Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians Act

An Act to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act

Status

Report stage (House), as of Oct. 19, 2017

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Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Motor Vehicle Safety Act for the purpose of strengthening the enforcement and compliance regime to further protect the safety of Canadians and to provide additional flexibility to support advanced safety technologies and other vehicle innovations. It provides the Minister of Transport with the authority to order companies to correct a defect or non-compliance and establishes a tiered penalty structure for offences committed under the Act. The enactment also makes a consequential amendment to the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada Act.

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.

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

September 20th, 2017 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, innovation in the automotive industry, as in any industry, comes mainly from small and medium-sized businesses. If we want innovation in the automotive industry and the agrifood industry, then we need to allow companies to hang on to their money for research. If we take away all their money by overtaxing them, we will unfortunately miss out on witnessing events like the ones we saw this morning.

I am happy for the minister to be given some latitude, but I would urge the government to let companies keep their money for research.

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

September 20th, 2017 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to take a few moments and begin today by welcoming all the members of the House back to the Commons after the summer recess. I trust that we, on both sides of the House, have all had a good summer and are returning refreshed and invigorated, ready to continue the work bestowed upon us by our constituents.

There is much work to do toward creating a Canada where no one is left behind; where full access to universal and affordable housing, medicare, pharmacare, child care, and education are a reality; where communities are able to reconcile with our indigenous people, and that reconciliation amounts to more than just empty promises; and where assurance that promises for the issues that matter to Canadians, such as true electoral reform and environmental justice, are not forgotten.

The summer has been very productive for me in visiting with the people of London—Fanshawe. I had a chance to hear their concerns, communicate my renewed commitment to them, and celebrate our achievements as a community and as a country, while we were able to recognize that we still have much more to accomplish. I look forward to the session with renewed hope that we are able to work together to achieve progressive solutions for all. I am most eager to continue the work of New Democrats in the House for our goals of social justice, social democracy, fairness, and equity in all areas of life, which, quite logically, brings me to today's debate on Bill S-2. It is a bill that deals with motor vehicle safety.

Bill S-2 touches on issues that, while seemingly complex in the legislative language we use on the Hill, affect the lives of my constituents in real and substantive ways. In southwestern Ontario, London in particular, because of the lack of adequate federal investment in public transit infrastructure, notably rail, we are dependent on motor vehicles whether we like it or not. The Highway 401 corridor can be a death trap, especially in the winter. Without alternative means of travel, Canadians are forced to take the road in order to conduct the business of living from day-to-day.

It is distressing to me to note that motor vehicle safety is not mentioned in the mandate letter of the Minister of Transport. New Democrats see this as a real matter of concern, given that road accidents are responsible for the deaths of thousands of Canadians each year. The very least we can do at the federal level is enact binding legislation that protects the safety of our constituents as we transport ourselves and our loved ones to work, school, and play. This can be accomplished by reducing the risk of harm arising from motor vehicle manufacturing defects.

In 2017, motor vehicles have become moving computerized islands with Wi-Fi access, Bluetooth connection for communication while driving, enhanced voice recognition, and options for entertainment and even shopping while on the road. They offer safety modifications and driver assistance options programmed into the vehicle to make our drives easier, safer, and more pleasant. These are all good things, but as the member for Trois-Rivières pointed out yesterday, this advanced technology leaves the individual car owner unable to diagnose problems that are bound to occur or make repairs on her or his own. As motor vehicle owners, we are reliant on the systems and experts who understand these systems to ensure that everything is in working order when we hit the road. Our lives are quite literally in their hands.

While much of the automobile industry in Canada has been gutted by globalization and the absence of protection for the industry from this and preceding federal governments, southwestern Ontario remains the centre of automobile production in Canada. However, we do worry, because workers at CAMI Local 88 in Ingersoll, Ontario are facing and fighting that precise situation. More than 400 jobs were lost this past spring, because GM moved a product line, the Terrain, to Mexico, and not a word from the government. Now, 2,800 CAMI workers and their families are striking to keep the plant open with the production of the Equinox, and still nothing from the government.

It is my sincere hope that we can enact federal incentives and protections to prevent more automobile manufacturing jobs from moving offshore, and even to restore the industry to the powerhouse it was and can be again.

