House of Commons Hansard #18 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was turkey.

Topics

Business of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Customs Tariff
Government Orders

February 25th, 2004 / 4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I too want to address Bill C-21, an act to amend the customs tariff.

I want to chat about some of the things specifically to do with where we in the Conservative Party are coming from and maybe take the opportunity to respond to some of the concerns of my colleague from the New Democratic Party. He spoke quite eloquently about the concerns Canada should have in trading with developing countries and some of the concerns we may have with labour standards and those sorts of issues with which I think all Canadians are definitely concerned.

Bill C-21 amends two sections of the customs tariff, just so people are clear on what exactly the bill is doing. Specifically, the general preferential tariff and the least developed country tariff are being proposed to be extended for another 10 years until June 30, 2014. Currently the legislation expires on June 30, 2004.

Some colleagues on all sides of the House have said that one of the challenges if this does expire without being checked is that Canada could be flooded with goods from all around the world. This could really put our own companies and industries at a huge disadvantage, especially when we look at some of the tariffs that are in place outside.

In some areas we have seen the process and the way the legislation works. Orders in council for certain countries can reduce that overall tariff. There are three different sections of countries that Canada recognizes. There is the most favoured nations tariff, the general preferential tariff and the least developed country tariff.

Even though our tariff rate is currently set at 35%, and it should not be any higher, orders in council normally go through the process of reducing those tariffs for specific countries, depending on our trading relationships with those countries or on some of our foreign aid strategies in trying to help stimulate the economies of many of those countries. One of the things that happens is that through the process of orders in council, that tariff is often reduced with regard to some countries.

Clearly from our point of view, this has to be done over a period of time. I do not think we can drop that tariff, especially if there are other countries which have tariffs that are higher with regard to many of the Canadian products being exported to those particular countries. It would really put us at a disadvantage here in Canada if we dropped those tariffs overnight.

The Conservative Party of Canada does support free trade and the engaging of developing countries to encourage their development and, it is hoped, to have an evolution of an economy similar to that of industrialized countries. We want to encourage the ability of those countries to export their products and obviously create more wealth at home in those particular countries. Overall, we would like to see that tariff reduced when it comes to countries around the world, but we clearly understand that it may have to be managed carefully. It is hoped that in the future, as we continue to deal with many of these countries in developing free trade agreements, that we would see that tariff reduced completely with many of those countries, or at least reduced over time.

My colleague from the New Democratic Party spoke quite passionately about the problems in many of the countries we deal with in the third world and what sorts of standards they may have in place. Here in Canada, even though sometimes we have challenges within our own standards for labour and in reaching agreements between companies and workers, overall, people would say the standards in this country are quite high, especially when we compare them to some of the third world countries. I would make the argument that many countries that may have questionable labour practices are going through a process because they are diversifying, they are creating the ability for their economy to evolve, and it takes time before some of these economies evolve as far as those of some of the industrialized countries.

We need to help that process. It does not mean that we support the practice of child labour or that we support the persecution of any group. We need to continue to help those countries develop a middle class and continue to create wealth in those countries so that there can be that evolution of those standards.

We have all gone through that in our history. If we look at the industrial revolution here in the west and at some of the standards that existed and the creation of wealth, we were able to improve those labour standards. We improved the conditions for our workers. As I said, they may not be perfect but they have come a long way when we think back to the time of the industrial revolution.

I can speak from the experience of my own family coming from Africa. My family fled Africa in the early 1970s as refugees and came to this country. The working class in Africa was going through a transformation. Many of the families that lived in those countries, such as my own family, were involved with industrial activities. We were manufacturers, retailers, importers. There was a whole host of opportunities for which many people who emigrated to east Africa took advantage.

At that time there were obvious challenges. Many of the working class were not very well off. They were challenged in trying to look for opportunities for themselves to improve their conditions. Often many of the people who were moving there from India, as my family had generations ago, created working environments and created opportunities for many of the workers to improve their lives. The conditions that they worked in were often quite good. Slowly that changed as competition evolved in those countries and opportunities continued to grow.

