House of Commons Hansard #111 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was housing.


Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a recent visit to HRDC I was quite impressed to see the number of programs available not just for young people but for older workers as well. These programs get them retrained and into other programs. I am quite happy to see what HRDC is doing. It is probably quite amazing for people who went to unemployment insurance offices in the past. Now the HRDC offices have everything. Counselling officers conduct interviews and help prepare resumés. These counsellors assess the skills of individuals and look at exactly where they can assist the most. It is certainly very different and I applaud the current HRDC initiative.

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to ask the member for York West, given her vast experience at the municipal level and a little experience that I have had at that end, how she sees the relationship unfolding between the various levels of government as we all wrestle with our budgets, not just post-September 11 but even before that, where we all try to figure out what the role of government is as we look to providing services to our various constituencies.

I suspect the member might have told me that clearly there is a role where the federal government, on a large scale basis, is responsible for setting and putting in place national guidelines and policies and for transferring money directly to the provinces that in turn are responsible to deliver certain services, such as health care and education, and in turn they would transfer money down to the municipal level which would also be responsible for delivering certain services to their constituents.

What is really happening, in my view of the overall economic situation in government, is that certain governments, because of either political dogma or certain promises that have perhaps been made, disguising it as a common sense revolution in Ontario, have changed the way that governments are forced to do business.

I recognize that in the province of Ontario the Mike Harris Conservative government was re-elected. It has had two majority governments. Obviously the people are voting for the Conservatives and we have to respect the democratic process.

However what they have done in that period is fundamentally changed the way governments are able to do business, particularly at the municipal level. They have downloaded the responsibility and taken away the money for so many programs. They have done it at the provincial level in Ontario and then, when the municipalities complain, they come to the realization that their only option is to go to the federal government.

Transit is a classic example. I spent eight years in the Ontario legislature. In those days and before, the province of Ontario assumed the responsibility to fund 75% of transit expenses at the municipal level. The other 25% came from the fare box or the tax base in a particular municipality.

If one had a municipality like mine in Mississauga, where the fare box would not generate enough revenue to cover that 25%, obviously one would come up with a shortfall. However when we analyze the nature of that community, one of the reasons that there is a shortfall in the fare box is the dominance and the predominance of the automobile going into industrial parks built all around Pearson international airport and in the west end of Mississauga, the area I represent. Those industrial and commercial areas generate substantial tax revenue. They also generate substantial automobile traffic and very little traffic for a transit system to survive on.

As a result of that, it seems reasonable to me that a portion of the industrial commercial tax base in a municipality like mine could in fact be used to make up the shortfall in the 25% of the transit. The municipality was responsible for 25%, the province for 75%. When the province bailed out, it got to the point, until just the last few weeks, where it was funding zero per cent of transit costs. That is a major download to a municipality.

On top of that, it was funding zero per cent not only for the Mississauga transits or the TTCs of this world, or the Ottawa transit system, it was funding zero per cent for the GO train system.

What does GO stand for? It stands for government of Ontario. This was a transit system, for goodness sakes, that was created by the province of Ontario as a fast rail commuter system to bring people into downtown Toronto and back home from the east and the west in the GTA. The province bailed out of that entirely. It is 100% gone so all the GTA municipalities had to get together. They were not only trying to make up a shortfall in terms of their local transit systems but they were responsible for funding 100% of the Ontario government's transit system.

What happens when this occurs? It has a ripple effect. The municipalities get together and say that they do not have anywhere to cut. There is no level of government below the municipalities that can be cut. What are they to do? They have to take it away from other services or increase taxes.

Increasing taxes is not a very popular move, particularly in the last eight to ten years. There has been tremendous effort and sacrifice made on the part of municipal governments to find ways to pare down their operations so that they can deliver the kinds of services they need to deliver. However, the reality is that when one drives anywhere in the city of Toronto almost a seamless rush hour exists from the east end to the west end where there is nothing but gridlock.

Not only is there nothing but gridlock, the gridlock is on roads that are in the worst shape that I can ever remember in my lifetime.

Highway 401 is a disgrace in the sense of the potholes, ruts and damage that large trucks have caused, in spite of the fact that the 407 was built by the province and then sold and privatized. It took that money but did it put that back into maintenance or highway construction? No, it did not.

The province made a choice. However those government members were re-elected with a majority. This is their choice and their right in this democracy to do what they have done. They decided to cut taxes, and that is fine. We have done the same thing but there is a difference. We cut taxes at the federal level by $100 billion, which comes into affect in this taxation year, after we had balanced the books. The province of Ontario did not do that. It actually sent out $200 of borrowed money in rebate cheques to everybody in the province.

Some people I know sent the money back telling the provincial government to use the money to fix the roads, to deal with the garbage problems in communities, to build affordable housing or to help a single mother on welfare. Instead, the government cut welfare costs and have driven people off social assistance, some who perhaps should not have been there but many are winding up homeless and desperate as a result of the policy.

I served with Mike Harris for eight years, five years on the same side of the Ontario legislature in opposition to Bob Rae. For five years Mike and I were on the same program. We pretty much agreed, not necessarily on everything but on a lot of things. I say to Mike that he had a choice. He should not cry now when all of a sudden, as a result of a terrible tragedy like September 11, we find ourselves in an economic crisis in the country, and particularly in this province. He should not try to say it is all Ottawa's fault. It does not hold water and it does not make sense.

We signed a health transfer accord with the province of Ontario that generated $1.2 billion in increased funds to the province for health care. How much do members think the province increased its health care budget? It increased it by $1.2 billion this year. I say good for the province. It used the money for health care the way it was intended. It is the first time I have seen it do that.

The province of Ontario cannot have it both ways. Mr. Harris has to realize he had his choice and he made his choice. He made his bed and, by God, he will lie in it.

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Canadian Alliance Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, that was a most learned discourse. It is absolutely unbelievable but I think the hon. member forgot in which House he was speaking. I think he thought he was speaking in the provincial house. I think he finally recognized that he was in Ottawa and so he got turned around a little bit.

The hon. member knows or should know that a tremendous amount of trade takes place between Canada and the United States. In fact 85% of our export market goes across the border and about 45% of that transfers across the border over three bridges in Ontario.

The member waxed very eloquently about the condition of the roads but there is a lot more to it than that. Not long ago I saw a presentation with a computer model showing how traffic could be re-routed through some of the border crossings.

I wonder whether the hon. member would have the courage to talk to the Minister of Finance to make some provision in the budget that would actually create an opportunity for a re-routing of this transportation and to be sure that in fact this could happen. That would eventually result in a more efficient transportation system and actually reduce the amount of money required to do this.

