Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a few words on this bill as well. I would like to say from the outset that I support our party's position on this bill in trying to encourage young people not to smoke and enhance the public awareness of the dangers of smoking.
But I find myself at odds with a few facts. The one thing wrong with this bill that I feel Canadians should know is that it gives the government exceptionally strong powers in making changes.
The regulation making powers that are given are extremely broad. It is done through orders in council, governor in council. It has far reaching powers and it is all throughout the bill. It is pervasive throughout the bill.
What is wrong with that is if there are some objections or some concerns by the Canadian public then cabinet can just do what it wants without coming back to this House. This House is a place where laws are made. This House is where politicians should stand up and argue in favour or against certain bills. With this one particular aspect of the bill flawed the government nevertheless is proceeding.
We do support the intent of the bill but we are vehemently opposed to the manner in which the government has worded the bill and the powers that it gives the cabinet.
The reason the government has done that is it feels that if there is a challenge in the courts about the legality or illegality of any aspect of this bill, then it can quickly huddle together, make changes, make amendments and then proceed with life.
I do not think that is how governments should be run. I do not think that is how our laws should be made. Our laws should be made subject to scrutiny by members of Parliament all across Canada who can debate ideas back and forth. That is a serious flaw in this bill.
This bill, when we really think about it, is all about money. It is about money for the government from the revenues it makes from
the taxes it charges on tobacco, for the tobacco companies themselves which make money by manufacturing, selling and distributing the product and the promoters of sporting events who ask the tobacco companies to sponsor their car events, tennis events, horse riding events so they can present something to the sporting public as if they are doing some honourable and wonderful thing.
Is smoking legal or illegal? If it is legal, what the heck is government trying to do? It is walking a fine line by saying: "It is legal. We will let you sell it but we will tax the heck out of you. We know it is bad for you. We know it causes cancer. We know it kills. We know that 70 per cent or 80 per cent of youth who smoke become addicted, unlike alcohol where only 15 per cent of the people become addicted". Why do we not have a debate on whether we should make smoking legal or illegal or restrict tobacco? Is it a drug or is it not a drug?
Let us get up here and talk about that. The government should not try to walk a fine line as if it is a sharing, caring Liberal government and it will look after the Canadian public. It knows smoking is bad for Canadians but it it will let tobacco companies sponsor events, and then again maybe it will not. The government will let the tobacco companies sell their products but it will not let them label them, they cannot put them in a vending machine. This is ridiculous.
Is smoking legal or illegal? Why do people not stand up and debate that in the first place? If it is legal, do tobacco companies not have rights according to the charter of rights and freedoms? I am not supporting or condoning smoking. It is a personal choice. If it is legal and it is a personal choice why does government not butt out? Why does it have to spend hours and days and millions of dollars in hearings trying to walk that fine line pretending that it knows better than the Canadian public what is good for them?
Is smoking legal or illegal? If it is legal, individuals have rights and companies have rights. Tobacco is a product that can be sold. Why is government interfering? If x number of people want to smoke, let them smoke. If x number of people want to kill themselves, let them kill themselves.
Why does government have to look after the youth and child poverty? Why do parents not take some responsibility in looking after the babies they bring into this world? Do they not have a responsibility? Should they not be telling them that smoking is not good for them, that certain foods are not good for them and alcohol is not good for them? Why is it that government has to do all these things all the time? It is pathetic.
I find myself at conflict over this bill. I find myself not liking smoking. I will speak out against smoking. I will say that it is bad. I do not like to go into a smoke filled room. I do not like the smell of my clothes after I have been some place where a lot of people smoke. I am a non-smoker.
Why is it that this government is now telling tobacco companies which are growing, manufacturing and distributing something that is legal what they can and cannot do? Why is government getting into our lives in such a regulatory fashion? It imposes everything on us: it knows better; if somebody comes up with a study, then that is it, that is the law and that is what the government is going to do.
I do not like that and I do not like the position it puts me in as a politician. When I think about it, why do I have to argue against the rights of a company to sell something that is legal? How can anyone argue both ways? How can government have it both ways? How can the government say it is looking after young people? Is it not looking after adults and the older people? To heck with them. They can smoke and they can die but the government will look after the young people. It is going to prevent smoking for youth.
It is hypocritical. If smoking is legal, it is legal. If the government wants to control it, then control it, but control it in a way that does not infringe upon the rights of the manufacturers.
This brings me back to my point about regulatory decision making by orders in council. The cabinet can do whatever it wants to shift with the changing times, to change with the mood of the people and whoever is suing someone or whatever the case may be.
That is not right. I would like to have an intelligent person on the other side who is in favour of this bill tell the Canadian public why the government cannot make a law which is black and white: Here it is, baby; you either follow it or you do not. Then if there are objections, it either stands the test of legality or it does not. Why can we not do that? I have had conversations with members of the health department. They say it is because they are worried that when they are challenged by the tobacco companies it will get kicked out of court and they will be two or three years behind the times and all the young people will start to smoke again and become addicted.
Why can the government not pass a law by saying here it is, this is the way it is, this is the way it is going to be, and it is legal. Is there not a problem? Is there not an issue on legality or illegality? What are we trying to do?
To skirt the issue the government introduces something which will set a bad precedent. It is a bad precedent to set because it will allow public officials when they become cabinet minister, to change the laws and rules without reporting to the House, without being held accountable and without allowing themselves to come under scrutiny.
My main point is that we support the government in its attempt to enhance public awareness of the health hazards of tobacco. We recognize the impact which it has on youth who are easily influenced and like to rebel and do their own thing. We should spend some time pointing out to them that tobacco is very addictive and they should be careful with it. We know it is not healthy, but it is their choice.
I have a problem with the legality or illegality and I have a problem with Bill C-71 in terms of how certain measures in the bill can be changed. That is my criticism of the bill. I want it to be clearly understood that we support everything which is in the bill, but that is one area which the government should be willing to delete. It should be willing to say: "Here is the law. Here is what we would like to do, and all hon. members of Parliament can either approve it or not approve it".
The government should not be playing games with advertising and how this product can or cannot be promoted. We are infringing upon the rights of others in trying to defend the health of Canadians. We are at odds; we are in conflict.
I wish the government would discuss that a bit so that at least I could understand it. If I am the only member of the House who does not understand it, I would still like to have the indulgence of the government. I would really appreciate the indulgence of the government to explain it to me.