While the industry remains active in my region, I believe it is vital to enact legislation that protects consumers, retailers, and manufacturers from the financial, emotional, legal, and personal life costs we all pay for when safety regulations are inadequate.

Among others, the legislation before us today grants ministerial power to order a recall and to require more information from automakers. The minister may order a vehicle manufacturer to carry out tests, analyses, or studies on materials in order to obtain information on the defects of a part or of a particular vehicle model. This provision could have avoided the situation with General Motors Corporation, where there was a time lag between the corporation's awareness of an ignition system defect in 2004 and the company's recall notice 10 years later in 2014. That was 10 deadly years. That kind of delay is completely unacceptable.

General Motors has admitted responsibility for 29 deaths linked to these defects, and claims are still outstanding for 150 others. General Motors started its initial investigation of the problem in 2004 and conducted several tests, analyses, and investigations, but Transport Canada was only informed of this problem on February 10, 2014, a full 10 years and far too many lives later. One life lost as a result of manufacturing defects is too many, particularly when the company knows about the defect.

Despite the efforts of Bill S-2 to enhance motor vehicle safety for Canadians, the Auditor General of Canada's most recent report drew attention to several cases of dysfunction in the division of Transport Canada responsible for motor vehicle safety oversight. The Auditor General concluded that the funding cutbacks to the department were harmful and degraded the quality of the information that informs the directorate's planning and regulatory decisions.

He also indicated that the department had ignored essential partners like consumers' associations, motor vehicle safety advocates, and police forces in the process to review motor vehicle safety regulations. Consequently, it is possible that motor vehicle manufacturers exercised a disproportionate influence on Transport Canada decisions.

The Auditor General also pointed out that the department had not used its own research on rear seat occupants to develop a standard to increase safety. Rear seat passengers have a greater probability of sustaining injuries in an accident. Many of them are children. Despite 15 years of investment in research, Transport Canada has still not identified new safety measures for rear seat occupants.

New Democrats are of course in favour of granting ministerial powers that serve to avoid the kind of tragedy we saw in the case of the GM ignition system recall, and we will be supporting the bill at second reading. We do, however, have concerns about the ability of the ministry to enforce such powers when the fact of the matter is the department's operating budget for crashworthiness testing has been slashed by 59% for 2016-17, dropping from $1.2 million to $492,000. It makes it difficult for me to applaud the Liberals, who have allowed a budget that should have been enhanced to be so drastically diminished. This leaves a deficit of over $700,000 in a budget that should be enhanced to ensure public safety.

New Democrats call upon the minister to cancel the budget cuts to his department in order to make sure that these new powers granted in the legislation will be backed up by adequate resources. In addition, we are calling for a limit on the minister's discretionary power to enter into agreements with companies in violation of the act. We want to see the minister properly consult all partners when proceeding with a regulatory amendment that affects the safety of Canadians, and we want the minister to effectively use the data produced by his own department in order to adopt standards that will protect the safety of Canadians.

I hope that when the bill goes to committee it will be improved so that our constituents are safe.

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

September 20th, 2017 / 4:15 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, it is important to recognize that Bill S-2 is all about making our roads and communities safer. This is a very important issue. Within two years, we were able to get this substantial legislation, which has been modified quite significantly from the Conservative legislation brought forward. When we look at that, it also protects the consumers. When someone walks into a car showroom and buys a vehicle, there is a certain expectation that the person is buying a safe vehicle. It provides even greater assurances to those consumers on those recall products.

Could my colleague share her thoughts about the importance of the data bank within Transport Canada? Most Canadians might not even be aware of it. People can go to the data bank at Transport Canada, type in their vehicle details, and get recall information. People might be surprised about how many vehicles have been recalled for one thing or another. It is estimated that as high as 50% or more of vehicles on the road today have some item under recall.

Could my colleague provide some thoughts on this great data bank, for those who might be participating in or following the debate? We should do what we can do promote that data bank.

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

September 20th, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, of course it is important to have the kinds of tools that will support consumers in their decisions and ability to access information. However, I would also suggest that the Liberal government needs to put its money where its mouth is. The budget has been reduced to Transport Canada for the kind of work all of us have been talking about.

