House of Commons Hansard #221 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was alcohol.


Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, October 25, at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

Notice of MotionWays and MeansRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Toronto Centre Ontario


Bill Morneau LiberalMinister of Finance

Pursuant to Standing Order 83(1), I have the honour to table a notice of a ways and means motion to amend the Income Tax Act.

Pursuant to Standing Order 83(2), I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of the motion.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Toronto Centre Ontario


Bill Morneau LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's fall economic statement.

Middle-class Canadians expect their government and the economy to work for them, not the other way around. It is why two years ago they asked for real change.

They asked us to invest in them, in their communities, and in the economy to create jobs now and to build a better future for them, for their children, and for their grandchildren. They asked us to protect the air that they breathe and to make sure that every child has access to clean drinking water. They asked us to help their families make ends meet and to provide equal opportunities for women and men and children in our country.

Canadians asked us to invest in their future and to put more money in their pockets, to give them a little more breathing room at the end of the month.

When I was door knocking in my riding of Toronto Centre just before being elected, one of my volunteers, a 13-year-old girl, handed me a note. On it was a list of her family members, all of whom needed to find permanent housing, a place to call home.

This little girl had been helping me all day long and now she was asking me to help her and her family to find a safe place to live. Like millions of other Canadians, she asked us to keep our focus on them so that they have the tools and the resources they need to succeed. When Canadians succeed, they grow our economy, they create jobs, and together we build a better future.

We came to office with a plan to help those who are working hard to be successful, not just those who already are. We came to office knowing that growing the middle class is how we grow the economy. Today, we are doubling down on that strategy because it is a strategy that is working.

In just two years, over 450,000 new jobs have been created and youth unemployment is the lowest on record. Economic growth has spiked from the meagre 0.9% when we took over from the previous government to the highest we have seen in over a decade.

The Canadian economy is performing well. In fact, jobs are being created at the fastest pace in over a decade.

In just two years, we have lifted 26 long-term boil-water advisories on reserve. Over 350,000 more students get help each year to afford books, tuition, and to earn a degree. We have effectively doubled the Canada summer jobs program, helping 65,000 students find work during the summer months.

We have given 9 million Canadians a tax cut. With the Canada child benefit, we are lifting 300,000 children out of poverty, and we have put more money in the pockets of nine out of ten families. These families contribute to their community and to the Canadian economy by in turn investing in their family through new skates, piano lessons, or healthier food.

In just two years, we have secured better retirements for Canadian workers today and for future generations with a stronger Canada pension plan.

For that little girl and her family in Toronto and 1.6 million other families in the country, we have invested in the national housing strategy to help make sure they have a safe and affordable place to live.

We have put more money in the pockets of 900,000 seniors living on a fixed income, with increases in the guaranteed income supplement, allowing them more freedom and less worry.

What it boils down to is that in just two years we have built up confidence in the economy and in our middle class. We know when we make these investments in Canadians they grow our economy. That is the fundamental difference between our plan and what happened in the previous decade. In just two years, we are seeing results, very positive results.

Thanks to the hard work of Canadians, our country leads the G7 countries in growth this year and is positioned to continue to lead those countries next year. As our economy grows, the bottom line improves. In this fall economic statement, Canada's fiscal outlook has improved by over $8.5 billion this year compared to what we were expecting in March. In fact, Canada's net debt to GDP ratio, the size of our debt relative to the economy, will continue to decline.

Not only is our plan working, it is working better than expected. Our strong fiscal position allows us to do what other countries would like to do, but cannot afford to do. We are investing in ourselves and in our future.

Our strong fiscal position allows us to do what other countries would like to do but cannot afford to do: we are investing in ourselves and our future. It allows us to take full advantage of the kind of strong economic performance we are seeing now by reinvesting in the middle class, while maintaining the flexibility needed to manage global uncertainty.

Nonetheless, as members on this side of the House know, a thriving economy and a solid bottom line are only half the answer. As the economy grows, we need to make sure that the benefits of that growth are shared with the middle class and all those working hard to get into the middle class.

As we invest directly in Canadians and their families, we have an immediate impact on the economy. On July 20, 2016, nine out of 10 Canadian families began receiving more money, tax-free, from the Canada child benefit. When families like mine stopped receiving benefit cheques, our government was able to put more money directly into the pockets of the moms and dads who needed it most.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Order, order. The hon. Minister of Finance has the floor.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.


Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the important point here is that when we invested in Canadian families through the Canada child benefit, we saw right away that they in turn invested in their families. They paid off debt, sent the kids to summer camp, bought healthier food and maybe even a few more children's books. Right away, we saw a spike in consumer confidence and a rise in household spending that continues to underpin our strong economic success today. It is no wonder that the International Monetary Fund's Christine Lagarde says she hopes Canada's economic policies will go viral.

Now, with a little more wind in our sails, we are doubling down on the plan that has worked.

We are reinvesting in the middle class.

Our government will strengthen the Canada child benefit by making sure it keeps pace with the cost of living. Starting next July, two years ahead of schedule, tax-free Canada child benefit amounts for families with two children will go up by approximately $200. It does not stop there. The next year, those families will see about $500 more.

For those Canadians who are working hard to join the middle class, many of whom are living alone, we will offer even more help, with an increase in the working income tax benefit. This increase will give an important boost to over one and a half million low-income workers so they can keep more of their pay as they work long hours, sometimes in more than one job, to advance their careers, advance their situations and, in some cases, the situations of their families.

