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House of Commons Hansard #18 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was turkey.

Topics

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Diane St-Jacques Liberal Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, discussions have taken place among all parties and you will find that there is unanimous consent for the following motion:

That the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, concerning the membership and associate membership of committees, be deemed tabled and concurred in.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

Is there unanimous consent?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Seeing that it is getting late in the day, I think there is even more spirit of cooperation and I believe that you would find there is unanimous consent for the following:

That the motion standing on the Order Paper for the Conservative opposition day tomorrow, February 26, 2004, be replaced with the following:

That the government reallocate its resources from wasteful and unnecessary programs such as the sponsorship program, or badly managed programs, such as the gun registry, to address the agricultural crisis at the farm gate across Canada.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

Is that agreed to?

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Customs TariffGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2004 / 4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I too want to address Bill C-21, an act to amend the customs tariff.

I want to chat about some of the things specifically to do with where we in the Conservative Party are coming from and maybe take the opportunity to respond to some of the concerns of my colleague from the New Democratic Party. He spoke quite eloquently about the concerns Canada should have in trading with developing countries and some of the concerns we may have with labour standards and those sorts of issues with which I think all Canadians are definitely concerned.

Bill C-21 amends two sections of the customs tariff, just so people are clear on what exactly the bill is doing. Specifically, the general preferential tariff and the least developed country tariff are being proposed to be extended for another 10 years until June 30, 2014. Currently the legislation expires on June 30, 2004.

Some colleagues on all sides of the House have said that one of the challenges if this does expire without being checked is that Canada could be flooded with goods from all around the world. This could really put our own companies and industries at a huge disadvantage, especially when we look at some of the tariffs that are in place outside.

In some areas we have seen the process and the way the legislation works. Orders in council for certain countries can reduce that overall tariff. There are three different sections of countries that Canada recognizes. There is the most favoured nations tariff, the general preferential tariff and the least developed country tariff.

Even though our tariff rate is currently set at 35%, and it should not be any higher, orders in council normally go through the process of reducing those tariffs for specific countries, depending on our trading relationships with those countries or on some of our foreign aid strategies in trying to help stimulate the economies of many of those countries. One of the things that happens is that through the process of orders in council, that tariff is often reduced with regard to some countries.

Clearly from our point of view, this has to be done over a period of time. I do not think we can drop that tariff, especially if there are other countries which have tariffs that are higher with regard to many of the Canadian products being exported to those particular countries. It would really put us at a disadvantage here in Canada if we dropped those tariffs overnight.

The Conservative Party of Canada does support free trade and the engaging of developing countries to encourage their development and, it is hoped, to have an evolution of an economy similar to that of industrialized countries. We want to encourage the ability of those countries to export their products and obviously create more wealth at home in those particular countries. Overall, we would like to see that tariff reduced when it comes to countries around the world, but we clearly understand that it may have to be managed carefully. It is hoped that in the future, as we continue to deal with many of these countries in developing free trade agreements, that we would see that tariff reduced completely with many of those countries, or at least reduced over time.

My colleague from the New Democratic Party spoke quite passionately about the problems in many of the countries we deal with in the third world and what sorts of standards they may have in place. Here in Canada, even though sometimes we have challenges within our own standards for labour and in reaching agreements between companies and workers, overall, people would say the standards in this country are quite high, especially when we compare them to some of the third world countries. I would make the argument that many countries that may have questionable labour practices are going through a process because they are diversifying, they are creating the ability for their economy to evolve, and it takes time before some of these economies evolve as far as those of some of the industrialized countries.

We need to help that process. It does not mean that we support the practice of child labour or that we support the persecution of any group. We need to continue to help those countries develop a middle class and continue to create wealth in those countries so that there can be that evolution of those standards.

We have all gone through that in our history. If we look at the industrial revolution here in the west and at some of the standards that existed and the creation of wealth, we were able to improve those labour standards. We improved the conditions for our workers. As I said, they may not be perfect but they have come a long way when we think back to the time of the industrial revolution.