Why on earth would we be happy with a government that does not see fit to ensure that the very ministry in charge of automobile safety has the kind of resources and funding it needs to ensure that we, the consumers, are protected?

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

September 20th, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
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Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member is talking about priority spending in an era where spending on pet projects seems to be the priority for the Liberal government. I know the hon. member spoke about the reduction to Transport Canada.

Could the hon. member comment on how important the safety of consumers is with respect to her ranking of spending as a priority of the government?

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

September 20th, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, with respect to the priorities of this Parliament, our constituents and consumers should be number one. People in Canada are depending on their government to make good decisions and wise decisions. That element of trust cannot be abused. I would much prefer to see the needs of the people in my community and every community in Canada be recognized and met rather than, as my colleague described them, “pet projects”.

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

September 20th, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
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NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech. It is always inspiring to hear a woman with such experience who comes from a region where the automotive industry is so important.

We can all agree on the importance of safety. However, at the end of her speech, my colleague talked about the importance of allocating resources to help ensure that safety. I would like her to tell us more about how good intentions are for naught without adequate resources.

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

September 20th, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I am reminded of an old catchphrase “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. That is very true. The intent of the bill is to protect consumers. The intent of the bill is to help dealers. However, unless it is supported with the resources that Transport Canada research teams need, then it means nothing.

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

September 20th, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Madam Speaker, it is always an honour for me to take part in debates. Today's debate is very important and deals with motor safety.

When I saw Bill S-2, I could not help but wonder. With everything that is happening right now, there are much more important issues to deal with. However, we know that the Liberal government does not want to talk about them. It is much easier for the Liberals to focus on a bill that is an easy sell because it addresses an important need. Everyone agrees that motor safety is important, so we are going to participate in the debate.

Again today, there are not very many members opposite who want to talk about the bill that they themselves proposed, so I commend the members of the opposition for speaking in their place. It is a bit strange that the members opposite, the members who govern our great and beautiful country, are not participating in this debate as readily as we are. I commend my colleague opposite, whose name I forget but who is always in the House. It is honour to see you because you are—

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

September 20th, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Madam Speaker, I would appreciate it if you could thank the member opposite on my behalf, because I feel it is important to point out that he is always present for every debate. I think he deserves credit, because apart from him and a few others, we have not had much opportunity to debate bills with members on the other side of the aisle since Parliament resumed.

Bill S-2 is, in my opinion, very important for motor vehicle safety. It is also common-sense legislation. This motor vehicle safety bill gives the minister of transport the power to order a recall and make companies repair defects at no cost to consumers. I think that is tremendously important.

We are buying new cars more and more. My dealership, which is located in my riding, is nice enough to call me or send me a letter every time there is a recall. That way, I know my car will be fixed at no cost to me. My dealership has already gotten into this useful habit. Dealerships have worked hard to make this progress happen. Now it is our turn to do our part by passing this Senate bill. We hope that all members will see their way clear to accepting the Senate's proposed amendments, which are extremely important.

Clause 10.52 states:

10.52(1) In this section, dealer means a person who is engaged in the business of purchasing vehicles or equipment directly from a company and reselling it to another person who purchases it for a purpose other than resale.

I support all the corrections being made, but the one that speaks to me most is:

10.52(2)(a) provide the dealer, at the company’s expense, with the materials, parts or components required to correct a defect or non-compliance in the vehicle or equipment, in accordance with any terms and conditions specified in the order;

Of course, it would be better if the bill went a bit further. Some potential changes that everyone could agree on would give the minister the authority to order a company to advise the person, in this case the dealer, who acquired a motor vehicle, to ensure that any defect or non-compliance involving the vehicle or a part is corrected before the vehicle is sold. That would avoid a lot of problems.

We know that Canada's roads are becoming increasingly dangerous. When people drive non-compliant vehicles it makes matters worse. We all know someone directly or indirectly who was in a serious car accident because they made a mistake, were inattentive, or were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. At times, however, the vehicle is to blame.

We heard my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou share a story with us. We see things like this in our communities every day. This bill needs to go back to committee and be amended a little. It needs to be discussed collectively because, based on what I am hearing, pretty much all the parties agree on the safety issue. The safety of drivers and people in general is what matters most. If there is a mechanical problem, this puts people in danger.

