Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to discuss Bill C-10 which was introduced not by the present government, but by the former government under Mr. Jean Chrétien. We are sometimes given the impression that the legislation we are debating is new, but that is not the case.
I would like to begin by expressing some of the concerns expressed to me by young people in my riding. They are the ones who are witnessing firsthand the drugs flowing into their schools. The problem has become worse because of the signal being sent to them by the government in decriminalizing the use of marijuana. I must correct something for the record. It is not the Conservative Party that is giving that impression; it is the government that is giving that impression right across Canada.
Bill C-10 sends the wrong message to our youth and it has not yet been passed. With discounted fines for youth, teachers and parents will experience much more difficulty than they already are in convincing their children that drug use is wrong. Meanwhile the government is unwittingly encouraging the use of marijuana by giving out discounted fines to youth and decriminalizing the drug. The Liberal government is communicating the wrong message to the citizens of tomorrow with Bill C-10, a bill to decriminalize the use of marijuana.
Not only are our youth receiving the wrong message, but police officers are left with no way to legally prosecute offenders. Drunk driving is already a huge problem and now we are introducing drug driving. There are currently no effective and legal ways for officers to determine if a driver is under the influence of marijuana. Appropriate roadside assessment practices must be developed for detecting drug driving offences before Bill C-10 is passed, not after. I made that point previously.
Penalties for the production of marijuana have decreased when they should have increased. Growing fines were decreased further at committee stage for fewer than three plants. The fines set out in the bill are too lax.
There also needs to be increased fines for repeat offenders. An individual should receive an increased sentence on the second offence and an even greater one on the third. I will talk more about that later in my speech.
Canadians deserve much better than this. This open-ended decriminalization of marijuana is extremely detrimental to our youth and our society as a whole.
I and most of my Conservative colleagues believe that the use and possession of marijuana must remain illegal. Possession of marijuana greater than five grams must be considered a criminal offence. Decriminalizing marijuana will not only send the wrong message to youth, but it will also increase difficulties with border crossings.
Canadians need to keep our border crossings with our neighbour and largest trading partner free flowing. This legislation will put that free flow of trade greatly at risk. With the BSE situation we have seen how even a small incident with one mad cow has really disrupted trade with our partner.
Police must be given the resources they need to combat organized crime. Grow operations have become multibillion dollar businesses for organized crime. Police do not have the manpower nor the resources to effectively combat this serious issue.
Bill C-10 hands out discounted fines to our youth, has no deterrent to stop repeat offenders, metes out reduced maximum sentences for growing 25 plants or less, and results in more drug driving with no tools to legally prosecute individuals. There will be increased trafficking because 30 grams can be in one's possession without it becoming a criminal offence. There is no national drug strategy to fight the use of drugs. No resources have been provided for police to crack down on organized crime. That is deplorable.
Canadians and Canadian youth will be negatively affected by Bill C-10. It is my view that Bill C-10 should be put on the shelf and left there until such as time as we can come up with an effective strategy to combat drug use in Canada. I will now outline some of the problems.
The THC content of marijuana has dramatically increased in the last 30 years. Back in the 1960s it was about 3%. Now the THC content of marijuana can be as much as 10 times higher, as much as 33%. It is 10 times more potent. We are not dealing with a harmless substance when we are dealing with marijuana. It is an extremely detrimental drug.
Here are some of the negative effects of marijuana. It can cause changes in the brain chemistry. It can lead to difficulty in concentration and attention to detail. It makes learning new things more difficult. Complex information cannot be processed as readily. It increases the work of the heart. It is 50% more irritating to the lungs than tobacco. It decreases blood flow to the limbs. Of course it has an extreme psychological negative effect on the brain. Also it is a gateway drug to many other drugs because, as I have said, the THC content is much greater than it used to be.
Bill C-10 establishes a new system of fines. I want to briefly outline those so people who are listening to this via television will know what we are talking about. Possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana would be punishable by a fine of $150 for an adult or $100 for a youth. Possession of one gram or less of cannabis resin would be punishable by a fine of $300 for an adult and $200 for a youth. For possession of between 15 and 30 grams of marijuana, the police officer would decide if the person should receive a ticket or a summons for a summary conviction. The ticket fine would be $300 for an adult and $200 for a youth.
The fines that would be imposed are almost laughable if it were not so sad. We all know that the profits being made in the drug trade are huge. Thousands and millions are being made. A fine of $150 or $300 will simply become a business expense. It is similar to slapping a fine of $1,000 on the CEO of Enron or fining Martha Stewart $1,000 when she may have made hundreds of thousands on insider stock trading, or giving a minimal fine of a few thousand dollars for dumping waste to the owner of Canada Shipping Lines. That is the context of what we are talking about here when it comes to fines. They are laughable. They will not deter anything.
There was a lot of fanfare recently when the human resources minister announced the $8 million commitment from the federal government for Ontario's crime prevention program. This is good of course. We need to target the root causes of crime. I have been calling for this ever since I began exposing the Liberal folly called the gun registry. I want to deal with this a little bit. A big deal was made about committing $8 million.
The Liberals have been wasting $100 million a year. In this year's budget they will be spending over $100 million just on the gun registry, which does not target the root causes of violence in our society. It does nothing to deter the use of firearms in our society. It is a huge paper-pushing exercise. With that $100 million, or $130 million, or by the time the supplementary estimates are done it may even be $150 million, and I am not sure because they keep hiding the amounts from us, they could have effectively put in place something that would do a lot more than what this legislation does in dealing with the drug problem.
Surely money could have been diverted from the useless gun registry. The government is now spending $273,000 a day on the useless gun registry. Just think what we could do with that money if we used it in the right area, especially in combating the illegal use of drugs.
