An Act to amend the Criminal Code (drugs and impaired driving) and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.

Sponsor

Irwin Cotler  Liberal

Status

Not active, as of May 3, 2004
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2004 / 4:05 p.m.
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Hillsborough P.E.I.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the House today to the motion to refer Bill C-32, an act to amend the Criminal Code, drugs and impaired driving, and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts, to the committee for hearings.

I believe I speak for everyone in the House and for the Canadian public generally when I say that everyone wants to propose the best legislation in dealing with this particular issue. The core of the legislation which is before the House is to change the Criminal Code so that police officers would have the authority to demand that a person who is suspected of having drugs in his or her body participate in standardized field sobriety tests, known as the acronym SFST. I see this as one more step in a continuum of tools that our police officers have at their disposal to deal with drivers who are under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

I practised law for quite a few years in Atlantic Canada. When I first started, the breathalyzer had only been in for four or five years. Anyone who is a little older than me can recall the tools that the police officers had at that time to deal with alcohol. They were the very tests that we have talked about here: touching the nose, walking a straight line, stooping over and the different tests that the police officers did at the time. Those tests did not give a very consistent or standardized approach. The trials were complex and complicated. The test results usually were fought by the accused because the success rate was certainly significant.

However, as time progressed, technology came to be and we developed the breathalyzer. There were certain problems with that, and then we had the offence of refusing a breathalyzer. This is all in the continuum as we deal with this very serious offence but we have been dealing with it for 40 years.

Although I will be speaking to this legislation, which is good legislation and I would ask my colleagues in the House of Commons to support it, I will point out that the Canadian public has dealt with the whole issue, not successfully, but there have been some successful steps made on the issue of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. We also have had the penal sanctions and the publicity surrounding it.

However, when I look back, the best tool that the Canadian public has used on these offences, which we see so much with younger people in society, is that we have made the offence socially unacceptable. The statistics prove that this has lowered the incidents of the offence over the last 20 years, and especially over the last 5 or 6 years. We see with the younger people in society and I believe in every province that it is not socially acceptable to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Getting back to the legislation, it is a serious issue and it would give the police more tools in their arsenal to deal with a situation where a person is not so much under the influence of alcohol but is under the influence of drugs. In this case, the core of the government's proposal is to change the Criminal Code so that police have the authority to demand that a person who is suspected of having drugs on his or her body participate in the standardized field sobriety tests which I have talked about before.

If the person failed these tests, the police officer would then, on a consistent basis, have reasonable grounds to believe that the person was impaired by a drug, or in some instances by a combination of a drug and alcohol. The police officer would be in a position to demand that the person accompany the police officer to a police station where the person would have to submit to further tests administered by a drug recognition expert.

The bottom line is that once that happened, a bodily fluid sample could be taken. Then and only then, if the final bodily fluid test indicated clearly what the drug was in the person's system, the concentration of the drug could be indicated. The expert could then form an opinion as to whether or not that concentration of the illegal drug was such that the person would be impaired pursuant to the Criminal Code of Canada. That would all go forward to the courts and if everything were done in proper order and the safeguards were there, the person would be convicted of that offence.

This is not a new technology. It is not a revolution of the law. It is just a further step. It continues the whole process that we are working on in society. I understand that this was developed in California in the early 1980s. It found its way into Canada quite some time ago, at least nine or ten years ago. It is my understanding that there is now in excess of 100 officers trained as drug recognition experts.

The program began in British Columbia in 1995 and some drug recognition experts are now present, I believe, in most of the 10 Canadian provinces. The RCMP, in cooperation with other police agencies, is conducting a training program. We can expect these training officers to be present throughout the land within the next year or so.

That follows on a trend that was started 30 or 35 years ago with the breathalyzer. That was a very complicated instrument when it first came into play. More police officers were trained in the use of that instrument and it is quite commonplace right now.

Dealing with the whole issue of drugs and alcohol, I want to point out to the House the incidence of drug users in fatal accidents. A Quebec study determined that in excess of 30% of fatal accidents in that province involved either drugs or the combination of drugs and alcohol.

As I already pointed out, we do have the offence within the Criminal Code right now. It has been there for as long as I can remember. Driving while impaired by alcohol or a drug is currently a criminal offence and can result in severe penalties. The maximum penalty, I believe, is life imprisonment if the offence causes the death of another individual.

We talked about the tests which are the first step in the three-pronged process leading to the conviction of a person who has in his or her body a concentration of illegal drugs that is causing impairment. Police officers across Canada need this tool in their arsenal because we are ploughing new ground, so to speak. The whole scientific literature, the decided cases and the jurisprudence involving alcohol is very well established but is a little behind with respect to drugs.

In a lot of cases there is no scientific consensus of the threshold of the drug concentration in the body which causes impairment and makes driving hazardous. It becomes difficult when there are drugs mixed with alcohol, drugs mixed with other drugs, and illegal drugs mixed with prescription drugs. There are all kinds of cocktails. That is why we need this legislation. It would be so beneficial.

I urge all members of the House to support the legislation. Let us refer this important piece of legislation to committee, so that the committee, the House and subsequently Senate can move quickly on it.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2004 / 3:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Yolande Thibeault Liberal Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on this motion to refer to committee Bill C-32, an act to amend the Criminal Code (drugs and impaired driving) and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.

I am convinced that all members of this House want to pass the best possible legislation to fight the problem of drug-impaired driving. We know that the government's proposal is intended to amend the Criminal Code to give police the authority to demand that a person suspected of having drugs in his or her system submit to Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, or SFST.

If that person fails these tests, the police officer will have reason to believe that the person's faculties are impaired by drugs or by the combined effects of drugs and alcohol, and thus will be empowered to demand that the person accompany the officer to the police station, where the person will have to undergo other tests administered by a specially trained drug recognition expert, known as a DRE.

If the expert believes that the impairment is linked to a particular category of drugs, he or she will be authorized to require the person to furnish a sample of bodily fluids for analysis to confirm or refute the expert's opinion.

In one sense, this bill does not create a revolution. SFSTs and DREs are already being used in Canada. I understand that currently there are over 100 police officers trained as drug recognition experts. This phenomenon started in British Columbia in 1995 and now there are DREs in most provinces.

The RCMP is giving the training in conjunction with other police forces, and it is reasonable to expect that there will be DREs across the country within one or two years. Moreover, trial courts have accepted DREs' testimony in cases resulting in convictions.

Canada is not the only country to use DREs. As a matter of fact the first DREs were introduced in California in the early 1980s. Nowadays, they can be found in over 30 U.S. states as well as in Australia, New Zealand and several European countries. Training has been standardized by the International Association of Chiefs of Police over the past 10 years.

So if the program is already well in place in several Canadian provinces why do we need this bill? The answer is simple: We need it because currently a person suspected of drug-impaired driving is not obliged to take the tests.

