House of Commons Hansard #27 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.


Immigration ActRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-219, an act to amend the Immigration Act (visitors' visas).

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to present this bill amending the visitor visa provisions of the Immigration Act. The bill was presented in the past Parliament.

The bill would permit the Canadian relatives of visitors to place a surety with the Government of Canada prior to the application for visa by the non-Canadian visitor.

At present Canadians have no role in this process. I believe, as do others, that their participation in the process by means of a surety would enhance the prospects of the visitor obtaining a visa and enabling the visit to take place.

The bill specifically provides that the absence of such a surety will not be considered by visa officers so as not to prejudice all others who are applying for visas who do not happen to have relatives in Canada.

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

Business Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have three motions I propose to put to the House with unanimous consent. I move:

That, if a recorded division is required during the budget debate on Thursday, February 24, 1994, the said division shall be deferred until Tuesday, March 8, 1994 at 6.30 p.m.

(Motion agreed to.)

Business Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Peter Milliken Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, perhaps to save time I will read the next two motions and then they can both be put because I think there is agreement with respect to each. I move:

That, during the adjournment of the House from March 25, 1994 to April 11, 1994, if any appropriation bills that have been passed by the House have not yet been granted royal assent, the Speaker shall be empowered to recall the House for the sole purpose of attending the granting of royal assent to any bills, after which the House immediately shall be adjourned until April 11, 1994;

That, in the event of the Speaker's being unable for any reason to act for the purposes of this Order, the Deputy Speaker, the Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole House or the Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole House may act for him.

(Motion agreed to.)

Business Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Peter Milliken Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

I move:

That, notwithstanding the Special Order of February 15, 1994, the division on Government Order, Government Business number 8 shall be held on Wednesday, February 23, 1994 at 3.00 p.m.

That defers the division today, Mr. Speaker, from three o'clock until Wednesday at the same time.

(Motion agreed to.)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Benoît Tremblay Bloc Rosemont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour this morning of presenting a petition signed by close to 300 residents of my riding of Rosemont. They call on the government to reinstate budgets for social and co-operative housing and denounce the federal government's plans to increase subsidized rents by 20 per cent.

In the riding of Rosemont alone, more than 1,000 families are on the waiting list for social housing whereas all budgets have been frozen.

As you undoubtedly know, Mr. Speaker, the Régie du logement du Québec, taking into account overall housing costs, has authorized the private sector to increase rents by only .5 per cent to 1.1 per cent this year. It would be ridiculous if the public

sector, which has a responsibility to protect the least fortunate, were to authorize rent increases of 20 per cent.

With the budget only several hours away, my constituents in the riding of Rosemont call upon the Minister of Finance to uphold the commitments he made during the last election campaign. It is vital that he dispel any uncertainty weighing on the least fortunate and that he restore decent funding for the construction of new social housing units.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Jean-Paul Marchand Bloc Québec-Est, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the great honour to present a petition signed by a few thousand residents of my riding of Québec-Est and several other areas of Quebec.

The petitioners ask Parliament to urge the minister of immigration to reconsider his department's decision to deport the Maraloï family of Vanier and to allow the family to remain in Canada where, after three years, they feel completely at home.

I give my unqualified support to this petition and urge the government to act on it.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

St. Boniface Manitoba


Ronald J. Duhamel LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition wherein the petitioners point out that there is an extreme amount of violence on both radio and television. They deplore the fact that violence is portrayed by the use of foul language or physical acts and is in fact appearing in an increasing kind of way.

The petitioners ask that the Parliament of Canada ensure that the CRTC recognizes the need to enforce standards pertaining to all forms of abuse, including the use of foul language and excessive violence in all of its forms. They point out that if it is not done, their efforts to raise the family in a sound environment is in fact undermined.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

Shall all questions stand?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members


Excise ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Victoria B.C.


David Anderson LiberalMinister of National Revenue

moved that Bill C-11, an act to amend the Excise Act, the Customs Act and the Tobacco Sales to Young Persons Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today to speak in favour of Bill C-11. As Minister of National Revenue, I have a responsibility to do all I can to maintain and protect the integrity of the Canadian border and to ensure that Canadian tax laws are respected. For these reasons, I have been deeply affected by the dramatic increase in smuggling.

Some people still argue that it is a regional problem and that the federal government's four-point program to fight smuggling and tobacco use only hinges on regional interests. That is totally false.

The growth of the smuggling trade in Canada, especially tobacco smuggling, is a national problem requiring a solution at the national level. Let us look at the facts.

Contraband tobacco amounts to some $5 billion or about 40 per cent of the $12.4 billion Canadian tobacco market.

This means that about $1.6 billion worth of contraband cigarettes are sold in our communities, on our streets and in our schools every month. As a result, unfortunately, our young people who want to start smoking now have practically unlimited access to cheap contraband tobacco. This situation clearly undermines the federal and provincial governments' efforts to discourage tobacco use through high prices.

This means that smuggling is undermining both federal and provincial efforts to discourage smoking. Unfortunately the problem we are facing today does not stop there. Smuggling has cost the federal treasury approximately $1 billion in the last fiscal year. It cost the provincial treasuries another billion dollars in the past year.

These are direct losses that cannot be recovered, but these revenue losses have been increasing sharply in recent months. Smuggling is therefore, in my opinion, undermining our fiscal situation and our social programs at both the federal and provincial levels. The problem is growing. This problem is intolerable.

Revenue losses are not the whole problem. Because the smuggling trade is increasingly run by organized crime and according to enforcement agencies organized crime now con-

trols most of the $5 billion tobacco smuggling trade, literally billions of dollars are being funnelled out of the hands of Canadian citizens and into the hands of criminals who also ply their illegal trade in alcohol, paramilitary weapons, drugs, immigrants and other contraband products.

In a nutshell, the only beneficiaries of the current situation are the gangs of criminals who sell drugs in our schools, arm our offenders and destabilize Canadian society. The losers are the majority of Canadians who obey the law, pay their taxes and want to live without fearing for their safety. The situation keeps getting worse.

Smuggling also has a detrimental effect on law-abiding small merchants; it is pushing these people to the brink of bankruptcy. In short, smuggling penalizes Canadians who want to earn an honest living.

Smuggling undermines the rule of law in this country and hampers the government's efforts to reduce tobacco use, mainly among young Canadians. It also robs federal and provincial finance departments of important revenues.