Is there a move on the part of the member to help the finance minister figure out a way that would work better? That is my first question.

The second question has to do with the position of cities in our economy today.

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think the idea of whether or not we are able to re-route some traffic across our border bears looking into.

I know for a fact that there is currently a proposal from the private sector to buy the currently closed rail bridge that goes across at Niagara Falls. The reason they want to buy that is to change it from rail to a road bridge and use it exclusively for trucks.

The member should believe me when I say that I know what House I am in and of the issues of which I speak.

The province of Ontario has also proposed building a new highway that would be partly alongside the Niagara escarpment and would be used primarily for trucks. I think that makes a tremendous amount of sense.

Those are the kinds of proposals in my view for which the provincial government should be knocking on our door to say that it needs our help to do those things.

We need the federal-provincial agreement to be able to put together some new routes for our commercial goods so that we can then free up the opportunity for other flows of traffic like tourists and residents of both Canada and the United States.

I would be happy to talk to the Minister of Finance. The member should know that we have already have been talking to the Minister of Transport about many of these ideas.

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my hon. friend.

He railed against the provincial government's use of tax refunds. Since the hon. member is a citizen of the province of Ontario, would he tell us whether or not he sent back his tax refund?

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the answer is no. I gave the money to charity instead because I would be darned if I gave it back to Mike Harris so he could squander it on some other foolish project that might get him re-elected. Using taxpayer money to win votes is the most disgusting and despicable play of politics. Harris is a master at it. Thank God he is retiring so we will not have to put up with that kind of shenanigans again in this province.

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to rise today to speak to the most important budget we have likely seen in a generation. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Dewdney--Alouette.

The events of September 11 have dramatically transformed our country and the world in which it thrives. The priorities parliament had set for Canadians and the direction we were to take as a country prior to the attacks have been changed for the foreseeable future by tragic circumstances.

In this new age our priority has become the safety and security of our citizens in the face of a constant threat from terrorist forces. The budget we will see this December will be unlike any we have seen since the end of the cold war. It will require a firm commitment to the programs and departments charged with the protection and defence of our nation.

The opportunity for the government to reassure Canadians and our international allies is now at hand. The upcoming budget must serve as a bold reinforcement of the strong commitments we have made to the war against terrorism. In short, it is time for the government to put its money where its mouth is.

I have risen in the House on many occasions to condemn the repeated and senseless cuts to our nation's armed forces that have been made in the last decade. My colleagues in the Chamber will know that when I say the time has come to reinvest in our nation's security it is not a new position brought on by the times but an ideal in which I have always believed and whose time has come.

There is nothing easier in times of war than saying that one supports a strong military. What is far more difficult is making a financial commitment to building that military. I rise today as I have risen many times in the past to call on the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister to make a firm and focused investment in the Canadian armed forces.

Prior to the September 11 attacks those who called for increases in defence spending were called alarmists. It was said that in the post cold war world Canada had no need to maintain the kind of military force it had throughout the seventies and eighties. For this reason the Department of National Defence saw its budget cut from $12 billion in 1993-94 to $9.4 billion in the course of a few years.

For most of the 1990s the government made clear to the nation that defence spending was a luxury which could be reduced as needed to fund other programs or as a means of reducing the deficit. It is only in the aftermath of the attacks on the United States that we are seeing how truly flawed the policy was. It is only now that we are seeing the devastating effects of the dramatic cuts on our military capabilities.

For the past several weeks and in the past few months before the summer break the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs has been investigating the operational readiness of the Canadian forces.

I can conclude what our findings were because we tabled them today. We came forward and said that we needed more money in the budget for the military. We need at least $1 billion but in reality we need a whole lot more.

As members of the House will know, I have often spoken of the need to replace our aging Sea King helicopters. Hon. members will also know that one of the most significant flaws in the government's procurement process is that contracts are awarded on the basis of the lowest price rather than the best value or, more important, the best product for our men and women.

When I think of this my thoughts turn to a story related to me by a colleague who sits on the other side. The individual travelled to visit our peacekeepers and was shocked to see that soldiers returning to Canada were forced to give their combat boots to the soldiers arriving in theatre.

The story is shockingly similar to a story the House heard just under a year ago when a representative of the Royal Canadian Legion wrote of the disheartening conditions he witnessed when visiting our peacekeepers overseas.

When our government does not give our men and women in uniform the very uniforms they volunteer to wear we have gone too far. When our military personnel see the government cutting corners and shortchanging them it is only natural that morale is low.

Our military deserves the best equipment possible. When we make a capital expenditure we should not do so on the basis of how much money we can save. When we buy combat boots and combat clothing we should order enough for everyone who needs them.

Sadly in the wake of the terrorist attacks the government continues to operate with the mindset that we should be cutting costs when it comes to our military. Last week it was confirmed that many of our armed forces reservists will see a 15% cut in their wages.

It is inconceivable that in a time of war any government, let alone a Canadian government, would give notice of its intention to cut the pay of those whose lives are being placed at risk. When I asked the minister to justify his decision, his answer served only to raise more questions. I would ask that my colleagues in the House notice the strange logic of the Minister of National Defence when he said:

There is no approved pay reduction at all. Let me tell the House that the 21,000 reservists over the last three years have had very substantial pay increases, as have those in the regular force. There is a proposal that will involve some readjustment, some realignment. Some will get a reduction. Even more than that will get an increase.

The minister said there was no approved pay reduction and then admitted there was. What is it? If some reservists are getting a reduction does it not mean a reduction has been approved? If a majority of reservists will be getting a pay increase, as the minister says, why would the increase require us to cut the pay of others?

Less than two months after the commitment was made the government repeatedly indicated that in light of the massive changes following September 11 our military would not be left in need of additional funding. Today the defence committee tabled an interim report which calls for increased funding and more resources for the military. It calls on us to help OCPEP and all the others.

My remarks today reflect my deep personal feelings on the issue. Our men and women in uniform cannot come to Parliament Hill, as so many others do, with placards to protest the injustices committed against them. Our Canadian armed forces personnel have never questioned their awesome duty to us. It is time we honoured them. The eyes of the nation will watch over the government when it brings down its December budget.

Prebudget ConsultationsGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It being 5.30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Contraventions ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

moved that Bill C-344, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drug Substances Act (marijuana), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Kootenay—Okanagan Boundary for seconding Bill C-344. Today I am going to give a discourse on how we can decrease and prevent drug use here in Canada, in North America and around the world.