In its report, the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs devoted a chapter to driving under the influence of cannabis. The explanation given there applies to any police report of drug-impaired driving.

The Senate Committee summed up the situation as follows:

The typical scenario for driving under the influence of psychoactive substances other than alcohol is as follows: a vehicle attracts the attention of a police officer, who pulls the vehicle over and questions the driver; if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the driver is intoxicated, a breathalyzer test is administered; however, when the test yields a result below the legal limit, the police officer may still not be convinced that the driver is capable of driving, but how is this to be proven? Before, more often than not, the police officer had to release the driver.

When the Senate committee says that “before the police officer had to release the driver” it refers to the situation that prevailed in the United States and in other countries before the law was amended to oblige suspected drivers to take the test.

Unfortunately, between now and when this bill is passed, we will continue to be in the same frustrating situation. The police officer suspects that the driver is impaired and presents a danger on the road, but since the impairment is not alcohol-related, which could be verified with an approved screening device or an approved breath test at the police station, he has to let the driver go and possibly kill or harm others. He can only detain the driver if he has solid evidence to arrest him and lay charges.

Bill C-32 will give police officers the tools they need to certify driving impaired by alcohol. First, the officer will be able to require the driver to take an SFST. This test takes roughly five minutes and is conducted on the spot. It consists in looking at the driver's eyes while slowly moving an object, such as a pen, in front of him and watching to see whether the eye movement is jerky. The driver is then asked to walk a straight line, heel to toe, and then turn around and come back. Then the person has to stand on one leg and hold the other leg straight, 15 centimetres from the ground, while counting to 30. Hon. members should try these tests. They will see that they are not difficult. Clearly, if the suspect has a handicap or a health problem that would prevent them from doing the test, they can refuse to do it. The legislation allows for the possibility of “reasonable excuse”. Otherwise, police officers have reasonable grounds to believe that a driver who has failed to pass these tests is impaired. That is the prerequisite for requiring tests to be conducted by DREs.

The evaluation is carried out by an officer trained in drug recognition. The drug-detection tests are based on medical and scientific knowledge. They are designed to identify the presence of seven classes of drugs: central nervous system depressants, better known as tranquilizers; inhalants, including solvents, aerosols and anesthetic gases; PCP, phencyclidine, a dissociative anesthetic; cannabis; central nervous system stimulants, such as speed or cocaine; hallucinogens such as LSD and ecstasy; and narcotics or opiates, like heroin and morphine.

Officers trained in drug recognition can also recognize characteristics of consumption of various drugs.

The DRE evaluation consists of 12 steps. There are three tests of eye movement: horizontal nystagmus, vertical nystagmus and convergence. Nystagmus is an involuntary but observable jerk of the eyeball. Horizontal nystagmus is a jerk that occurs while a person is watching an object move from left to right and back again.

The DRE also administers a modified Romberg balance test, a walk-and-turn test, a one-leg stand, and finger-to-nose test. The DRE then takes three vital signs: blood pressure, body temperature and pulse.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2004 / 3:45 p.m.
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Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak today to sending Bill C-32 to committee. I am delighted to hear all the other parties supporting it although I was a bit astounded by the Bloc's suggestion about rudderlessness. As we know, the government has a lot of bills on the list today. We are going to a fisheries bill next. We have had many bills related to self-government and first nations financial institutions and a huge agenda in the budget and the throne speech.

When reporters review question period since Christmas, they will find out that it is the Bloc members that are rudderless. What proposals have they provided to us for the betterment of Canada, for the betterment of and better programs for Canadians? If we were to look through the Bloc's questions in question period, we would see that there really are no proposals there. There are no questions on the very dramatic program we have in the throne speech and the budget for rebuilding the social foundations and reinvigorating Canada's educational system, to be prepared for the modern economy and to reinvigorate Canada's place in the world. There is nothing to that effect in the Bloc's agenda or the questions during question period. I do not think that Bloc members should suggest that others are rudderless.

Bill C-32, related to driving while impaired by alcohol or a drug, is a complex health, road safety and justice problem. Addressing it requires combined efforts of governments, police, schools, public and private organizations, families and individuals. Where legislation, whether provincial, territorial or federal, can contribute to fighting impaired driving, it should contribute.

Is there a gap in the impaired driving offences provided for in the Criminal Code? The answer is no. In fact, the Criminal Code has had an offence for driving under the effects of alcohol since 1921. The code also has an offence relating to drugs and driving since 1925. Driving while impaired by alcohol or a drug is already a serious Criminal Code offence with serious penalties, including a maximum of life imprisonment for impaired driving that causes death.

The offence of driving while impaired by alcohol or a drug includes driving while impaired by a combination of alcohol and drugs. The offence covers all kinds of drugs: illicit, prescription, and over-the-counter drugs. In order to prove the offence of driving while impaired by a drug, there is no requirement to show what the drug concentration level was while impaired by that drug. This is not as easy as it sounds, because it may be difficult for the untrained officer to recognize the physical effects of each drug found within the vast range of drugs other than alcohol.

Is there a difficulty in investigating drug-impaired driving incidents? The answer is clearly yes. Currently, where police officers do have training to administer roadside physical sobriety tests, or the more involved tests at the station, they can only seek the voluntary participation of a driver in these tests when conducting an investigation of a drug-impaired driving offence under the Criminal Code. If the driver refuses, there is no criminal law sanction.

Bill C-32 will give the police the authority they need to better investigate drug-impaired driving offences. It provides that a peace officer may demand physical sobriety tests at the roadside, more involved tests at the station, and a sample of urine, saliva or blood in order to test for the presence of drugs. Refusal of the demands would be a Criminal Code offence.

Since 1995, British Columbia has trained many police officers in standardized field sobriety tests that are used at the roadside and in drug recognition expert evaluations that are used at the police station. Several other provinces now have trained officers.

Some might ask what the federal government is doing. Some of the opposition members were asking questions about the money. Already to date, the government has committed more than $5 million toward drug recognition expert training. Training in standardized field sobriety tests and drug recognition expertise is already being rolled out nationally through a national coordinator who is an RCMP officer.

The national drug recognition expert coordinator works with instructors from the RCMP and provincial, regional and municipal forces in an approach that will “train the trainers” in order to build the capacity to develop standardized field sobriety tests and drug recognition expert officers across the country. A mid-term evaluation that incorporates a national needs assessment for training is to be undertaken in the 2005-06 fiscal year.

Scientists are much more familiar with the effects of alcohol on driving than they are in relation to other drugs. Similarly, researchers are more familiar with alcohol in relation to driver fatality data because they have been at it far longer and coroners have a higher rate for alcohol testing of fatally injured drivers. What is interesting is that even without complete testing of fatally injured drivers for drugs in all provinces and territories and even without vast numbers of studies on the effects of each of many drugs upon the skills used for driving, there is broad agreement that drug-impaired driving presents a serious problem and that drug-impaired driving is appropriately among offences within the Criminal Code.