As the Prime Minister said two weeks ago in this House: "We are dealing with a problem of law enforcement and organized crime, with health issues, with federal-provincial relations-"

Yet despite the wide ranging breadth of the issue and the impact it is having on our communities, on our social system and on respect for the law, there are still those who argue that it is a regional problem. These people point to the province of Quebec and say: "They have a problem but we don't". The evidence simply does not support such a simplistic position.

Let me go over some of the statistics for members. It is true that the smuggling problem is currently most acute in Quebec where it has been at least until very recently. It is also true that it has grown and was growing in that province. It has been growing alarmingly in every other province of the country.

I ask hon. members to consider the facts. The market share of contraband tobacco was estimated at only 9 per cent in Quebec four years ago. Today contraband represents an estimated 60 per cent to 65 per cent of the Quebec market.

Contraband tobacco represented about 12 per cent of Atlantic Canada's tobacco market in 1990 or four years ago. Today contraband constitutes approximately 40 per cent of that market. In 1992, only two years ago, contraband tobacco represented 13 per cent of Ontario's tobacco market and today it represents close to 35 per cent.

In the west where the smuggling problem is clearly less acute at the moment, contraband tobacco accounted for only 9 per cent of tobacco sales a little more than a year ago. However today contraband tobacco in western Canada has increased to 15 per cent of the market. That in terms of growth is a 60 per cent increase in one year.

It is perverse to continue to view this problem as a problem of only one province. There is an obvious trend to which members and the Canadian public must pay attention. Whether one lives in the maritimes, in Ontario, in Quebec or in the west, smuggling is growing at a rapid rate across the country and has become a national problem.

I will now deal with lessons to be learned.

First, inaction is not a solution. It is no longer possible to ignore the problem. Obviously, if we do not take energetic measures now, the amount of contraband tobacco in our communities will continue to grow and organized crime will continue to grow rich from the illegal profits.

The former Conservative government let the smuggling problem grow to such an extent that the present government cannot tolerate it today. Our government refuses to look away and pretend that the problem can be solved by half-measures. We also refuse to pretend that the smuggling problem affects only one region of the country.

Smuggling is a national problem, so the solution must also be national in scope. We must take strong measures now. We cannot allow cheap smuggled tobacco to continue to come into our communities and into the hands of young Canadians. We cannot allow the rule of law in this country to continue to be flouted. I repeat: inertia and half-measures are not realistic solutions. That is why today I support Bill C-11, an act to amend the Excise Act, the Customs Act and the Tobacco Sales to Young Persons Act.

The proposed amendments support the government's four-point initiative to fight tobacco smuggling and use. With these amendments, we will give Canadian police authorities additional legal powers to fight smuggling. We will also improve the government's efforts for young people's health.

Taken together, the amendments tabled in the House will help establish the integrity of Canadian laws and the Canadian border and, perhaps most important, stop the increase in smuggling in regions of the country where it has not yet reached disturbing levels.

Therefore the first amendment in the bill applies to the Excise Act. It will effectively increase the resources that can be brought

to bear in the fight against smuggling. It will do so by allowing the government to give to police forces other than the Royal Canadian Mounted Police the authority to enforce sections of the Excise Act that allow for the seizure of tobacco, alcohol and vehicles used in illegal smuggling activities.

The government will be able to provide provincial police forces-in particular the Sûreté du Québec and the Ontario Provincial Police but also municipal police forces-as appropriate with the additional legal tools they need to combat smuggling and the organized criminals who control the smuggling trade. This means there will be a substantial increase in the level of police resources working with the federal government to put an end to smuggling.

Second, the proposed amendments to the Customs Act and the Excise Act will provide police forces with the authority to destroy certain seized products without hindering the ability of authorities to carry out prosecution successfully. This reduction in the storage of contraband will save Canadian taxpayers over $200,000 a year by eliminating the storage costs of the property seized.

Third, we have a proposal to amend the Excise Act in order to clearly stamp individual cigarettes on which taxes have been paid. I might add that while there may be some technical questions yet to be determined, it would also be possible to mark individual cigarettes that are in duty-free shops or individual cigarettes which have been exported. We will have a differential ability to have individual cigarettes marked to indicate what particular taxes have been paid on them. This will allow law enforcement agencies to identify more easily those smoking contraband tobacco products.

Fourth, we have two proposed amendments to the Tobacco Sales to Young Persons Act. The first will make it illegal for tobacco manufacturers to package cigarettes in packages containing fewer than 20 cigarettes. This will effectively kill the so-called kiddie packs of six or a similar number of cigarettes.

The second amendment to the Tobacco Sales to Young Persons Act will prohibit the importation of tobacco products into Canada by a person under the age of 18. This is complementary to other measures that will be taken internally to reduce the possibility of possession of tobacco by people below that age.

As a result of these two measures and other provisions young Canadians should find it greatly more difficult to obtain tobacco products.

The four-point plan to fight smuggling and tobacco use is a comprehensive action plan which deals with the whole smuggling problem, and Bill C-11 is an integral part of this plan. It deals with the need for tougher enforcement in the fight against smuggling. It deals with the need to get rid of organized crime which controls smuggling activities. It also deals with the need to protect the health of young Canadians. In short, Bill C-11 is an integral part of the government's solution to a national problem.

For these reasons, I ask the House to support the passage of Bill C-11.

Excise ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the official opposition critic for training and youth, I welcome this opportunity to present the position of the Bloc Quebecois on Bill C-11, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act, the Customs Act and the Tobacco Sales to Young Persons Act.

As youth critic, I intend to address those provisions of the bill that are aimed at reducing tobacco sales to young people, because smoking is a very serious problem among young people, and is probably one of the worst threats to the health of young people today.

In fact, according to a study carried out in 1992 by Health and Welfare Canada, 38,000 Canadians die each year of smoking-related diseases. From 80 to 90 per cent of all cases of emphysema and bronchitis are caused by cigarette smoking. I say this because we often think of lung cancer, but there are other diseases as well. Thirty per cent of young Canadians and Quebecers are smoking today, about the same proportion as for adults. It is a problem that is not going away.

In 1989, it was estimated that young Canadians between the ages of 12 and 19 spent more than $436 million on cigarettes, and that amount is even higher today. Ninety per cent smoked regularly, and by regularly I mean every day. Fifty-eight per cent of young smokers had from 11 to 25 cigarettes daily. Seventy-five per cent of teenagers who smoked developed the habit before the age of 17, and the average age at which they started to smoke-surprisingly, this figure is going down-was 13, in other words, they started smoking when they were 13 years old.

