Mr. Speaker, I oppose the decriminalization of marijuana, and I will approach this matter from a different angle.
I will start from the angle of the problem we have with impaired driving, which is huge. On average four Canadians are killed every day in automobile accidents caused by impairment. When I saw our disabled Olympians the other day, I wondered how many of them were disabled as a result of an automobile accident caused by an impaired driver.
The figures are immense. It is a serious tragedy and a major evil. Liberal governments do not want to deal with the problem. They would rather tinker with the law rather than take serious steps to deal with the evil on our highways.
Last spring the member for Vegreville--Wainwright introduced a private member's bill in the House that would have closed some loopholes that allowed people to escape accountability and liability for their actions with regard to impaired driving. Liberals voted against that bill. I think their major reason for opposing that bill, in all honesty, was because it would have offended some defence lawyers, who make a good living at getting people in court off on minor technicalities. I do not have a lot of enthusiasm for that crowd, but people on the other side of the House do. I guess they have to ensure that their business is taken care of as well. Their game is making laws that leave loopholes and technicalities for people to escape liability.
This brings me to the issue of marijuana and impaired driving and the issues that flow from that. We are far from dealing with the problems of impaired driving caused by alcohol. Yet the government wants to open up another area by decriminalizing marijuana. It seems to me it is trying to create more mayhem and tragedies on our highways by proceeding in that way.
The research on this issue is frightening. The level of impairment of somebody who has had a small amount of marijuana is more severe than the level of impairment of somebody who has had a small amount of alcohol. Many studies have been done on that. Studies have indicated that when people have one joint, wait 10 minutes and have another joint and then take a normal sobriety test like touching their nose with their finger, or standing on one leg for 30 seconds or walking a straight line, they cannot do it. They have lost their coordination and their reflex time as a result of smoking a small amount of marijuana. If a bit of beer, or whiskey, or rum or something is added into that equation, it is disastrous.
We have an opportunity to emphasize prevention. It is too late when people are put in body bags and dragged off to the mortuary. It is too late when people are charged. The best thing we could do, as policy-makers, would be to prevent these tragedies at the beginning. The government's initiative seems to be going totally against getting impaired drivers off our highways, saving lives and preventing unnecessary injury and harm to people.
Let me examine a couple of other areas pertaining to the matter of impairment. We have devices that measure alcohol levels accurately. It is well established in the court system as to what these levels are and how these matters are processed. This is not the case with marijuana. We have no efficient device that can measure the level of impairment from marijuana.
Most cases dealing with impairment caused by marijuana, which are contested in the court system, are a defence lawyer's holiday. It is far easier to get an acquittal in that situation than it is for alcohol.
What we do by decriminalizing marijuana is invite a whole round of new legislation and more laws. That is the Liberal way. Liberals believe that passing laws is like waving a magic wand and something will happen at the other end. In real life it takes a lot more than commands and orders from the government through the form of legislation. It will take a lot of new technology to deal with that level of impairment.
The government in a way is telling young people and other people that it is okay, that it is not serious. It may not even be as bad as drinking alcohol, so maybe the drug of choice for people should be marijuana. The fine will not be very severe, so perhaps people can switch over to it. Is that what the government is inviting our society to do with this kind of law? What kind of message is this to parents and young people on the problem of impaired driving?
The cases dealing with impaired driving from marijuana are a disaster for the police and for the prosecution. They are a difficult problem for the courts. There is no simple answer. If we look at these cases, we are not getting convictions and we are tying up the court system. This is a very poor signal in this area.
I would invite anybody in the House to meet with families who have lost young people through automobile accidents caused by impaired drivers. I challenge any one of the members on that side of the House to tell those people that decriminalizing marijuana is a good idea.
I want to raise a side issue on this. As Canadians, we quite often say that Americans do not understand our concerns and interests. Sometimes I think Canadians are not so good at understanding American concerns and interests. I find it amazing in this day and age, with some of the rhetoric that comes from the other side of the House, that some Canadians do not really understand what happened on September 11, 2001.
Everyday we have a big trade surplus with the United States. Of our exports, 87% go to the United States. Exports help pay for our health care. They help pay for our social programs. They provide an awful lot of jobs in the country. Having that border secure and open is very important to our well-being.
The United States of America is concerned about our drug policies, our grow ops and our huge export of drugs through the border system into their country, and we do not seem to understand that. We are oblivious to that fact. We are sending the wrong signal, just as people call the President of the United States a moron, or a bastard or some other unflattering name. We do not understand what impact our policies are having on how Americans perceive us and our well-being as a nation.
Quite honestly, in a lot of areas we have a lot to be shameful for, especially on that side of the House.