Over the coming years, I am sure that we will see more research that will help us to broaden our understanding of the problem of drug-related impaired driving. That understanding could help to focus other parts of the prevention puzzle, such as education and public information, along with rehabilitative measures.

Over the past two decades there has been an increasing awareness of the dangers of driving while impaired by alcohol and drugs. There is far less tolerance today for such alcohol-impaired driving than there was in the past. Undoubtedly this progress also has an effect on the twin problems of drug-impaired driving and driving while impaired by a drug-alcohol cocktail. Canadians are not willing to put up with the dangers posed by drug-impaired driving.

I am aware some would argue that we should have legal limits for each of the many drugs, just as we have a legal limit in the Criminal Code for alcohol. Alcohol has a steady rate of absorption and elimination. Scientists are readily agreed that a significant increase of crash risk occurs above .08 for drivers, regardless of age. For the vast majority of other drugs, it is not so easy to find agreement on the threshold at which crash risk assessment is significantly increased. That is why the support from the drugs and driving committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science has come for drug recognition expert programs rather than for drug legal limits.

Bill C-32 has benefited from feedback provided on a public consultation paper on drug-impaired driving, released last fall. Several provinces have provided comments. Some individual Canadians have commented, as have many organizations, including the Canadian Bar Association, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, the Canada Safety Council, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs, the Canadian Association of Police Boards, the Canadian Professional Police Association, and the Canadian Medical Association. Bill C-32 incorporates a number of their suggestions.

I am aware that the legislation may be tested in the courts. In several ways it parallels the breath-testing legislation, which has withstood scrutiny. For example, reasonable suspicion is required prior to demands for roadside sobriety tests just as it is prior to demanding breath tests on an approved screening device. Police must have reasonable grounds to believe an offence is being committed before demanding DRE tests at the police station, just as they must have reasonable grounds before demanding a breath test on an approved instrument. I am confident that the bill is solid and that the limits it imposes are justifiable.

Bill C-32 will aid police in the investigation of drug-impaired driving offences. By itself it is not a panacea for the problem of drug-impaired driving. It is, however, a very important piece in the solution. I am asking all members to support the motion to send Bill C-32 to committee for review.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2004 / 3:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, of course, it is a great pleasure to speak to Bill C-32. It is somewhat the child of Bill C-10 and of Bill C-38, which was later called Bill C-10.

The House will remember that several witnesses who appeared before the committee pointed out the problem of driving while impaired by drugs. They raised this point to encourage us to oppose Bill C-10.

Following these presentations, I moved in committee an amendment aimed at doing almost what Bill C-32 does now. At the time, the committee chair rejected my amendment, because it was irrelevant to Bill C-10.

However, and I succeeded in getting the unanimous support of the committee on this, we tabled two reports on Bill C-10 in the House. The first report suggested some amendments to Bill C-10 and the other called on the government to move quickly to pass legislation to resolve the problem of driving while impaired by drugs.

So, Bill C-32, which is now before us, is in response to a request by the committee that reviewed Bill C-10.

As regards the bill per se, we have good news and bad news. The good news is that we support Bill C-32 at this stage and believe that it should be reviewed in committee as quickly as possible.

Now, let us turn to the bad news. The introduction of the bill at this stage of our proceedings, with an election campaign looming on the horizon, is a cheap election ploy on the part of the Liberals. They are trying to counter the attacks that they are anticipating from the Conservative Party of Canada and its right wing forces, which want a return to a more prohibitionist approach regarding the possession of marijuana.

When a measure as important as Bill C-32 is introduced in the House, an announcement is usually made regarding moneys that will be made available to implement the legislation. In this case, no money was earmarked, announced or set aside to implement Bill C-32. What is the point of tabling, and even voting on a measure such as Bill C-32 if the means to implement it are not there?

As we know, there are some 52,000 police officers in Canada. If my memory serves me correctly, we need to train about 40% of them so that they can conduct the standardized breath test announced in Bill C-32.

How does the government expect to train these 20,000 to 25,000 police officers if it does have the means to do so? How will these men and women, these police officers, be able to conduct standardized sobriety tests on people who are inebriated or under the influence of drugs, if they are not trained to do so?

I will conclude by saying that although we support Bill C-32, I think this is a cheap election ploy. I think the government is not sincere in its commitment to passing Bill C-32. If it were, it would have provided the means to implement it.

Unfortunately, nothing surprises me anymore with this government. I am beyond cynical about it. This government has no direction and does not know what it wants except to be re-elected. It thinks that by tabling Bill C-32 on the eve of an election, it is arming itself against possible attacks that might occur during an election campaign. For the public, it is very disappointing to see the government treat such an important issue this way.

I repeat, and I will conclude on this, I demand that the government table a concrete plan in the few days remaining before the federal election is called. The government has to tell us exactly how much money it will provide and put aside in order to train police officers to conduct standardized sobriety tests; otherwise this is all a sham.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2004 / 3:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the motion to send the bill to committee for further review and study.

Bill C-32, which is an act to amend the Criminal Code with regard to drugs and impaired driving, seeks to extend the testing provisions that currently exist for alcohol to also be used for other drugs. Alcohol testing can be done by police officers when an individual is pulled over to the side of the road with ease because of the fact that alcohol can be traced through breath and therefore a very non-intrusive breathalyzer test is possible.

This is not possible for other substances. Really law enforcement authorities frankly in Canada and elsewhere have been very lucky that alcohol is so easily tested through a breathalyzer device.

Therefore, what the proposed law does is allow police officers to require an individual to submit to a blood test and impose penalties for refusing to take that blood test to establish whether or not some degree of substance has been ingested that causes the individual to act in an impaired manner.

Significantly, this has nothing to do with whether is it an illegal substance. It has to do with whether the amount in the person's blood stream is sufficient to cause the person to act in a manner that essentially is negligent and endangers the general public through driving. On the whole that is a very good thing.

Right now the situation is there is no method legally available to police officers to allow them to require an individual to provide a blood sample in order for that sample to be tested to confirm whether the individual's driving is impaired.

The drug recognition expert test, to which my hon. colleague referred, is available and used in three provinces currently: Quebec, British Columbia and Manitoba. However, it is only where the driver voluntarily participates. As we can anticipate, those who themselves feel that they might be in violation of the impaired driving laws are the most likely to refuse compliance with the request of an officer. Therefore, in practice, we can prosecute for the use of a legal drug, alcohol, but not for the use of illegal drugs in a way that causes the individual to be impaired.

Police officers are typically put in a position where it is necessary for them to rely on external evidence; that is behaviour of the individual with erratic driving patterns prior to the automobile being pulled over or by witness testimony, if they can find where the individual came from and are able to have someone report that the individual was using some form of substance in a substantial enough quantity that an individual's driving behaviour was likely to be impaired. In other words, it makes it very difficult to actually carry out prosecutions of those who endanger the public.

