Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in this important debate today.
The bill is being introduced to further the Conservative tough on crime agenda. It is clear, with the number of justice bills the Conservatives have introduced over both sessions of the 39th Parliament, that this will be one of the major focal points of their re-election campaign.
The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act regulates certain types of drugs and associated substances. The new legislation would amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, focus on drugs in schedule 1, which includes opiates such as opium, heroin, morphine, cocaine and methamphetamine, and schedule 2, cannabis related, including marijuana.
Currently there are no mandatory prison terms under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, but the most important serious drug offences have a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Under the proposed legislation, anyone found guilty of a serious drug offence would automatically receive a mandatory term of imprisonment. For the purposes of this initiative, serious drug offences mean production, trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, importing and exporting and possession for the purpose of exporting.
The bill would amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to include mandatory prison terms for drugs listed in schedule 1, such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, and in schedule 2, such as cannabis, marijuana. Generally the mandatory sentence would apply where there would be an aggravating factor and would also be increased where the production of the drugs would constitute a potential security, health or safety hazard. Also, the maximum penalty for the production of schedule 2 drugs, for example, marijuana, would be increased from 7 to 14 years.
Commonly known date rape drugs include GHB and Flunitrazepam and will be moved from schedule 3 to schedule 1 and it will provide access to higher maximum penalties for illegal activities involving these drugs.
The legislation would allow the drug treatment court to impose a penalty other than a mandatory sentence on an offender who has a previous conviction for a serious drug offence where: (a) the offence involves no other aggravating factors; and (b) the offender successfully completes the drug treatment court treatment program.
As we can see, this is a very important debate. It is certainly a conversation or dialogue that Canadians are having from coast to coast to coast. We heard members speak to the bill today. Liberal members have said that they are supporting the bill going to committee because of the importance of the dialogue Canadians are having.
We agree there must be a balanced approach. The hon. member for Trinity—Spadina spoke extensively about the four pillars approach, which includes prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement, on the war drugs.
The Conservatives are taking a hard-nosed approach, which does not seem to be designed to encourage the four pillars approach. It is very reminiscent of the Republican approach with its war on drugs. The Conservatives are tagging this as a war on crime. The problem with this is it is not a balanced approach. As Canadians are engaged in a dialogue about the increase in crime and the types of crime, the increase in gang violence and the increase in serious offences related to drugs, there absolutely has to be a dialogue.
When we look at the drug policy budget in Canada, 73% of it is spent on enforcement, and rightfully so, but when there is not enough money budgeted to begin with, only 14% goes to treatment, 7% to research, 2.6% to prevention and 2.6% to harm reduction. The budget is not adequate. We need to be resourcing all sectors of these strategies.
When we talk about the Conservative approach, it is a war on crime and a war on drugs. I will quote Dan Lett, a writer for the Winnipeg Free Press in response to the Prime Minister's announcement yesterday in Winnipeg to battle auto theft. He said, “Harper's pledge Monday was to introduce tougher laws to crack down on the trafficking—