House of Commons Hansard #235 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was young.

Topics

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I hear Conservative after Conservative try to give the impression that the legislation is going to pass, and all these Canadians will be smoking cannabis. I have news for the Conservative Party: they are actually smoking cannabis today. We have the highest participation of youth smoking marijuana in the western world. This legislation is a step forward.

The Conservative members say that this government is moving too quickly. If it was 20 years from now, they would still be saying that we are moving too quickly. We have seen that demonstrated in speech after speech by members of the former government, which decided to take no action on this important social issue.

Why does the Conservative Party not recognize the reality of the situation we have and see the benefits of fighting criminals by taking away the hundreds of millions of dollars the criminals get every year from the illegal sale of cannabis? Why do the Conservatives not want to deal with the issue of our youth consuming cannabis today?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, we are very concerned about youth using cannabis today. Again, the Liberal answer is that there are people using this evil already. This is changing the definition of what is wrong or what is evil. They are saying to let them make it right, then all these problems will go away.

The member asked whether the Conservatives in 20 years will say we should legalize it. We will not if the proof is that it is not safe for our youth. We will not legalize it if we do not have a way on the highway of determining whether someone is intoxicated, because we believe quite firmly in the protection of society as our guiding principle. If someone on the highway is not protected, because someone else is inebriated, and the police cannot make that judgment call, then we should hold off.

The Liberal answer to all is, “Rush ahead, let us do it now, and worry about everything else later”. That will get us into a big mess.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in support of Bill C-45, the proposed cannabis act as amended by the Standing Committee on Health. I support this legislation, in particular because Canada's historic approach to dealing with cannabis is simply not working. My remarks today will focus on why the status quo is failing Canadians, especially our youth.

Cannabis has been prohibited in Canada since the 1920s and is currently listed as a controlled substance in schedule II of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The prohibition of cannabis has not led to abstinence. As the Minister of Health stated at the Standing Committee on Health hearings on Bill C-45:

...cannabis has become the most commonly used illegal substance in Canada. Today 21% of our youth and 30% of our young adults use cannabis. Our youth have the highest prevalence of cannabis use when compared with peers in other developed countries.

This clearly shows that significant numbers of Canadians are using cannabis in the face of prohibition. One would conclude from these numbers that the prohibition approach is not impacting the consumption patterns for cannabis use.

In the face of such non-medical use of cannabis, what has been the impact of the prohibitionist approach? As heard by health committee members, the impacts of the existing approach have been, first of all, to sustain a cannabis industry run by organized crime; second, to jeopardize public health and public safety; and finally, to subject recreational users of small amounts of cannabis to unwarranted criminal liability.

The link between organized crime and the illicit cannabis market is well known. Cannabis is the most trafficked drug in the world. Organized crime groups are more than happy to supply the general public with cannabis.

The Standing Committee on Health heard from the public safety minister, who said:

Canada's non-medical cannabis industry is entirely criminal. The illegal cannabis trade in this country puts $7 billion annually, perhaps more, into the pockets of organized crime. Over half of Canadian organized crime groups are suspected or known to be involved in the cannabis market. Canadian law enforcement spends upwards of $2 billion every year trying to enforce what is currently an ineffective legal regime.

We know that organized crime groups pose a significant threat to public safety and negatively affect the daily lives of Canadians. These groups are tied to illegal activities, such as drug trafficking, prostitution, theft, and human trafficking, and have a violent and corrupting effect on the communities and cities where they operate.

The minister also noted:

With legalization and regulation, we can enable law enforcement resources to be used more effectively, and we can dramatically reduce the involvement of and the flow of money to organized crime.

The overall impact of organized crime groups in Canada extends beyond the obvious and immediate threat of these activities. Unseen impacts include greater costs for law enforcement and the justice and correctional systems, costs that are typically borne by all Canadians.

I would acknowledge that organized crime is not going to disappear from Canada by virtue of the passage of Bill C-45. Organized criminal activity in Canada is a multi-faceted problem that requires a broad-based, integrated response. That said, the current approach to cannabis has clearly been failing on many fronts for close to a century, and that continues to bolster the profits of such criminal organizations. Our government recognizes this and has acted.

Another impact of the failed prohibition approach to cannabis is on public health and public safety. During the Standing Committee on Health's study of Bill C-45, we heard from witnesses who emphasized the need to act now and end the current prohibition.

During its testimony, the Canadian Public Health Association stated:

The proposed legislation and eventual regulation is our best attempt to minimize those harms and protect the well-being of all Canadians.

I briefly noted earlier the threats to public safety posed by the existence of organized crime groups in our communities, but there are many more aspects of public health and public safety in the context of the illicit cannabis market. The existence of clandestine grow ops operating in communities across the country serves to damage properties and threaten the safety of our neighbourhoods. Such grow ops create risks due to mould, improper electrical installation and the associated fire hazards, unchecked use of pesticides and fertilizers, and break-ins and thefts, all of which result in dangers to neighbouring residences and first responders.

The current mechanism through which Canadians can access cannabis leaves much to be desired. The risk to cannabis consumers is heightened in the context of cannabis supply, which is unregulated and not subject to any quality control or packaging requirements clearly indicating the potency of the product. Currently, cannabis consumers do not know what they are getting, and there is no framework to promote the safety of the cannabis supply. Simply put, the cannabis being sold today is unregulated, untested, and often unsafe.