I can speak from the experience of my own family coming from Africa. My family fled Africa in the early 1970s as refugees and came to this country. The working class in Africa was going through a transformation. Many of the families that lived in those countries, such as my own family, were involved with industrial activities. We were manufacturers, retailers, importers. There was a whole host of opportunities for which many people who emigrated to east Africa took advantage.

At that time there were obvious challenges. Many of the working class were not very well off. They were challenged in trying to look for opportunities for themselves to improve their conditions. Often many of the people who were moving there from India, as my family had generations ago, created working environments and created opportunities for many of the workers to improve their lives. The conditions that they worked in were often quite good. Slowly that changed as competition evolved in those countries and opportunities continued to grow.

It did not happen overnight, and we know it did not happen overnight here, but we cannot close the door on some of these countries that may not have the best practices. In the long run, by creating opportunities and by creating competition and giving them the ability to export some of their products helps to create the middle class and the wealth in those countries that then can change those standards.

It would be highly irresponsible if we went down the road that my NDP colleague suggested, which was to shut the door on many of those countries that are going through those challenges.

We can use that tariff in many cases as leverage. Due to the current process, as I outlined, if we do change any of those particular tariffs that come by orders in council of the government, those countries with which we have problems could be targeted specifically and it could encourage them to improve their conditions. Therefore if we were to reduce those tariffs in their favour, they could continue to build wealth in their home nations.

Overall, the key is to balance the growth and the continuous evolution of our industries here in Canada with the developing world. We know Canadians are very much in tune with foreign aid and trying to help many of these countries around the world. What better way to help them help themselves than by allowing them to produce products at home and then be able to export them to countries that are willing to purchase them, such as Canada.

On this side of the House we do realize the importance of Bill C-21 that is in front of the House. We do understand that the process of extending the tariffs for another 10 years is something that has to happen in order to evolve and to balance the trade of our own industries here in Canada.

However we also want to make sure that in committee, as we continue to discuss the bill, that we look to the future to see how we can perhaps reduce those particular tariffs so that in the end we can help many of these developing countries. Hopefully we would have most of these countries not in these three different categories that we currently recognize them, but as preferential trading partners around the world. That is the direction in which I would prefer to see the bill go. We will be supporting the bill as it stands.

Customs TariffGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

Is the House ready for the question?

Customs TariffGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Customs TariffGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Customs TariffGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Customs TariffGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

Customs TariffGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

(Motion agreed to and bill referred to a committee)

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock Liberalfor Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-10, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, be read the third time and passed.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I am a little surprised that I am in here speaking to the third reading stage of this legislation, the marijuana bill. I am very disappointed.

I do not think the government recognizes what it is dealing with here. In fact, the Prime Minister indicated to the country that he would make some substantive amendments to the bill from the previous prime minister's position but he did not do that.

Two days ago here in the House I had asked the Prime Minister about that. Basically he just smiled, shrugged his shoulders and put if off. It is ironic how one changes one's position on something, one's promises and commitments to a nation, once one becomes Prime Minister.

I will take my time going through what is wrong with the bill but, first, I must say to all people in Canada that we have studied the drug problems for about 18 months. We had about 41 substantive recommendations. Many of them were fairly good recommendations that would curb the problems with ecstasy, crystal meth, cocaine, heroin and so on.

However, when the government realized that those recommendations were somewhat conservative in nature, it moved right ahead and threw in this decriminalization of marijuana, got everybody else off the agenda of that, and went on with the bill here.

That was really quite irresponsible because the problems with drugs do not end with the decriminalization of marijuana. That is the real issue here. What the country does not have at this point is a national drug strategy. People are dying every day from drug overdoses and from addictions to all sorts of drugs, whether they are prescription drugs or crack, heroin or crystal meth. It is absurd to think that we are here talking about the decriminalization of marijuana when there is no drug strategy in place. That is the real problem.

I will go through the bill. We are talking about drugs. The Liberals have a hard time with this kind of issue. They are trying to find out what I am talking about, if members can believe it. I will go through the amendments that are not in this bill and the problems that have not dealt with in the bill.

I know I should not say anything about Liberals not being in the House when I am talking about this, but it is amazing when I am standing here speaking to such a precedent bill and there is nobody from the Liberals to listen.

