NAFTA agreement known as the USMCA finalized; AGCO proposed as the regulator for all cannabis retailers

MPP Jim McDonell. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

This Week In Queen’s Park

Jim McDonell
Member of Provincial Parliament
Stormont-Dundas-South-Glengarry

This week had a making Ontario “Open For Business” feel, with a continued commitment by our government in the face of the new NAFTA Agreement, now known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). It is most fitting that this was ‘Agriculture Week’ at Queen’s Park, with the new international deal having been finalized.  We heard concerns from Ontario Federation of Agriculture representatives who reported on the potential adverse impacts on our agriculture community. The Federal Government will need to compensate our dairy industry, because unlike American farmers, they do not receive any government subsidies.

Our Minister of Agriculture spoke in the Legislature on Wednesday, stating that:  

“Obviously, it’s a grave concern with us about the impact that this trade agreement will have on our farming communities. The farmers are the bedrock of our communities. When one sector of the economy in rural Ontario is hurting, the whole community is hurting.  They’ve also now said that they are going to make us whole by presenting a funding package that will in fact cover the cost of the impact this trade agreement will have on our rural communities, and we will hold their feet to the fire. The Trudeau government has a responsibility to live up to the cost of their actions.”

On the topic of federal decision-making, an important date is soon to be upon us and our municipalities, as the Trudeau government decided to legalize recreational cannabis beginning on Oct. 17. In response, the government of Ontario has been working to develop a retail and distribution system that protects children and youth, keeps our roads safe, and combats the illegal market.

We developed our legislation in consultation with municipalities, Indigenous communities, law enforcement agencies, public health advocates and businesses, and consumer groups.  As a result of these consultations, we are proposing the designation of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) as the regulator for all cannabis retailers. The AGCO, which has an embedded O.P.P. unit, will strictly enforce the federal and provincial legislation on those who do not follow the rules with hefty fines and the risk of losing their retail license forever. Bill 36, Cannabis Statute Amendment Act, passed Second Reading this week as we move forward to committee next week.

Other bills introduced for First Reading in the Legislature this week were:

Bill 38, Tax Fairness for Real Estate Professionals Act, 2018

Bill 39, Accessible Parking and Towing Industry Review Committee Act, 2018

Bill 40, Human Rights Code Amendment Act (Genetic Characteristics), 2018

Bill 41, Highway Traffic Amendment Act (Helmet Exemption for Sikh Motorcyclists), 2018

Premier Doug Ford and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, announced that Ontario is moving forward with the construction of 6,000 new long-term care (LTC) beds across Ontario. These beds represent the first wave of our promise to build 15,000 new LTC beds over the next five years.

Premier Ford and Minister Elliott also announced that Ontario will create over 640 new hospital beds in addition to those already in service to combat the surge that accompanies the upcoming flu season. I was also proud to join Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark to meet with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) executive to discuss their issues. Next week, the Legislature takes a scheduled break to allow members to return to their riding for constituency work.

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