The bill deals with the decriminalization of simple marijuana possession in contrast to legalization which I am opposed to. It is part of a three pronged approach. The first is decriminalization.

The second is a four point motion that deals with the international drug trade. I would like to thank the Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa for allowing me to accompany him on a very informative trip to Colombia to meet President Pastrana. Out of that came a motion which I will discuss later.

The last part is how we prevent drug use. This involves the head start program. The House chose to pass my private member's motion on that issue in 1998. The program strengthens the parent-child bond and has been profoundly effective in decreasing drug use in children, not to mention a 60% reduction in youth crime. I will get back to that later.

Bill C-344 calls for the decriminalization of simple possession of marijuana. A person found to be in possession of marijuana would receive a fine of $200, $500 or $1,000 depending on whether it was their first, second or third offence. They would not go into the court system. They would not receive a criminal conviction and therefore they would not have a criminal record. This is different from the situation today when an individual found in simple possession of marijuana would have to go through the court system and then receive a fine or could go to jail. They could receive up to six months in jail for their first offence.

Drug laws in the country have been motivated mostly for political expediency rather than to deal with the truth. Today we seek to deal with the truth and deal with the facts. The idea in the bill has been employed in many European countries, in Italy, the Netherlands, Great Britain as well as in Australia. Decriminalization of marijuana did not result in an increase in use, it resulted in a decrease or a static amount. That is very interesting. Decriminalization in contrast to legalization of marijuana results in a static amount or a decrease in the amount of drug use.

The bill enables us to save about $150 million every year. Since September 11 there has been an increased demand on our security forces and our police forces. We have to find the money to go after the real criminals: the terrorists, the international drug lords, the people who push drugs and grow elicit drugs. They are the people our police officers need to go after, not someone who is in possession of a small amount of marijuana.

Does the bill provide a disincentive? It provides a financial disincentive, a fine of $200, $500 or $1,000. It saves the taxpayer money, in the order of $150 million. It enables our police forces to focus on the true criminals: the organized crime gangs and the drug pushers.

We also need to look at the bill in the forum of how we look at drug abuse, not from the punitive judicial model that we have used historically, but a medical model. I am a physician and I have spent 13 years working in detox units in British Columbia. I have seen all manners of drug use. I saw many dead people when I worked in the emergency department. I have seen people's lives completely ruined by drugs. I am totally opposed to drug use, including marijuana use. The bill will actually enable us to decrease drug use here in Canada. It will also free up resources to enable us to go into the prevention aspect.

The head start program that was passed in my motion in 1998 strengthens the parent-child bond. It ensures that children have their basic needs met. It helps provide good parenting skills to those parents who perhaps have not acquired them.

When that was employed from Moncton, and the Minister of Labour worked there has been outstanding, to Ypsilanti, Michigan and Hawaii, it resulted in a 99% reduction in child abuse rates, a 60% reduction in youth crime, a 40% reduction in teen pregnancies and a $7 saving for every dollar that was used.

The Government of Canada is looking at ways in which it can build a children's agenda. The head start program would put meat, muscle and flesh on that idea. The House passed it. The government should adopt it. Find the best models from around the world, work with the provinces and employ a national head start program that ensures our children have their basic needs met. This bill would provide some resources to do that.

The other side of the bill, and the secretary of state was kind enough to allow me to attend his meetings in South America in this regard, is that we have a serious problem in the international drug trade. The so-called war on drugs, where we have tried to decrease the drug trade at source by going to Colombia and waging a war on drugs, has been an abysmal failure and will always be.

Rather than trying to decrease production, we need to do is decrease consumption. If we decreased consumption then we would be able to address the devastating problems that we have witnessed in various parts of the world.

In Colombia 70 people are murdered every single day as a direct result of the bloody war that has gone on for more than 20 years fuelled by the drug trade, primarily cocaine. As well, Colombia is branching out into a very pure form of heroin that is coming into Canada as we speak. That will have a devastating effect on people who are addicts. How do we deal with this problem? Let us stop consumption. If there was no consumption there would not be production.

When I was in Colombia it was very exciting. Senator McCain from the United States was also there at the same time. He made some very progressive statements. He said that people in North America could not point their fingers at Colombians and tell them to stop production. He said that we must decrease consumption in North America. The question is how to do that. Again this bill will address that problem.

There are four things we also need to do. First, apart from implementing a decrease in consumption at home, we need to get tough with organized crime. We need to adopt U.S. RICO like amendments. These are racketeering influenced and corruption organization amendments that would enable our police forces to go after the money. Cutting the money from organized crime is the most effective way of hobbling a criminal's ability to function. It is what criminals fear the most. RICO amendments would enable us to convict them and take away their money supports.

Second, what we need is a freer trade agreement in the Americas. A free trade zone in the Americas is crucial. If someone is growing cocaine in Colombia, that person would need to export something else. Right now the greatest barriers to farmers in developing countries are the barriers to trade that we in the west employ. Let us remove those barriers to trade and enable the people, who are grinding out an existence in abject poverty, to export and earn money so they can get away from this crop.

The last point is a very interesting one. Earlier this year Canada and the west had their knuckles wrapped for allowing legal chemicals to go to countries where they were used in the production of cocaine and heroin. The United Nations asked us why we were allowing this to happen and why had we turned our backs on it. This is wrong. We can and must have a series of import-export permits on the precursor chemicals that are necessary to the production of cocaine and heroin. If we did that, we would be able to track where the chemicals went and hit the people who produced the drugs in the first place. It is eminently doable.

When the secretary of state and I were in San José, Colombia, I had a chance to speak to the United Nations and OAS drug representatives. I pitched this idea to them and they thought it was a fantastic. They said the only thing that was holding this up was bureaucracy.

Canada should take a leadership role in implementing a series of import-export permits that would enable us to track as well as eliminate those people who produce drugs, by tracking the precursor chemicals and choking off supply. It is something that is doable, it is cheap and can be very effective.

If we look at and compare those countries that have had a very punitive model for dealing with drug abuse, such as the United States, and those European models where they have had a decriminalization approach, we would see this.

In the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and now in Great Britain decriminalization of simple marijuana possession has enabled them to decrease the use of cannabis. The reason is very interesting. They reckon that because the forbidden fruit syndrome was not attached to a decriminalized substance like cannabis, they found that use, particularly among youth, declined quite substantially, which is very interesting. When one looks at harder drugs, there is not a shred of evidence to show that cannabis is a gateway drug. In fact, where drug use had been decriminalized, they found that hard drug use actually was static or had declined. This is also a very interesting fact.