Obviously, I support Bill S-2. I would hope that the party opposite will accept these common-sense, non-partisan changes, since this is about people's safety, which should be our top priority. Yesterday we talked about border safety, and today we are talking about motor vehicle safety. I hope to see more bills on safety in Canada. It is an issue that is crucial to everyone. This is about life and death, and it is just common sense.

In my riding, like almost everywhere else, people are talking about important issues that the government is trying to sweep under the rug, specifically, Liberal taxation. We also need to have a non-partisan conversation on that issue. I have spoken with some Liberal backbenchers who have had the same problems we are having. We are receiving 200, 300, or 400 letters a week in our ridings from people who are worried about the direction the party opposite is taking.

It is a shame they are introducing bills that everyone agrees on. Our debates here should clarify things for Canadians. Bill S-2 is a very good example of that. Auto makers need to talk about safety, inform people, make Transport Canada part of the process, and be transparent. As the member for Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix, I find that this bill gives the minister a little too much power. However, if this will make Canadians safer, I am prepared to vote for it as long as it goes to committee for a few other changes.

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

September 20th, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member mentioned that members on this side were not taking part in the debate. I would like to commend my hon. colleague, the hon. member for Châteauguay—Lacolle, who just spoke a few moments ago and gave an excellent speech on the importance of safety.

I am disappointed that the hon. member would rise on this point and talk about how important it is for a mechanic or a salesperson in the dealership to pay less in tax than the owner of the car dealership. However, she also mentioned that we should be debating more important issues. What is more important than the safety of vehicles and the safety of the consumers who are driving their vehicles so they have confidence in them?

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

September 20th, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

The two go hand in hand. I talked about safety because the safety of our fellow citizens is important, as is their right to a bit of an easier life. The member did not like me talking about the new Liberal tax, but it is a fact. The government would rather keep this quiet, but our riding offices get calls every day, and not just Conservative MPs' offices. A lot of Liberal MPs get calls too, but they cannot talk about it. The opposition can talk about it because everyone is bringing this issue to us.

The reason people bring me their issues is not that they voted Conservative; it is that I represent everyone in my riding, and some of them are worried. When they come see me, I do not ask them who they voted for. I ask them what their issues are. I put this question out there, and they came to see me and talk about it. It is not my problem if the Liberals do not listen.

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

September 20th, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, the bill tabled back then had the consumer's best interests at heart. Is that not the very essence of our work? Is it not our duty as parliamentarians to work for the well-being and prosperity of Canadians?

Looking at all the initiatives we examine in the House of Commons, it is very easy to see which ones put Canadians first and which ones do not. Let us look at a few examples.

Is it in the best interests of Canadians for our country to rack up so much debt? Not in my view.

As we speak, Canada's federal debt stands at $650 billion, and grows by $77 million per day. Under the previous Conservative government, we guided this country through the worst recession of our lifetime. Through these difficult times, we managed to balance the budget by reducing taxes, reducing spending, and focusing on policies geared to steer the economy in the right direction.

Due to this, we needed to make difficult decisions. Someone once said that if everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. However, we knew that these hard decisions would lead to better days for everyone.

Our goal was to create a climate for job creation and to see Canadians bring home more disposable income, more money in their pockets and not in the government's pockets.

On the other hand, the Liberal government chose to increase spending, not during a recession, but at a time when the economy was doing well. They are spending endlessly and without any real priorities. In their first two years in office, the Liberals spent the surplus left by the Conservative government, and they increased spending and the debt just as much as any socialist government would. Unbelievable. They can chuckle across the way, but that is the truth. Financial management at the finance ministry is so far left that it looks like the NDP's policies. The Liberals seem to have embraced the vision of the left.

Let us get back to the real issue here. Increasing the debt without a valid reason is not, and could never be, in the interest of Canadians, and yet, this government does not hesitate to act recklessly by wasting public money and creating a financial burden that will be left to our children and grandchildren. The Liberals are being just as reckless when it comes to the legalization of marijuana. Here is the question that none of the Doobie Brothers wants to answer.

What is behind the Liberals' desire to pass this legislation? We have as many questions as there are points in this bill.