Other studies have shown that a gradual decrease was reversed in 1989, when smoking by young people started to increase. The age at which young people smoke their first cigarette has continued to go down. In fact, according to the National Clearing House on Tobacco and Health, between 1965 and 1989 smoking by young people in the 15-to-19 age group dropped from 55 per cent to 21 per cent among males and 37 per cent to 21 per cent among females. That was the good news. However, since 1989, 23.8 per cent of all students surveyed said they smoked daily, and the percentage was about the same for both girls and boys. Smoking increased considerably in 1991 and 1993 among students, especially students in their first year

of high school, rising from 6.1 per cent in 1989 to 9.4 per cent in 1993.

Furthermore, according to several studies conducted by the National Clearing House on Tobacco and Health, there is evidence that links poverty, unemployment, smoking, alcoholism and drug addiction.

Education is also an interesting factor to determine the population most likely to engage in such activities. Still according to the National Clearing House on Tobacco and Health, 34 per cent of individuals aged 15 and over smoke, as opposed to 18 per cent of people with a university education. Thirty-six per cent of the poorest members of our society smoke, as opposed to 25 per cent of the wealthiest members of that society.

The economic measures put in place by previous governments in Canada since 1984 have had a negative social impact by increasing poverty among Canadians. Young people have been particularly affected by these measures. In 1990, 40 per cent of young Quebecers were living in poverty. Today, youth unemployment in Quebec has reached nearly 20 per cent.

However, I doubt that the figures I just quoted shed enough light on the real causes of smoking by young people. I believe more research is necessary for a more thorough analysis of a phenomenon that is constantly changing. We have every reason to be concerned about the future health of our young people and the burden on our health system.

It should come as no surprise to hon. members that the Official Opposition supports adopting measures to restrict tobacco consumption in general and by young people in particular. It should be a foregone conclusion for any political party that is concerned about public health. However, we do have a number of questions about the bill before the House today and these concern its chances of succeeding if the legislation is not properly enforced or if no effective measures are taken to achieve the bill's objective.

There is, first of all, the matter of the government's timing in tabling Bill C-11. It should be noted that this bill was tabled in the House of Commons two days after the Prime Minister announced, on February 8, various measures including tax reductions to fight cigarette smuggling.

We would almost think that, all of a sudden and off the cuff as we see it, this government was trying to give the impression it could solve every problem related to tobacco use.

Why dit it wait until February 8 to put into force the Tobacco Sales to Young Persons Act adopted by the House of Commons in third reading on February 12, 1993? That was a year ago, Mr. Speaker.

Another fundamental issue is the will or capacity of the federal government to enforce its legislation respecting tobacco use.

This concern flows from this government's apparent reluctance to fight propaganda and incapacity to react to this rising problem. Other pieces of legislation also come to mind.

In an article published in Le Soleil on February 13 last, we learned that, over a four-year period, the federal government had not imposed a single fine under its Non Smokers' Health Act, an act to regulate smoking in its own buildings, and this in spite of innumerable complaints and no less than 102 violations reported during the first three years of operation of this act. Not one of the violation notices resulted in fines. The only action actually taken seems to have been to hand out warnings.

As members of the Official Opposition, we are fully prepared to contribute to the legislative process, but the government still has to enforce not only the legislation Parliament passes from now on, but also legislation passed previously.

It would be interesting to know what steps the government intends to take to ensure compliance with certain provisions of Bill C-11, including those relating to the requirement to stamp all tobacco products individually and the manufacturing and sale of cigarettes in packages containing fewer than 20 cigarettes. All this is fine. It is one thing to say you want to do something, but how will you go about it? That is a very important point, as far as I am concerned. How will the sale of individual cigarettes be controlled? Cigarettes are very small and easy to hide. How will the age of the buyer be ascertained? Will ID cards be required? How does the government intend to check the age of cigarette buyers? As we know, since old Bill C-111 became law, the legal age is 18. But you still have to check the ID card, the age of the buyer. Of course we are wondering about the number of people who will be assigned to enforce the law-the minister touched upon the subject-as well as the costs involved.

It is very important to get an answer to these questions because it relates to a central aspect of this legislation, namely its enforcement. Incidentally, the minister did mention enforcement at the beginning of his speech.

Also, we think that this legislation should be coupled with positive measures to warn young people of the dangers of tobacco use and encourage them not to smoke. We must beware of the possible boomerang effect of a repressive approach on the young in that area as in any other in fact. Several educational

experts have said repeatedly that young people trying to grow up and assert themselves could be attracted by the "forbidden", in which they see a challenge.

I have recently consulted a number of young people and I am convinced that, as far as stringent measures to restrict the use of cigarettes among young people are concerned, they could be construed as a form of provocation, thus inciting young people to go against this restriction.

We must help our young people to become more responsible, not marginalize them even more by taking only traditional, repressive approaches to problems.

This bill, which would restrict access by young persons to tobacco products, should not be a reason for us to forget that young people experience drug and alcohol problems on a daily basis. According to Statistics Canada, 12 per cent of our young people have serious drug addiction problems.

The range of illegal substances available in high schools boggles the mind. On February 19 last, La Presse reported in an article that high school students can purchase chemical substances such as PCP for a mere five dollars per unit right on the school premises. Pushers offer to sell drugs to children often as young as 12 or 13 years of age, and the impact on their health and on society is devastating.

As is the case with smoking, young persons who start to use drugs early in their teens are much more likely to still use drugs as adults. However, drugs are not the only products that are easily accessible to young people. Alcohol is also readily available to them.

In another article which appeared in La Presse on February 20 last, it was reported that teenagers can easily buy beer at the corner store. The article is based on the findings reported in a study involving high schools students aged 16 and 17 in Montreal, and 18-year-old students in Toronto. Students in this age bracket visited about one hundred convenience stores and in 85 per cent of the cases, merchants sold them alcoholic beverages without asking for any identification. Mr. Speaker, this is terrible!

Clearly, not everyone is complying with the legislation governing the sale of alcohol to minors. Must we wait until the same thing happens with the Tobacco Sales to Young Persons Act?

We have said it before and we will say it again. We are not opposed to the passage of Bill C-11. What we are concerned about is how the legislation will be enforced.

Moreover, we must not be seen as sending a negative message to our youth. Considering that in the speech from the throne, the government announced plans to amend the Young Offenders Act, young people could possibly see in this legislation a message that society views them as the cause of the problem. In my opinion, young people represent the future, indeed, our future. It is up to us to ensure that the proposed measures are viewed in a positive light.