When drug use in European countries like the Netherlands was compared to the United States, it was found that the use of harder drugs like cocaine was about 2% in the Netherlands and about 11% to 12% in the United States. Therefore the harder, more punitive actions do not work when the objective is to decrease the use of hard drugs.

Europeans, Australians and now the Brits have done the same thing. A pilot project to decriminalize the use of marijuana was done in Brixton to see what would happen. They found that drug use declined. There was a massive saving to their judicial forces. The same thing happened in south Australia where decriminalization was so effective that it is now looking at applying it to the entire country. Where it has worked it has been extremely effective.

I want to go back for one moment and talk a bit about the cost factor.

Today in Canada there are about 71,000 convictions for possession every year. More than half of that is due to marijuana. Does it make sense that we use our law enforcement forces for this particular process? Does it make any sense for a 20 year old to be picked up, convicted and receive a criminal record for the simple possession of marijuana? In getting that criminal record, this impedes a person's ability to gain access to a wide variety of professional faculties thereby severely compromising and truncating the individual's ability to be a contributing member of society in the future. It does not work. If we look at society and see who is supporting it, it is very interesting.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the RCMP, the Council of Churches, elements in the Canadian Medical Association and other groups have said that is time to decriminalize, not legalize, marijuana possession. They have said that it is time drug use was looked at in a more comprehensive fashion. Those groups look at it not in isolation, quite wisely, but look at the larger picture.

How do we prevent drug use? The head start program will prevent drug use by working with parents. This has had a profound effect on children. We have to work with our youth. If we start early with our youth, we will have an opportunity to substantially reduce drug abuse here in Canada. This does not work however with adults.

I worked as a doctor in jails and I was also a jail guard. The extent to which drug abuse is found in jails is quite profound. A study was done of 4,230 inmates and it found that 40% of those inmates used drugs in jail within the last year. That is shocking. It does not work. We have to use other models.

It is very interesting to look at hard drug use. Some people have said that punitive action needs to be taken and these people need to be put in jail. That does not work. I have done some exploration in Europe with regard to hard drug use. People were put in methadone programs, needle exchange programs and were even allowed small medicinal use of the drug they were using.

That program was held in conjunction with housing, education, work, being an essential part of the program, and, of course, therapy. After one year, the combination of that in a defined time period had a 50% to 60% success rate for hard core drug addicts.

I listened to what people said about the program. Some said that they had been on the streets. The program had given them job training and put them to work. It provided them the structure in their lives which they had never had before. Although they had been given the medicinal heroine for a period of time, it was a limited period of time.

The quid pro quo to receiving the drug is the patients must engage in the treatment programs. If they do not engage in therapy, treatment, counselling, work and job skills, then they cannot participate in the program. They have to have a willing partner.

In my experience Canada has a revolving door syndrome. People are thrown in detox and come out dry. Within 24 hours, I have seen these people in the emergency ward. They are drunk or on drugs again after having spent seven to ten days in detox. That model does not work.

We have to obligate the drug addicts or the substance abusers to engage in these other elements of treatment, work, job skills and counselling to get them off the street. Where that has been done in Europe, 50% to 60% of people have been taken off the street. This is quite extraordinary.

The cost savings are substantial. True, there is some front end loading of money, but we have to look at this in the long run. It saves money in the long run.

Perhaps the greatest scourges and the greatest damage associated with drug use are not the problems of taking the drugs themselves, but the indirect costs; the crime associated with drug abuse. Many people who take heroin and cocaine have to engage in stealing and prostitution to raise the money they need for $300 and $400 a day habits in cocaine, crack cocaine, Ts and Rs and heroin. They do not get that by going to work.

That of course has a profound impact on our society. The costs associated with drug use in Canada is more than $20 billion. That is what It costs us directly and indirectly as result of drug use. Perhaps the most frightening element of all this is the scourge of HIV and other communicable diseases.

If we compare the United States with some of the European models and Australia, take Great Britain for example, the incidence of HIV is about is about 1% among IV drug abusers, which is much higher than IV drug abusers in North America. If we look at people who use heroin, roughly 40% of individuals who have taken heroin intravenously have shared needles. It is shocking.

It is incumbent upon us to look at a broad range of issues, look at this factually, logically, deal with the facts and employ programs that have worked around the world.

I certainly would be remiss in not thanking Steven Barrett, Kerrie Woods, our British connection, and Jennifer Ratz for their very hard work in putting this together and working with me along this level. I want to thank the Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa for being so kind and generous in allowing me to participate in a couple of very important trips we have taken this year.

The elements of the bill I have put forth have widespread support from the public. Roughly 75% of the public in polling wants decriminalization of marijuana. Roughly two-third plus of the member of the House want decriminalization. I hope the government takes the bill, adopts it and send it to committee. I hope it does not let it languish but adopts it as a much larger program of how we deal with substance abuse issues in Canada today.

Let us look at it from a humane fashion. Let us look at it from a compassionate fashion. Let us look at it from a medical model, not a punitive model. Let us do the right thing, the socially appropriate thing, the harm reduction platform. Let us save lives, save money and help Canadians in the future. If we do that, truly Canada will be on the cutting edge and we will be saving many lives.

Contraventions ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Madawaska—Restigouche New Brunswick


Jeannot Castonguay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, following the May 17, 2001 debate on the use of drugs for non-medical purposes, a special House committee was formed to examine the many issues surrounding this important topic. It will be presenting its conclusions in November 2002.

The Minister of Health and this government are impatiently awaiting the recommendations of this committee and of the special Senate committee now studying Canada's anti-drug legislation and policies.

I would remind the House that, through the various departments, which are working together to develop a drug strategy for Canada, the government is actively making its expertise available and providing support for the proceedings of these two committees.

The issue of anti-drug legislation and sanctions, and especially marijuana, is now the subject of a broad public debate. I will go over some of the proposals in the amendment proposed.

This amendment would mean that simple possession of small quantities of cannabis or cannabis resin could be dealt with under the provisions of the Contraventions Act. It would change the procedures and the legal system for offences of possession, possession for trafficking, and trafficking of one gram or less of cannabis resin or 30 grams or less of cannabis.

The Contraventions Act, which was passed by parliament in 1992, was designed to provide a simplified process for prosecuting violations of statutes and regulations that would otherwise be prosecuted under the Criminal Code before provincial courts.

According to the Contraventions Act, summary conviction offences may be designated by the governor in council as a contravention. The fact that an offence is designated as a contravention under the act eliminates the stigma normally associated with a federal conviction offence.

