Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Provencher for his speech. It was a tremendous wealth of information and knowledge. I was dismayed, as I looked across the way, to see that there was only one Liberal who was even paying half attention to what he had to say.
The message he shared earlier is very important. The people who are trying to make the decisions, as my other colleague pointed out, will be whipped in their vote very shortly. They need to listen to what the member for Provencher had to say about the issue of marijuana decriminalization.
We are debating Bill C-10, which will amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act with respect to the possession and production of marijuana.
What is the objective of the legislation? As I look through it, the objective is really not clear. What should the objective be of legislation dealing with drugs in our society? The best objective would be to remove the influence of addictive substances from people's lives as much as possible. That would be a noble goal if we were writing legislation dealing with addictive substances.
What do we do with addictive substances in other areas? An obvious example would be tobacco. Over the last 10 or 15 years we have seen what the government has done to the tobacco industry. It basically destroyed the industry. It spent billions of dollars trying to stop people from smoking cigarettes. It applied heavy taxation to the industry in order to ruin it. In many ways it has been successful. That was a good goal: to get people away from smoking.
The second example is alcohol. The government has a program, which is not as extensive as that of tobacco. The objective is to restrict the consumption of alcohol to some extent. It does that through taxation and restrictions on advertising.
When it comes to soft and hard drugs, we seem to have a different situation. When we look at hard drugs, the experiments we have been conducting in Vancouver have been a failure. The member for Langley—Abbotsford is familiar with that.
I found it interesting that even the United Nations is calling our small drug plan a failure. In fact, the International Narcotics Control Board condemned the experiment that is going on in Vancouver. It took aim at us in a number of ways, particularly the lack of a drug strategy in this country.
I want to talk a little bit about its criticism of the government initiative that was launched. It argued a couple of different things. First, the Vancouver safe injection site, which opened only last September, violated the fundamental principle that elicit drugs should only be used for medicinal or scientific purposes. It went on to talk quite a bit about that.
When drug abusers can acquire elicit drugs and take them into premises which are managed by the state or the town, there is definitely complicity. It could not accept that under the international drug control convention. That is the United Nations speaking, which is definitely not a Conservative organization.
Second, it took issue with the proposed changes that the government was making to the federal marijuana laws. The government claimed it would contribute to the mistaken perception that cannabis was a harmless substance. The United Nations was concerned about the type of leadership the government was failing to show.
The board was also opposed to the medical use of marijuana, which has been another failed experiment of the government, until its efficacy as a treatment could be determined. When we look at what the government has proposed so far, even the international community sees it as a complete and total failure.
We move on from hard drugs to marijuana use. What is the government doing in terms of marijuana? Its policy looks just as schizophrenic as it is in other areas. On the one hand it is trying to leave the impression with the public that it is fighting drug use, but with its legislation it seems to be saying it really encourages it.
I want to talk about some of the provisions in Bill C-10 and discuss where the bill will be taking us. The bill amends the law with respect to the production of marijuana. Apparently the production of marijuana is an offence that will be punishable by up to seven years imprisonment.
We will hear a lot about “up to” in a few minutes. The proposed legislation breaks down the sentencing in two or three different ways. One of the things that it says it that an individual found growing just one to three plants will face summary conviction with a fine of not more than $500. Four to 25 plants would constitute an offence punishable by up to $25,000 and/or 18 months in jail. Growing 26 to 50 plants would result in a sentence of up to 10 years and the growing of more than 50 plants would be 14 years.
As we have said this afternoon, and we will continue to say, one of the problems is that there are no minimum sentences in this legislation. We have seen this in so many other pieces of legislation that the government has brought forward. It has happened one more time here. Basically, with no minimums, we are sending no message. We get things like conditional sentencing, house arrest, and small fines. The penalties are just not appropriate for the crime that has taken place.
I think that in a lot of ways the government has just given up. It really has. It has decided that it will not fight this battle anymore. What this society does not need now is one more way to get high. It is not as if this society is not being provided with enough options as it is.
The bill provides a whole new system of fines for the possession of marijuana. The possession of between 15 and 30 grams of marijuana is left up to the police officer as to whether a ticket will be issued or a summons for a summary conviction. With no minimum sentencing, we would expect that police would likely turn to whatever the judges were enforcing. It would seem to be that police would be just giving out tickets and nothing more because the judges would not enforce it if the police did anything more than that.