I have another question, this time pertaining to section 66 of the act respecting enforcement measures. As the minister mentioned earlier, this provision stipulates that police forces other than the RCMP can, if the minister deems it appropriate, seize tobacco, alcohol and vehicles used for illegal contraband activities. Does this mean that the police resources assigned to fight contraband activities will be increased significantly? If it does, how much will this increased presence cost?

I would also be somewhat surprised if the government were able to obtain as easily as the minister claimed the co-operation of police forces that do not fall under its jurisdiction. Most provincial and municipal police forces have experienced staff cuts and most claim to be stretched to the limit. Refusal to co-operate is not always a sign of bad will. When police forces have trouble just getting their everyday work done, it is difficult for them to volunteer to do extra work for another level of government.

It was also mentioned that seized property such as vehicles could be auctioned off. Will the proceeds from such sales be used to fight contraband activities and smoking?

Section 112 of the old Tobacco Sales to Young Persons Act, which relates to the immediate destruction of some of the articles seized, will allow the police to immediately destroy some of the articles seized, photos and videos liable to be used as evidence at trials. This could, of course, reduce storage costs significantly, but how do we make sure that these photos and videos are secure? That is a question that we should be asking ourselves.

Sections 201 and 211 of the act concerning the stamping of individual cigarettes will amend the Excise Act to allow authorities and law-abiding citizens to better identify products that have been taxed and those that have not been taxed, but we are told that these new stamping requirements for cigarettes will be prescribed by regulations after Bill C-11 has been passed. We hope that these regulations will be adopted and implemented quickly, in any case faster than those related to last year's Bill C-111.

Clause 7.1 of Bill C-11 will make it illegal to produce and sell packages containing less than 20 cigarettes. In our opinion, the effectiveness of this measure is reduced by the decline in cigarette prices. A pack of 25 now costs much less than a pack of 15 before taxes and prices were slashed.

Clause 7.3 of Bill C-11 is aimed at prohibiting the importation of tobacco products for and by people under 18. This measure is self-evident is we prohibit people under 18 from buying these products within Canada's geographical bound-

aries, but how can we ensure effective customs controls so that this measure does not amount to wishful thinking?

In conclusion, I would like to remind the House that the Official Opposition supports Bill-11, but we want to emphasize once again that it is important to take measures to enforce it. First by adopting easy-to-implement regulations and then by putting in place a better awareness program aimed at convincing young people that tobacco is detrimental to their health and that it can impose important costs on tomorrow's society.

Excise ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to be the first speaker for the Reform Party on this bill. As members know, I am new to the House and studying this bill has provided me with an important lesson in the legislative process of which all Canadians should be made aware.

When the Prime Minister announced the government's national action plan to combat smuggling and Bill C-11 was introduced by the Minister of National Revenue, we assumed that Bill C-11 would contain all the measures announced in the national action plan to combat smuggling. Unfortunately it did not.

In fact all the tax measures announced by the Prime Minister in the national action plan to combat smuggling have been implemented using ways and means motions.

Ways and means motions require the government to bring a bill or bills before the House some time in the future. Ways and means motions cannot be debated. Therefore the tax reduction on cigarettes, the export tax on cigarettes and the health promotion surtax are not in Bill C-11. In effect they will not be seriously debated or subject to review and amendment by the Standing Committee on Finance until the government decides to bring in the other bills as required by the ways and means motions.

As I said, it was an educational experience for me to see how the government does things. The government is able to put its agenda forward even though there may be very little debate on it from its own MPs.

The measures introduced in Bill C-11 are fairly minor in comparison. The main amendments to the Excise Act and the Customs Act allow the government immediately to destroy certain seized property, even when there is an unresolved claim. It permits the government to give police forces the same seizure power as the RCMP.

Another amendment to the Excise Act requires cigarettes to be individually stamped if they are manufactured or imported into Canada in order to make sure that the duties have been paid. It is a very good control measure.

Finally, the Tobacco Sales to Young Persons Act has been amended to prohibit sales of tobacco products to any person under the age of 18. It makes it illegal to manufacture, package or sell cigarettes in packages containing less than 20 cigarettes. This is also a good measure.

On February 8 when the Prime Minister announced his national action plan to combat smuggling my constituency office received 52 calls, 43 of which opposed the reduction of taxes on cigarettes. Since the government made clear its intention to reduce the tax on cigarettes I have received letters from many different sources protesting the government's action.

Here are some of them: Saskatchewan Medical Association; Canadian Medical Association; College of Family Physicians, Saskatchewan Chapter; Saskatchewan Provincial Health Council; Heart and Stroke Foundation of Saskatchewan; Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada; and the Canadian Cancer Society.

Also opposed is the Saskatchewan Interagency Council on Smoking and Health which includes all the following agencies: Allergy Foundation of Canada; City of Regina Health Department; Community Health and Epidemiology Department of the University of Saskatchewan, Continuing Medical Education, Continuing Nursing Education; Manitoba and Saskatchewan Conference of the Seventh Day Adventists; Saskatchewan Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission; Saskatchewan Education; Saskatchewan Health; Saskatchewan Health Care Association; Saskatchewan Institute on the Prevention of Handicaps; Saskatchewan Medical Association; Saskatchewan Pharmaceutical Association; Saskatchewan Public Health Association; Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association; Saskatoon Community Health Clinic; University of Saskatchewan; Canadian Cancer Society, Saskatchewan division; Heart and Stroke Foundation of Saskatchewan Inc.; and Saskatchewan Lung Association.

We also received representations from Saskatchewan Heart-Health which includes the following agencies and organizations: Canadian Cancer Society; Canadian Diabetes Association; Consumers Association of Canada; Coronary Artery Rehabilitation Group; Coteau Hills Heart Health Coalition; Heart and Stroke Foundation of Saskatchewan; Interagency Council on Smoking and Health; Regina Health District; Regina Heart Healthy Partners; Saskatchewan Council on Community Development; Saskatchewan Diabetic Association; Saskatchewan Health, Community Services Branch and Health Promotion Branch; Saskatchewan Lung Association; Saskatchewan Public Health Association; Saskatchewan Medical Association; Saskatchewan Physical Education Association; Saskatchewan Recreational Association; Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association; Saskatchewan Restaurant Association; Saskatoon Tri-Hospital Cardiac Rehabilitation Program;

SIAST-Wascana Institute; and the University of Saskatchewan Heart and Stroke Epidemiology unit.

This huge list represents many people. It shows the great concern and the broad base opposed to the measures the government is taking. All these organizations have expressed their concern.