One of the objectives of this bill seems to be the elimination of a criminal record for possession of small amounts of cannabis. Another objective is to re-allocate the savings to the legal system toward the prosecution of dealers and traffickers of illicit drugs. These are obviously laudable goals. However, without an indepth study of the subject, including a cost benefit analysis, and information on the social and economic benefits, we cannot speculate as to whether or not the amendment would meet its objectives.

Amendments were made to the Contravention Act in May 1996. They were the result of consultations with the provinces and territories. Similar consultations would be vital for the proposed bill.

The amendments allowed violations of federal statutes to be prosecuted under the various provincial and territorial legal systems. The governor in council was able to make regulations to have a provincial system apply to the offences.

The 1996 amendments also allow the Minister of Justice to sign agreements with each province or territory regarding the administrative details of the act, implementation procedures for the act, and the prosecution of contraventions.

The Contraventions Act allows the governor in council to designate summary conviction offences under federal statutes or regulations as contraventions. Indictable offences are specifically excluded from designation as contraventions.

These proposals are all good, but we must be careful to ensure that all of these provisions are carefully considered.

Once again, we would need to have special consultations with the provinces before considering this approach.

Furthermore, we have to hear from the Canadian public on this subject before making any decisions regarding cannabis policies. This work is underway.

First, the Senate committee and the special committee of the House, together with the results of their studies, will be a considerable help in examining the questions. These committees may recommend a cost-benefit analysis and further public consultation before a decision to amend the policies on cannabis according to the Contraventions Act.

I stress the need for broad consultation with representatives of the provinces and territories to obtain their support for this approach and their opinion on its implementation. A strong consensus among the provinces, the territories and the federal government is the only way to rectify the inconsistency of the current enforcement scheme.

We must explain the changes clearly to Canadians.

We must also make sure that a new and innovative approach is not unnecessarily complex and that Canadians understand the reason for the change and its application in practice.

In addition, processes should probably be established to provide training to police officers in the appropriate enforcement of the provisions of the Contraventions Act to make sure that the result is not a broader or discriminatory enforcement of the law.

An evaluation framework would probably be needed. Mechanisms should be established to obtain the basic data on current trends in substance abuse and arrests and to monitor the social, legal and health related effects of the Contraventions Act.

In conclusion, the government believes that the time is not right to pass this amendment and that the preliminary work required has not been completed. In our opinion, the work of the parliamentary committees must be completed before any change is made to current legislation, such as the Contraventions Act, in the case of cannabis.

Contraventions ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first mention that I strongly support the bill before us, which will be votable after the third hour of debate.

I wish to remind the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, as a preliminary remark, that the government has been examining these issues for over 20 years. In the early 1970s, there was, among others, the Le Dain Commission comprising three highly esteemed criminologists, including Andrée Bertrand, a criminologist at the University of Montreal. I do not think the government can claim insufficient information as a pretext for rejecting the bill

The government may not agree with the essence of the bill and wish to continue to have the use of marijuana dealt with by the criminal justice system, but, please, let it not claim lack of information, because that argument does not hold.

I would like to put the bill in the context of its legal ramifications. This bill does not legalize the possession of marijuana. It decriminalizes it. That means that a person in possession of a small quantity of marijuana cannot be incarcerated and therefore will not have a criminal record.

This is interesting, because we must be very clear about this approach, which is to make the possession of marijuana a civil offence. It is not legalized. There would be a civil offence subject to a fine. The first would be $200, and, if I recall correctly, the second would be $500, and in all cases beyond the second offence, the fine would be $1,000.

This bill is very relevant to Canadian and Quebec society of today. I sit on the special committee that will review the whole matter of Canada's antidrug strategy.

In the committee we were given a document, which my colleague might find worth reading as well, prepared by Diane Riley, a doctor, not in the medical sense of the term, but in the sense of having a university doctorate.

She has identified all of the studies that have been done on drugs. Her document is in both official languages and was prepared at the request of Senator Nolin of the other House.

I would like to share a number of the conclusions. The document reminds us that 600,000 Canadians have a criminal record simply because they were arrested for possession of marijuana. This figure of 600,000 Canadians and Quebecers alone is cause for reflection.

Must people be sentenced for possession of a harmless substance? The report refers to an article that appeared three years ago in the British medical journal The Lancet , a very serious report which proved that the consumption of marijuana, in the short term certainly, but also in the long term, has no impact on people's health. It has sedative virtues, relaxing effects, but no effect on people's ability to function.

When my colleague, the hon. member for Rosemount—Petite-Patrie, brought forward a motion which was debated here in the House on the legalization of marijuana for therapeutic purposes, certain members, particularly the hon. member for Saint John, to be specific, raised the whole argument, the kind of lecture grandmothers are wont to make, with great affection and most certainly great good intentions, about how marijuana destroys people's brain cells and can lead to dysfunction.

Let us just think about how many of Canada's decision-makers have used marijuana, and would therefore be dysfunctional according to the argument of the hon. member for Saint John. That argument does not hold water.

We have proof. The Lancet article, and the review of the medical literature carried out by the researcher I mentioned, do not allow us to add medical considerations to the argument.

On the contrary, using marijuana may have great therapeutic value for people infected with HIV.

The hon. member who is sponsoring this bill is asking us, as parliamentarians, to remove from the criminal code the simple possession of marijuana. Our colleague will have to tell us whether this also includes hashish. Usually, when medical definitions refer to cannabis, it means both marijuana and hashish. We will have to see about the scope of the bill.

Another argument that will have to be considered, and regarding which we have some data, is the fact that, in countries where it is not a crime for a person to have marijuana in his possession, this includes a number of European countries such as the Netherlands, Italy and Spain, it is not true that this has led to an increase in use.

Those who are listening to us will definitely not be surprised to hear that, according to the figures provided in the study conducted by the other place in 1998, marijuana is used more in prohibitionist countries such as the United States than in countries like the Netherlands, where it has been legalized.

In the Netherlands, legalization has even resulted in government controlled coffee shops providing marijuana in a legal fashion. In the weeks and months that followed legalization, there was no increase in marijuana use, because people who use this drug do so for personal motives, for therapeutic reasons and to achieve personal serenity. There is absolutely no reason to believe that we will witness a phenomenon of massive and unrestrained use.

There is a third reason we should support this bill presented by the Canadian Alliance member. I am referring of course to the significant resources used by police forces. It is interesting to see that, at the federal level in Canada, and this does not even include the various police forces such as the Montreal urban community police department or the Quebec provincial police, only the RCMP, 1,000 officers are involved on a permanent basis in the fight against drug trafficking.

