Ottawa

Who pays the bill?

Matching Quebec’s demand, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says the Harper government should pick up the tab for its crime legislation. Peter Russell considers the possibilities.

More likely, added Russell, provinces objecting to the cost or content of the legislation will ignore certain aspects of it — trafficking or possession of small amounts of marijuana, for example. “They will say to police who are out looking, ‘If you get a call give it a low priority’,” he said. “I don’t think they would actually say, ‘We’re not going to enforce the law.’ They would say to the provincial police, ‘Give people who grow pot a low priority’. They can certainly do that. You just don’t put the resources into it. It’s a matter of discretion.”

Politically, Canada is headed into a situation where the provinces are shaping up as the official opposition, added Russell. “They are taking over that role,” he said, “and have a constitutional right to do so.”