First, the government is telling the country that it will get tough on marijuana, so it puts in maximum penalties for grow ops. It has said that it is really going to push hard on the grow op side of it, that four to 25 plants would constitute an offence punishable by up to $25,000 and/or 18 months in jail on summary conviction. Well that is fine, but where I come from in British Columbia, and in many parts of this country, telling a judge there is a maximum $25,000 fine for a grow op is laughable. The person would likely come out of there with a $500 fine at best. In most cases they would come out with a slap on the hand and told not to do it again. They walk away and laugh, then go start another grow op, and on it goes.

Maximum fines would be all right if judges and lawyers understood the issue and applied those fines, but they do not, and it is not happening right across the country. What is required are minimum fines for such operations so that judges understand that there is a minimum penalty for these things. Giving the discretion to the courtroom is a mistake. I do not know how many times I have tell that to the government. It is not listening. When the government tells Canadians that it is getting tough on this grow op business, it is not.

Let us look at some of the other things the government did not address in the bill.

The government said there would be fines for minor possession. The fines are different for adults than they are for young people. When I pursued this in the justice committee and in the drug committee, the answer from the other side was that young people could not afford the fines. If they can afford the marijuana, they can afford the fines. The propensity to say that they are young and therefore the fine should be lower for them than for an adult is ridiculous. The government is sending a message to young people that it is cheaper for them to get caught. It is wrong.

Something else in conjunction with this legislation is that no resources have been provided for police to crack down on organized crime that is profiting from lax enforcement. The government says that it will put in this great program to cut down on drugs but it does not provide the resources to the police departments. What are the police going to do? Are they going to pick up from the explosion of grow ops and the explosion of the drug trade in hard drugs? I think not. The government has to put some money where its mouth is on this issue.

Let us look at what else the government did not address in the bill.

The proceeds of crime legislation was not amended to adjust for drug seizures. It was not touched at all. In fact, I can go through a litany of cases, and I have them here, hundreds, if not thousands of cases.

Madam Speaker, the guy over there who proposes to be a minister does not understand the concept so he is heckling. I do not mind the heckling; I kind of enjoy it. I wish he were smart enough to understand the consequences of what they are not doing. That is the problem with this government. It sends in a few ministers who do not know what they are talking about but try to understand a system as serious as drug problems in the country.

Let me go through it. The proceeds of crime legislation has to be amended. The issues are these. In many cases in the country, for grow ops in particular, for crystal meth labs, or for the trafficking of harder drugs, the cars they are driving, the money they are making, often goes back to the individuals. In fact, I've had cases--

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Reg Alcock Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

No, wrong.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

The minister says no, but the fact is that I have cases, many of them, which show that in the courtroom the criminals, the dealers, are getting away with the proceeds of crime more often than not. That is unfortunate.

The need to deal with the damages that are caused through grow ops, and crystal meth labs in particular, has to be dealt with somewhere along the line. Discussions have to take place between the federal and provincial governments and even the municipal governments.

More and more we are finding that young people in particular are buying houses that have been damaged through these kinds of operations. In fact, I have letter upon letter showing that young people bought a house with practically the last bottom dollar they had and they got into the house to find out that there had been severe damage done and they needed another $80,000, $90,000 or $100,000 to renovate the place before they could even move into it.

Damage is caused by playing with the electricals, by mould in the walls, by dangerous odours from crystal meth labs and so on and so forth, yet no discussion on this has taken place among all three levels of government. But we take in a law like this one and deal with only a very small aspect of the drug problem.

No legislation has been developed to curtail financial institution funding of mortgages related to grow ops. It may seem a little surprising, but there is one particular trust company in the country that has funded many grow ops. Here is what is happening. Individuals are putting their applications forward, typically using a certain type of job, a very low paying job, and the applications just get whisked through a particular trust company and approved.

In fact, I just finished dealing with one individual who has been on welfare for all nine years that he has been in this country. He came here with no money. He has been on welfare for nine years. I found out that now not only is he dealing drugs and has particular grow ops, but he owns three houses, all financed through the same trust company. Just how does he own three houses when he has been on welfare for the total time he has been here? The fact is that the proceeds of crime legislation cannot and will not take those houses from that individual.