A letter opposing the tax reduction also came from the National Campaign for Action on Tobacco which includes the following agencies and organizations: Canadian Cancer Society; Canadian Chiropractic Association; Canadian Council on Smoking and Health; Canadian Dental Association; Canadian Home and School and Parent-Teacher Federation; Canadian Hospital Association; Canadian Lung Association; Canadian Medical Association; Canadian Pharmaceutical Association; Canadian Physiotherapy Association; Canadian Public Health Association; Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists; Canadian Teachers Federation; Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada; Non-Smokers' Rights Association; Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada; Canadian Association of Optometrists; College of Family Physicians of Canada; Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons; and the United Church of Canada.

This represents a huge number of people who have objections and concerns regarding this measure. I will not mention any more but it gives an idea of how many people have concerns in this area.

Seventy agencies and organizations have made representations to me, just one member of Parliament. These 70 agencies and organizations are opposed to the tax reduction on cigarettes. In contrast, I have received just nine phone calls and one letter in favour of the measure announced by the government.

At this time I would like to read some of the concerns expressed in these representations. One letter comes from the Saskatchewan Provincial Health Council. It is addressed to the Prime Minister and reads:

We are puzzled and dismayed that your government is considering rolling back tobacco taxes.

Every province in Canada is involved to some degree in health reform and moving the emphasis from curing sick people to wellness initiatives and prevention of ill health. We have assumed that these initiatives were supported by our federal government.

Instead, we hear of your intended action which will reduce constraints and ultimately encourage and facilitate people, particularly our young people, to beginning or continuing an addictive practice that results in disease and death.

Please remember the following facts:

In 1989, tobacco smoking caused Canadians 9.5 billion in health dollars in the workplace.

One-quarter of high school students who smoke had their first cigarette by grade 6.

There are 43 known cancer producing substances in tobacco smoke.

Nicotine has similar drug and behavioural addictive effects as heroin and cocaine.

One hundred and seventy-five thousand teens will take up smoking if you roll taxes back.

Surely your government does not want to be remembered for contributing to the premature deaths of 250,000 people.

Another letter which is addressed to the Minister of Finance states: "We are writing to express our strong opposition to any decrease in tobacco taxes".

Here is another excerpt from that letter: "Tobacco is the only legal product available which when used as intended causes premature death and disability. Tobacco use is the largest single independent risk factor for heart disease, and heart disease is the leading cause of death in Canada. It accounts for 12 per cent of all hospital admissions, 20 per cent of patient days in hospital, 20 per cent of disability pensions paid by the Canada pension plan and is responsible for 32 per cent of total future earnings lost due to premature death".

Where does this letter come from? It comes from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Saskatchewan. It has a concern in this area.

It goes on to say: "To decrease tobacco taxes now would increase tobacco consumption by youth, decrease government revenue and reward one of the major causes of the tobacco smuggling problem, the actions of Canadian tobacco manufacturers".

I would like to read more excerpts from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. This is a letter addressed to myself: "Dear Mr. Breitkreuz: What you may not be aware of is that, motivated only by profit, the tobacco industry has misrepresented both the nature of the problem and the consequences of its proposal to reduce taxes. Health groups, in contrast, have nothing personal to gain from the position we adopt on this issue. Our only interest is safeguarding the health of Canadians by preserving the tremendous progress realized over the past decade in reducing tobacco consumption. What follows is a point by point rebuttal of the tobacco lobby's main argument in favour of a tax rollback".

I will not read the whole letter, but it addresses the myth that there is a tax rollback that would stop the revenue leakage caused by smuggling. It said that in fact governments would lose substantially more revenue by lowering taxes.

Then it addresses another myth that tobacco tax increases have no impact on reducing smoking. The fact is that tobacco consumption has dropped dramatically in Canada over the past 10 years largely because of tobacco tax increases.

The foundation goes on to say in this letter that tobacco consumption in Canada has dropped 40 per cent over the past decade, even with smuggled tobacco factored in, primarily as a result of tobacco tax increases which rendered cigarettes less affordable. Canada's 40 per reduction in per capita tobacco consumption is significantly greater than that of the United States at 27 per cent over the same period. We must take note of these facts when we have this discussion.

Then it addresses another myth that tobacco is taxed at an unfairly high rate in Canada. In fact Canada tobacco tax levels are on par with most industrialized nations.

I would like also to read a brief excerpt from the Canadian Cancer Society. It says: "Dear Mr. Breitkreuz: We urge you to speak up in caucus meetings against tobacco tax rollbacks which would only benefit the tobacco industry and would be a public health disaster".

I have another letter here from the Saskatchewan Interagency Council on Smoking and Health. I will read an excerpt from it: "Very recently U.S. government researchers reported that while heart disease and cancer may be listed as the nation's leading killers, the biggest underlying cause of death is tobacco use. Let us not forget that tobacco is the greatest cause of preventable death in Canada". Let me repeat that tobacco is the greatest cause of preventable death in Canada.

Let us not forget that cigarettes cause health problems when used exactly as intended. Canada must continue with its combination of fiscal and health policies if we are to continue to reduce tobacco use.

We support very much what the government is doing, what its intended use is, but we must question the things that have not been included in the bill, the tax reduction measures.

Here is another news release from the National Campaign for Action on Tobacco. Again I will not read the whole release. I am just going to take an excerpt. David Sweanor, senior legal counsel with the Non-Smokers' Rights Association, stated:

Reducing tobacco taxes would make tobacco products more affordable, which would result in enormous increases in consumption, especially among children and adolescents. The tobacco industry has lobbied itself into a win-win position. The industry profits from supplying tobacco products that end up smuggled back into Canada and, of course, the industry wins if governments bow to pressure to lower tobacco taxes.

That is one of the primary concerns that people expressed in those many phone calls we received. The government is bowing and the industry is bowing to pressure from certain groups to lower taxes.

Here is another letter from Saskatchewan Heart Health:

We are writing to urge you not to reduce taxes on tobacco products.

We believe that reducing taxes would not solve the smuggling problem, would lead to greater consumption of tobacco products by Canadians, particularly by youth, and would send the wrong signal to the United States at a time when they are considering a tobacco tax increase.

We have heard on the news recently that the U.S. was watching what we do in Canada and that it will encourage the U.S. not to increase taxes there. It continued:

Canada has witnessed an unprecedented decrease in tobacco consumption over the past decade, coinciding with significant increases in federal and provincial tobacco taxes. Because youth tend to have limited incomes, price increases have an even greater deterrent effect on them.