It did not happen overnight, and we know it did not happen overnight here, but we cannot close the door on some of these countries that may not have the best practices. In the long run, by creating opportunities and by creating competition and giving them the ability to export some of their products helps to create the middle class and the wealth in those countries that then can change those standards.

It would be highly irresponsible if we went down the road that my NDP colleague suggested, which was to shut the door on many of those countries that are going through those challenges.

We can use that tariff in many cases as leverage. Due to the current process, as I outlined, if we do change any of those particular tariffs that come by orders in council of the government, those countries with which we have problems could be targeted specifically and it could encourage them to improve their conditions. Therefore if we were to reduce those tariffs in their favour, they could continue to build wealth in their home nations.

Overall, the key is to balance the growth and the continuous evolution of our industries here in Canada with the developing world. We know Canadians are very much in tune with foreign aid and trying to help many of these countries around the world. What better way to help them help themselves than by allowing them to produce products at home and then be able to export them to countries that are willing to purchase them, such as Canada.

On this side of the House we do realize the importance of Bill C-21 that is in front of the House. We do understand that the process of extending the tariffs for another 10 years is something that has to happen in order to evolve and to balance the trade of our own industries here in Canada.

However we also want to make sure that in committee, as we continue to discuss the bill, that we look to the future to see how we can perhaps reduce those particular tariffs so that in the end we can help many of these developing countries. Hopefully we would have most of these countries not in these three different categories that we currently recognize them, but as preferential trading partners around the world. That is the direction in which I would prefer to see the bill go. We will be supporting the bill as it stands.

Customs Tariff
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

Is the House ready for the question?

Customs Tariff
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Customs Tariff
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Customs Tariff
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Customs Tariff
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

Customs Tariff
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

(Motion agreed to and bill referred to a committee)

Contraventions Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock for Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-10, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, be read the third time and passed.

Contraventions Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I am a little surprised that I am in here speaking to the third reading stage of this legislation, the marijuana bill. I am very disappointed.

I do not think the government recognizes what it is dealing with here. In fact, the Prime Minister indicated to the country that he would make some substantive amendments to the bill from the previous prime minister's position but he did not do that.

Two days ago here in the House I had asked the Prime Minister about that. Basically he just smiled, shrugged his shoulders and put if off. It is ironic how one changes one's position on something, one's promises and commitments to a nation, once one becomes Prime Minister.

I will take my time going through what is wrong with the bill but, first, I must say to all people in Canada that we have studied the drug problems for about 18 months. We had about 41 substantive recommendations. Many of them were fairly good recommendations that would curb the problems with ecstasy, crystal meth, cocaine, heroin and so on.

However, when the government realized that those recommendations were somewhat conservative in nature, it moved right ahead and threw in this decriminalization of marijuana, got everybody else off the agenda of that, and went on with the bill here.

That was really quite irresponsible because the problems with drugs do not end with the decriminalization of marijuana. That is the real issue here. What the country does not have at this point is a national drug strategy. People are dying every day from drug overdoses and from addictions to all sorts of drugs, whether they are prescription drugs or crack, heroin or crystal meth. It is absurd to think that we are here talking about the decriminalization of marijuana when there is no drug strategy in place. That is the real problem.

I will go through the bill. We are talking about drugs. The Liberals have a hard time with this kind of issue. They are trying to find out what I am talking about, if members can believe it. I will go through the amendments that are not in this bill and the problems that have not dealt with in the bill.

I know I should not say anything about Liberals not being in the House when I am talking about this, but it is amazing when I am standing here speaking to such a precedent bill and there is nobody from the Liberals to listen.

First, the government is telling the country that it will get tough on marijuana, so it puts in maximum penalties for grow ops. It has said that it is really going to push hard on the grow op side of it, that four to 25 plants would constitute an offence punishable by up to $25,000 and/or 18 months in jail on summary conviction. Well that is fine, but where I come from in British Columbia, and in many parts of this country, telling a judge there is a maximum $25,000 fine for a grow op is laughable. The person would likely come out of there with a $500 fine at best. In most cases they would come out with a slap on the hand and told not to do it again. They walk away and laugh, then go start another grow op, and on it goes.