We know that for young single workers just getting a foothold, shouldering the rising cost of living alone can sometimes be a crushing responsibility. Living alone is now the most common type of household in Canada according to the latest census. Here I would add, thanks to the latest census, it is always good to have information on which to make decisions.

For someone living alone, this could mean not having to make the choice between buying groceries and paying the rent. For a single mom, a stronger Canada child benefit and a more generous working income tax benefit means more peace of mind when the bills come due at the end of the month.

Finally, we are investing directly in Canada's small businesses by lowering the small business rate from 11% in 2015 to 9% by January 2019.

I greatly appreciate the frank discussions I have had with Canadian entrepreneurs over the past few weeks.

If the last few months have taught me anything, it is the strength and resilience of entrepreneurs and small business owners across our country. It has been humbling and inspiring to meet with so many passionate business owners from coast to coast over the past few weeks.

I called a woman in St. John's who was concerned about her situation, after she told her premier about it. He told me, and I called her the very next day.

Our caucus heard from a town hall in Kelowna, including personal stories from young women physicians who needed added flexibility.

Just last week I went to Erinsville, Ontario, where I met with John, Lori, and their son Angus to learn about their family farm. Angus wants to take over the farm someday. He will be the seventh generation of his family to have that honour. We are committed to making sure that Angus and other people like Angus across our country can take over their family farm.

I met Brittany and Rebecca in a café in Hampton, New Brunswick, and the Rampulla family in their family restaurant in Markham, where I committed to coming back for food sometime soon.

These are the people who drive me to do better and, I can say, drive all of our caucus to do better, to try to make sure we get things right. I can say to them that I heard them. We heard them. We made a point of ensuring that we got the system right.

We held a consultation to fix a system that is not working the way it was intended. That, we know, is critically important.

Before we could lower taxes for small businesses, I had to be sure this investment would be going to help the Cerrelli family in Montreal design and build their dream kitchen, rather than giving tax advantages to the wealthiest.

As the Prime Minister said last week:

Canada is a country where we celebrate our collective contributions rather than protect the interests of a privileged few.

It is in that spirit that we are moving forward to fix a system that currently allows someone making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to pay a lower tax rate than someone making far less, just because they are incorporated and have children over the age of 18.

For incorporated professionals and business owners, we will preserve the flexibility to save up for a rainy day, for parental leave, or for retirement, while not allowing individuals to have unlimited tax-advantaged savings accounts over and above what is available to everyone else. That is where we got it right.

As I said, we will work with farmers, fishers, and business owners to make sure they can pass down the family business to the next generation.

Our approach is to give all Canadians a real chance at success.

In everything we do, our government knows that, when Canadians are given a real and fair chance at success, they will make the most of it.

That is how we grow an economy, sustainably. That is how we manage finances, responsibly. As we continue with our plan, we will continue to do what is hard. We will continue to do what is right. Our ultimate goal is nothing short of an economy that rewards the very people who contribute to its success.

As we look to budget 2018, we will continue our work to build on the gains we have made over the last two years, always with the middle class and those working hard to join it as our key focus. We will make sure Canadians have the skills, the training, and the learning opportunities they need to compete and to thrive in a rapidly changing global economy.

We will drive forward our innovation and skills plan, making big bets on the most competitive sectors of our economy, making Canada a world leader in sectors like agrifood, clean tech, and digital.

We will continue investments in our transit, in our roads, and in clean water, to keep our cities moving and to keep our children safe.

As always, we will invest in Canadians and give them the tools, skills, and resources to create jobs and to grow our economy.

In just two years, we have done a lot together, but we know that there is much more to do. Working together, we will make sure Canadians have every opportunity to succeed and to build their future and a country of which we can all be proud.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, moments ago the finance minister had the audacity to say that families like his are not getting any benefit cheques in Canada. This is from the finance minister who, we learned only days ago, has been taking $65,000 dividend cheques from a company he regulates, and those are on a monthly basis, not to be confused.

This is from a finance minister who says that a “privileged few” should pay more, yet nothing in today's proposal would see the family fortunes of the finance minister or the Prime Minister touched by any taxes at all. Once again, they have sheltered themselves.

Now I'll go on to the bigger picture.

The Prime Minister promised a small $10 billion deficit. Do members remember that? Today we learn that the deficit is double that. He promised the budget would be balanced by 2019. Now we learn that the deficit will be almost $17 billion in that year and there are no balanced budgets projected by the government, ever. There is literally not a single year into the distant future when the Liberal government projects ever eliminating the deficit, apparently believing that the government can borrow its way out of debt into prosperity.

The pattern here is a government that does exactly the opposite of what it says. The Liberals said they would raise taxes on the rich, and now, according to the finance minister's own department, the rich are paying $1 billion less in taxes.

They claimed they would lower taxes on the middle class. The Fraser Institute confirmed that 87% of middle-class taxpayers are paying more income tax today than they were when the Prime Minister took office—on average $800 more. Middle-class people like farmers, plumbers, and electricians pay $800 more in tax while millionaires like the Prime Minister and the finance minister are actually paying lower tax.

The Liberals claimed that they would close loopholes; meanwhile the Prime Minister puts his money away in trust funds that avoid paying any new tax under his proposals. The same Prime Minister puts funds in numbered companies so that he can avoid paying tax.