So we have two situations. Now we have finance companies funding grow ops because it is lucrative and the cash is there, and it is non-tax-dollars cash, and we also have proceeds of crime legislation that is failing to do its job. In addition to this, there has been no coordination whatsoever among federal, provincial or municipal agencies on the welfare issue itself. I have, through my sources, dealt with welfare agencies that are finding more and more individuals on welfare who are using the grow ops as a source of income. Their source of income is much higher than before but the coordination in catching these individuals is not there. Those are the kinds of discussions that have to take place as well before we get into just simply finding an answer and calling it decriminalization.

No commitment has been obtained from the judiciary to increase penalties within the limits set out in this bill or to follow the established possession guidelines, and here is the problem. People are going to go into the courtroom, for certain, when they get caught with 31 or 33 grams of marijuana. The judge is going to say that up to 30 they can get a fine and the judge will not want to call them criminals just because it is 31 or 32 or 33 grams.

We are going to be on the slippery slope again. We are going to find ourselves with the judges out there saying that maybe they should make it 50, 60 or 100 grams, and that other places have 100 so they will have 100.

There has to be an agreement with the judiciary in this country that what we say in the House of Commons for fines and penalties is what we mean to have happen. It is totally inappropriate to have the judges once again make the rules and extend the penalties based on their perception of what they think is right. That has cost us a great deal of time, money and effort in this country as it is.

We are dealing with something called decriminalization, that is, giving a fine for the minor possession of marijuana. The government says that minor possession is for from zero to 30 grams. It says that zero to 15 is a fine and 15 to 30 is a fine or a criminal charge, but more likely than not it will be zero to 30 with a fine.

We have to understand that 30 grams is approximately 45 to 50 joints. An individual can walk around the school ground with that and get a fine. Anybody walking around with 35, 50 or 55 joints is not a recreational user. A recreational--

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Reg Alcock Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

You don't know that.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

This ill-informed minister says I do not know that. The fact is that I do know that. The fact is that anybody with that many joints is not a recreational user. Anybody who knows the industry itself would be smart enough to understand that, and anybody who smokes marijuana would tell us that as well.

It is interesting for all the folks listening to know that I am getting badgered by a minister of the crown, but what really gets me is the amount this individual does not know and does not understand and yet he would stand in here and support a bill that is really a very poorly performing bill and will not resolve the problem anyway.

The THC component of marijuana is more or less the addictive component and gives you the buzz, the high or the low or whatever one is going to get from it. Over the years it has increased from about 3% or 4% to around 15% or 16% now. In fact, the first recorded death by smoking marijuana was two weeks ago in England. The death was certified as directly attributable to marijuana smoke. The marijuana he was smoking was from Africa. The potency and the types of marijuana weed are increasing by leaps and bounds today. As more and different strains are developed, we are finding that there is basically no control. There are no parameters on the potency of the THC itself.

So today we are dealing today with a bill that considers, for a person with 40 joints, that the THC component of those 40 joints is approximately 8% or 10%. That will not necessarily be the case tomorrow or the next day, or five months or five years from now. The government is making a presumption based on something that is incorrect and no effort whatsoever has been made to deal with that aspect.

I want to say this: This country needs a national drug strategy. I have been around this country more than enough times dealing with addicted individuals. I have been in Europe, the United States, Mexico and throughout Canada, so I do happen to know what I am talking about on this issue and I initiated for Parliament itself the special committee studying the illegal use of drugs.

What is really required is a way to get our young people and elderly people off drugs. I find it reprehensible, actually, that the government would consider funding a shooting-up site in Vancouver when it will not put money into rehabilitation and detox facilities throughout this land. I find that reprehensible.

In fact, in my community alone, one facility has recently shut down. We had a rehabilitation facility for young, teenaged addicted girls. I went to the previous minister of health and said that we needed some money to keep it open. We had parents lined up trying to get their kids into that place. The government beat around the bush for four or five months and nothing happened. Nothing happened and these kids are out on the street. It is disgusting. Then I find out that the government is funding, in part, a shooting-up site.