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. That sends a tremendous negative message to our youth. It actually encourages them to use drugs. It encourages adults to use our youth to use drugs as well. Those are maximum fines. The younger people would be encouraged then by the older people to carry the drugs and have them in their possession because their fines would be less.
Possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana under this legislation would be punishable by a fine of only $150 for an adult and $100 for a youth. Again, those are maximum fines, so it basically wipes out any penalty at all for using marijuana.
This legislation is really flawed. Despite what people say, we all know that marijuana is a gateway drug. If young people are going to start using drugs, marijuana is the drug of choice. It is the drug that they are usually first exposed to and the drug that they use to begin to get high. This legislation sends the wrong message to our young people.
Penalties for the production of marijuana have actually decreased. That is not something we want to have happen and that is something that the government is claiming is not true. However, where small amounts of marijuana are being produced, which would probably be most of the local, homegrown operations, the penalties are decreased. It encourages people to get involved in it.
One of the concerns that I have, and we heard about it this afternoon as well, is that there are a lot of young people who do not want to use drugs. They feel they are being put in a tough situation. Peer pressure comes into play, the other kids are saying they can use it, it is not a big threat, the government and adults do not seem to be worried about it, so they go ahead and use it.
I have young people who tell me they do not want to be using drugs. They are living in an environment where more and more younger people around them are trying to push them into it. It is not as if they do not have enough peer pressure to take up some of these choices as it is. Therefore, it is not wise for the government to be setting up a situation where our young people are actually being pressured into using more drugs.
One of the problems with the bill is that it provides absolutely no resources for police to begin to track down organized crime. We all know that organized crime is involved with a lot of the grow operations. It is making billions of dollars off this industry. The government has come out with legislation that basically decriminalizes marijuana possession, but it does not give the police anything in terms of being able to enforce the legislation.
The fines set out in the bill are low to begin with, but one of the other problems is that they do not increase with subsequent offences. There is no incentive for people to get away from dealing drugs and living in that environment. Repeat offenders must face more serious consequences if they are going to continue to break the law.
There are no law enforcement tools in the bill. The Liberals have gone ahead and liberalized our drug laws without providing the police with the tools they need.
One of the areas where police will not be able to do their job is in roadside assessments. If we are going to have people driving around and doing drugs, we need to determine at some point if they are impaired or not. This legislation gives absolutely no direction or help to the police when they stop people to see whether they are impaired.
That is one of the points that the Canadian Alliance made and, now as the Conservative Party, continues to make. There needs to be some way of determining whether someone is impaired at the roadside before we take a look at changing our marijuana laws.
The bill also encourages trafficking. By decriminalizing possession of 30 grams or less, the Liberals have made it easier for traffickers to operate and have removed the fear of any real sanction on these people when they move their drugs. Thirty grams of marijuana can provide as many as 60 joints. That is certainly enough to make a fairly good salary if people are selling them to their friends and neighbours. We just see that everything about this bill encourages our young people to move in a direction in their lives in which they do need to move.
Another big concern is that the Liberals do not have a national drug strategy. There is nothing in place to enable them to deal with the problems that would come out of decriminalizing marijuana,
We understand, and I hope they do as well, that there will be consequences to this decriminalization. There will more drug use. There will be consequences within families and consequences within communities. I suggest that we will see an increase in crime as well. The Liberals do not have a strategy to deal with that. As my colleague from Provencher mentioned earlier, if they do have a strategy, they are keeping it secret from all of us. The last thing we need is for the Liberal government to be keeping secrets on any level from anyone.
Another interesting issue is that there has been no legislation developed to curtail financial institutions from funding mortgages relating to grow ops. There are companies that are well aware that grow ops are concentrated in certain areas. There are financial institutions that are willing to finance those buildings because they understand they will get their money back fairly quickly. Something needs to be done to deal with the financial institutions. If they are aware of what is going on in those houses and buildings and they are not turning people over to the police, then we need to have some legislation to deal with that.
One of the other problems has been the judiciary. We need a commitment from the judges that they will begin to enforce the legislation as it stands. Unfortunately, with the lack of minimum penalties, the judges will not be enforcing this in any way that will bring any kind of fear to anyone who is involved in this activity.