This is significant. All of this is taking place to some degree in the context of a debate over another bill, Bill C-10, which would decriminalize the possession and therefore in practice the use of at least limited quantities marijuana. Therefore, as this discussion goes on, we are also talking about a semi-legal drug, its status and how we respond to that.

Sometimes there are individuals, myself included, who refer to the consumption and use of marijuana as a victimless crime; that is, someone uses marijuana but they do not create a victim out there. However, that stops when individuals use marijuana or some other substance, including a prescription drug, and proceed to put themselves essentially at the control of a large and dangerous machine and take actions which could endanger the safety of others. At that point, the public interest becomes involved and potentially there are victims of what essentially boils down to being at the very least a kind of gross negligence. In some cases we see impaired drivers going out when there is almost a certainty they will wind up having an accident. We can argue that when someone is harmed, it is a form of manslaughter.

When I have written on the subject of decriminalization of drugs in the past, I always have stressed the importance of ensuring that we have laws in place that guarantee that negative externalities, the imposition of pain or suffering upon others, are carefully prevented and any form of reduction in the penalties for the use of any mood or mind-altering substance ought to be accompanied by protections for the public.

In October 2001 I wrote an article on the subject of marijuana decriminalization and drugs in general. I wrote the following with reference to the public good and public interest. I said:

--most of us would recognize the need for sanctions against violent behaviour and against the grossest forms of negligence towards others, and it is perfectly reasonable to expect some form of legislated limitation on what economists would describe as the “negative externalities” (harmful or annoying side effects to others) of all personal behaviours, including drug use. Which is, of course, precisely what the state does in the case of legal recreational drugs. Driving or boating while under the influence of alcohol is a criminal offence, as it ought to be.

The same would be true for driving or boating while under the influence of marijuana, a prescription drug, an illegal drug or some mix of those substances. The bill as it stands now would allow for this kind of rule to be enforced in a meaningful way, and that is a positive step.

There are some things, however, that deserve to be mentioned as caveats. One is the fact that it is not as easy to find a consensus on what represents a dangerous level of other substances in the bloodstream. Whereas we have a pretty clear consensus on what represents a dangerous level of alcohol in the bloodstream. That is work that I think we can achieve.

I have great hope that in committee hearings we will hear witnesses who can draw our attention to some of the science on this so we may begin to develop the necessary knowledge to allow ourselves to carry out this kind of law effectively and ensure that those who are not impaired are not facing prosecution and those who are genuinely impaired do not get away from facing prosecution. That is a balancing act and I have hope that we will be successful in finding the solution through this.

I also want to mention that we should not regard this law as being a panacea with regard to the problems raised by Bill C-10, the marijuana decriminalization law.

Bill C-10 has problems that are not addressed by this legislation. Most notable, it seems to me, Bill C-10 simultaneously reduces the penalties for the consumption of marijuana. That means inevitably the consumer demand would increase while at the same time it would increase the penalties for the possession of marijuana for production purposes as measured, for example, by the number of plants one has in one's possession. This could have the consequence of causing simultaneously demand to rise while the penalties also rise and the temptations of risking those penalties also rise, which may result in more prosecutions and more people being tempted into a position where they can be prosecuted than would otherwise be the case. I do not think that is a positive thing and it remains a real concern with Bill C-10. There are other concerns, as well.

However, this proposed and the measures it recommends are very positive. I would encourage members to send the bill forward to the committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2004 / 3:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul MacKlin Liberal Northumberland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support the motion to send Bill C-32 to the committee for review.

Bill C-32 fully responds to various parliamentary committees that have urged consideration of ways to improve legislation for the investigation of drug impaired driving.

In 2003 the special committee of the House that examined Bill C-38, that is cannabis reforms, now Bill C-10, recommended that the government consider amendments relating to drug recognition evaluation in order to aid in drug impaired driving investigations.

Earlier in the fall of 2003, the government had released a consultation paper on drug impaired driving to stakeholders and provinces that reflected discussions among federal and provincial officials. Those discussions had been recommended by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights following its 1999 review of the impaired driving provisions in the Criminal Code.

Also in 2002, the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs had recommended that consideration be given to amendments for drug recognition expert legislation.

Currently section 253(a) of the Criminal Code makes it an offence to drive while one's ability to operate is impaired by alcohol or a drug. This includes driving while impaired by a combination of alcohol and a drug. For alcohol there is a separate offence in section 253(b) for driving while over the legal limit, but there are no similar drug legal limits.

The drugs and driving committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science has indicated that for the vast majority of drugs there is no scientific agreement on the concentration threshold at which there is impairment that significantly increases collision risk.

The Criminal Code currently authorizes the police to make demands for alcohol breath tests. These readings are necessary to prove the alcohol legal limit offence in section 253(b) and refusal of the alcohol breath tests is an offence.

These provisions are very helpful in the investigation process that leads to dealing with the alcohol legal limit offence. For section 253(a), drug impaired driving investigations, the police and the public are often less familiar with the physiological effects of drugs than those associated with alcohol. Bill C-32 would give the police the tools to better investigate section 253(a), drug impaired driving incidents.

Bill C-32 would authorize a peace officer, who reasonably suspects that a person has alcohol or a drug in the body, to demand that the person perform physical sobriety tests at the roadside. These involve a heel to toe walk and turn, following with the eyes the officer's hand movement, and standing on one leg. If the tests give the officer reasonable grounds to believe that the person has committed an alcohol involved driving offence, the officer can demand that the person provide a breath sample on the approved instrument. Typically an officer who has taken the necessary training does this testing at the police station.

If, after the roadside physical sobriety tests, the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a drug impaired driving offence has occurred, the officer may demand that the person perform tests in a drug recognition expert evaluation back at the police station. The trained officer who conducts the evaluation will conduct the steps in the evaluation and classify the family of drugs, if any, that is causing impairment.

If no test has been done at the roadside for alcohol and no test was done at the police station for alcohol and the officer conducting the evaluation has reasonable suspicion of alcohol in the body, the officer may demand a sample of breath on an approved screening device in order to confirm whether alcohol is present. If the officer conducting the evaluation forms the opinion that a drug is causing impairment, the officer can then demand a sample of urine, saliva or blood. The sample will be tested. Where the result shows that the drug which the officer identified as causing impairment is present, a charge would proceed.

Once again, as with alcohol, refusal of any of the demands without reasonable excuse would be a Criminal Code offence carrying the same penalties that now exist for driving while impaired, driving while over the alcohol legal limit or refusing to provide a breath sample.