The finance minister stuffs away his $20 million investment in Morneau Shepell in a numbered company in Alberta. He lives on Bay Street, yet his companies are in Alberta, Barbados, and France, all of which allow him to pay lower taxes than everyone else pays. He is the very definition of the privileged few, the aristocratic, old money elite, who have taken generational wealth handed down from those who came before them, like the Prime Minister, who took his wealth from the petroleum empire of his grandfather and yet now wants to protect his own benefits from additional taxation while he forces others to pay more.

Such is the system of government that the Liberal Party creates.

The government gave nearly $400 million in handouts to Bombardier—a company, by the way, that has hired the finance minister's family business. Now, that company is selling its intellectual property and its next generation aircraft to a European company, effectively a subsidy from the federal government to protect the wealthy and the well connected—in particular, this time, the billionaire Bombardier Beaudoin family. It is the old feudal economy, where the rich get richer and the working class pay the bills.

This is the new trickle-down government, where it takes money from the working class, puts it in the hands of politicians who give it to the wealthiest corporations, and expects us to believe that a few drops will trickle down to the people who earned it in the first place. The ultimate concentration of wealth is the government. The bigger the government gets, the more business invests in lobbying for a larger share of that money.

Various definitive research shows that, if government gets bigger, then businesses spend more on lobbying. They understand that the way to get rich in a government-run economy is by having the best lobbyist, and the way to get ahead in a free market economy is by having the best product or service.

On this side of the House of Commons, we believe in a free enterprise economy where one can only get better off if one sells a product or service that is worth more than the people have to pay for it. It is where one cannot force people to buy a product through a government edict or subsidy or taxation, and where one has to convince people that the thing at offer is actually worth more to them than the dollar they part with to buy it.

The government wants to leave behind that free enterprise tradition that has created all of the prosperity that Canadians enjoy. We believe in an economy based on meritocracy. The Liberals believe in an economy based on old money and privilege. It is no surprise, because that is the experience. It is what they have known. It is what they have always understood.

On this side of the aisle we will continue to champion the underdog, the striver, the upstart, and the challenger, while the Liberals look for new ways to put up obstacles in the way of those who try to get ahead, in order to protect the privilege of those who already have lots of money. We will knock down those barriers so people can keep building, growing, and getting ahead, where they will be judged not by their connections or their family pedigree but by what they have to contribute, and where we see the dignity of work inside every single Canadian and the potential for them to play out that dignity with their own merit and their own contributions. That is the free enterprise, merit-driven vision we have for the economy.

While the Liberals continue to expropriate billions of dollars from entrepreneurs and workers in order to spend on complicated schemes such as superclusters and Bombardier bailouts, we will leave that money in the hands of the people who earned it, because they are always better at spending it than those politicians who tax it.

That is the approach the Conservatives have always taken. It is the reason why, under then prime minister Harper, we had the biggest drop and the lowest levels of poverty in recorded Canadian history. Poverty fell from highs in the mid-teens under the first Trudeau government to 8.8% in the last full year that then prime minister Harper served. He did it by raising the personal exemption, to free a million low-income Canadians from taxation. He brought in the working income tax benefit, to give a pay increase to low-income working people trying to escape from social assistance. He eliminated red tape, so small upstart businesses that could not afford accountants and crafty consultants could start their businesses without the shackles of government holding them back.

We opened up the economy so that people could strive hard, work hard, and get ahead on their own merit. That is the opportunity economy that we will create, that is the vision we will present, and that is the vision Canadians will choose in 2019.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to quote the finance minister from his speech a few minutes ago when he said that we will continue “investing in ourselves”. I think the finance minister should choose his words with a little more caution. If he is desperately trying to change the channel from the scandal he is entangled in, if he continues to say stuff like that, people will just remember that maybe he benefits himself from some investment or legislation he personally tabled in the House of Commons.

The document in front of us is called the “Fall Economic Statement”, but I think it should be entitled the failed economic statement. Some journalists are saying that this is an economic update, but to be called an update, they have to bring something new to the table. They have to update it. What we see right now is an exercise in buzz words and the recycling of some decisions that were already put in the last budget or in statements from ministers in the last months. There is nothing new there. Members may remember a play by Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing.

If members are looking for the big news, which was everywhere yesterday, that the Liberals will boost the child benefit, in fact, it is the indexation, which is something the Liberals already said they would do six months ago. They are making a big show about something they have already announced. When we look carefully, this indexation will maybe give, more or less, $80 to $100 per family per kid. This is two days per year in kindergarten. This is the fall economic update. This is what they are talking about: two days. We thank them very much. It is so generous. There is really nothing there.

The Liberals said they would do a real national child care program. This is something the NDP has been asking for for years. However, these measures will not create a single place in public kindergarten.

This is what we are facing right now. Families are struggling. They have difficulty making ends meet, and there is nothing the Liberal government can give them to make their lives a little easier.

We still have 250,000 seniors living in poverty in this country. What is in the update? Nothing. There is nothing new.

For unemployed people, when they are asking for EI benefits, six out of 10 are still refused by the system, a system that was kept in place by the Liberal government. There is nothing here to help all those workers. There is nothing about the minimum wage or creating the conditions for better wages and good jobs in this country. I will be specific. Under the current Liberal government, 2016-17 has seen the lowest average increase in wages in this country in the last decade. The government is creating jobs, yes, but they are a lot of Walmart jobs and cheap labour.

On tax havens and loopholes for CEOs, there is nothing new. It is the same old Liberal business. I think on tax havens, there are three lines. They will continue to study that and maybe one day do something.

