MPs present petition to revive pot bill

More than 80 members back reintroduction of MP Keith Martin's bill

OTTAWA (CP) - More than 80 opposition MPs from three parties called Thursday for reintroduction of a private member's bill in the Commons after it was defeated by what they say was a Liberal dirty trick.
In a petition presented Thursday in the Commons, 81 Alliance, Bloc Quebecois and NDP members asked Commons Speaker Peter Milliken to revive Alliance MP Keith Martin's bill to decriminalize marijuana.

The Liberals set a dangerous precedent when they proposed an amendment last month that, without Martin's permission, referred the bill to a committee rather than to a vote in the House, NDP MP Bill Blaikie said.

"It could become the method by which the government prevents from coming to a vote those things they'd rather not have the House vote on," he said.

Milliken said he can't take action on the petition because the amendment was in order.

However, he said he would forward the petition to the chair of a separate committee looking into how the system could better handle private members' business.

Alliance MP Ted White said the handling of Martin's bill was a threat because it eliminates a check on government.

"Many of the measures we bring to the House as private members' bills or motions are related to us by constituents ... or large sectors of society that feel government really is not moving on an issue," he said. "We do a disservice to our community and our constituents if we don't fight this."

The petition was signed by 41 Alliance, 30 Bloc Quebecois and 10 NDP members. Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe and NDP Leader Alexa McDonough were among those who signed.

Bloc MP Rheal Menard said Martin approached the six Liberal MPs who voted against the government's so-called poison-pill amendment, but they wouldn't sign.

When the Liberal amendment passsed on April 17, Martin, who had worked on his bill for four years, protested by grabbing the ceremonial mace.

The House voted 173-49 to suspend Martin until he apologized for what he admitted was a premeditated act of civil disobedience. He later apologized for his breach of parliamentary decorum and was readmitted to the House.

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