At a time when other countries view Canada as progressive in its tobacco taxation policy and the resulting decreased consumption, it would seem to be a very backward step to now decrease taxes.

This message comes from the Saskatchewan Lung Association and it is marked urgent. I will read three main points from its memo:

  1. Reducing tobacco taxes would be an economic calamity.

  2. Reducing tobacco taxes would escalate health problems.

  3. Reducing tobacco taxes would not eliminate smuggling.

I have one more letter from a constituent in MacNutt, Saskatchewan. I will not read the whole letter. It is addressed to myself:

Dear Sir:

We are appalled at the decision that the federal government is planning to remove some of the taxes on tobacco products. Again, just like previous governments, they are trying to please Quebec. Why is there not more effort put into the policing of smugglers? Also, why should Indian Reserves be exempt from the laws and taxes of this country? Are we not all to be treated equally? How would the lost revenue from cigarettes be made up? Who would pay for the extra health costs incurred by the greater use of tobacco products?

That is an opinion expressed by one of my constituents. We should be aware of what they are thinking.

As a Reform MP I am bound by the constitution of the Reform Party of Canada to represent my constituents' wishes.

It is easy to see how I will vote when the government introduces the bill on reducing taxes on cigarettes. While I am also in favour of lowering taxes I do not believe we should lower taxes until the budget is balanced.

Let us first reduce government spending, balance the budget and then look at lowering taxes. Are Reform MPs the only members of this House receiving phone calls and letters opposed to the tax reduction on cigarettes? Am I the only one being inundated with this kind of information?

I wonder how many other MPs will be able to face their constituents if they vote in favour of the tax reduction whenever that bill is brought before the House. We have to listen to the people of Canada. We have to hear their concerns and respond.

On February 8, after the Prime Minister announced the national action plan to combat smuggling, the leader of our party announced in the House that the Reform Party was in favour of some aspects of the action plan and opposed to others.

Our leader said that we were in favour of stronger law enforcement, that the Reform Party supported the government's anti-smoking education campaign, that the Reform Party supported the export tax on cigarettes, and that the Reform Party was opposed to reducing taxes on cigarettes.

We supported three of the government's initiatives but we were opposed to reducing taxes on cigarettes. Since the government's announcement our Ottawa hotline has received over 60 voice messages and faxes. The vast majority of those have been opposed to reducing taxes on cigarettes.

I stand here today to announce to the House that I am generally in favour of the position announced by our leader on February 8, 1994 in the House and that this position is consistent with the wishes of my constituents.

I am going to reserve judgment, however, on each of the specific measures of the action plan on smuggling until my colleagues have spoken and provided the government with their analysis and introduced their constructive alternatives to the government.

While Bill C-11 does not contain all the measures announced in the government's national action plan to combat smuggling, we are convinced we cannot delay the debate of all the measures put forward by the government in its action plan.

We cannot wait another week or another month to debate the tax related issues in the House and fully inform all Canadians of the full impact and consequences of the action plan on smuggling. We should be debating all of those things right now.

The debate should start today on all the issues concerning the public and not just the few measures introduced into Bill C-11. How many people will become addicted to smoking before the real debate on tax reduction can begin?

In their calls and letters, people and the organizations they belong to told me some very startling facts. They told me that 840,000 more Canadians who will take up smoking as a result of the reduction of taxes this government announced.

This includes 175,000 new teenage smokers. They told me that 250,000 of these Canadians would die as a direct result of their addiction to tobacco products. They told me that in Canada there are 40,000 tobacco related deaths every year. This is before the 840,000 new smokers join the line-up at our hospitals and funeral homes. They told me that when the price of cigarettes goes up by 10 per cent, tobacco sales to adults drop by 4 per cent to 9 per cent. Sales to teenagers drop between 10 per cent and 14 per cent. Therefore it comes as no surprise that smoking will increase as dramatically when taxes are reduced.

They told me the extra health care costs associated with treating diseases in 840,000 new smokers could cost about $1.3 billion a year. Has the government taken this into account?

They told me they could not understand why a smuggling problem in Quebec should require the lowering of cigarette taxes across Canada. They told me they could not understand why the government has taken such broad action when the commissioner of the RCMP has confirmed that 70 per cent of smuggled cigarettes pass through the three Mohawk reserves between Cornwall and Montreal.

They told me they were concerned about whether the government's increased enforcement would be applied equally, regardless if the criminals live on or off Indian reserves. These are all questions they are asking. They also told me they could not understand why the Minister of Health could support the tax reduction on cigarettes when so many health organizations and most of the provincial ministers of health are so opposed.

That is from my own province where there is strong opposition. They told me they were concerned about the impact the government's measures would have on federal-provincial relations and relationships between the provinces, particularly Ontario and Quebec.

The Reform Party welcomes this debate so these issues can be brought before the House and before the Canadian public. As everyone can see we need answers to many questions. Will the government agree to answer these questions for us and for all Canadians?

In conclusion I want to pose some questions that Canadians have. First, what are the cost revenue implications in the short and long term? Has the government done a study? Do we know what the cost revenue results of this action will be?

Second, what will be the impact on the provincial health care programs and the federal government's share of these increased costs? Will we be able to afford the increased health care costs?

Third, what will be the impact on our law enforcement, justice and legal systems? We need to investigate all of these things.

Fourth, how many jobs will be affected in the tobacco industry? Has a study been done on this?

Fifth, how many tobacco farmers will be affected by this?

Sixth, if there are truly no "no go" zones in Canada, what impact will the stopping of smuggling on the Mohawk reserves have on self-government negotiations? Has anyone checked this out? Did government ministers and the Liberal caucus consult their own members from Ontario and across Canada before implementing these measures? Were all people asked? Were these MPs not receiving the same information that we as Reform MPs were receiving? Will we have answers to some of these important questions before we vote?

I appreciate the fact that we have the opportunity to debate this bill. I commend the government on its openness. I am glad I am able to express some of the views of my constituents and my own personal concerns.

The Reform Party believes that the national action plan to combat smuggling could be improved. Our speakers will be proposing constructive alternatives the government might wish to consider and bring forward as amendments during the committee stage.

I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to express my views on the government's anti-smoking measures in Bill C-11. I hope we have a good day as we debate these measures.

Excise ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I would like to remind all members present and others who are possibly following the debate that we are now entering the next stage of the debate where members will have their speeches limited to 20 minutes duration and subject to 10 minutes of questions and comments.