On the infrastructure investment bank, there is half a page saying that everything is fine, everything will be all right, and the government will invest and create some infrastructure. What will be the part of the private sector? What are the guarantees the bank will give to private investors? How much will it cost Canadian taxpayers and the users, who will now have to pay fees to use the infrastructure?

Eariler I poked fun at the Liberals with a reference to a title by Shakespeare. I do not do this often, but now I want to quote Blaise Pascal who said: “The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me.” It seems to me that the Liberal economic update is the eternal silence of infinite spaces. No matter how hard we listen, there is nothing to hear.

Apart from a few buzzwords to convince us that everything is fine, and some recycled announcements on items from the previous budget and things we have heard from other ministers recently, there is absolutely nothing new or concrete to help families and workers. This is a PR exercise meant to draw attention away from the fact that the Minister of Finance is in hot water because he introduced a bill in this House that directly benefits one of his companies, Morneau Shepell, in which he still holds shares, shares that he forgot or did not bother to put in a blind trust, I might add. That is not the only thing the Minister of Finance forgot or overlooked. Remember, he also forgot that he owns a villa in Provence, in France. I doubt that is the kind of thing that ordinary Canadians would tend to forget.

For families, the big announcement in this economic update, which was not much of an update, was that there will be no improvement to the Canada child benefit, as they had been led to believe over the past few days. All they can look forward to is the indexation of the Canada child benefit, which should have been done two years ago.

The Liberals screwed up and were chastised for it in the court of opinion and the media, so their big announcement today consists of saying they are going to do what they should have been doing all along. This is not a national daycare plan, which could genuinely help families, help fathers and mothers in this country who have young children.

Indexation will give families between $80 and $100 a year per child starting in 2018. That is better than nothing, but it is only enough to cover two days of daycare, or possibly one if you live in Toronto. This is not a plan that creates spots in daycare or helps families with young children. It is a smokescreen.

When we look at all of the measures that were announced, we see that they are just a bunch of old, recycled announcements and ideas, or that they are measures that will not be implemented until 2019. The document is interesting if we want to get an idea of what the 2019 Liberal election campaign is going to look like. The working tax credit will be implemented in 2019. It is being announced today, but it will only come into effect on the eve of the next election campaign.

There are many things missing from this economic update. There is nothing for the 250,000 seniors living in poverty. There is nothing for the 60% of unemployed workers who do not have access to employment insurance benefits. We could also talk about the infrastructure privatization bank. The Liberals are moving forward with that and saying that everything will be fine. The private sector is going to make money at the expense of users and Canadian taxpayers. There are also no measures to address the tax loopholes for CEOs or tax havens.

I do not know why this fall economic update is all smoke and mirrors, but people are going to become disillusioned very quickly and realize that the Liberals are continuing down the same path. They continue to work for Bay Street and the elite. I believe that Canadians deserve better.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.


Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, everyone knows that today's economic update is just a red herring. I have to hand it to the Liberals. They certainly know how to create a diversion.

Supply management is threatened and farmers are concerned? The government invites people to take a selfie with the Prime Minister. Canadians have a problem with the Prime Minister's vacation on the Aga Khan's private island? A photo op with Barack Obama at a trendy restaurant should do the trick. The Minister of Finance forgot to disclose that he owns a villa on the French Riviera? That is nothing that a quick economic update cannot solve.

Today, we are witnessing quite the diversion. The government is trying to make us forget that the deficit is lower than expected because it was paid off using the money of EI contributors. There was a $1.4 billion surplus in the EI fund that was quietly transferred to the consolidated revenue fund. Money that should have been used to improve the employment insurance system is instead being used to try to restore the rather tarnished image of the Minister of Finance from Bay Street. The government is trying to make us forget that the deficit is not as high as expected because debts were being repaid at the expense of our sick. We will not forget. We will remember.

Ottawa decided to cut health transfers because there was a huge federal deficit. Now that we know that that is not the case, will the Liberals review the funds for Quebec and the other provinces to support health? Oh no. They prefer to increase the finance minister’s popularity by giving gifts to everyone. The Liberals give gifts with money that should have been used for the unemployed and the sick.

At some point, the spin has to stop. Everyone knows the trick of announcing major deficits in the spring and announcing in the fall that, thanks to the finance minister’s sound and responsible management, the deficit is lower than expected. It is always the same old thing. The difference today is that instead of improving the government’s image, this update seeks to improve the Minister of Finance’s image.

Let us settle one thing right away: there is some good in what has been announced. We would have preferred that the amounts be transferred directly to the Government of Quebec, which has all the necessary jurisdiction in family policy, but we in the Bloc Québécois are still happy to see the indexation of the Canada child benefit, as it will benefit less fortunate families in Quebec. We are pleased with that, as I said. We are also happy to see that the government has decided to move ahead sooner than expected with the tax cuts for SMEs.

Here, they are delusional. The purpose of this diversion is to rehabilitate a star minister who is up to his neck in scandals and in his failed tax reform. He wanted to reform taxes, but in the end, he deformed taxes. That is what we see in the update. Nothing is right, it is badly done. They back up, they change the dates, they review, they change their mind, they strike out. It is worse than an essay by a young college student who did not study on the subject and who tries to hide from the professor that he is just writing anything. That is today’s exercise.

The finance minister presented himself as the great defender of the middle class. The term “middle class” shows up 61 times in his document. The Liberals could repeat it 200 times and it would change nothing. The class that they favour and defend is still the rich. In what we see today, the rich are still untouched. They can continue to avoid paying taxes using tax havens. The fact that the finance minister does so himself through his family company, Morneau Shepell, will only increase the public’s cynicism regarding the political class. It is deplorable.