Maximum fines would be all right if judges and lawyers understood the issue and applied those fines, but they do not, and it is not happening right across the country. What is required are minimum fines for such operations so that judges understand that there is a minimum penalty for these things. Giving the discretion to the courtroom is a mistake. I do not know how many times I have tell that to the government. It is not listening. When the government tells Canadians that it is getting tough on this grow op business, it is not.

Let us look at some of the other things the government did not address in the bill.

The government said there would be fines for minor possession. The fines are different for adults than they are for young people. When I pursued this in the justice committee and in the drug committee, the answer from the other side was that young people could not afford the fines. If they can afford the marijuana, they can afford the fines. The propensity to say that they are young and therefore the fine should be lower for them than for an adult is ridiculous. The government is sending a message to young people that it is cheaper for them to get caught. It is wrong.

Something else in conjunction with this legislation is that no resources have been provided for police to crack down on organized crime that is profiting from lax enforcement. The government says that it will put in this great program to cut down on drugs but it does not provide the resources to the police departments. What are the police going to do? Are they going to pick up from the explosion of grow ops and the explosion of the drug trade in hard drugs? I think not. The government has to put some money where its mouth is on this issue.

Let us look at what else the government did not address in the bill.

The proceeds of crime legislation was not amended to adjust for drug seizures. It was not touched at all. In fact, I can go through a litany of cases, and I have them here, hundreds, if not thousands of cases.

Madam Speaker, the guy over there who proposes to be a minister does not understand the concept so he is heckling. I do not mind the heckling; I kind of enjoy it. I wish he were smart enough to understand the consequences of what they are not doing. That is the problem with this government. It sends in a few ministers who do not know what they are talking about but try to understand a system as serious as drug problems in the country.

Let me go through it. The proceeds of crime legislation has to be amended. The issues are these. In many cases in the country, for grow ops in particular, for crystal meth labs, or for the trafficking of harder drugs, the cars they are driving, the money they are making, often goes back to the individuals. In fact, I've had cases--

Contraventions Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Reg Alcock Winnipeg South, MB

No, wrong.

Contraventions Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

The minister says no, but the fact is that I have cases, many of them, which show that in the courtroom the criminals, the dealers, are getting away with the proceeds of crime more often than not. That is unfortunate.

The need to deal with the damages that are caused through grow ops, and crystal meth labs in particular, has to be dealt with somewhere along the line. Discussions have to take place between the federal and provincial governments and even the municipal governments.

More and more we are finding that young people in particular are buying houses that have been damaged through these kinds of operations. In fact, I have letter upon letter showing that young people bought a house with practically the last bottom dollar they had and they got into the house to find out that there had been severe damage done and they needed another $80,000, $90,000 or $100,000 to renovate the place before they could even move into it.

Damage is caused by playing with the electricals, by mould in the walls, by dangerous odours from crystal meth labs and so on and so forth, yet no discussion on this has taken place among all three levels of government. But we take in a law like this one and deal with only a very small aspect of the drug problem.

No legislation has been developed to curtail financial institution funding of mortgages related to grow ops. It may seem a little surprising, but there is one particular trust company in the country that has funded many grow ops. Here is what is happening. Individuals are putting their applications forward, typically using a certain type of job, a very low paying job, and the applications just get whisked through a particular trust company and approved.

In fact, I just finished dealing with one individual who has been on welfare for all nine years that he has been in this country. He came here with no money. He has been on welfare for nine years. I found out that now not only is he dealing drugs and has particular grow ops, but he owns three houses, all financed through the same trust company. Just how does he own three houses when he has been on welfare for the total time he has been here? The fact is that the proceeds of crime legislation cannot and will not take those houses from that individual.

So we have two situations. Now we have finance companies funding grow ops because it is lucrative and the cash is there, and it is non-tax-dollars cash, and we also have proceeds of crime legislation that is failing to do its job. In addition to this, there has been no coordination whatsoever among federal, provincial or municipal agencies on the welfare issue itself. I have, through my sources, dealt with welfare agencies that are finding more and more individuals on welfare who are using the grow ops as a source of income. Their source of income is much higher than before but the coordination in catching these individuals is not there. Those are the kinds of discussions that have to take place as well before we get into just simply finding an answer and calling it decriminalization.

