Maclean's on the Hill: On drugs, deficits and doctor-assisted death

Our Ottawa bureau breaks down the hottest political issues of the last seven days


Each week, the Maclean’s Ottawa bureau sits down with Cormac MacSweeney to discuss the headlines of the week. This week, Liberals announced that they’ll pull our fighter jets out of the fight against the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria by Feb. 22—and triple the number of troops involved in an ongoing training mission. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan spoke to MacSweeney from Brussels, where he met with Canada’s coalition partners.

Also on the show: As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau admits his government will post larger-than-expected deficits—and likely won’t balance the books by 2019—the Maclean’s panel considers the trouble with playing deficit politics.

As the government looks to legalize marijuana, police are dealing with those who just can’t wait. Pot dispensaries are popping up across the country even though the drug is still illegal. Pot activist Dana Larsen and Clive Weighill, the President of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, join the show.

Doctor-assisted dying will soon be back in the spotlight. A committee tasked with examining the issue is now preparing a report as the government responds to a Supreme Court ruling on a morally divisive issue. John Geddes spoke to Senate Liberal James Cowan about the committee’s work.

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The full episode:

Part 1. The fight against Islamic State.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan speaks during a conference on foreign affairs in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 29, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

CP/Sean Kilpatrick

Months after they’d pledged to pull Canada’s CF-18 fighter jets out of the U.S.-led bombing campaign against the Islamic State, Liberals announced their alternate plan. Cormac MacSweeney talked about the way forward with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

Part 2. The fight against a sluggish economy.

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The Maclean’s panel—John Geddes and Paul Wells—debates the impact of deficit spending, including billions for infrastructure, on an economy that continues to sputter. They also preview the House of Commons’ vote on the next mission in Iraq.

Part 3. When will pot be legal?

Director of Quality Assurance Thomas Shipley prunes dry marijuana buds before they are processed for shipping at Tweed Marijuana Inc  in Smith's Falls, Ontario, April 22, 2014. By unlocking the once-obscure medical marijuana market, Canada has created a fast-growing, profitable and federally regulated industry with a distinct appeal to the more daring global investor. About a dozen producers of the drug will find themselves in the spotlight this year as they consider going public or prepare to so through share sales or reverse takeovers to capitalize on recent regulatory changes, investment bankers said. Tweed Marijuana Inc, which converted an old chocolate factory into a marijuana farm, led the pack by becoming the first publicly held Canadian company in the sector. Picture taken April 22, 2014.   (Blair Gable/Reuters)

Blair Gable/Reuters

Marijuana activist Dana Larsen joins Cormac MacSweeney to talk about how long it’ll take for the federal government to legalize marijuana—or at least stop criminalizing pot smokers. MacSweeney also speaks with Saskatoon Police Chief Clive Weighill, the head of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, about how to enforce the laws on the books after the Liberals pledged to legalize the drug.

Part 4. Ottawa considers doctor-assisted death.


Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that doctor-assisted death must be permitted in Canada. Racing against the clock to meet the court-imposed deadline for a new law, the Liberals convened an all-party committee to come up with a bill—and they’re up against the clock on a divisive, emotional issue. John Geddes spoke to Senate Liberal James Cowan, who sits on the committee, about the work done so far.


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