I recognize that the minister has tried really hard, but a diversion remains a diversion. That is what we see today. That is what this economic update is, and nothing more. We have noted it.

Fall Economic StatementRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

It being 4:45 p.m., according to the order made on Friday, October 20, 2017, the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members’ business as listed on today’s Order Paper.

The House resumed from April 4 consideration of the motion that Bill S-230, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (drug-impaired driving), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

4:45 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario


Marco Mendicino LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I will be speaking against Bill S-230. I want to acknowledge that the bill is well intentioned and its sponsor in the chamber, the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska, is to be applauded for the aim of the bill, which is to address drug-impaired driving. Similarly, the sponsor of Bill S-230 in the other place, the senator from Mille Isles, must be recognized for having had the same laudable aim when he initiated this bill.

Our government understands the significant impact that impaired driving, including drug-impaired driving, has on the safety of our roads and highways. We are firmly committed to strengthening appropriate laws and enforcement measures to deter and punish serious offenders on the road. That is why, while we support the intentions behind the Senate public bill, our government has brought forth its own comprehensive regime to drug-impaired driving, which as we know, is reflected in Bill C-46. It is part of our approach and consistent with the work we are doing with regard to strengthening the strict regulation and legalization of cannabis.

The issues to be resolved in developing a comprehensive strategy to combat drug-impaired driving are complex and too difficult to address through amendments to this non-government Senate public bill. Bill C-46, on the other hand, fully addresses the concerns we have with Bill S-230. Bill C-46 would create one of the toughest regimes against drug and alcohol-impaired driving in the world. It would improve the detection and prosecution of drug-impaired drivers and build on existing measures by authorizing the police to use new tools to better detect drugs in drivers and by creating new driving offences for being over the legal limit for certain impairing drugs. Police would also be able to demand an oral fluid sample at the roadside if they suspect a driver has a drug in the body. This will be similar to the current method of testing for alcohol at the roadside with an approved screening device.

In this light, the Senate public bill's proposals are flawed and would be highly problematic for a number of reasons. Bill S-230 proposes to authorize police to demand from a driver an oral fluid sample on a drug screener at the roadside. The officer, following a lawful stop, first must reasonably suspect that there is a drug in the driver's body. Of course, the Criminal Code already authorizes police to demand a breath sample from a driver on an alcohol screener at the roadside if the officer suspects that there is alcohol in the driver's body.

It is easy, therefore, to understand the interest in a similar screening device for drugs. However, the reason why the alcohol screener is so very useful is precisely because we have the crime of “driving with a breath alcohol concentration exceeding 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood”. A fail on the alcohol screener leads to further police investigation of a possible over-80 offence. However, unlike our government's Bill C-46, Bill S-230 proposes no similar legal limit for any drug. Therefore, the only charge available to police would be driving while impaired by a drug, which requires strong evidence of actual impairment. An oral fluid drug screener does not provide any evidence of impairment, but only the presence of a drug. For this reason, I believe the bill's usefulness is minimal.

To explain further, an oral fluid drug screener proposed by Bill S-230 could only be used, among other factors, to help police develop the reasonable grounds to believe that a drug-impaired driving crime has occurred. The drug screener result could not be used, as it is in the U.K., for example, to further investigate a drug legal limit offence because, until C-46 is adopted, there is no drug legal limit offence in Canada.

In the U.K., drug screeners are very helpful in investigating the legal limit offences for THC, the active chemical in cannabis, and for cocaine. These are the two drugs that are most prevalent in drivers and that are screened by the U.K. drug screeners. In contrast, under Bill S-230, a drug screener could only be used in Canada as an investigative tool in an investigation into driving while impaired by a drug.

Despite the fact that Parliament had enacted the offence of driving while intoxicated by a narcotic in 1925 and the offence of driving while impaired by a drug in 1951, drug-impaired driving investigations remained a huge challenge for police until 2008. This challenge of investigating a drug-impaired driving offence was not unique to Canada. In the 1980s, in the United States, a series of tests was developed that helped to show impairment. This knowledge was used to develop a standardized field sobriety test for screening at the roadside plus a drug-recognition evaluation, or what we commonly refer to as a DRE, which is a broader series of tests that is conducted at the police station.

In the early 1990s, some officers from British Columbia were trained in SFST and DRE and commenced using these tests on those suspected drug-impaired drivers who were willing to participate on a voluntary basis. In time, many drug-impaired drivers simply declined to participate.

In 1999, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights recommended that experts consider what tools might be used by police to better investigate drug-impaired driving, and SFST and DRE were put forward. After several unsuccessful attempts, Parliament in 2008 enacted authority for police to demand that SFST tests be performed by a driver at the roadside. Before making the demand, the police officer must have reasonable grounds to suspect there are drugs or alcohol in the driver's body.

The 2008 legislation also authorized the police to demand the DRE series of tests at the police station if the officer at the roadside had reasonable grounds to believe that the driver was impaired by a drug. This belief is based on observations at the roadside, including the driver's performance of the standardized tests.

The DRE testing is conducted by a specially trained officer called an “evaluating officer”. It includes tests of the driver's balance and ability to perform divided attention tasks, and physical measurements of pulse, eye reaction to light, and muscle tone. If the evaluating officer at the police station identifies a drug as causing impairment, that officer may demand a bodily sample of urine, saliva, or blood to confirm or eliminate the possibility of the presence of a drug.