Our special committee on illegal drugs also heard officials from the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. They tabled a document that my colleague could also look at. We got an idea of the size of drug seizures in recent years.

Take the example of marijuana. These are the latest statistics. In 2000 Canadian customs authorities made 44 seizures of marijuana worth a total of $17.7 million. Why should this figure interest us? This does not mean that once our colleague's bill is adopted, we will become a country with open borders to marijuana, without any restrictions. That is not the idea. However, we have to understand that this prohibitive reasoning, the reasoning that outlaws the possession of marijuana, leads to and promotes the trafficking of marijuana.

We could free up police resources considerably. If one thinks that 1,000 officers are assigned to drug control, it is easy to think how we, as a society, could make a much more rational use of these resources, particularly in a context where true organized crime has developed considerably, and has considerable information technologies at its disposal.

Therefore, the bill is perfectly reasonable and we do not feel the need to wait for committee work to be over. The Senate committee will carry on for several more months. We heard from a senator in our committee. A preliminary report will be presented in August. After that, the Senate will undertake a two year study. Our committee will also study the issue for several months.

I think that, since the conclusions of the Le Dain report, the House has all of the information it needs to support this bill, which designates a civil offence and meets the wishes of a large majority of Canadians and Quebecers.

Contraventions ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I very much support this bill and want to thank the hon. member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca for bringing it forward for debate. I am glad it will be a votable bill.

One of the issues we have to examine in deciding whether we support the bill is what the real public health risk is that is associated with cannabis use. There has been an enormous amount of evidence, which we could probably stack several feet high, to show that the risk to individual or public health from the use of cannabis is minimal. In fact what really has happened in the country is that the greatest risk to public health when it comes to drug use is from prohibitionist policies.

It is ironic that is the criminalization of drug users, whether it is in regard to cannabis or other substances, that has created the greatest harm in our society, whether it involves individual health or safety in our communities or people who are forced into a criminal lifestyle. To me that is the heart of the issue. We must have an honest debate. We must break down the barriers and mythology surrounding Canada's drug policies and our moral attitudes toward drugs and critically examine the fact that it is prohibition and criminalization that have created harm for and risk to public and individual health, not the drugs themselves, although they can create harm.

Today I was at the special committee on the non-medical use of drugs. We heard from a witness, Dr. Eric Single, professor of public health sciences in the faculty of medicine at the University of Toronto, who has done a lot of research on drug use and substance abuse, particularly in Australia. He pointed out to the committee that in Australia where decriminalization has taken place the use of cannabis did not increase. In fact, not sending people to jail had no counterbalancing effect in terms of increasing use. What it did do was reduce law enforcement costs significantly.

I found it amusing to hear from the government member that we have to be so careful and cautious, that we have to study it and weigh all the angles. Let us get real here. Let us remember that it was 30 years ago that the Le Dain commission conducted a thorough examination of the issue and came to the conclusion that cannabis or marijuana should be decriminalized. In fact it went further and made many other recommendations, so this is not progressing at exactly a rapid rate.

I would argue that the public is far ahead of the politicians on this one. We can go to just about any survey, national, provincial or regional, and we will see that Canadians are much more realistic about this issue than those of us who are in elected positions. More than anything in this debate and when it comes to a vote, people need to have the courage to be realistic on the issue and break down the mythology that exists.

We in the NDP actually have dealt with the issue. Indeed, at our national convention in 1999 we passed a resolution stating: “Be it resolved that the NDP support the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police in its call for decriminalization of cannabis”.

This bill is a private member's bill and I thank the member for bringing it forward, but it is ironic in that I do not think his party has the nerve to do it. We really have to do a lot of education because it should be more than private members' business. It is something that as a political institution we should be standing up for and taking on. I hope the member will do some work within his own party to get it to adopt a stand for decriminalization.

The bill is important. I guess my only complaint would be that it does not go far enough. It really is the tip of the iceberg.

I represent the riding of Vancouver East. It includes the downtown east side, which is probably the epicentre in the western world for HIV-AIDS and injection drug users. There is really just an open drug scene now. There are people whose lives are devastated. There are people who are in pain, who suffer trauma and who have been marginalized as a result of criminalization due to Canada's drug laws. While we are debating the decriminalization of marijuana, let us really link it to the broader issue, which is that we absolutely have to look at Canada's drug laws. They have to be reformed, just as the Le Dain commission said 30 years ago.

Today in Vancouver the special Senate committee is actually holding a hearing and it will be hearing from drug users themselves, people who have actually come together and organized to speak out so that they are no longer marginalized and their voices are being heard.

I had a letter sent to the hearing today because I could not be there. In outlining the crisis that has faced our community with injection drug use and the lack of action by levels of government, what I asked the committee to look at and to urge the federal government to act swiftly and adopt were the following points.

We need a strategy and a program for user accessible treatment on demand. There are people who are facing addiction and want to get into treatment but they cannot because it is not available or not accessible.

We need a realistic and honest drug education program focused on health and well-being. We have so many programs run by police departments, which basically tell kids that if they use cannabis or do this or that they will become drug addicts and die. Kids know that is not true. We need an honest education program focused on people's understanding of their own bodies, of their own health and of what is appropriate use, rather than just a message of “say no to drugs” when we know kids are not listening to it.

I have called for a safe injection site. So have many other people.

I have called for multicentre heroin trials and for the decriminalization of marijuana for personal use as a step toward a more critical discussion on the legalization of marijuana and other substances.

We need support and housing programs for injection drug users who have been marginalized and criminalized by current attitudes and laws.

We also need testing of on the street drugs to provide critical information to health care providers in order to prevent overdoses. I want to say one thing about this. Because of the barriers we have to dealing with this issue realistically and because we as a society have been so afraid to deal with the issue of drug use, we have created an environment where people are literally living off the street and buying drugs on the illegal market. As a result, they are dying from overdoses in enormous numbers. These deaths are preventable. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of death for people between 30 and 44, more so than heart attacks, car accidents, strokes or cancers. These are preventable deaths if only we have the courage to provide the kind of harm reducing, realistic policies necessary, to provide treatment on demand, to provide realistic education and to help people where they are at and not further criminalize them.

