Madam Speaker, currently, under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the CDSA, it is illegal to produce, traffic or import methamphetamines and ecstasy, as it is for all illegal drugs. Bill C-475 would extend to the ingredients of methamphetamines and ecstasy and changes the act to make it illegal to produce, sell or import anything that would be used to produce the final product.
It is really a reincarnation of Bill C-428 from the 39th Parliament, only this version was changed to include ecstasy and a few other very minor wording changes. It is important to let people know that this bill does not include mandatory minimums, which is not like other crime bills that we have seen introduced by government members.
The main point about the bill is that it would not do very much to enable the justice system to deal more effectively or efficiently with methamphetamines or ecstasy. It may seem like it would because it talks about the ingredients of meth and ecstasy, but it would appear that the justice system already has an adequate way of dealing with this through its organized crime provisions in the Criminal Code.
At committee I was able to ask legislative counsel from the Department of Justice about the bill. I will like read from the transcript. The member from Halifax said:
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I have one question for you. Hopefully you can answer it. Do you see this amendment capturing any situation that isn't already covered by the organized crime provisions, or is it just the provision in and of itself that it's illegal to produce? Do you see this as actually having an impact?
The lawyer answered:
In terms of the production, I don't think so; nothing comes to mind. In terms of the impact on organized crime, I don't think it has an impact either.
The member from Halifax said:
Do you mean no impact positive or negative?
The Justice lawyer answered:
Hopefully it will have a positive effect in the sense that it will act as a deterrent, but in terms of the relationship between this offence and other offences, I don't think there is any.
The member from Halifax said:
Those are all my questions. Thanks.
Ultimately, it seems like it would not have very much of an effect. The lawyer did mention deterrence, however, the House has heard reams of evidence showing that deterrence is not really an effective strategy when it comes to drug crimes.
Should we support a bill that does not seem to have very much effect? Is this an example of the maxim, no harm, no foul? It is a private member's bill, so I submit that there are two considerations. First, I do respect any member's attempt to respond to the needs of his or her constituents by bringing forward a private member's bill. Our ability to bring forward legislation is a special privilege and it is a very challenging thing to see realized as there are so many steps to getting a piece of legislation through the House. Private member's bills are usually a direct response to the needs or the demands of constituents in a riding, so I tend to give a lot of weight to private member's bills, provided they are not harmful.
Therefore, I do congratulate the efforts that the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country has made to see this bill through the House.
The second thing to consider when deciding how to vote on a private member's bill is the fact that it is a free vote and all members get to make up their mind on whether they will support it. If other members of the House were to ask me for my advice on whether they should support it, I would say that it was their choice. It does not seem to have much of an impact but it does not seem to have a negative impact either.
I would like to use the rest of my time to talk about what good drug policy would look like. Would it not be exciting to debate intelligent drug policy for Canada? First, with regard to drug labs, we have seen some really interesting non-criminal ways of dealing with labs in the U.S. The U.S. has seen more successes with commercial and consumer regulation which limits the quantity of over-the-counter medication that a person can purchase and it questions the reason for the purchase. This kind of regulation can serve to limit the production of drugs like methamphetamine and ecstasy and it can act like a preventive measure, unlike this bill.
The existing legislation that we have in the Criminal Code or in the CDSA, the CDSA serves more as an after the fact punishment if a person is caught rather than effectively trying to reduce the ability to produce.
Regulations like the U.S. legislation requiring photo ID and a signature also provide ways to track, identify and police offenders who purchase over-the-counter drugs for meth and ecstasy production. Therefore, why are we not looking at U.S. solutions that have worked like consumer and commercial regulations, instead of adopting solutions that have failed, like a bloated prison system?
Why are we not looking at harm reduction? We have Mainline Needle Exchange back home in Halifax and Vancouver has Insite, a safe injection site. Despite the life-saving successes of harm reduction measures, such as needle exchanges, successes in reducing the spread of HIV and hepatitis C among drug users and successes in increasing access to treatment, in 2007, the Conservatives introduced a new anti-drug strategy for Canada that removed all references to harm reduction.
Instead, the government has put greater emphasis on law enforcement. What a big surprise. It moves Canada closer and closer to an expensive and failed U.S.-style drug system. Right now, Canada spends 73% of its drug policy budget on enforcement. Still, drug use continues to rise. If we look at the numbers, there is 73% to enforcement, 14% to treatment, 7% to research, 2.6% to prevention and 2.6% to harm reduction.
In 2008, the National Framework for Action to Reduce the Harms Associated with Alcohol and Other Drugs and Substances in Canada convened a working group. Members included federal agencies and provincial health agencies like Health Canada and the Nova Scotia Department of Health Promotion and Protection. It also included related agency representatives from the Correctional Service of Canada, the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. That is quite the team they put together.
The working groups points out:
Research findings suggest that providing appropriate services and supports across a range of systems not only reduces substance use problems but also improves a wide range of outcomes related to health, social functioning and criminal justice. Such a spectrum of services and supports is also a good investment for government, because it returns economic benefits that far outstrip its cost.
The group is calling for a national treatment strategy. This national treatment strategy would look at building capacity across a continuum of services and supports. It would look at supporting that continuum of services and supports. It would look at developing a research program and would also consider reducing stigma and discrimination. How we would do that and what that would look like?
That is intelligent drug policy and that is the kind of drug policy that we can get behind. The NDP is calling for better and more prevention programs directed at at-risk youth. We are calling for more resources for prosecution and the enforcement of existing laws. We are calling for more officers on the street, as promised by the Conservatives but not yet delivered. We are calling for an overall co-ordinated strategy focused on gangs and organized crime and also toughened proceeds of crime legislation.