At best, under Bill S-230, a drug screener might help police form the necessary grounds to make a DRE demand. This would be a tool that could be used at the roadside, with or without SFST. Again, the police would be investigating a driving while impaired by a drug charge. This contrasts with Bill C-46 and experiences in the U.K., where drug screeners are very helpful in investigating the legal limit offences for THC and cocaine.

No one here will be surprised that drug-impaired driving is a growing problem in Canada. This trend is confirmed in the Juristat report entitled “Impaired driving in Canada, 2015” from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, published in December 2016. The number of charges for drug-impaired driving has increased fourfold or almost in the few years since the adoption in 2008 of new tools under the Code to help police investigate drug impaired driving.

As cannabis reform draws nearer, drug-impaired driving is a growing concern for Canadians. According to what I have been told, surveys show that the idea that cannabis does not affect driving is particularly widespread among young drivers. Young drivers may compare the effects that alcohol and cannabis have on their driving.

However, it is important to know that the human body absorbs, distributes and eliminates the two substances in very different ways. They also do not have the same effects.

We have a project that is being successfully completed on the government side. Bill C-46 looks very constructively at how we can use these new devices, like the oral fluid drug screeners, in the field. We are using the bill and the robustness of the regime it proposes to ensure that we keep our roads safe and, at the same time, reduce access to cannabis by our children.

As I have indicated, having drug screener legislation without drug legal limit legislation does not take us very far. Therefore, I intend to vote against Bill S-230. I support our government's far more comprehensive approach in Bill C-46 and encourage all members in the chamber to do the same.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

4:50 p.m.


Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my speech by thanking the member for Richmond—Arthabaska, who sponsored this bill from the Senate. I had the opportunity to sit with him on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. I also know his history as a school principal. Regardless of the political or ideological disagreements that we may have from time to time, I believe in his sincere efforts to improve public safety and national security.

First, we need to be clear: regardless of our opinion or our approach to eliminating the scourge of impaired driving, we agree in the House that it is something that must be done. It is particularly important and we all recognize that. Statistics show that there is an increase in impaired driving, particularly from marijuana.

For that reason, I support sending the bill to committee so we can hear more about it, because my past experience has not been very convincing. I refer here to another bill that we studied, but I forget the number; I apologize. I refer to the bill regarding random breath testing sponsored by a Conservative member. Many testimonies that we heard during the study of that bill can apply to the discussion of the bill before us today, in addition to other factors that we must consider.

First of all, one of the problems the parliamentary secretary just spoke of is that the bill only mentions the criteria already specified in the Criminal Code relating to alcohol-impaired driving and applies them to drugs. This is about the signs that police officers pick up on. Nothing much would change in that respect.

The maximum allowed blood alcohol concentration in the Criminal Code is .08, and in some provinces, it is set at .05 in matters of traffic safety. There is no mention in the bill, however, of a THC concentration that would allow us to determine how much marijuana a person has actually consumed. That is a major flaw in the bill. Why? Because we would need to rely on a person's behaviour, on what visual and physical cues might be present.

It is problematic because it is clearly a lack of training. We certainly believe that the men and women in uniform who ensure our safety are able to do this work. However, according to the study of the legalization bill and the government’s plan for impaired driving, we know that there is a lot of work to do to offer more training to the men and women in uniform to ensure that they can properly recognize the physical symptoms—if I can use that term—to properly detect cases of drug-impaired driving. That is certainly something that is extremely important in this case.

As well, the bill refers to a saliva test. The problem is that experts tell us that the presence of THC can be detected in bodily fluids several days and even several weeks after the drugs in question have been consumed, particularly marijuana.

The problem with that is that, without a fixed limit set out in the law, we could see situations where the presence of THC could be detected in the blood of someone who had, for example, smoked marijuana several weeks earlier—or several days, maybe; I am not sure about the scientific issues surrounding that, but that is a problem that we will face. So the presence of THC could be detected in someone’s blood, but the concentration would not be high enough to deem someone to be a criminal. For example, the state of Colorado has set a specific limit for the THC levels in people driving while impaired. That is a problem in itself because we could end up in a situation where someone is arrested who is actually not impaired, but who simply used marijuana at some point in the past. That is very concerning.

The other element that I refer to is the ability of these tools to properly measure what we want to measure, namely the level of THC in a person’s body. In the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security’s study of the bill regarding random breath testing, some members raised this question, knowing that the government was preparing a plan for the legalization of marijuana. Several experts, including police representatives, told us that a lot of discussion was still needed and that, at this time, no method was more reliable than another in measuring what we want to measure to ensure that drivers are arrested who are truly impaired.

If we want to solve a problem, we have to do it properly. That is why I want to talk about one of the shortcomings of Bill S-230, which is the same one that was raised in our debate on the bill I mentioned about random breath tests. The issue is that this approach is not comprehensive; it does not address all aspects of the problem. When the committee studied this bill, important stakeholders such as MADD pointed out that it has the same shortcoming.

We have been trying to figure out whether all these tests should be random, and we have talked about the burden that places on the law enforcement agencies responsible for keeping our roads safe, but each of those elements addresses just one aspect of the problem. If we really want to keep our roads safe, we have to look at a broader set of elements.

People often talk about education, for example. Some have suggested that we can figure out the best approach by looking at how things are handled by other countries with more all-encompassing marijuana legislation and some of the U.S. states that have already legalized marijuana.