I welcome this debate today because it is one more step in what has been a struggle for legislatures in terms of standing up and taking on this issue. I sincerely hope that there will be an honest assessment of this issue in the House and that we will not hide behind our perception of people's morals. I sincerely hope that we will be honest and realistic and support the bill, that we will see it as a step toward a more critical debate and discussion about the need to reform Canada's drug laws and the fact that prohibitionist policies have caused the greatest harm in our society, both to individuals and to communities.

Contraventions ActPrivate Members' Business

November 7th, 2001 / 6:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member from British Columbia who brought this matter forward. I commend all members who have taken part in this debate. It is a very timely and very helpful process we are engaging in at this moment.

Looking at the substance of Bill C-344 which calls for the decriminalization of marijuana, there is an important distinction that cannot be repeated often enough. There is a huge difference between decriminalizing marijuana and legalizing marijuana. I think there is often a great deal of confusion over this particular issue.

The private member's bill calls for enactments within the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Contraventions Act which would essentially put the possession, trafficking and use of marijuana into the category of a summary offence ticket, that is, a speeding ticket or a motor vehicle type offence, that would result in potential fines and potential incarceration.

The penalties are really not the question. It becomes a much broader debate when we engage in discussing the effects of such a change. Essentially it would lead potentially to expanded use of marijuana for very casual social purposes which is occurring now in this country. There is a realization behind the bill that a disproportionate amount of criminal justice machinery is trying to deal with this problem right now, while at the same time dealing with what I would fairly call proportionately larger problems in the country.

The issue is one which deserves debate. It is one that is currently being debated in the House of Commons committee that it has been referred to. It has also been taken up by the Senate and the hon. Pierre Claude Nolin, a Conservative senator in the other place. They are delving into the very pith and substance of what we are discussing here today in this private member's bill.

The hon. member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca has displayed a great deal of courage and diligence in ensuring that this matter comes forward. I am quick to acknowledge that other members of the House have a great deal of experience because of the predominance of this problem in their ridings.

It is a problem on a number of levels. There is a reliance by many in society on drugs far more damaging and with much higher addictive qualities than marijuana. My colleague from Quebec raised an important issue, the distinction between whether it includes marijuana or hash and hash oil. That to me is not clear in the bill.

Neither legalization nor increased criminal sanctions will fully address some of these complexities. There has to be a full and public debate. There has to be a great deal of attention placed on the health aspects.

My colleague from the New Democratic Party has quite correctly pointed out that the evidence is not clear. There is a fair bit of conflicting medical research that speaks of the addictive qualities of marijuana and hashish, that speaks of the harm that can result from direct inhalation of marijuana.

There is also the real effect that it has on a person's mental capacity, decision making, and physical dexterity in the operation of machinery or a motor vehicle. These are considerations that have to be brought into the debate.

The problems require a variety of measures to seek out a solution. They include education, treatment and rehabilitation and government regulation in areas that may not result in criminal sanctions.

All of this is to say that in the context of the debate, it is not a simple one. It is not just a matter of saying we are going to remove the penalties from the criminal code and put them into the context of something that is deemed less serious with less detrimental effect on a person's future. By that I mean obviously there are those in the past who have been unfairly punished or felt disproportionate results coming from the fact that they may have been arrested for possession of marijuana or have engaged in the use of marijuana.

We have seen a greater openness to acknowledge the medicinal benefits of marijuana in the control of pain, glaucoma and other medical afflictions in recent years. We have come a long way. I acknowledge that the legislation in this area has not changed for many years. There have been previous studies, but there is an intense and removed attitude to re-examine the issue.

The leader of the Progressive Conservative/Democratic Representative coalition, the right hon. member for Calgary Centre, has openly supported the spirit and intent behind the legislation. In May of this year he called upon the government to decriminalize marijuana. He stated that it was not fair for a young person to face a lifelong criminal record for possession of the drug. He made the distinction between criminalization and legalization. He also noted, as I will note, that it was a personal opinion.

I am obliged to say that within the coalition we will be having a free vote on this issue. There is a difference of opinion in our coalition and in other parties. That is healthy. Canadians openly embrace the reality that people have very different backgrounds, experiences and strongly held beliefs about the issue.

The hon. member for Saint John who was referred to in the debate holds very personal strong beliefs about this. I understand and respect the position of my leader. Yet, even the Minister of Justice signalled that she would be open to a debate on the decriminalization of marijuana. Many Canadians are still uncomfortable with the amount of evidence that is before them, particularly on the health aspects.

A survey last May suggested Canadians were almost evenly split on the issue of legalization: 47% in support compared to 26% in 1975. There is an apparent shift in public attitudes.

I certainly support further study. I support and commend the effort being put forward by members of parliament and the Senate. I must be honest, however. I am not there yet. I do not feel comfortable with going down the road of decriminalization at this point.

We are engaged in a healthy debate. The issue has been before the country. There was reference to the Le Dain commission. The medical community is more engaged in bringing forward hard facts about the effects of marijuana use. The mover of this bill is a medical practitioner and that further legitimizes and crystallizes his commitment to this issue. Changing attitudes toward the medical use of marijuana, combined with increasing demands on the law enforcement community, have also necessitated this closer examination.

There was reference earlier that the law enforcement community is stretched to the extreme in trying to enforce all sorts of laws that proportionately require greater attention. I do not want to draw too close an analogy, but having law enforcement officers engaged in the enforcement of a gun registry, for example, highlights the ludicrous nature of giving officers too much to do without enough financial resources or enough person power to commit the task that is before them.

This bill calls for changing the way in which we set up the fine structure. There is a great deal of concern on my part for people who suffer the inability to travel or to gain full employment in an area for which they are qualified for the reason they may have a criminal record for simple possession. That can change by having a criminal record expunged.

The bill does not go as far as to legalize the use of marijuana. I commend the hon. member for bringing this matter to the House for debate.

I referred to the debate within the policing community. The chiefs of police seem to support the hon. member's initiative and yet frontline police officers feel that this is not the road to go at this time.

I believe there is a danger that those who are under the influence of marijuana suffer from a decreased drive and initiative.

It is still a mind-altering substance, something that can affect in a criminal way the operation of a motor vehicle or at times the intent that may be involved in a criminal act.

Again this issue is something that will be with us, I hope not for the same amount of time since the last time it came before the House. I look forward to the outcome of the Senate report and the House of Commons committee report and the further debate that will take place on the floor of the House of Commons.

Contraventions ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, over the course of the last decade cannabis use has been the subject of discussion in several fora.

Today we are being asked to examine a proposed amendment to the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act regarding cannabis.