Excise ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Windsor West Ontario


Herb Gray LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to support second reading of Bill C-11.

As the Minister of National Revenue said, this bill is an important component of the government's national action plan to combat smuggling, the plan announced by the Prime Minister in the House on February 8.

In launching this initiative, we underlined our commitment to taking a comprehensive and decisive approach to deal with the smuggling problem. This bill is a further demonstration of that commitment. The Minister of National Revenue has described how the provisions of the bill will support the revenue aspects involving his department of our national strategy. The Minister of Health will describe its health aspects. However, as Solicitor General I want to discuss the provisions of the bill that support the law enforcement component of the government's national action plan.

In announcing the government's strategy, the Prime Minister made it clear that we were attacking a national problem affecting all Canadians. He also clearly indicated that the rule of law had to be respected and enforced and that it had to apply equally to all citizens.

Given the seriousness of the smuggling problem, we knew it was imperative that we give police and customs officers the resources and powers they need to do their jobs properly to dismantle the smuggling trade, especially as it involves tobacco and alcohol.

For that purpose we doubled the number of RCMP and customs personnel dedicated to anti-smuggling operations. We knew that numbers alone would not solve the problem. We realized the increase in personnel had to be part of a greater law enforcement strategy, one that took into account the needs of the various police forces involved in the fight against smuggling.

This bill answers those law enforcement needs in three ways. First, the bill will allow the government to designate on an as needed basis provincial and municipal police services to enforce certain provisions of the Excise Act that formerly were within the sole jurisdiction of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

This means that when smuggled goods enter Canada, the RCMP is the only law enforcement agency legally authorized now to confiscate alcohol and tobacco under the present Excise Act. If there seems to be evasion of provincial taxes, this is an infraction against provincial law and the provincial and municipal police forces can intervene.

Given the seriousness of the smuggling problem, it is only common sense that we have the flexibility to allow not only the RCMP but also other designated provincial and municipal police services to seize contraband alcohol and tobacco wherever they may find it and also to seize the equipment used to manufacture them in Canada as well as the vehicles used to transport these products. This bill will make such action possible.

The Quebec Minister of Public Security and the Solicitor General of Ontario asked me to have the members of their provincial police forces, namely the Sûreté du Québec and the Ontario Provincial Police, empowered to enforce the Excise Act as I have just described.

The bill responds positively to these requests. It will allow us to improve and expand on existing co-operation with provincial and local police and improve as well the efficiency of joint force operations. It will improve the efficiency of Ontario and Quebec

provincial police and other designated municipal forces working on their own in anti-smuggling activities.

We have emphasized our commitment to working with the provinces wherever we can to ensure that the fight against smuggling, especially of tobacco and alcohol, is as efficient as we can make it. This bill is a demonstration of that commitment.

Another key element of the bill is that it will help law enforcement authorities mount a more cost effective campaign against smuggling. It will do this through amendments to the Customs Act and the Excise Act that will allow the Minister of National Revenue to authorize officials to destroy seized goods, primarily tobacco and alcohol, immediately after keeping samples to be used as evidence in court.

This is being done to reduce the increasingly high costs of storing seized goods as seizures increase as they have done in recent months. This is particularly true in the case of tobacco products.

I am told that in Ontario alone the current costs to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for storing alcohol and tobacco it has seized is close to $2 million annually. In British Columbia the RCMP has run out of existing warehouse space and has had to take over part of an underground parking lot to meet new storage needs. These increasing overhead costs as seizures of alcohol and tobacco increase are unnecessary and avoidable. The proposed amendments will help us to control and hopefully to reduce them.

I do want to say that in cases where the courts ultimately decide-and that may happen from time to time-that goods were improperly seized and later destroyed, the bill will require full compensation to be paid to the original owner of those goods.

Finally, the current provisions of the Excise Act authorize the marking of cigarette packaging but not the marking of cigarettes themselves. This is not satisfactory because we have seen that certain criminal elements have become adept at counterfeiting package markings to make contraband cigarettes appear legitimate. The bill would broaden regulatory authority to include requiring the marking of cigarettes if they are for legal use in Canada, thereby helping enforcement authorities to curb counterfeit and therefore illegal packaging operations. In addition, clearly marked cigarettes would make it easier for police to identify the use of contraband cigarettes.

To conclude, these three provisions-increasing the jurisdiction of provincial and municipal police; authorizing officials to destroy seized goods immediately; and marking and packaging tobacco products made in Canada in a way that will help police recognize smuggled goods-will strengthen law enforcement in the fight against smuggled tobacco and also help fight liquor smuggling.

Together with the proposals regarding the prohibition of the sale of kiddie packs of cigarettes and other related matters to be discussed by the Minister of Health, the bill will continue to further the government's national objectives of ensuring respect for the law, especially the law against smuggling, everywhere in Canada and also protecting the health of Canadians.

We promised Canadians that our response to smuggling would be far reaching and comprehensive. Given the complexity of the contraband issue, it must be so. The bill provides valuable tools for us in the fight against smuggling, especially of tobacco and alcohol, and it supports our commitment to protect the health of Canadians, especially of young Canadians. This Bill C-11 is an important aspect of our overall effort and I ask members on all sides of the House to give this bill their support.

Excise ActGovernment Orders

February 22nd, 1994 / 11:30 a.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate very much what the hon. minister has to say and agree very much with the necessary measures that he has had to take.

I wonder if he would be able to comment on a couple of the questions that I raised not directly related to Bill C-11. What would be the cost of the law enforcement and what would be the impact on our entire law enforcement, justice and legal system if these extra measures are put in place? Have there been any studies done on this? Do you know what the implications might be on this? What would be the cost revenue implications in the short and the long term of the tax reductions and export tax increases?

That is not directly related to Bill C-11 and you may not be able to comment on the second-

Excise ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Order, please. I would just like to remind all members to direct their comments through the Chair and not directly to members opposite.

Excise ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

My apologies, Mr. Speaker. I will try to do better.

I had those two questions. I was virtually finished. I would just like to know what the impact would be on our law enforcement, justice and legal system and also what the cost revenue implications in the short and long term would be on the tax adjustments that have been made.

Excise ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.


Herb Gray Liberal Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not have these figures with me. I will endeavour to speak from memory. My remarks will be subject to correction either later in this debate or more particularly when the bill is studied in detail in the appropriate parliamentary committee.

I think the initial cost of the law enforcement measures, the additional customs officers, the additional RCMP officers, will be in the area of $100 million to $150 million a year.