Washington State and Colorado have rules about exact THC concentrations in blood, which must be measured before an individual can be arrested. Oregon does things differently. There, an officer who stops a driver uses visual cues to determine whether the driver is impaired before proceeding to other tests like the ones the parliamentary secretary listed. Other countries, such as Great Britain, have more specific measures related to blood THC concentration.

Again, I want to congratulate my colleague for sponsoring this bill in the House of Commons. What I said from the outset bears repeating. There is no doubt that every member of the House wants to eradicate this scourge. Too many lives have been lost to impaired driving. We need to do more to raise awareness. We need to give our police forces the tools they need to keep the public safe and do their job properly in order to improve the ever more staggering statistics. However, this needs to be done in a comprehensive manner. We cannot simply rely on meaningless indicators. We must set a very specific and discernible concentration level. That will be even more important in the context of legalizing marijuana.

Finally, I would remind hon. members that we need to have private members' bills from senators or members. Even so, the Liberals have had a hard time with the legalization bill. Even though we are in favour of legalization, the fact remains that the Liberals have botched this process in a number of ways, including when it comes to consulting the provinces. That speaks to the complexity and scope of such a bill. A lot of work remains to be done to ensure that everything is done properly. Nevertheless, I will vote in favour of this bill so that we may study it in committee. I look forward to seeing the end result.

Again, I will vote in favour of the bill to ensure that we can study it in committee, and I look forward to seeing the end result.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:05 p.m.


Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to speak to Bill S-230, an act to amend the Criminal Code (drug-impaired driving).

This bill is critically important for protecting Canadians from the growing epidemic of drug-impaired drivers, people who take the wheel while impaired.

It is becoming increasingly urgent to deal with this problem, especially with the Liberals' bill to legalize marijuana looming on the horizon. In fact, this bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code in order to allow police officers to use a drug detection device, not unlike a breathalyzer, which is not possible under current legislation.

It is obvious today that drug-impaired driving is just as important an issue as drunk driving, if not more important. It would be understandable to believe that the number of arrests of drug-impaired drivers is similar to the number of arrests of drunk drivers. That is not the case, and that is where the real problem lies.

In Canada, despite the fact that the number of drug-impaired drivers is about the same as the number of drunk drivers, the number of arrests is not.

According to the Government of Canada, in 2013, 97% of prosecutions for impaired driving were alcohol related, while only 3% were drug related. We know that the numbers for alcohol- and drug-impaired driving are the same, but 97% of prosecutions are related to alcohol while only 3% of prosecutions are related to drugs. That is a problem.

Why do we have this discrepancy?

Simply because there is currently no roadside screening device to detect drug-impaired driving. For example, as we all know, police officers who suspect a driver of being under the influence of alcohol can easily ask that person to take a blood alcohol test to check his or her level of intoxication. However, unfortunately, a police officer who believes that a driver is on drugs cannot use such a device because current legislation just does not allow it. In the absence of a device similar to a breathalyzer, which would allow police officers to easily determine at the side of the road whether or not a driver is impaired by marijuana, the process is far too complex, not to mention the cumbersome administrative procedure that follows.

Of even more concern is that not all police stations in Canada have drug recognition experts. That therefore leaves the door wide open to drug-impaired drivers. The hope is that there will be at least one or two such experts at every police station in Canada.

Without instruments to easily and quickly detect impaired drivers, the problem of drug-impaired driving will persist and will continue to cause many deaths in Canada. That is why Bill S-230 is timely. It directly addresses this problem by making the necessary amendments to the Criminal Code.

First, Bill S-230 will give the Attorney General of Canada the power to authorize the use of a device or several types of approved devices to identify the presence of drugs in the system at the roadside.

Such a device will be approved by the Attorney General of Canada following consultations with forensic science experts. The same process is used to approve devices for detecting alcohol.

The bill would also ensure that police officers who have reasonable grounds to suspect that a driver is drug impaired could ask them to undergo a test with a drug detection device. The device would therefore not be used without reasonable grounds.

This is no different from what the police do in cases involving alcohol. It is quite simple. We are not asking for a lot.

With drugs, time is an important factor. That is where it differs a bit from alcohol. The sooner the driver is identified, the sooner the level of impairment can be accurately determined, as drugs are quickly absorbed into the body. It is also good to note that Canada will not be the first country to adopt such a method.

In effect, countries that are not considering legalizing marijuana have already been using this tool for about 10 years.

That includes Australia, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, France, Finland, Germany and several other western countries. In those countries, this tool allows police to do their work better and prevent many accidents and deaths. Ultimately, public safety is improved and lives are saved.

Even more important, the use of such a drug detection device by the police discourages drivers who consider driving their vehicle after consuming drugs. Indeed, many people currently use drugs instead of alcohol because they believe they have less chance of getting caught. With the possible legalization of marijuana, this problem will become even bigger. That said, if the risk of being caught increases for users with the advent of a drug detection device, that would very likely be a deterrent that would help reduce the number of drug-impaired drivers, as was the case for alcohol when breathalyzers were introduced into the system.

While awareness campaigns and education are important, the risk of being arrested and charged with a criminal offence for endangering the safety of the public is certainly more convincing than an ad on television. Furthermore, a document prepared for the federal justice minister and obtained under the Access to Information Act reveals some troubling facts. The minister's briefing document states:

For example, in Colorado, in the year following marijuana legalization, there was a 32% increase in marijuana-related traffic deaths.

