Mr. Speaker, I do not know where the hon. member opposite was coming from when he said that we were not supporting the bill. Actually, we are supporting Bill C-16. We believe that something must be done with impaired drug and drunk driving.
The difficulties members in the House have is the fact that these bills are put in but not well thought out. Bill C-17, the marijuana bill, is exactly that. It is not well thought out at all. This bill proposes to support training police officers and spending around $11 million on them. The government wants enough police officers out there on the road to be able to detect drug and drunk driving.
The fact of the matter is there are not going to be enough trained police officers. In fact, the government says that by 2008 there will be several hundred trained which is ridiculous given that the marijuana bill is coming in 2004. It is issues like that where the government seems to be throwing in the bill on drug and drunk driving detection in order to take a little bit of the heat off of the decriminalization of marijuana bill. However, that being said, I can certainly live with any legislation that gives authority to police to determine whether a person is under the influence while behind the wheel.
We have gone so far today with drunk driving that problems have been created as a result. When drunk drivers hit somebody, they take off from the scene of the accident because they are fearful of staying at the scene of the accident and getting a drunk driving charge. More and more hit and run is increasing. That is why we have Carley's law coming to the House again in order to deal with those individuals who try to get away from drunk driving charges and leave the scene of an accident, leaving someone injured or dead.
Regarding Bill C-16, drivers suspected of being under the influence of a drug will by law this time have to submit to a roadside assessment test administered by a police officer. That is a good thing. The problem is that there is actually no roadside assessment test available today to determine whether an individual is under the influence of drugs. So it is one thing to say it; another thing to do it.
The government must commit to get the roadside assessment test in place promptly because we are dealing with the decriminalization of marijuana now. If drug impairment is suspected the individual must be detained at a police station and submit to another drug impairment assessment and a sample of bodily fluids may be taken for testing. That is a good move. The penalties for failing to submit to drug impairment would be equivalent to the penalties currently in place for failing to submit to an alcohol breathalyzer test. That too is good.
I can attest that we are now strengthening drug impaired driving investigations and we are on the right track. However, police officers have many concerns. I was talking to one of the senior police chiefs of one of our largest cities just before I came into the House. He said that it was one thing to try to get tests going which are not done yet and to train their officers, which will require a lot of money, but what are we going to do when we find a person that is under the influence? They are not paying fines today for speeding. How are we going to collect the drug driving penalties? Are we going to be chasing these people just as much as we chase speeders and try to get them to pay their fines? These are some of the many questions the police have on how this will be administered.
We have to deal with those issues in committee. In the meantime, let us not lose sight in Canada that this drug driving legislation, Bill C-16, and the decriminalization Bill C-17 are but two small parts of the problem that exists in drugs in this country.
I have said this and I do not know how many times in the House of Commons over the last five or six years, we have an epidemic in the country. It is drug addiction. We have bad people making a lot of tax free dollars from selling drugs to young people. We have new drugs coming on the market every day. Crystal meth is a serious problem. It is made in basements and in garages.
There are a lot of kids addicted to crystal meth, cocaine and heroin, and methadone, in fact. We have a serious drug problem. The government cannot afford today to tinker with bills that deal with decriminalization of marijuana and yet ignore, on the other hand, the terrible addiction that is taking place and underfunding things like rehabilitation, spending hardly anything relative to many other things in the country, advertising and education of young people.
There is such a thing as a national drug strategy. I know that the government is saying it has one. The fact is we do not. The health department is going around the country now getting focus groups in to talk about what should be in a national drug strategy. We cannot tinker with a system as large as drug addiction and just play with decriminalization of marijuana or drug impaired driving. I think it only stands to reason, and anybody who thinks they can, is sadly mistaken.
I have countless attestations from people who are addicted. They say marijuana got them into it. They have a hundred dollar a day habit. I recently talked to a young lady who has a $300 a day habit. She lives and breathes just to get enough money to get another shot.
While we in the House of Commons are talking about drug and drunk driving and decriminalization of marijuana, there are a lot of catastrophic issues and cases out on our streets. There are parents who do not know where their children are. There are young people trying to sell their bodies to raise enough money to get their next shot. There are bad guys out there stealing us blind and selling drugs to our kids.
For goodness sake, I will say it again, it is irresponsible and reprehensible of the House of Commons to be dealing with just one small aspect of drug addiction. Decriminalization of marijuana, yes, we can deal with it, but for goodness sake, members must get their heads out of the sand.
There are people watching this all across Canada right now saying “My child is addicted and these people are talking about decriminalization of marijuana and drug and drunk driving. Where is the common sense?” While we must deal with these two issues, we must also deal with the important big picture.
I have spent a lot of time with people who are addicted and a lot of time with parents who have children who are addicted. They are hoping that we in the House of Commons have the responsibility and the common sense to deal with some of these things. Please, let us not forget that our country, our parents and our young people need us to deal with drug addiction in totality, not just decriminalization of marijuana and not just drug and drunk driving.