If the prosecution proceeds by summary conviction, which is of course the less serious type of charge that can be laid, the existing maximum is six months imprisonment. If the prosecution proceeds by indictment, the maximum is five years imprisonment. Where there is impaired driving that causes death, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. Where there is impaired driving that causes bodily harm, the maximum penalty is 10 years of imprisonment.

On the first offence, the minimum penalty is a fine of $600. On a second offence, the minimum is 14 days of imprisonment. On a subsequent offence, the minimum penalty is 90 days of imprisonment. In addition, upon a conviction, the court must also impose a period of prohibition from driving anywhere in Canada. The minimum driving prohibition increases with repeat offences.

The courts have already found that under section 1 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms the short detention at roadside for a breath test on an approved screening device, without the right to legal counsel is justifiable. Bill C-32 in its demand for physical sobriety tests at the roadside provides the police with a similar tool that, in my view, is equally justifiable.

Police currently give the right to counsel at the police station before the suspect performs an alcohol breath test on an approved instrument. It is anticipated that police would follow the same practice prior to a drug recognition expert evaluation.

In addition to the drug impaired driving elements of Bill C-32, the bill contains provisions that would correct some section numbering of Bill C-10, that is cannabis reforms. Bill C-32 also contains consequential amendments and coming into force provisions.

Currently, there are several provinces with police officers that have sobriety test and DRE training. However, these officers have no authority to make a demand for testing and can only conduct tests if a suspect voluntarily participates. Bill C-32 will, in that regard, be a giant step forward for police who investigate drug impaired driving incidents.

Clearly, the time has come for this type of legislation to be put in place. I urge all members to send the bill to committee for review. There we will be able to have all the stakeholders and the witnesses can come forward and make their perspectives known. Clearly, this area is an area that does present some difficulties. However, I believe this bill goes a long way toward bringing us to a point where drug impaired driving will bring the penalties to it that it deserves and will help in removing them from our roadways.

I encourage all members to support this going forward to committee for further review.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2004 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard Liberalfor the Minister of Justice

moved:

That Bill C-32, and act to amend the Criminal Code (drugs and impaired driving) and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2004 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

(Motion agreed to and bill referred to a committee)

Bill C-32. On the Order: Government Orders

May 3, 2004--the Minister of Justice--Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness of Bill C-32, and act to amend the Criminal Code (drugs and impaired driving) and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

April 29th, 2004 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Brossard—La Prairie Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to reassure my colleague and Canadians that we are working on a number of bills.

We will proceed this afternoon with third reading of Bill C-9, an act to amend the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs Act (The Jean Chrétien Pledge to Africa). This bill, which we introduced and which is now at third reading, makes it possible for us to send pharmaceutical products to help countries in Africa.

This will be followed by third reading stage of Bill C-12, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act.

Then we will move on to report stage of Bill C-23, an act to provide for real property taxation powers of first nations, to create a First Nations Tax Commission, First Nations Financial Management Board, First Nations Finance Authority and First Nations Statistical Institute and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

This will be followed by the debates on the motions for referral to committee before second reading of Bill C-29 and Bill C-32. I would like to point out that it is as part of our democratic reform that we are now regularly referring bills to committees before second reading, to allow them to review the legislation.

Therefore, before second reading, we will refer Bill C-29, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, and Bill C-32, an act to amend the Criminal Code (drugs and impaired driving) and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts. We know that Canadians really want us to deal with the issue of impaired driving.

Of course, we will deal with third reading of Bill C-10, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

This is for today. We may not have time to finish everything, because there is a lot to do. In any case, tomorrow we will deal with report stage and, if possible, with third reading of Bill C-30, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 23, 2004.

Then, we will undertake our review of Bill C-28, an act to amend the Canada National Parks Act.

Of course, next week we will continue with any unfinished business.

Incidentally, Thursday of next week, May 6, will be an allotted day. I would suggest that hon. members get a good rest, because there is still a lot of work to do.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

April 26th, 2004 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Mount Royal Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-32, an act to amend the Criminal Code (drugs and impaired driving) and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

February 12th, 2004 / 10:10 a.m.
See context

The Speaker

The Chair is satisfied that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-32 was at the time of prorogation of the 2nd session, 37th Parliament.

Accordingly, pursuant to order made Tuesday, February 10, the bill is deemed adopted at all stages and passed by the House.

(Bill read the second time, considered in committee, reported, concurred in, read the third time and passed)

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

February 12th, 2004 / 10:10 a.m.
See context

Mount Royal Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-14, an act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts.

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to special order made earlier, I wish to inform you that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-32 at the time of prorogation of the previous session.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Reinstatement of Government BillsGovernment Orders

February 9th, 2004 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the motion seeks to reinstate bills that died on the Order Paper when the previous session of Parliament ended.

As all of us know, the goal of the motion is a simple one: to spare members the burden of having to repeat work on bills that got as far as the committee stage in the last session.

This is especially commendable given the numerous pressures MPs are under and the limited resources available to us.

What features are contained in the motion? Simply put, under the motion a minister would be able to request during 30 sitting days after the motion's adoption the reinstatement of a bill that had reached at least the committee stage when the last session ended. Should the Speaker be satisfied that the bill is the same as in the previous session, the bill would be reinstated at the same stage as before.

Thus during this session we can skip all the stages of debate that have been completed so far. The work of the committees that are considering the bills would consequently be preserved. In short, this is a very appealing option.

Parliament relies heavily upon precedents which means we are constantly looking over our shoulder to ensure new measures are consistent with past practices. Is this motion in keeping with the longstanding practices of the House? It is in fact a practice we have had for over three decades.

On a number of occasions reinstatement motions have been adopted by consent and without debate. It is clear that today's motion is well within the bounds of accepted parliamentary practice. This is supported by Marleau and Montpetit's authoritative guide to parliamentary procedure which discusses this issue in some detail. While they recognize that as a general principle prorogation of a session means that all bills that have not yet received royal assent die on the Order Paper and must be reintroduced in the new session, they also recognize that “bills have been reinstated by motion at the start of a new session at the same stage they had reached at the end of the previous session; committee work has similarly been revived”.

One point that needs clarification is that this motion allows the government the flexibility to reintroduce certain bills. It does not require the government to reintroduce all bills that were on the Order Paper at a certain stage when Parliament prorogued. Let me give an example of some bills which the government would have the flexibility to reinstate if it so chose.

One is Bill C-7 on the administration and accountability of Indian bands. The new government has indicated it would like to revisit that whole question of governance but nonetheless, this motion would give the government the flexibility to reintroduce that bill should it so choose.

Another one is Bill C-10B on cruelty to animals which has received a lot of attention in my riding. Bill C-13, assisted human reproduction, as an example had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate and a great deal of the work that had been done here in the House of Commons would have to be redone. Bill C-17 on public safety was another bill that had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate.