No commitment has been obtained from the judiciary to increase penalties within the limits set out in this bill or to follow the established possession guidelines, and here is the problem. People are going to go into the courtroom, for certain, when they get caught with 31 or 33 grams of marijuana. The judge is going to say that up to 30 they can get a fine and the judge will not want to call them criminals just because it is 31 or 32 or 33 grams.

We are going to be on the slippery slope again. We are going to find ourselves with the judges out there saying that maybe they should make it 50, 60 or 100 grams, and that other places have 100 so they will have 100.

There has to be an agreement with the judiciary in this country that what we say in the House of Commons for fines and penalties is what we mean to have happen. It is totally inappropriate to have the judges once again make the rules and extend the penalties based on their perception of what they think is right. That has cost us a great deal of time, money and effort in this country as it is.

We are dealing with something called decriminalization, that is, giving a fine for the minor possession of marijuana. The government says that minor possession is for from zero to 30 grams. It says that zero to 15 is a fine and 15 to 30 is a fine or a criminal charge, but more likely than not it will be zero to 30 with a fine.

We have to understand that 30 grams is approximately 45 to 50 joints. An individual can walk around the school ground with that and get a fine. Anybody walking around with 35, 50 or 55 joints is not a recreational user. A recreational--

Contraventions Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Reg Alcock Winnipeg South, MB

You don't know that.

Contraventions Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

This ill-informed minister says I do not know that. The fact is that I do know that. The fact is that anybody with that many joints is not a recreational user. Anybody who knows the industry itself would be smart enough to understand that, and anybody who smokes marijuana would tell us that as well.

It is interesting for all the folks listening to know that I am getting badgered by a minister of the crown, but what really gets me is the amount this individual does not know and does not understand and yet he would stand in here and support a bill that is really a very poorly performing bill and will not resolve the problem anyway.

The THC component of marijuana is more or less the addictive component and gives you the buzz, the high or the low or whatever one is going to get from it. Over the years it has increased from about 3% or 4% to around 15% or 16% now. In fact, the first recorded death by smoking marijuana was two weeks ago in England. The death was certified as directly attributable to marijuana smoke. The marijuana he was smoking was from Africa. The potency and the types of marijuana weed are increasing by leaps and bounds today. As more and different strains are developed, we are finding that there is basically no control. There are no parameters on the potency of the THC itself.

So today we are dealing today with a bill that considers, for a person with 40 joints, that the THC component of those 40 joints is approximately 8% or 10%. That will not necessarily be the case tomorrow or the next day, or five months or five years from now. The government is making a presumption based on something that is incorrect and no effort whatsoever has been made to deal with that aspect.

I want to say this: This country needs a national drug strategy. I have been around this country more than enough times dealing with addicted individuals. I have been in Europe, the United States, Mexico and throughout Canada, so I do happen to know what I am talking about on this issue and I initiated for Parliament itself the special committee studying the illegal use of drugs.

What is really required is a way to get our young people and elderly people off drugs. I find it reprehensible, actually, that the government would consider funding a shooting-up site in Vancouver when it will not put money into rehabilitation and detox facilities throughout this land. I find that reprehensible.

In fact, in my community alone, one facility has recently shut down. We had a rehabilitation facility for young, teenaged addicted girls. I went to the previous minister of health and said that we needed some money to keep it open. We had parents lined up trying to get their kids into that place. The government beat around the bush for four or five months and nothing happened. Nothing happened and these kids are out on the street. It is disgusting. Then I find out that the government is funding, in part, a shooting-up site.

Consider this. People who have children on drugs--and I know people who do--go to the government and ask for help for their child. Do we want a government that says yes, it will send people's children to a shoot-up site where they can shoot up in a relatively clean facility, or do we want a government that will take our children and put them in detox and rehabilitation? There is no choice for parents. I know what they would choose.

The government has to act as a judicious parent on these issues. It has to have a national drug strategy that looks at abstinence, not permission to use. It is sad that this has come to the House. The decriminalization of marijuana is a very minor part of a drug strategy, so minor it does not even rate. I am sad to see that today this is all the government can come up with.