We know that many Liberals have made serious financial investments in this industry, and we know that the same people stand to benefit. We also know that because of all their reckless spending, the Liberals are short on cash and need to find new revenue sources. This may explain their rush to pass this bill.

Yesterday the Minister of Public Safety informed us that this law would reduce the market share of organized crime in the marijuana industry, and that loss to organized crime would be a gain for the legalized system. The expected tax revenue for the federal government might explain its rush to implement this bill. Let us remember that the Liberals have spent all the money and need much more.

The Prime Minister stated that legalized marijuana is important to remove organized crime from the marijuana industry and to keep pot away from youth. At best, this statement demonstrates a clear lack of judgment. At worst, this sort of reasoning borders on insanity.

Why does the Prime Minister insist on insulting the intelligence of Canadians? Why would he add to the anxiety of parents who clearly are not interested in drugs being more accessible?

The Prime Minister is well aware that the pot available in 1969 was very different from the pot available now.

The RCMP can tell you that pot is often laced with methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs that get people addicted the first time they try it. Here again, the Prime Minister is refusing to let the facts get in the way of a good story.

We need to get back to the basics of governance and the primary role of government. We need to remember that the work we do and the decisions we make here in Ottawa, in the House of Commons, are important. We need to remember that what we do in the House today will affect our society for many years to come. We must never lose sight of our mandate, a mandate to work for the people in each one of our ridings. The 338 seats here represent 38 million Canadians. We must never forget that. We are here for them, not for special interest groups that already have a leg up.

As I said earlier, Bill S-2 is very similar to the bill the Conservative Party introduced in 2015. It is about giving Canadians the advantage and enhancing consumer protection.

As you know, from time to time, auto manufacturers issue recalls for certain vehicles to fix defective parts. As things stand, auto manufacturers themselves handle recalls for their products of their own accord. In 2015 alone, five million passenger vehicles were recalled in Canada.

As we debate the bill we need to be very careful about what the final product will look like. Yes, the intent is to increase consumer protection, but we have to make sure that this does not result in increasing costs for Canadians. We must ensure that the final text of the legislation does not provide opportunities to the Minister of Transport to make partisan decisions when applying the law.

In my province of Quebec, there is a law that requires drivers to install winter tires for the winter months. Changing winter tires is an added cost to consumers, but it can be argued that this measure actually saves lives.

As far as Bill S-2 is concerned, the final text has to be balanced. This is not just about giving the new transport minister new powers. He has to put the consumers' interests first. On this side of the House, we will review what is being proposed and wait to hear the government's arguments.

After witnessing the government's actions over the past two years, Canadians are right to be concerned for the next two years. Canadians gave the Liberal government another chance after the sponsorship scandal. Canadians forgave that government for taking their money with one hand and giving it to their friends with the other.

Canadians also realize that the Liberals are inclined to promote the interests of their party instead of the interests of Canadians. People recognize the importance of 2019, the year of the next federal election, the year they can thank the Liberals for their service and bid them farewell.

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

September 20th, 2017 / 4:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member across the way is talking about road safety and perhaps wandered a little into the topic of cannabis, but since we are talking about it, perhaps it is a good opportunity to ask him the following. He talked about the cannabis of his day in the sixties and seventies not being as potent or dangerous as it is now, but is that not the reason or an excellent rationale why cannabis should be regulated and legalized, so that we can protect individuals and know what is in the product, its quality, its quantity, including how much THC is in it? Is he not making an argument in favour of the legalization of cannabis?

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

September 20th, 2017 / 4:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my dear colleague for his question.

Cannabis is a broad issue, and the government's plan to legalize it will not resolve the problem of cannabis use. The government is proposing that people be allowed to grow any kind of marijuana plant at home and there will be no regulations governing that at all. The government will therefore have no control over what will be mixed in with that marijuana and sold on the black market. The Liberals' plan will not work.

Furthermore, since we are talking about road safety, it is important to remember that marijuana-impaired driving is a real problem. The government is telling us that repression did not work, and that is supposedly one of the reasons why it wants to legalize marijuana. However, it is also saying that it is going to reinvest in our police forces so that they are better able to deal with marijuana-impaired drivers. There is a lack of consistency there, but that is another story.