No provisions have been made to deal with the increasing toxicity of marijuana. Over the years marijuana has become stronger. The drug the government thinks it is decriminalizing in fact is not the drug that it is decriminalizing. It has become much more toxic and much more addictive over the years. The government needs to be ready to deal with the problems that arise from that. Added to that is the problem of the marijuana and methamphetamine being mixed together.
The Conservative Party has some solutions. We are opposed to the open-ended decriminalization of marijuana. There are things that need to happen in this country with regard to marijuana. One of them is that the use and possession of marijuana must remain illegal. Possession of more than five grams of marijuana must be considered a criminal offence.
Fines for possession of marijuana should increase significantly for subsequent offences. If someone insists on going back to the well, that person should pay an ever increasing price for doing that.
One of the key things is roadside assessment. We need some way to determine if people are impaired. We know that if we decriminalize marijuana, people will be taking it and likely will be driving their vehicles. We have to give our law enforcement officers the tools they need in order to do those assessments before we change this law. We do not have those tools or that ability to determine impairment at the roadside. The government should put this law on hold until they have those tools and the police are given the resources that they need.
The Canadian Alliance was consistent throughout its history. We had a good position. Our new party has a very similar position, which is that possession of greater than five grams of marijuana must be considered a criminal offence.
We want fines specified in amounts and increased significantly for subsequent offences. We need to vigorously enforce fine payments. We need appropriate roadside assessment practices. We need improved and stronger prosecution and sentencing practices, agreed upon between the federal government and the provinces. It has been good to see that the Conservative Party is taking a strong stand against this legislation.
I need to ask the question, why are we here? Is this an issue that is spellbinding for Canadians and holding their attention? It really is not. There are a lot of other important issues that need to be dealt with and the government seems to be setting those aside. Unfortunately, it seems to have no direction. The only legislation the government has brought forward in the last few months has been reworked legislation from prior sessions. The government does not seem to have any real goal or direction.
Fortunately, the official opposition has taken the leadership in a lot of areas. One of them is agriculture. We have waited almost 10 months for the government to do something about the BSE problem in this country. The government has basically done nothing. It came out with a couple of programs. The money was absorbed. It disappeared and we really do not know where it went. We have sat through this session waiting for the agriculture minister and the department to make some commitment to people and to farmers who are stressed and there has been nothing.
The opposition has stepped forward in many areas but particularly in agriculture. We have come out with a good plan. I am sure members are interested in hearing some examples of what the opposition would do if we were government. There are a number of things the opposition would do.
We would top up CFIP. In the last few years the government has shorted farmers. It told them it would pay them so much money and when the time came, it shorted them of their money. We would put in enough money to pay out 100%.
We would top up the new CAIS program to try to make it work for farmers. We do not believe it is a good program, but maybe with some more money in it and some of our suggested changes, it could possibly be a good program for farmers.
We have suggested things like putting some money into increasing processing capacity. We have called for a cull of cows. That needs to be done to bring the numbers down to a place where the market can begin to respond.
Agriculture is just one of the areas on which the Conservative Party has taken a strong stand and shown some tremendous leadership.
I am disappointed in the government. I look to it to lead the country. We heard this afternoon in question period that sponsorship money has disappeared in two more places. The Bluenose has been a Canadian icon. For some reason the government committed money to it but the money never showed up. It disappeared. Today the minister said he does not know where it is. The government is going to launch legal action but it has no idea what happened to the money. We heard later in question period that the government committed money to the Pan Am games in Canada. Did the cheque get there? Only a very small part of it was received.
It is frustrating for Canadians who are facing the issues every day, paying their taxes and being threatened if they do not. Over the last year and a half we have seen, particularly with EI and the GST, people going after ordinary folks if they have not received every cent from them. Those folks are paying their taxes, living their lives, trying to get ahead, and the government continually disappoints them.
Defence issues arise weekly. We have submarines that do not immerse. We have planes that do not fly. We have trucks that do not move. We just heard today that the government sent troops on a training exercise, gave them their $50 per diem and after the training exercise, turned around and told the corporals that they would just get $17 a day. At the same time the bureaucrats on the other side are dining out. There are no restrictions on what they are doing but those poor soldiers are required to pay the money back. We would expect the government to at least listen and do something about that.
The government is not dealing with the issues of leadership in this country right now. It is foundering. It is incompetent. It is corrupt. It is disappointing to see that it has pushed ahead with legislation like this--