The revenue implications of the tax reductions in the first year I think are in excess, again I am speaking from memory, of $300 million. We estimate that this revenue loss will drop sharply in subsequent years as the anti-smuggling program takes effect.

I offer these figures subject to correction as we study this matter in committee, but I think this is something in the ballpark area for what we are talking about.

Excise ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Jesse Flis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed listening to the comments of the critic for the Reform Party and then the Solicitor General. The two are sort of connected because the critic for the Reform Party did quote from 70 agencies and organizations which are opposed to the tax reduction. I received similar representations and so on. He did not address, which I think the Solicitor General addressed, the concerns of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

On February 8 the Prime Minister did table in the House the letter from N. D. Inkster of February 3 wherein he states: "We are at a point where existing RCMP law enforcement resources are virtually incapable of turning the tide in this rapidly expanding problem, given our responsibilities across Canada".

Seizures have increased. This is what everyone is calling for. Why do we not increase our seizures? He says: "While seizures have increased dramatically the extent of the problem has been rising at a much faster rate with the involvement of organized crime groups and as otherwise law abiding citizens engage in the criminal activity through the open purchase of contraband. I am convinced that a comprehensive strategy is required to address the smuggling problem which goes beyond an enhanced enforcement initiative".

Now that we have been into this process where we are seeing the results of decreased prices and increased law enforcement, in the opinion of the Solicitor General and in talking to the RCMP and other police forces could this problem have been resolved without reducing the price of cigarettes?

Excise ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


Herb Gray Liberal Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the advice we received from the commissioner of the RCMP was that tougher enforcement measures alone would not have been sufficient to deal with the problem. We have to respect that advice, coming as it does from the head of one of the most respected law enforcement agencies in the world.

It is understandable why this advice came because we are dealing with a problem national in scope. It is true that there is a certain focus in eastern Ontario and Quebec, but the information also was that some 40 per cent of tobacco consumed in the Atlantic provinces was smuggled, some 35 per cent of the tobacco consumed across Ontario was smuggled, some 15 per cent of the tobacco consumed in the western provinces was smuggled and these numbers were rising sharply.

The information was that thousands of people were involved across the country in distributing this contraband tobacco. Tens of thousands more were buying it and consuming it. This involved increasingly organized smuggling rings which were not only involved in tobacco but also alcohol, drugs and firearms.

When the problem was of such scope we had to tighten up and hit the smuggling rings through tougher enforcement measures. We also had to get the profit out of the smuggling of tobacco as a means of reinforcing the tougher enforcement measures. This is why, even though we knew of all the problems and concerns and even though we knew this was not an easy decision, we knew there was no simple solution to a problem of this complexity. We knew that our national plan had to have in it a component involving the reduction of domestic taxes on tobacco in order to take the profit out of smuggling. Along with that we knew we had to impose an export tax on tobacco and an excess profits tax on the tobacco companies to further squeeze out the profit but also to generate funds for a major anti-smoking program. We knew all these things had to be done.

We concluded, and it was not something I have to say we were happy about, it had to be done in the public interest, that the national plan to deal with smuggling could not depend on enforcement alone. It had to depend on tax measures which as I have said did not only involve the reduction of domestic taxes on tobacco but involved substantial tax increases on the tobacco companies, an export tax on the products they made here and sent abroad, because we knew that was a source of a lot of what was smuggled back, and also a substantial tax on these tobacco companies to fund a major anti-smoking program.

I have the greatest respect for the organizations quoted by the hon. spokesman for the Reform Party, but I think most of their communications were published before our plan went into effect. They feared we would ignore the tobacco companies. They feared we would ignore the need for an anti-smoking program and of course we did not ignore those key necessities. They are parts of our national plan. I hope that these organizations will take another look at what we are doing. As I said, I respect their concerns about the implications of tax reductions but a lot of the other things we are doing involve measures that they themselves have called for for years and now we are proceeding to do them.

To sum up, enforcement is a necessary part of our program but it was concluded reluctantly that enforcement alone would not do the job. This just says something about the complexity of governing in a country like Canada. Sometimes problems arise for which there are no simple or easy solutions. Whatever way you go involves problems, but it still means that governments

have to take decisions and operate in the best interests of the country. Then when the time comes they must submit themselves to the judgment of the public. We are happy to do so in this case and with respect to the other things we have done and will be doing with the intention of serving the best interests of all Canadians, of people in every part of this country.

Excise ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Brenda Chamberlain Liberal Guelph—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to mention that the marking of individual cigarettes was a Guelph based idea. It came from a gentleman named David Kennedy who is not the city treasurer, I would note. He is an individual citizen who is working very hard along with my constituency to find positive solutions for our problems in government. I really want to thank him.

I would also like to make mention of the anti-smoking program that we are talking about initiating. I would like to ask the hon. member if associations such as the lung association may be contacted to help us in this educational process. It may already have many good ideas or many educational components in place. In order not to have a duplication of services, perhaps organizations like this could help us in our anti-smoking campaign.

I would ask the hon. member if he would comment on that.

Excise ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Herb Gray Liberal Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to get too much in the area of the Minister of Health. I know she is going to speak and I am sure she is going to confirm that she and the government want to work co-operatively with groups like the lung association.

I am sure she will confirm that we want to take advantage of their ideas, programs and facilities. I look forward and I think the government looks forward to increasing close co-operation between the Minister of Health, her officials and groups like the lung association. This co-operation is necessary to make our program work.

Excise ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Vancouver Centre B.C.


Hedy Fry LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I want to comment in the absence of the Minister of Health that in fact the Minister of Health has been meeting with the lung association, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Medical Association and all the anti-smoking groups to talk about new strategies.

Excise ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


John Richardson Liberal Perth—Wellington—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a few comments. One is to thank the hon. minister for the action taken and to review what happened that led to this.

This was a genuine needs driven exercise. Society had been getting out of hand. We had models set up on street corners. We had big money being made. There were ostentatious homes being built, not just in specific areas. Money was being made illegally and it became a way of life. It had to be snuffed out if society was to preserve itself and its integrity.

I was personally pleased to see such action taken, particularly the diagnosis by the government, patiently building its case involving all aspects of our society before it took action. Based on that diagnosis the prescription was laid before us in a four point plan which covered very thoroughly and very comprehensively all aspects that undertake to eradicate this disease in our society.

Finally, we saw the true action in concrete form here. I hope that at some stage we will follow it up with a real evaluation and seeing that society is back on track with law and order.