Consider this. People who have children on drugs--and I know people who do--go to the government and ask for help for their child. Do we want a government that says yes, it will send people's children to a shoot-up site where they can shoot up in a relatively clean facility, or do we want a government that will take our children and put them in detox and rehabilitation? There is no choice for parents. I know what they would choose.

The government has to act as a judicious parent on these issues. It has to have a national drug strategy that looks at abstinence, not permission to use. It is sad that this has come to the House. The decriminalization of marijuana is a very minor part of a drug strategy, so minor it does not even rate. I am sad to see that today this is all the government can come up with.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sarkis Assadourian Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was following the comments made by my hon. colleague. He mentioned that he knows of a financial agency that benefited from the proceeds of crime. My question to him is that I wonder whether he reported this situation to the police. If he has not, I wonder why he did not report it to the police.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I not only reported it to the police but I wrote a letter to the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, as a matter of fact. All I was told was that they could not tell me because of privacy.

I can say this. Again, I think it is reprehensible that a financial institution in this country would knowingly be funding mortgages for grow ops. That is a fact. It has been on television; I have the documents here. It is either a fact or a coincidence that over 400 mortgages have come out of that one institution. The one individual I referred to who has been on welfare for six years or so and never had any money when he came into the country has three houses and all three are mortgaged by the one institution. I would say that is not really a coincidence.

Yes, I did report it.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Art Hanger Canadian Alliance Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the member for Langley—Abbotsford for his research on the drug problems in this country and on the failure of government and government agencies to deal with this matter in an effective way. There is no question that it is a scourge on our society.

The other issue that keeps coming up time and time again, of course, is the issue of these grow operations. They bring vast amounts of dollars into organized crime, they destroy property and they feed and fuel the drug industry in a substantial way in this country, and our agencies cannot seem to get a handle on it.

On that particular point, I have a question for the member. What legislation would he like to see crafted that would deal with drug grow ops and put them out of commission for once and for all? How would the enforcement agencies actually be able to apply their strategies to knock them out?

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, on these grow ops and crystal meth labs, we must have minimum penalties and minimum fines. It cannot be at the discretion of the judges because they are not using it.

Facilities owned by dealers must be seized. Vehicles must be seized as proceeds of crime. This is not something where there is discretion.

I recently saw a judge use discretion and this happened in my riding in Langley. There was a drug bust. The drugs were in the same room with $400,000 wrapped up in vacuum plastic about 10 feet away from the drugs. The police seized the drugs and took the dealers to court. The judge said that there was no proof that the money which was wrapped up 10 feet away was gained by way of drugs. He said that it could have been gained legitimately as the dealers claimed who, by the way, were previously busted. Therefore, he gave the money back to the dealers. He gave 400,000 tax free dollars back to the dealers on something he felt could not be proven. Who keeps $400,000 cash stashed in a room? No business person does that.

That money should have been seized. It should have been given to the Crown or at least to the police agency that seized it and used for better purposes.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

London West Ontario

Liberal

Sue Barnes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on third reading of Bill C-10 which will reform Canada's laws as they relate to the possession and cultivation of cannabis.

Bill C-10 is the culmination of a long process that illustrates how the House should approach a major reform of the law in a non-partisan spirit.

All parties in the House can point to parts of the bill that respond to concerns that they raised and points that they made. Of course, there are divergent views in the House as there are across the country, but Bill C-10 represents a modern made in Canada approach to dealing with the harm caused by marijuana.

Members are well aware of the major steps that led to this reform. The House in May 2001 agreed that a special committee on the non-medical use of drugs should be established. The special committee undertook extensive public hearings across Canada. Witnesses from government departments, specialists in drug issues, educators, police and concerned Canadians made their views known.

The special committee made many recommendations regarding overall drug policy. The government has responded to those recommendations by renewing Canada's national drug strategy and providing $245 million over five years for education, prevention, law enforcement and harm reduction strategies. The special committee also recommended alternative measures for dealing with possession and cultivation of up to 30 grams of cannabis.

It is important to note that there were three minority reports. While the Canadian Alliance considered 30 grams too much, both the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Quebecois supported the intent of the recommendation, although they both had concerns.

Bill C-38, introduced by the government in May 2003, followed up on the recommendation of the special committee. This bill was referred to the special committee before second reading.

