Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on the debate on Bill C-11. I rise wearing many hats.
As a chartered accountant, I believe I have the ability to understand the financial implications of Bill C-11. As a former member of the Mississauga hospital board for nine years and serving as its vice-chairman, the health impacts certainly were of significant importance to the health care institution. As a member of Parliament representing my constituents and listening, as have many members, I have received numerous interventions from them asking questions and making suggestions on how we might further improve the legislation with regard to the health impacts and indeed with regard to smuggling.
I also speak as a father of three. I have three children aged 12 through 19. I am concerned of course about the implications to my children and whether or not they will make the right decisions for them. There is a choice for Canadians.
I have been somewhat concerned about the confusion that may arise for the Canadian people as they listen to the debate from the context of an excise tax reduction alone. I want to clarify this. I think it is going to be very important for Canadians to understand that we have here a complex problem that is being addressed.
In my experience, for every complex problem there is a simple solution and it is wrong. I would like to outline, as we have already heard from the Minister of National Revenue, from the Solicitor General and from the Minister of Health, that this is clearly not a regional problem. It is a national problem.
Therefore the government on February 8 came forward with a four point program to deal with this complex problem. It understands that the cheap contraband tobacco has undermined Canada's health objective to reduce smoking, especially among young people. The issue is no longer how to keep prices high so that young people do not smoke. That is not the issue. The issue is how to keep contraband cigarettes out of the hands of young people.
I would like to make sure that all members understand clearly the dimensions of the problem. The problem is very severe. To give an idea to all members in the House, between 1990 and 1993 the number of seizures by the RCMP increased from 303 to 5,044 over a four year period. With regard to the value of those seizures, the increase went from $4.1 million in 1990 up to $53.5 million in 1993.
What about exports? We all have heard that the major source of the contraband smuggling has been exports to the United States, 90 per cent of which are coming back into Canada. Exports in 1990 were 11.3 million cartons. Yet in 1993 the exports were 62.8 million cartons. Clearly the dimensions of this problem are immense and growing very rapidly.
Finally, with regard to the number of charges that have been laid by the authorities with regard to smuggling, in 1990 there were only 414 charges laid whereas in 1993 there were 3,389.
I am sure all members would agree we are not dealing with ordinary circumstances. We are dealing with a major problem. That must give members an idea of the magnitude of the disrespect that has been shown for the laws of Canada.
As has been pointed out by many members, but it bears repeating, illegal tobacco now accounts for 40 per cent of the Canadian tobacco market. Organized crime controls up to 95 per cent of contraband tobacco entering Canada.
Furthermore, more than two million Canadians are buying this contraband. More than $1 billion of federal revenue and an additional $1 billion in provincial revenues has been lost as a result of this smuggling activity.
Hon. members must ask themselves this. If we are losing to our one taxpayer $2 billion of revenue that could go to health care, social programs and employment initiatives, how can we ignore the problem?
On February 8, the government did come down with a four-point plan: the enforcement crackdown, a reduction of consumer taxes, a special action on tobacco manufacturers and also an initiative of the largest anti-smoking campaign in Canadian history. That was the initiative of the Prime Minister.
He spoke in the House eloquently, outlining to Canadians that having had full consultation with the provinces, having fully assessed the input from all sectors with regard to this complex problem, it was necessary for us to have a well rounded, comprehensive solution to deal with all aspects and not simply the health impacts as hon. members from the Reform Party seem to have been suggesting.
Bill C-11 was introduced by the Minister of National Revenue and the Minister of Health, both of whom spoke today very well on the amendments that are being proposed to support this February 8 initiative. Those amendments to the Excise Act, the Customs Act and the Tobacco Sales to Young Persons Act are all important complements to that initiative announced by the Prime Minister on February 8.
The amendments will provide Canada's law enforcement agencies with additional legal powers to end smuggling. It protects the health of young Canadians by banning the production of cigarette packages of less than 20 cigarettes, which we have referred to as kiddie packs, and the sale of tobacco products to persons under the age of 18. In addition, this legislation will require that each individual cigarette must bear a distinctive marking indicating that the duty has been paid.
Smuggling is a criminal activity that hurts all law-abiding Canadians. As all members know, law and order in our society is a very important issue. We were told throughout the election campaign and we continue to be told that Canadians want our laws to be enforced. They remind our government that we have a duty and a responsibility to enforce law and order in Canada.
That is why we need these amendments. It is to provide our police forces with the additional tools and flexibility that they are going to need to crack down on smuggling.
Since the initiative of the Prime Minister on February 8 and as a result of all the dialogues that have gone on since that time, there have been a number of feedbacks from the community. I have a couple here of notable news to share with hon. members.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has welcomed the government's action plan. It says that by taking the profit out of sale, organized crime will quickly lose interest. We also note in the Montreal Gazette that it compliments the Prime Minister on his plan saying that the high tax, high price policy had been effective for a while in reducing smoking but it was no longer working. It was being gutted by something far uglier than legal, cheap tobacco, that is cheap tobacco from a large and violent criminal network.
There are some key messages that we have received from the Canadian public since the introduction of these plans. First, criminal law applies to every person in Canada and enforcement officers must and have been cracking down on smuggling wherever it occurs. Second, the new legislation will strengthen the ability of our police to enforce the law. Finally, the concerted federal-provincial action is the best way to crack down on smuggling.
As a member of the Standing Committee on Health I would be remiss not to address the health issue. There is no question. This morning one Reform Party member in representing his party's interest said that they agree with the legislation of Bill C-11, except for the reduction in the excise taxes. I liken that to a table with each leg representing one of the four points of the Prime Minister's plan. The hon. member suggests that taking away one of those legs would still make the table a stable foundation for the activity to occur on it.
The hon. member will agree that by not having the excise tax reduction in combination with the export tax which is being applied, we would not have eliminated the profit motive for smuggling. It was absolutely essential to make this gesture so that from a financial perspective we could break the back of smuggling and get a handle on this situation. Hopefully through that, as the Minister of Health has indicated, we can return to a process of making sure young people do not have the incentive to smoke simply because of the accessibility of cigarettes.
I should acknowledge that the Canadian Medical Association wrote to all members. It complimented the government on three parts of the program but had concerns regarding the reduction of the excise tax. It is supportive and I know it is in consultation with the government and the Minister of Health. I know it supports the government in spirit.
We must deal with this major problem so that Canada can enforce its laws. Then we can get back to the creation of jobs and economic growth in Canada.