We on this side of the House are not making this up. Police officers are asking for screening devices. However, they do not want them on July 1, 2018. They want them now, or as soon as possible, before the government legalizes marijuana. That is why this bill is needed right now. That is why I am asking my colleagues across the aisle to set partisanship aside and support this life-saving bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I invite the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska to exercise his right of reply. He has up to five minutes.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:10 p.m.


Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues.

It is an honour for me to rise in the House today to speak to Bill S-230. This legislation is critically important, and passing it is becoming increasingly urgent. I would like to point out that this piece of legislation is also the result of a collaborative, non-partisan approach among senators who unanimously passed it across party lines. I would like to thank and congratulate Senator Claude Carignan and his entire team who worked extremely hard on drafting this bill and had the vision to get out ahead of the House of Commons.

The purpose of the bill is simple. It seeks to amend the Criminal Code to authorize police officers to use a drug screening device, not unlike a breathalyzer, which is simply not possible under current legislation. This bill is just as important as the startling problem it is meant to address. At present, the percentage of drug-impaired drivers who are killed or injured in vehicle crashes is 40%. This now exceeds the percentage of alcohol-impaired drivers who are killed or injured, which is currently 33%.

I would like to remind members that drivers who have used marijuana are six times more likely to have a motor vehicle accident than sober drivers. Drug-impaired driving is just as much of a hazard as drunk driving, if not more so. However, the number of arrests is not at all comparable. According to the Government of Canada, in 2013, 97% of prosecutions for impaired driving were alcohol related, while only 3% were drug related. This does not at all reflect the actual number of accidents.

The reason is that there is currently no roadside screening device to detect drug-impaired driving. For example, as we all know, police officers who suspect a driver of being under the influence of alcohol can easily ask that person to take a blood alcohol test to check his or her level of intoxication. However, unfortunately, a police officer who believes that a driver is on drugs or under the influence of marijuana cannot use such a device because current legislation just does not allow it. Without a screening device to help easily and quickly detect errant drivers, the problem of drug-impaired driving will persist and continue to be a major cause of fatal accidents in Canada.

Last week we found out that the federal government does not have any reliable scientific data on the quantity of cannabis an individual can consume before their ability to drive a vehicle becomes impaired. I just wanted to point that out. Marijuana is set to be legalized in 10 months, which is fast approaching, but the government does not have a single study to indicate how long a person should wait after smoking marijuana before driving a car.

The solution to this lack of data and answers would be to prevent anyone who has used marijuana from taking the wheel. The lack of scientific studies and the lack of tools available to our police forces to help them do their job makes the importance of this bill crystal clear.

It is also very important to mention that Canada is lagging behind many other countries that use roadside drug detection devices, countries such as Australia, Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, and the United Kingdom, as well as some states in the U.S. Those countries and states are not even planning to legalize marijuana and they have already been using these devices for over a decade and helping police officers prevent countless accidents and deaths.

Even more important, the use of this kind of drug detection device by police would deter drivers who are thinking of driving their vehicle after using drugs. When surveys show that over 50% of the people who report consuming marijuana think they do not pose a risk behind the wheel, that is cause for great concern.

The Liberal government's marijuana legalization bill, set to come into force on July 1, brings this issue to the fore and makes passing Bill S-230 even more urgent.

If the numbers are alarming now, imagine how much more alarming they will be once Canadians can legally buy and consume marijuana. That is why I am asking my colleagues across the aisle to set partisanship aside for today and support Senator Claude Carignan's bill, which, I should point out, is non-partisan and received unanimous support from all parties at every stage of the process in the Senate.

We need to take steps to deter drivers from getting behind the wheel after using drugs. This bill is essential. I am asking everyone in the House to set partisanship aside and give our police officers the tools they need to do their job well and with integrity.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members



Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion, the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, October 25, 2017, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

5:15 p.m.


Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, as we know, the topic of ethics has come up a lot lately. Today, we witnessed a fine piece of theatre as the Minister of Finance tabled his fall economic statement as a diversion.

I have a good memory, and I am pleased to tell you what we on this side of the aisle have been seeing for almost a month. We believe that all parliamentarians, regardless of professional background, must obey the rules and publicly disclose their private financial interests.

We have repeatedly asked the minister to do so, but unfortunately we have never gotten a straight answer. The finance minister did the right thing last week when he decided to disclose his information, more than two years after taking office. Everyone in the House was under the impression that he had already disclosed his assets and placed them in a blind trust. His colleagues in the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party, the Bloc Québécois, and the NDP were all convinced that he had already done the right thing two years ago.

Unfortunately for us, in light of certain information, it became apparent that that was not at all the case. In my mind, that is unacceptable. It is unacceptable for such a person, a minister in charge of billions of dollars of public funds and government bonds, a minister responsible for all the government's savings at the Bank of Canada, for hundreds of billions of dollars of mortgage insurance, a minister involved in his government's financial discussions about Barbados. I find it beyond belief that he would not have realized that he had a conflict of interest when he was elected two years ago.

This is the Prime Minister's right-hand man we are talking about. He has access to all the information, he drafted Bill C-27, and he owns assets. I find that unacceptable.

The question we have always asked, that we are still asking today, and that we will continue to ask is the following: did this Minister of Finance recuse himself from discussions that could have placed him in a conflict of interest?

I am asking this question again and I will continue to ask it. If necessary, I will keep asking it for two years. I will continue to ask it until this side of the House receives a clear-cut answer.