At that time, the Minister of Justice said that this demonstrated that the government was listening and willing to consider amendments to ensure we got it right, and that the special committee on non-medical use of drugs was well positioned to examine this issue after the exhaustive work it did to prepare its report, which was released last December.

The special committee in turn took its responsibility seriously. At this time I would like to thank the members of that all-party committee, including the chair, the member from Burlington.

It did make important improvements to the bill. In particular, it recommended that the bill make it an offence to release personal information to foreign governments and international organizations in relation to the offences of possession or cultivation of small amounts of marijuana that are punished by a ticket. They are still offences, but it is the way of handing out the fines and the sanctions that have been adjusted.

It makes the cultivation of one to three plants for personal use punishable by a fine of $500 for an adult and $250 for youth. It provides that where there is an agreement between Canada and a province, the offence could be prosecuted by a ticket under the Contraventions Act. It requires that the government review the impact of the new legislation within three years. We are pleased with that addition.

The amendments to Bill C-38 proposed by the special committee were accepted by the government. The result of all these actions is the bill now before us, Bill C-10, which I believe meets the expectations of Canadians.

Members of the House are aware of the problems that a criminal conviction for the possession of a small amount of marijuana can cause for a person. It can close opportunities for employment and prevent travel to certain countries.

As a society, Canadians have decided that it does not make sense that a young person who makes a bad choice in life by experimenting with marijuana should receive the lasting burden of a criminal conviction and face such serious consequences.

The members are also aware that Canadians want stricter sanctions on large marijuana growing operations, which are both a danger to our communities and a source of revenue for organized crime.

Bill C-10 reflects what Canadians want. Marijuana remains a prohibited substance and its possession will remain a criminal offence. This is the message that youth must understand, that there are sanctions. This is not legalization.

Bill C-10 reflects what Canadians are telling us. Marijuana remains a prohibited substance and its possession will remain a criminal offence. However, the procedure for punishing a person who is convicted of possessing a small quantity of marijuana or cannabis resin for personal use has been changed in a way that better reflects the attitudes of Canadians toward the seriousness of the crime.

Possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana will be punished by a summons or a ticket and not by summary conviction. The fine will be set at $150 for an adult and $100 for an adolescent, if there are no aggravating circumstances.

Police officers will retain the discretion to give a ticket or a summons to appear in criminal court for the possession of more than 15 grams of marijuana and up to 30 grams. If a summons is issued, then the maximum sentence will remain a $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail. These fines would be higher in many cases than what offenders are getting now.

It is important to note that when a youth is facing a charge, his or her parents will be notified. We believe the punishment for possession will now be seen by Canadians as fitting the crime.

Bill C-10 also responds to Canadians' expectations concerning the cultivation of marijuana. It will double the maximum penalty for cultivation if the offender has more than 50 plants. In addition, it sets out a number of aggravating circumstances which would require courts to provide reasons for not imposing a prison sentence.

It is appropriate that the penalty for cultivating up to three plants be reduced. The person who is growing only three plants or less is likely to be cultivating for personal use; however, we deplore the use of marijuana. Canadians recognize that there is a difference in culpability where the person is growing for personal use as opposed to cultivating for sale to others. Bill C-10 makes that distinction.

All members are aware that Bill C-10 by itself will not solve all the problems that drugs are causing in our country. It is of course important that criminal law be modernized. Bill C-10 should lead to more uniform enforcement of the prohibition of possession of marijuana.

Currently it depends in what city, town, province or territory one lives. This hopefully will assist more police officers encountering a problem. Tickets will be issued that then will get paid. The amounts for youth will be of the amounts that they can pay and the money will not come from parents pulling dollars out of their pockets. These are sanctions for youth.

Those sanctions will free up police officers so that they can do more important work and not be there handing out numerous charges in some areas and voice reprimands in others. It does not seem to be much of a sanction for youth if they are in a city or town where it is just a verbal warning as opposed to this ticket that is going to cost money each and every time.