The $2 billion that has been spent on the gun registry could have paid for eight years of salary for 4,444 police officers. We could put that many more police officers on the street for eight years. Just think what that would do to combat some of the illegal grow operations or the organized crime that is associated with drugs.
By the way, the minister announced this commitment for Ontario. There is a drug problem in Vancouver. There is a drug problem in Edmonton. There is one in Regina. There is one in Saskatoon. There is one in my riding. The Liberals do not seem to get it.
I also want to quote from an international source, the 2003 annual report of the International Narcotics Control Board, which is a United Nations agency. Sometimes members opposite will say that the Conservative Party raises issues that have no basis in fact.
Here is what we have a United Nations agency telling us. I would like to quote the concerns it has expressed. The International Narcotics Control Board, a UN agency, “is concerned that the revisions could contribute to the mistaken perception that cannabis is a harmless substance”. It is not the Conservative Party telling the world that this legislation communicates the wrong message to Canadians. Here we have a UN agency saying that it communicates the wrong message, especially to our young people.
The bill also amends the law with respect to the production of marijuana. Currently the production of marijuana is an offence punishable by up to seven years of imprisonment. Among other things, the proposed legislation provides that an individual found growing one to three plants would face a summary conviction offence with a fine of not more than $500, or $250 if the offender is a young person. For persons growing from four to twenty-five plants, under this bill there could be a fine of up to $25,000 or 18 months in jail. For persons growing more than that, of course the penalty would be even more severe and could include jail time.
Levels of fines do not increase for subsequent trafficking offences or growing offences, so in fact this becomes a business expense: get caught and pay the fine, get caught and pay the fine. Why are there not increased penalties in the legislation for repeat offences? This is a serious problem that the Liberals have not addressed.
There is no process for the collection of fines. The police will tell us right now that this is virtually unenforceable. They will not be able to collect these fines from young people. This will simply become a joke. There should be a progressive fines schedule put in place. That is not done in this legislation. There should be some kind of consequence for the non-payment of fines.
No provisions have been made to amend for the proceeds of crime. People make money in the drug trade but there is nothing in this legislation that would remove the profits from them. That needs to be addressed. It is not now.
There is no provision in the bill to deal with those who have damage to their property in a neighbourhood where there might be a grow operation. We see this right across Canada. Grow operations spring up and the neighbours suffer greatly because of decreased property values.
No legislation has been developed to curtail financial institutions from funding mortgages to grow operations.
I also have to add that no resources have been provided for the police to crack down on organized crime, which is profiting from lax enforcement. The legislation will likely increase the demand for marijuana and therefore make the illegal production and distribution of marijuana even more lucrative for organized crime. The legislation is going to have the opposite effect, just like the gun registry has increased smuggling in the black market for firearms. The Liberal government is going to put in place legislation that would make this worse than before, worse than if it had done nothing.
We need a comprehensive strategy. Already I have made that point. There are huge flaws in the legislation. If there are problems with drugs in Canada--and we all know that--before the legislation, this is not going to address it. We need a national drug strategy, a drug strategy that works at the street level. It is not working now. In fact, it is having the opposite effect.
It must be self-evident. There are three obvious omissions. Growing and trafficking must become criminal offences. “Drugged driving” laws and roadside assessment must be in place before we put this in place. I have mentioned this. We need an appropriate roadside assessment developed for detecting drugged driving offences. We have known for years that this is a problem. The Liberals have done nothing about it. Why not?
They have liberalized Canada's drug laws without providing law enforcement with the tools needed to determine whether someone is drugged driving through a roadside assessment test. The hon. member who spoke before me said that they will get it done. We have heard that promise before. Good intentions do not make good legislation.
Because of relaxed laws, Canada will have increased refugee claims and illegal entry into the country through the underground railroad. It is going to become more of a problem. The borders are going to be even more of a problem for Canada than they are now. Why did we not have proper discussions with the U.S. before we undertook this? The effect of cross-border traffic will be very negative. The BSE crisis we are going through just now has been compounded because of deteriorating relations with the U.S. over unrelated matters.
We are poking our nearest neighbours in the eye repeatedly with totally uncalled for comments. If we pass Bill C-10, crossing the border will be much more difficult. It will seriously affect trade between the two countries and we need that trade. We need to develop a strategy that is agreed upon with our neighbour nations.
This is sending the wrong message to our youth, as I have already said. It now makes it much more difficult for families, parents, teachers and schools and for crime prevention in our communities. It is making all those areas more difficult.
Houses in our neighbourhoods are being destroyed. Property values will undoubtedly suffer. These cultivators are not caring, contributing citizens within our communities. An excellent comprehensive report published by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Criminal Intelligence Directorate in November 2002, titled “Marihuana Cultivation in Canada: Evolution and Current Trends”, is available on the Internet. I would like to quote from it in the conclusion of my speech:
The link between marihuana cultivation and organized crime cannot be overemphasized, and neither can the consequences for society. The huge profits associated with grow operations are used by many criminal groups to purchase other much more dangerous drugs or even weapons, and finance various illicit activities.
High profitability, low risk, and relatively lenient sentences continue to entice growers and traffickers, making it difficult, if not impossible, for law enforcement agencies to make a truly lasting impact on the marihuana cultivation industry in Canada.
This bill does not address the problems we have. I have touched on a variety of issues. I could go on to explain more of them in detail, but why does the government not bring in effective legislation? Half measures will never do it and good intentions do not make good legislation.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, with your permission, I would like to move an amendment. I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “that” and substituting the following therefore:
Bill C-10, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, be not now read a third time but that it be read a third time, this day, six months hence.
I would like to take more time to speak to this. I would like to have the government set this aside and do this right six months from now, not rush it through now and have many of the detrimental effects of this legislation being experienced.