Bill C-18, an act respecting Canadian citizenship, is another bill that the government if this motion passes will be able to reintroduce if it so chooses. Bill C-19, first nations fiscal management, was at report stage. Bill C-20, protection of children, was at report stage. Bill C-22, the Divorce Act, was in committee. Bill C-23, registration of information relating to sex offenders, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. Bill C-26, the Railway Safety Act, was in committee. Bill C-27 on airport authorities was at second reading when the House prorogued.

Bill C-32, Criminal Code amendments, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. Bill C-33, international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences, was at report stage when we prorogued. Bill C-34, ethics, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate where it had been amended.

These are bills that have gone through a lengthy debate and process within the House of Commons and some already within the Senate.

Bill C-35, remuneration of military judges, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. Bill C-36, Archives of Canada, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. Bill C-38, the marijuana bill, was at report stage and second reading. Bill C-40, Corrections and Conditional Release Act, was at first reading when the House prorogued. Bill C-43, the fisheries act, was at first reading when the House prorogued.

Bill C-46, the capital markets fraud bill, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. This is a bill that will help the government deal with the kind of corporate fraud that we have seen with Enron and many other examples. We want to make sure that our government has the ability to deal with these types of issues so that investors are protected from the fraudulent activities of the management of various companies and their directors.

Bill C-49, the electoral boundaries act had passed third reading and was in the Senate.

Bill C-51, the Canada Elections Act, and Bill C-52, the Radiocommunication Act, were at second reading when the House prorogued. Bill C-53, the riding name changes, had passed third reading and was sent to the Senate. Bill C-54, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act was in committee as was Bill C-56, the Food and Drugs Act, when the House prorogued. Bill C-57, the westbank first nation self-government act was also in committee.

There was a lot of work involved in getting these bills to this stage. The government is not necessarily committing to reintroducing all these bills, but we want the flexibility to reintroduce those bills which we support and not have to reinvent the wheel.

The amendment put forward by the member for Yorkton--Melville indicates that there are a number of bills that, given the government's flexibility, he would not like to have reinstated. That includes Bill C-7, the bill dealing with the administration and accountability of Indian bands. Our government may want to revisit that bill.

The member for Yorkton--Melville has said that Bill C-13, the assisted human reproduction bill, should be left alone as well. He names a number of other bills such as Bill C-19, Bill C-20, Bill C-22, Bill C-26, Bill C-34, Bill C-35, Bill C-36, Bill C-38.

I should point out that a number of these bills, Bill C-13 for example, passed third reading and was in the Senate.The member for Yorkton--Melville wants us to start all over with that bill.

He said that Bill C-34, the ethics legislation, should not be reinstated, yet that bill had passed third reading and was sent to the Senate where it had been amended. We all know about that bill.

He said that we should start all over again with regard to Bill C-35, remuneration for military judges legislation. That bill had passed third reading and was in the Senate,.

I do not know what is so contentious with regard to Bill C-36, the archives of Canada legislation, but the member for Yorkton--Melville wants us to start all over again with that bill. Bill C-38, the marijuana bill, was at report stage.

A lot of work has already been done in this chamber and in the other place on bills that, without the passage of this motion, would have to be started all over again. There is a long list of precedents for reinstating government bills and reviving committee work.

For example, in 1970, 1972, 1974 and 1986, the members of this House gave their unanimous consent to a motion to reinstate bills from a previous session.

In 1977 and 1982 members amended the Standing Orders to allow Parliament to carry over legislation to the next session. All of which testifies to the longstanding practice of the House of allowing the reinstatement of bills at the same stage as was the case in the previous session, which is precisely what the motion calls for.

It is interesting to note, and I have some personal interaction with this particular idea, that the procedure proposed in the motion is similar, in fact it is identical, to that which exists in the Standing Orders for private members' bills which the House adopted in 1998.

I have a private member's bill, Bill C-212, an act respecting user fees, that unanimously passed all stages in the House, was in the Senate, had passed first reading in the Senate and had been referred to the Senate Standing Committee on National Finance. Then we prorogued. Without this particular feature, I would have had to start all over again in the House of Commons after two to three years of work and a bill that had passed unanimously at all stages in the House of Commons.

With this particular Standing Order, the bill is already on the floor of the Senate. We did not have to reinvent the wheel here in the House of Commons. I am hopeful that it will be passed to the Standing Committee on National Finance shortly and then onwards from there.

We say that those rules are good for private member's bills, in fact they have the support of the House because they are now part of the Standing Orders. We say, on the one hand for private members' business, it is all right to reinstate these bills, but for the government's business it is not, this is a whole new thing.

The member opposite said that if we have a new government then why do we not have new ideas. I can assure the member that if he read the throne speech, and if he looked at the new democratic deficit paper, this is just the start. He will see that the government will be operated very differently.

However, having said that, there is no problem in my judgment to reintroduce those bills that make sense. There has been a lot of work done already. With this motion, the government would have the flexibility to deal with these bills that have been passed, where there is consent of the House, and send them to the Senate.

It is interesting to note that in 1977, a private member's bill was reinstated after Parliament was dissolved.

All of which inevitably leads us to the conclusion, as I said earlier, that if it is reasonable to reinstate private members' bills at the same stage, surely we have the common sense in this chamber to say that it is reasonable to follow the same procedure with respect to government bills.

What would be different about government bills? If we have adopted the procedure in the House for private members' business, why would we want different rules for government business, unless we are out to score political points or be partisan in our debate?

I should point out that this practice of reinstating bills is also practised in other mature democracies that have ruled in favour of bringing legislation forward from one session to another.

I think of the parliament in the United Kingdom from which many of our own parliamentary practices originally came. It has reinstatement motions to allow government bills to carry over from one session to the next.

The official opposition has told the media that it would oppose the motion for the sole purpose of delaying bills from the last session. This is patently unfair and contrary to House practices. The attitude shows it has little regard for the work of the House and for Canadian taxpayers. Opposition members will ask members of the House, at great cost to the public treasury, to come back and re-debate bills that have already passed this chamber and are in the Senate in many cases.

The bills that will be reinstated would include the legislation to accelerate the coming into force of the new electoral boundaries which was passed by the House of Commons and sent to the Senate.

We talk about dealing with western alienation. This particular legislation would allow more seats for British Columbia and Alberta. This is the way to proceed. Why would we want to delay that bill? Why would we want to have the debate all over again on something that is patently obvious.

We take the census and figure it all out, and draw the boundaries. This is not rocket science. This is done by Elections Canada. It redefines the boundaries. It recognizes that Canada is a growing country, that different areas are growing more quickly than others, and it redefines the boundaries.

If we have that bill when the next election is called, Alberta and British Columbia will have a bigger voice. I think Ontario would receive more seats as well. I am sure that there could be an amendment that could be put forward to deal with Nova Scotia perhaps.