Bill C-10 should lead to more uniform enforcement for the prohibition of possession of marijuana. The greater penalties for cultivation combined with the extra police resources that the government is funding under the national drug strategy should reduce the prevalence of grow ops. We all know how important it is to go after the grow ops.

However, the drug problems being experienced by our communities across Canada require a comprehensive response to address the underlying causes of drug abuse. Much of what has been done does not fall on the shoulders of the federal government. It is therefore particularly important to note that the government's commitment in renewing the national drug strategy is to work with provincial, territorial and municipal governments, addiction agencies, non-government organizations, professional organizations and associations, law enforcement agencies, the private sector and community groups to reduce the harm to individuals and to society of drug abuse.

The government is playing the leadership role that it should play in the fight against drug abuse and it is rejecting the “Ottawa knows best” attitude that in the past has hindered cooperation with our partners. Through the mechanism of a bi-annual conference, the first of which will be held this year, the government will bring all the stakeholders together to set research, health promotion and drug prevention agendas.

In that regard, the amendment made by the special committee and accepted by the government that, after three years, there must be a comprehensive review of the effects of the alternative penalties on Canadian society is to be welcomed. This was a good addition.

It is my sincere belief that when Parliament reviews the effects of Bill C-10 on Canadian society, it will find that the legislation struck the right balance, and that Bill C-10 will have played an important part along with the many individuals and initiatives who are working and being funded under the national drug strategy in reducing the harm caused by drugs to Canadians.

I want to point out to Canadians that operating a motor vehicle while impaired by any substance remains a serious criminal offence. Driving while impaired by drugs including marijuana is included in the offence under subsection 253(a) of the Criminal Code. Section 254 of the Criminal Code calls for minimum penalties for impaired driving including a mandatory minimum $600 fine on a first offence, a 15 day minimum sentence on a second offence, and a 90 day minimum sentence on a third offence. The maximum penalty for impaired driving is five years unless someone is hurt or killed putting the maximum penalty up to 14 years.

The challenge for police dealing with drivers impaired by drugs is proving a person's impairment because as yet, no scientific screening device exists to determine the levels of impairment by drugs. The government is proceeding to deal as expeditiously as possible with practical difficulties inherent to proving the drug impaired driving offence.

Consultations that were started last fall have been completed. We intend to move forward very quickly in this area. This is an important area to the government, and I do not want Canadians believing that we will let this area go. We are actively working on it right now.

I know the bill has proven to be of some difficulty for members in the House, but we are not sent here to do the easy things. I firmly believe all of us in the chamber, on every side of the House, want to improve the lives of Canadians. We want to make penalties and sanctions fit the offences in a manner that is appropriate and in a manner that will not destroy lives, but will allow in some instances, especially with our youth, them to make an error in judgment, to be sanctioned, then to move on with their lives and not carry a penalty for the rest of their lives.

Many of my colleagues have talked about pardons. Canada has a pardon mechanism. People can apply for pardons on an individual basis. Some members, who have worked very hard on the bill, wish we could wave a magic wand and erase the criminal records of people who carry these records because of a simple possession charge. There are maybe over 6,000 people in Canada who carry criminal records because of a simple possession charge.

Unfortunately, there is no mechanism to do a broad amnesty or pardon because we have to look at the specific situation of everybody's case. When examining pardons, it is a material part of that process to see what exactly is being pardoned, such as whether the original offence was a plea bargain down from a more serious offence. We should not do a retroactive blanket pardon.

There are students heading toward universities or professional schools who would make good and productive members of society, but who may have in their youth taken part in activities that are still illegal in this country. They might be unable to obtain employment, or they might be unable to take university courses, or they might be unable to work in a government office if they carry that criminal record. They may have to delay their education.

I do not think anybody excuses bad behaviour. However, we on this side of the House, with the help of those who look seriously at the bill before us and who look at what we have a chance to change in society, think there is more than ample reason to change the law today.

Bill C-10 deserves the support in the House. Ladies and gentleman, colleagues in the chamber, it has been a long time coming. The Le Dain commission was nearly 30 years ago. I believe we should move cautiously forward. Some people advocate going immediately to legalization. Most of the time our bills move forward step by step. Law, just like anything else, is a living tree. I urge all members of the House to support Bill C-10.