OTTAWA — The launch of a new anti-drug campaign by the federal government took a decidedly partisan turn Wednesday when Conservative MP Shelly Glover suggested that Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff finds it acceptable for youth to smoke marijuana.
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and Glover were announcing a new television and social media advertising campaign aimed at teenagers and Glover took the opportunity to make a jab at Ignatieff.
"It's very disturbing as a parent, and as a police officer for almost 19 years, to hear the opposition, in fact the Liberal leader, say to our children that it is OK to take marijuana in small doses," the Manitoba MP said during her prepared remarks. She repeated her comment in French.
When she was asked by the media to explain what she meant, and if Ignatieff has ever actually said to children that he has no problem with them doing drugs, Glover read a quote from Ignatieff where he said he supports the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana and that he doesn't comment on the "personal lifestyle choices" of his friends or colleagues.
"That tells my children that a leader in our country is OK if they're carrying small amounts of marijuana, it's OK if his colleagues are personally using, when the laws in this country clearly say it is illegal," Glover said.
Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe has also expressed support for changes to marijuana laws, Glover said.
"My children need to hear the message very clearly from all leaders, from all government officials that marijuana use, simple possession of marijuana is illegal and there are consequences. The biggest consequences to them is the destruction of their lives," said Glover.
Ignatieff's office said Glover took the leader's quote out of context and omitted the last line of it where he said he does not want to legalize marijuana.
The Liberal party's current position is that it would consider, but has not committed to, re-introducing an old Liberal bill that would eliminate criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana and would instead introduce fines.
Liberal justice critic Marlene Jennings said the party doesn't support people using illegal drugs, but recognizes that people don't always follow the laws, and the Liberals don't believe a young person in particular should carry a criminal record for the rest of their lives, possibly preventing them from entering the United States or pursuing careers, if they are caught with a small amount of a "soft" drug.
Jennings said police agencies back that position and agree their time is better spent going after major grow ops and organized crime than teenagers with a joint. The Liberal party's position is not the same thing as condoning the use of drugs by young people, Jennings said.
"Ms. Glover's statements and distortion of what Mr. Ignatieff actually said is despicable but not surprising coming from a Conservative," said Jennings.
She also fought back against Glover's partisan jab and added a harsh statement of her own, saying the Conservative MP gives police officers "a bad name."
"I don't think she's worthy to wear the uniform of a police officer with what she's doing," said Jennings.
Jennings said she wasn't surprised that Glover injected partisanship into a straightforward announcement because the Conservatives "politicize everything."
The new advertising campaign features a television spot that Aglukkaq described as dramatic and graphic. It can be viewed at http://anonym.to/?http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/drugs-drogues/youth-jeunes/index-eng.php. It's aimed at 13-to-15-year-olds and the government is also trying to reach youth with its anti-drug message through a Facebook page and other social media websites.
By Meagan Fitzpatrick,
November 17, 2010
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