In considering a legislative amendment, we must take into account our international obligations as a country and consider international experiences with regard to cannabis possession. As well we must also consider the need for further information in areas where our current knowledge does not suffice. While we may believe that the basis of information exists, we must not make a premature decision on this issue. Together we must identify where further data is needed and must consider the important work already in progress.

A special committee of the Senate is currently studying Canada's drug legislation and policies, particularly with respect to marijuana. The committee is already hearing from some very informed witnesses on the subject. As well a Canadian Alliance motion debated on May 17 in the House of Commons dealt with the non-medical use of drugs. As a result a special committee of the House has been set up to consider factors underlying or relating to the non-medical use of drugs. It will be tabling its report in November 2002.

I must say that I find it odd that the House is now debating Bill C-344 when it is clearly within the scope of the special committee.

In making a decision on Canada's policy, whether it is to introduce changes to the legislation or to maintain the status quo, we should do it in an informed manner and in a way that does not duplicate the valuable work of these committees. We believe that the work of these committees will bring important current views of Canadians to the fore for consideration.

This is an important issue. We will all await the results of the Senate committee and the House committee before we move forward to make any further changes.

Contraventions ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The time provided for the consideration of private member's business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Contraventions ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have risen numerous times in the House to ask questions, make speeches, take part in question period, make comments, and speak during adjournment debate. I can see that the parliamentary secretary is preparing to respond.

This adjournment debate is on a question that I raised in the House on May 30. I will not repeat the preamble, but I ended my question by asking the following:

Why is the Minister of Industry not acting on the report entitled “Breaking Through”, which proposed effective and innovative policies instead of subsidies to support the shipbuilding industry?

We know that this report, which was made public in late March, was written by a committee that the minister struck himself following a commitment that he made as industry minister two days before the election was called. He made this promise in St. John's , Newfoundland. I was there myself and I heard his promise.

Of course, on June 19, after the House had risen, the minister responded to the recommendations made by the committee's report. He did respond to the recommendations.

We have been waiting ever since, not just me but all those interested in shipbuilding in Canada are waiting for an actual shipbuilding policy. We are still waiting for a shipbuilding program or programs with actual amounts attached.

In fact, the same day the minister said in a press release that $150 million, mainly in the form of loan insurance, would be spent over five years for shipbuilding. I checked with various shipyards in Canada and with a third party I had asked to get information directly from Department of Industry officials. Apart from having set up a shipbuilding division, most of the employees of which used to work for the department but now work in a new structure, nothing specific had been done and not one cent had been spent on shipbuilding in Canada.

My question is a very simple one. I would like to know more, and if I am mistaken, I would like the parliamentary secretary to the minister to say so today, about what exactly has been spent to help shipbuilding in Canada.

Since that time, I would remind the House, Davie Industries has gone bankrupt. Right now various committees are trying to help the industry get back on its feet in my riding. I am naturally concerned but, at the same time, I know that the shipyard in Saint John, New Brunswick, has not reopened. It has been closed for a year and a half, as has Marystown, and the list goes on.

Nothing has been done. It has been a year and some weeks since the formal commitment by the new Minister of Industry with respect to shipbuilding.

Contraventions ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Beauce Québec


Claude Drouin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague, the hon. member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière has said, this is a very important matter, one that affects his riding and mine, and a number of others across Canada. I am pleased to respond to the hon. member.

As the hon. member has said, on June 19 the hon. Minister of Industry announced the launching of the new policy framework on shipbuilding and industrial marine industries.

The culmination of a lengthy process of consultation with Canadians, this new policy framework focuses on opportunity, growth and innovation in niche markets where Canada can compete. This policy is designed expressly to help the industry capture domestic opportunities, look globally, use innovation as a key to competitiveness, find financing and build stronger partnerships.

The new policy framework includes 24 measures to support new works with a value of between $200 million and $300 million, which is double the current production. The structured financing facility now in operation is a key element of this framework.

The purpose of this facility is to stimulate the demand for new Canadian ships in existing Canadian shipyards, by offering financial benefits to Canadian and foreign buyers and lessees.

This facility includes two main elements: the first one is the interest rate, which can provide a reduction of up to 10% of the purchase price of a Canadian built vessel, while the second one is a credit insurance that insures part of a loan or lease to buy ships built in Canada.

The structured financing facility will help the Canadian shipbuilding and industrial marine industry to seize new opportunities by allowing for the setting of competitive prices for buyers and lessees of high quality ships built in Canada.

I am pleased to inform the House that this initiative is well underway and that we are currently receiving applications for assistance under the structured financing facility.

Even before the program was introduced, however, the federal government already provided assistance to the industry in the following forms: accelerated capital cost allowance for Canadian-built ships; a 25% tariff on most non-NAFTA ship imports; domestic procurement by the federal government; Export Development Corporation financing for commercially viable transactions; and a very favourable research and development tax credit system. These important elements of the federal policy continue to help the shipbuilding industry.

The reality of the private sector means that all companies have their share of troubles. The shipbuilding and industrial marine industry, and a company such as Davie in particular, are no exception.

The federal government is continuing to monitor the situation closely and the Minister of Industry met with representatives of Davie on September 20 to discuss the current financial situation. He also met with Mrs. Marois, Quebec's minister of finance, to discuss Davie's request for financial assistance. Although the government of Quebec indicated that it could not support the projects proposed at the time because it found them unrealistic, the federal government remains prepared to work with the government of Quebec and all other stakeholders to help them find a solution.

The new policy framework represents a serious commitment on the part of the federal government to continue to help the industry. The policy benefits from the support of a new organization, within Industry Canada, responsible for the energy and marine sectors.

Contraventions ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the answer of the parliamentary secretary, and I recognize his honest concern for the industry.

I know I have only a minute, but I would ask him to tell me, if the program exists, whether he has accepted applications? If so, how many and for how much?

I will not make a secret of this, I informed him of my question this afternoon, so I expect he was able to get the information. If no projects have yet been accepted with respect to future project applications, what might the deadline be for such an application?

The case of Davie is a matter of some urgency, because a creditors' meeting is scheduled for November 23.

Contraventions ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Claude Drouin Liberal Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, I simply wanted to mention, as I said earlier, that there are applications which are currently being considered, but it is too early to be able to quantify or assess their value. However, the program is functioning. It is being examined and we hope to make an announcement as soon as possible and that Davie Industries will be able to benefit from it.

We have seen that workers from Davie Industries have taken things into their own hands, and are talking about forming a co-operative. This is an effective way to find solutions to resume activities at the Lévis shipyard. People can be sure that the Government of Canada will be there.

Contraventions ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.41 p.m.)