Election of Liberals could affect key local issues

Liberals have promised new stance on marijuana, and could change course on Trans Mountain Pipeline and Trans-Pacific Partnership.

A change in federal government could have a big effect on marijuana policies

Despite a promise by Justin Trudeau to legalize marijuana in Canada, Abbotsford’s policies towards medical marijuana storefronts won’t change until legislation is passed in Ottawa, according to Mayor Henry Braun.

“The laws that are in place today, I have a duty to comply with,” he told The News.

Last month, the city announced it was taking steps to shut down two medical marijuana dispensaries that had been opened in the city in recent months.

The stores sell a variety of marijuana products to people age 19 and over with a valid medical marijuana prescription. The stores are not allowed in any Abbotsford zoning, and they also contravene federal laws that only allow medical marijuana to be distributed through specific Health Canada-approved channels.

Other cities such as Vancouver have opted to license and regulate marijuana dispensaries in order to control where they can operate and what they can sell. But so long as these shops are against federal laws, Braun said he won’t support them in Abbotsford.

“As long as it’s illegal, I will support enforcement to make sure that we don’t have any in Abbotsford,” Braun said at the time.

If the rules change as proposed by Trudeau, then Braun said the city will ensure its policies comply with those laws.

But he said, “Until the laws change, I think it’s very clear … If that system changes, obviously we have to change and adapt to that.”

The election of the Liberals could have other significant impacts to Abbotsford’s residents and businesses.

Most pressingly, the government has promised to evaluate the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal negotiated between Canada and 11 other Pacific Rim countries. The deal, which must still be ratified by Parliament, allows more foreign access to poultry, egg and dairy markets.

Abbotsford is home to hundreds of farms in those sectors, and Canadian farmer groups say the deal will create more competition for producers in those areas. But those groups, which had feared the elimination of Canada’s supply management system of tariffs and quotas, have also said the deal could have been much worse.

The Liberals will have to decide whether to ratify the deal, many details of which have not been disclosed publicly. They have spoken in favour both of free trade and supply management, but criticized the negotiations for what they say has been a lack of transparency.

Meanwhile, hundreds of property owners will be watching to see what position the Liberals take in regards to Kinder Morgan Canada’s Trans Mountain Pipeline. Kinder Morgan has proposed expanding the pipeline, which runs for 30 kilometres through Abbotsford, as well as increasing capacity at its Sumas Mountain Terminal.

Trudeau promised to squelch the Northern Gateway Pipeline through Northern B.C., but the Liberals have not taken a position on the Trans Mountain Pipeline. They have, however, criticized the National Energy Board, which had yet to give approval to the project but which earlier this year released a draft list of 145 conditions to get the pipeline approved.

In May, a report suggested Abbotsford would incur $17 million in additional costs over the next 50 years to construct and maintain infrastructure impacted by an expanded pipeline.

Kinder Morgan has also been negotiating for more than a year with local property owners seeking compensation for their co-operation and endorsement of the project.

– with files from Laura Rodgers

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