Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.
Certainly, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, also known as the impaired driving legislation. As we know, this bill is the accompanying legislation to Bill C-45 on the legalization of marijuana, which I studied at the health committee with my hon. colleague from Vancouver Kingsway.
This particular bill, Bill C-46, seeks to create new and higher mandatory fines and maximum penalties for impaired driving, as well as to authorize mandatory roadside screening for alcohol. I am in favour of taking a strong stance against impaired driving, but there is so much wrong with this bill that I am not sure I can cover all of it in just 10 minutes. However, I will try.
First of all, as I have said and will continue to say many times in the House, there are only 246 days left until the government can meet its arbitrary deadline for the legalization of marijuana. The provinces, police, and municipalities have made it clear that they are not ready. When this legislation passes the House, which will take some time, it then needs to go to the Senate. If the Senate amends it, it will come back to the House. When it is finalized, the provinces can have certainty about their legislation, which they need to line up with this legislation. When the provinces are finished with their legislation, the municipalities can then line up their legislation with the provincial legislation that in turn lines up with the federal legislation. It is at the municipal level that many concerns have been expressed about this bill, because it is the local police who will have to address the drug-impaired driving issue.
We already have a big problem with impaired driving. Right now, 16% of traffic fatalities are related to alcohol-impaired driving, and 24% to drug-impaired driving, of which the most frequent kind of drug involved is marijuana, and then there is another 18% involving a combination of the two. If we look at other jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana, all of them have seen an increase in drug-impaired driving. In Washington state, fatalities from drug-impaired driving, in this case from marijuana, doubled. In Colorado, it increased by 32%. There will be a lot more of these impaired cases to deal with. With that in mind, it is extremely troubling that there is no test for impairment.
The Liberal government always talks about being fact and evidence-based and taking a science-based approach. Well, here is what the science can do. Today, it can detect THC in the saliva and in the blood, but there is no research or correlation indicating whether that is related to impairment. There are a number of factors at play. For example, someone taking a huge dose of medicinal marijuana on a long-term basis might always have THC show up, but may be so used to it that they are not impaired. Other people who may have experienced second-hand smoke, for example, may have THC show up in their blood, but are also not impaired. By coming before the science we need to test for marijuana impairment, this legislation is just irresponsible.
As for the drug recognition training needed by police officers, the police have said they will probably need about 2,000 of these officers across the country. Right now, we have 600. To train 1,400 people will not just take a day. This training requires multiple sessions, and a lot of those sessions happen in the United States. We can appreciate that the U.S. training sessions are all booked up because of the many states that are legalizing marijuana. For that reason, I find it really hard to believe that in the next 246 days we will have trained 1,400 police officers to the level they need to do the job.
Municipalities testified at the health committee about the lack of resources and lack of understanding of the rural reality on the part of the Liberal government. One municipality testified that they had nine RCMP officers in total to cover everyone in a very widely spaced riding. If someone is impaired or suspected of being impaired by marijuana, that RCMP agent has to accompany that person to the next jurisdiction where the only available blood testing is available, and stay with them until the results are known. They consider this to be a huge burden on their resources. Of course, that has not been taken into account.
Every one of the places that has legalized marijuana has strongly advised Canada that public awareness and education is needed before legalization. That was not disputed by anyone. We know that Colorado spent about $10 million for a population of five million, and Washington state spent $7 million for a population of seven million.
In Canada the government has pledged $9.8 million over five years for a population north of 30 million. It is completely inadequate. The program has not been created or even started to roll out. There are 246 days left, and the public education awareness RFP bids just came in on October 16. It was key advice by everyone we heard from that we need to have that in place before legalization. Thus, we would think that the government would act responsibly to protect public safety and say that when it gets everything in place, it will legalize marijuana. Rather, it is rushing ahead toward the arbitrary date of July 1, 2018.
One of the other topics of discussion in this bill that I find a little hypocritical is the mandatory and random testing. To give members some history of my background, I was a director of engineering and construction in the petrochemical industry. In the United States there is mandatory medical screening of prospective employees before they are hired for a job and the right to randomly test at any time. When I was with Dow Chemical, I had an office in Midland, Michigan, and was subject to random tests because that is the law of the land there.
There is a real concern at nuclear, chemical, or petrochemical plants about this, because they do not want to have people who are high on marijuana operating their facilities. As the employer has the whole liability, it ought to have the ability to do something.
In Anne McLellan's report on marijuana and how the government should move forward with legalization, there was a section included on this concern after hearing testimony from employers across the country. There were only a couple of lines in their report with recommendations, but the Liberal government refused to adopt them.
I think it is quite hypocritical for the government to say that we need mandatory testing because it is dangerous to drive a car, and not say the same thing about operating a nuclear plant, a chemical plant, or driving a huge train. I am the co-chair of the parliamentary rail caucus, and we had the railway association here this week. The association was extremely concerned that it has not been allowed to implement any kind of random testing.
There are some promising precedents. There was a TTC case in which the courts did allow the employers to start random testing because of the prevalence of drug use. There was another case recently by Suncor that also allowed random testing.
I think we have to be consistent in our approach. If it is okay to do roadside mandatory testing or random testing, then it should be done as well, assuming there is a test that can show impairment. I have already talked about the fact we do not have one currently.
When we think about drug-impaired driving, the message has not gotten out there, especially to young people. In the 18 to 35 year old demographic, 40% of people are consuming cannabis. They do not recognize it is harmful to them and do not understand that 30% of consumers under the age of 25 will experience schizophrenia, psychotic disorders, depression, or anxiety, all of which are lifetime conditions. As well, they do not understand that it is hazardous to get behind the wheel of a car when smoking marijuana.
I am hugely concern about this bill for that reason. I urge the government to do the right thing to protect the Canadian public. Do it right. Quit rushing, and wait until the test exists.