Trudeau and pot: Won't somebody please think of the children

The most debated of joints

I was away last week, but I am heartened to return and see that, in the wake of Justin Trudeau’s admission that he had “a puff” from a marijuana cigarette some three years ago, political leaders in this country have arrived at a new consensus about the standard by which their collective and individual behaviour should be measured.

The strongest initial reaction came from Justice Minister Peter MacKay. “By smoking marijuana as a Member of Parliament, Justin Trudeau demonstrates a profound lack of judgment,” he said in a statement. “By flouting the laws of Canada while holding elected office, he shows he is a poor example for all Canadians, particularly young ones. Justin Trudeau is simply not the kind of leader our country needs.”

The NDP’s Francoise Boivin concurred with Mr. MacKay.

In an interview, NDP justice critic Françoise Boivin suggested elected officials should uphold the law rather than admit to flouting it. “I’m sure there will be kids saying, ‘Hey if he does it, we can do it.'”

This promises the beginning of a wonderful new era in our politics in which all words and actions will be judged by the example they set for our children. This new era perhaps arrives too late to be applied to, say, the discussion around fighter jet procurement, but it will now no doubt be the ideal that guides all of the discussions about the economy, the environment, health care, public services and taxation that are now necessary if we should hope to leave our children a country that is worthy of our concern for them.

What else to make of this? The Star argues that Mr. Trudeau shouldn’t have broken the law while sitting as an MP. On that note, Greg Fingas points to Stephen Harper’s unlicensed ATV riding, while David Climenhaga points to Mr. Harper’s eagerness to pardon farmers who had violated wheat board law. (Of course, Mr. Trudeau’s puff was not quite an attempt at a political statement—if he’d shown up on the Hill on 4/20 and partaken of the festivities, he might’ve been able to claim the symbolism of civil disobedience. Instead, he says his mind began to change sometime around last November and the NORML Women’s Association of Canada would like you to know that he credits them for that.)

Ah, but he was being open and transparent when he answered the question and this heralds another new era in politics. Except maybe before he was open and transparent he was acting hypocritically in taking a puff around the same time he was voting in favour of C-15, which set out mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana production.

C-15 is a fun story. Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals did indeed support it in the House, angering Liberals in the process. Then Liberals in the Senate amended the bill, angering Conservatives. Then Mr. Harper prorogued Parliament in 2009, killing the bill.

It was revived as a Senate bill, but then went nowhere in the House before Parliament was dissolved in 2011 for an election. It was then included as part of C-10, the Harper government’s omnibus crime bill. The Liberals, including Mr. Trudeau, then voted against C-10. (And two months after C-10 passed the House, the Liberal party endorsed legalizing marijuana.)

C-10 was also opposed by Conservative Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, who believes that marijuana should be legalized.

Ultimately, the puff itself is probably more meaningful than both the vote and the admission of the puff, but probably not because the puff will lead our children to all now smoke weed. On that last count, surely the other Justin—pictured here with a congratulatory politician—is a greater threat.