Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party supports the passage of this bill, but we also recognize that there are more things that we could be doing to improve the environment with respect to the negative impacts of contraband cigarettes or smoking.
Let me approach it from a different way. Back in 1988, when I was first elected to a provincial legislature, budget after budget would come through with increases to cigarette taxes. There is a strong correlation: the higher the cost of cigarettes, the more people are inclined to quit smoking. Often I would hear, “The government is increasing the price of tobacco. I'm going to quit smoking. This is my last pack. I'm going to save that money that I would be spending in taxes and put it toward something else.” We did see significant decreases.
Contraband cigarettes have been counter to the government's attempt to decrease the population's involvement in purchasing tobacco and smoking.
At one time when I was first elected I would argue that the government used tobacco tax as a revenue generation. It was all about money coming in. What we find is that smoking costs society far more than we could ever possibly generate in terms of tobacco tax. We do not get anywhere near as much money in taxes as we spend on things such as health care. In Manitoba alone, hundreds of millions of dollars is spent annually on health. Nationwide, we are probably talking well into the billions of dollars in terms of the negative impacts of tobacco.
If we take a look at those negative impacts today, the issue goes beyond health. There are public safety issues, such as organized crime, which has gotten hold of this issue and is making millions of dollars of revenue every year to be used for other aspects of crime. It is used to complement things such as drugs, prostitution, and all sorts of other issues that are brought into this whole area.
We can and should be doing more. These elements of public safety, of health, and of lost revenue have all had a profound impact on Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Therefore, when we take a look at this bill, what we see is a step in the right direction. There are some concerns that we have with respect to judicial independence, for example, but there are other issues and as such we could have done so much more. We ask the government to look at the bigger picture in terms of what else it can be doing to deal not only with contraband cigarettes but also with some of those other crimes that are being factored in in terms of organized crime.
Those are my comments. I will not be continuing on after question period.