There is the legislation to create an independent ethics commissioner and a Senate ethics officer, something that the members opposite have argued for vociferously for months, perhaps years. This bill could be reinstated very simply by agreeing and adopting this motion. We could have an independent ethics commissioner for the House and a Senate ethics officer.

The motion should have the support of the House. It is the practice in most mature democratic countries.

In conclusion, we need to be clear that adoption of the motion does not mean that all the bills that were on the Order Paper when we prorogued would automatically come back. It means that the government would have the flexibility to pick those bills that, in its wisdom and judgment, it sees fit to bring back. That would allow us not to have to reinvent the wheel and re-debate those bills that have the support of the chamber. Many of them also have the support of the Senate, at least at first reading stage.

The motion before us today does not represent a break with our parliamentary traditions. In fact, it is very much a part of our parliamentary traditions and it is entirely consistent with the practice of the House dating back to 1970.

Moreover, the measures described in the motion would greatly contribute to freeing up the members so that they can focus on the important task of developing new initiatives for promoting the well-being of Canadians.

With this in mind, I certainly intend to support this motion. I would urge other members to support it so we can get on with the business of the House, the important business and legislation that can be brought forward and reinstated and not have to be re-debated.

Reinstatement of Government BillsGovernment Orders

February 9th, 2004 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, the speech by the member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell was more a lecture on the democratic deficit, but I would like to ask three quick questions of the former government House leader.

First, the member talked about denying democracy. Democracy has been constantly denied in the House by two means: by restricting free votes and by invoking closure or time allocation. How many times, in his records, has he invoked closure or time allocation? Probably 85 times, which is a record in parliamentary history.

It has been emphasized that a precedent is set by reinstating the motion to reinstate the previous bills from the previous government. It is an unprecedented move in parliamentary history for a new Prime Minister to reinstate the bills from the previous government or previous prime minister. Moreover, the current Prime Minister has stated, and I quote, “my position on parliamentary reform is that closure should be the exception, not the rule”.

It was not on December 10, 2002, but this is what the Prime Minister stated. Now, in the first six days, he has invoked closure. We just got a notice of closure on this reinstatement motion. The former prime minister, Jean Chrétien, waited for a year and half to invoke closure on any bill, so I would say that the current Prime Minister has broken all the records and has contributed to the democratic deficit more than anyone else has done, and he has done it faster than anyone else has done.

So that was the first question: how many times has the former government House leader invoked closure or time allocation?

Second, why was the House closed in the first place? Could the member answer that for me? It is a mystery. I cannot comprehend why the House was closed in the first place other than the Liberals' partisan reasons or their infighting that led to the new Prime Minister's takeover from the former prime minister so that then Parliament was prorogued.

Finally, the member has talked about a few bills. He wanted us to support some of the bills and he asked for reasons. Here is what I would like to ask the former government House leader about. I had a private member's motion to ask for tougher penalties for those criminals who were setting booby traps to kill or injure the firefighters who went to put out fires at marijuana grow ops or methamphetamine labs. Why was the motion denied but then brought into Bill C-32? It was the same content.

Similarly, I had another motion about developing a national standard on academic credentials and then using that national standard to recognize foreign academic credentials. The motion was put down by the government, but then it included the same contents in the throne speech. If this is not partisanship, what is it? How can we think of supporting those bills which do not serve a purpose for Canadians while on the other hand the government puts down an opposition member's bill and then tries to steal the contents and include them in government legislation? There are no other words for it.

Reinstatement of Government BillsGovernment Orders

February 9th, 2004 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to debate the motion regarding the reinstatement of past bills in the House.

This is a very serious issue. The government is to be a new government with a new vision. It is supposed to be coming up with new ideas; however, it is asking the House to reintroduce bills from the previous session. As we know, the government has been recycling these bills.

Before I begin my arguments, I would like to say that there have been precedents in the past where previous governments have introduced bills at their previous stage. In 1970, 1972, 1979 and many times before, bills were re-introduced. Motions have been introduced in the House to reinstate previous bills into a new session of Parliament after prorogation.

What was the need to prorogue the House? It was because of mismanagement by the Liberals of their own affairs. They had the leadership contest in the previous session. They mistimed their own leadership contest. When the new leader came into power, he was supposed to have a new vision and new ideas for Parliament.

I accept that it is the practice for the government to reinstate bills in a new session. Marleau and Montpetit cite a number of precedents that have happened in the past. In 1970, 1972, 1974 and 1986 the House gave unanimous consent to motions to reinstate bills. In 1977 and 1982 the House adopted amendments to the Standing Orders to carry over legislation to the next session. There were motions in the House in 1991 and 1996, and since I arrived in the House in 1997, we have had similar motions for reinstatement in 1999 and 2002.

The reinstatement of bills expedites House business at the beginning of a new session. Bills that have already been studied can be reinstated to the point they had reached in a previous session. The House and members of committees do not have to waste their time and resources on questions that have already been settled.

Having said that, I still cannot help but find it ironic that we are here today considering the reinstatement of bills from the last session. After all, it was just one week ago today that the Governor General read the Speech from the Throne. I find one sentence in the throne speech particularly interesting in light of what we are considering today. It states:

This Speech from the Throne marks the start of a new government; a new agenda--

What new agenda was she speaking of? The throne speech contained a laundry list of promises, but nearly every one can be found in previous speeches from the throne by the same Liberal government. In fact, the core of last week's throne speech can be gleaned from the Liberal's 1993 red book. Needless to say, there is not much new about decade old promises.

The same government has been talking about restoring the public's faith in the management of government ever since it took over the reins of power in 1993. In that time it has done absolutely nothing but further erode the trust that Canadians have in their government by moving from one boondoggle to the next.

Does the government honestly think that keeping details of federal contracts given to Barbados shipping conglomerates hidden from the public will restore faith in government?

Need I say anything about the renewed promises for an independent ethics commissioner? I will believe that one when I see it.

By seeking to reinstate bills from the last session the Prime Minister is undermining all claims about being new. If the government was truly new, truly different from its predecessor, the Prime Minister could have chosen from three options.

First, he could have begun this session with a clean slate, introducing his own legislation that reflects his own priorities. That would have made perfect sense. Any government that is truly new would want to set out its own course and not reach back and steal the agenda of its predecessor.

Second, if the incoming Prime Minister did not have his own priorities, then he could have at least taken the existing bills of the last session and incorporated some of the constructive changes that have been proposed by members in this chamber, both from the official opposition as well as from other backbench members of Parliament. While this choice would not reflect any new ideas on the Prime Minister's part, it would at least mesh with his stated desire to give added power to backbench MPs. However, I am not holding my breath and waiting for this to occur either.

The Prime Minister's third option is to reinstate bills from the previous session with his own amendments.

However, the Prime Minister has chosen none of these options. He has instead decided to proceed from where Mr. Chrétien left off. In doing so, he ends all pretensions of being different or new in any way and continues with Mr. Chrétien's agenda in the same direction.

