complicated as this."

New senator shares details of PM's call

Dalphond told HuffPost Canada there was no way he was going to vote against the legislation.

"This is a real social issue and that has to be addressed. And this bill does address that," he said.

Dalphond referenced his experience working in the inside of the justice system.

"It's a matter of personal conviction. I feel that the way we've been doing it for so many years has been the wrong way."

The new Quebec senator is a former judge of the Quebec Court of Appeal. He said he voted in favour of Bill C-45 because after the "soft" drug is legalized, the money for anti-marijuana campaigns will likely go towards more education programs and outreach.

I feel that the way we've been doing it for so many years has been the wrong way.Sen. Pierre Dalphond

Prior to his arrival in the Senate this week, Dalphond said he's been following news coverage and political debate over the marquee Liberal legislation.

The Quebec senator said the appointment committee did not field him for his personal views on Bill C-45.

Dalphond said he received a call from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week.

During their chat, Dalphond said the prime minister told him that he believes in a reformed Senate — and that their call would mark the "first time and last" the two would talk.

Dasko, the other senator whose appointment was announced by the Prime Minister's Office Wednesday, was not available for an interview this week.

Dozens of senators spoke in the red chamber prior to the big vote. Conservative senators repeated their concerns and disappointment over the government's hurried tact to push the bill through Parliament before the House rises later in June.

Quebec Sen. Jean-Guy Dagenais compared Bill C-45 to a "Greek tragedy." He told his colleagues during the debate that he hopes he doesn't live to see the "damages" the bill will have on Canadian society.

But they were out-voted by the large block of independent senators and a handful of former Liberals.

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So far, the prime minister has recommended the appointment of 36 senators to the upper chamber since forming government in late 2015.

Back in 2014, in a move to increase independence in the Senate, Trudeau removed all senators from Liberal caucus pledging to only appoint non-partisans to the chamber.

The Independent Senators Group is now the largest group in the Senate.