The important question is, why did the Liberals prorogue Parliament and waste all the work that was done in the House? In the process, why did the government keep the House adjourned for so long?

We are dealing with a tired, weak and worn out government, bereft of new ideas. There are a number of bills that the government is now trying to bring forward that we would seriously like to see dropped. If that were done, then probably there could be some agreement reached on the reinstatement motion.

Let us pause for a few minutes to consider some of the legislation, that died on the Order Paper when the government prorogued Parliament last fall, that I would like to exclude from this reinstatement motion. Let us begin with Bill C-34 which would, among other things, fulfill the Liberals' decade old promise to put in place an ethics commissioner who reports to Parliament.

The current ethics counsellor has no independence or investigative powers. He is completely controlled by the Prime Minister and reports in private to the Prime Minister about conflicts involving ministers. Mr. Wilson rubber stamps almost everything the Liberals do as ethical. The proposed new ethics commissioner would be more independent, although not nearly as independent as he could be. We are also getting an independent ethics officer to oversee the conduct of senators. The Prime Minister would retain the power to appoint both, after consultation with the opposition leaders. However, each choice would have to be ratified by a vote in the respective chamber.

The new commissioners would not be truly independent if only a majority vote by government members is required to ratify the appointments. Opposition approval should be required. This bill is primarily a public relations exercise. The Liberals want to go into next spring's election saying that they have done something. It will not work.

Let us consider why we need an ethics commissioner in the first place. It is because we cannot trust the government to police its own members. If the Liberals had passed this bill after their election in 1993, could the scandals and corruption of the last decade been avoided?

Would it have prevented the questionable contracting activities of former public works minister Alfonso Gagliano? Would it have prevented his successor from accepting personal favours from a departmental contractor? Would it have prevented the former defence minister from giving an untendered contract to his girlfriend, or the former solicitor general from lobbying his own officials to award millions in grants to a college led by his brother? Would this bill have prevented the Liberals from ignoring the Auditor General's charge that they had misstated the government's financial position by $800 million in 1996 and by $2.5 billion in 1997? Would it have prevented the government from interfering with the Somalia inquiry, when its efforts to get to the bottom of document destruction at national defence threatened to expose people at the top? Would it have prevented the government from attempting to obstruct the Krever inquiry into the tainted blood scandal, when it threatened to expose culpability on the part of the Liberals? Would the bill have prevented the systematic misuse of taxpayers' dollars for partisan purposes in the billion dollar boondoggle at HRDC? I do not think so.

There is Bill C-38, the government's misguided attempt to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. This legislation would do nothing to save our communities from the ravages of marijuana or the violence and crime that accompanies it. Rather, the bill would take us one step closer to the legalization of marijuana.

With this bill the Liberals are sending out the wrong message to Canadians, and particularly to young Canadians. Decriminalization makes it sound like it is okay to smoke pot. However, it is not okay. Studies show marijuana is four times more deadly than tobacco, whose use the government already spends hundreds of millions of dollars to discourage.

As for the increase in penalties for grow op owners, these are long overdue, but are meaningless if not enforced by the courts. The current law is not being applied. Grow op operators are sometimes receiving seven convictions without ever seeing the inside of a jail cell. What is the good in increasing maximum penalties if the courts are unwilling to hand out even weak sentences? What is really needed is minimum sentencing that will make people think twice before breaking the law. This bill should never be reintroduced as is. It seriously needs to be reconsidered.

Then there is Bill C-22 that proposes amendments to the Divorce Act. The assumption of shared parenting should be built into the Divorce Act. Shared custody encourages the real involvement of both parents in their children's lives.

On the other hand, we have Bill C-32, an act to amend the Criminal Code and other acts. Among other things, the bill would make it a Criminal Code offence to set a deadly trap in a place used for a criminal purpose. This would protect first responders, that is, firefighters, police, et cetera, whose lives could be endangered by entering such a place in the performance of their duties. I strongly support the bill because it deals with issues I have been pursuing for a number of years.

In fact, I introduced a motion in the House that was debated but rejected by the Liberals. What happened after that was that they stole the idea and put it into their own bill, Bill C-32. I do not understand why a motion introduced by an opposition MP was not good enough for passing in the House but the contents of the motion were good enough to be stolen and put into Bill C-32. That is the partisan nature of this place. However if any idea is good it should not matter whether it comes from the opposition or the Liberals.

In 2001 I introduced that motion and the Liberals rejected it, but we need to look at the issue seriously. There were 13,724 arson fires in Canada in 2002. I was alarmed to learn that over 30% of the fires in my home community of Surrey were as a result of arson. A very high percentage of them contained booby traps. There have been arson fires in schools and fiery explosions in residential neighbourhoods that have threatened the safety of citizens.

These fires are disturbing. Some were caused purely by mischief but many were set with more sinister intentions of covering up illegal activities, such as marijuana growing or methamphetamine labs. At other times, firefighters respond to calls only to find the premises booby-trapped with crossbows, propane canisters ready to explode, cutaway floor boards or other serious but intentional hazards. These malicious devices are intended to kill or injure anyone who interferes with the drug operation, including the firefighters. Firefighters in Surrey are especially at risk considering the growing number of marijuana grow operations that plague the city.

Bill C-32 is one bill that I would be pleased to see reinstated. Firefighters and other first responders have been waiting too long for this important legislation. However the government has been dragging its heels on the bill. It should be ashamed for delaying the bill for so long.

There is a history of precedents testifying to the long-standing practice in the House of allowing the reinstatement of bills at the same stage as this motion proposes. However if the Prime Minister truly believes that he heads a new government, he cannot call upon previous precedents where in every other instance there was no change in government.

The Prime Minister tries so hard to portray the government as new. Yes, the leader has changed, as have a few of his minions. The former lieutenant is now the commander but it is still the same old government making the same old promises.

By my count, the Speech from the Throne contained 31 uses of the word “new”. There were probably more. This was part of a feeble attempt to convince Canadians that they now have a new government. However all the “new” in the speech could not hide the fact that it was an old message. The Prime Minister wants to have his cake and eat it too.

The hon. House leader on Friday spoke of how a reinstatement motion avoids wasting Parliament's time and resources. His government should have thought about that before needlessly proroguing Parliament in the first place.

The government's plan to reinstate legislation from a previous session is further evidence, as if any more were required, that nothing has changed since the Liberals changed leaders. The new Prime Minister is continuing yet another practice of his predecessors. It is cynical practice and it manipulates the rules for electoral gain. Canadians will not be impressed.

The government's plan to reinstate legislation from the previous session is further evidence that nothing has changed since the Liberals changed leaders. They have been wasting the time of the House. We know the election will be called and nothing much will be accomplished. We have before us a tired government with a tired agenda that is interested in little more than remaining in office.