Dispensaries continue to operate illegally across Canada in defiance of our laws. The existence of clandestine grow ops highlights the need for a new approach, one that will ensure that adult Canadians who choose to consume cannabis will have access to a quality-controlled supply that is subject to national standards and contributes to minimizing the potential harms.

Finally, I would like to address the impact that the current prohibitionist approach has had on a significant number of our citizens, many of whom have been labelled as criminals because of their personal decision to consume cannabis. In 2016, there were nearly 55,000 cannabis-related offences reported to police. This is more than half of all police-reported drug offences. This resulted in approximately 23,000 cannabis-related charges being laid.

The criminal records that result from these charges are, in many cases, more than the individuals deserved for their actions. These individuals may often have difficulty finding employment and housing as a result, and may have been prevented from travelling outside Canada. Furthermore, the criminal justice system resources required to deal with many of these minor infractions inhibits the system from devoting resources to more serious matters.

To deal with criminal charges and records, the opposition would simply have us decriminalize cannabis. Let me be clear: decriminalization will not work. It will not achieve our objectives of taking cannabis out of the hands of our youth and the profits out of the hands of criminals.

Through Bill C-45, our government is proposing a better approach. With Bill C-45, our government has introduced legislation that would strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis. Bill C-45 would deter illegal activities in relation to cannabis through appropriate sanctions and enforcement measures. Bill C-45 aims to protect the health of young persons by restricting their access to cannabis, all the while ensuring that Canadian adults are able to legally possess, grow, and purchase limited amounts of cannabis across Canada.

Based on that, I would encourage all members to support Bill C-45 as amended.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I made a point of listening.

Today we learned that it was certain members of the Liberal Party who added the legalization of marijuana to its election platform. I would like to know whether these members or these groups of individuals are the same people who currently have interests in cannabis production.

Is it a small group of individuals that has influenced all the party's policies in a way that is detrimental to the future of our country? Perhaps it was just a few individuals with a great deal of influence within the Liberal Party who added this policy to its platform.

Can my colleague tell me whether any members of the Liberal Party have direct ties to marijuana production?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, the lead person behind this plan to regulate and control cannabis has been the hon. parliamentary secretary to the ministers of health and justice, a member of Parliament. Before he was here, he served 40 years in his community as a police officer and as the chief of police. His integrity should not be questioned in this place based on this bill. He has devoted himself to public service, and his rationale behind supporting this legislation is to improve the health and safety of our communities. He has seen far too much crime. We have all seen too much crime in our communities, based on organized crime both within our communities and beyond. However, the motivation behind this is to get cannabis out of the hands of our youth.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague said in his speech that decriminalization would not work. We have a government that ran on a clear promise to legalize marijuana. It has introduced legislation to legalize marijuana, and yet in this interim period, we are still arresting and laying criminal charges against thousands of Canadians across this country who will now, as a result, have criminal records for the rest of their lives based on something the government now says is fine and should be legal.

Could the member comment on the Liberals' complete failure to do anything about this problem? We are taking up valuable court and police time. We have criminals who are going free because they are not going to trial soon enough. We should decriminalize it in the interim so that people will not be saddled with criminal records for the rest of their lives, but can get jobs and cross the border, because we now say that marijuana is fine and we should legalize it. Could the member comment on that situation?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives say we are moving too fast on this legislation and the New Democrats say we are moving too slowly, so we must be doing it at the appropriate speed.

This was a campaign commitment we made to Canadians and, quite plainly, we are fulfilling that commitment. It is currently an illegal activity. We are working hard to fix that. As the parliamentary secretary mentioned earlier, the law is the law is the law, and Canadians are expected to follow it. We are looking to change that and are on pace to meet our campaign commitment by July 2018.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

November 21st, 2017 / 3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's speech. The bill is at report stage, meaning that it was already before committee where there would have been a number of experts who testified and made recommendations. Can the member cite a single quote from any medical expert at committee who suggested it is a good idea for anybody under the age of 25 to use marijuana?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

I will do one better, Mr. Speaker. My wife is a paediatrician, so I do hear it at home, and the hon. member is correct that individuals under the age of 25 should not use cannabis. However, prohibition has not worked. The Conservative Party said that we have tried nothing, and that has not worked, and there is no other plan available for Canadians. Let us use an approach that has worked on something like tobacco, for example. It is legalized, it is regulated, it is taxed, and we can use that revenue to pursue public education. After decades, we have had significant success in Canada in reducing teen usage of tobacco to all-time lows. This is something that can be done.

The hon. member is right. This is not a harmless substance and we do want to keep it out of the hands of our kids, but the only way to approach this is through legalization, because prohibition has completely failed.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak today to Bill C-45, the legislation that would legalize marijuana in Canada. I will say off the top that I support the legalization of marijuana and will be supporting this bill in general, but I have some concerns about the process it maps out for regulating the marijuana industry across this country. I spoke to this bill at second reading, but I want to say more now that it has passed committee, and I have heard from more constituents about it, and we know more details of the government's intentions regarding marijuana legalization.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I represent the beautiful riding of South Okanagan—West Kootenay, where it is public knowledge or at least widely recognized that the production of marijuana has been an important part of the local economy of my region for many years. I do not have any precise figures on its economic impact, since it is a black market. Certainly it is used widely, as I can attest after door knocking throughout my riding. It is because the government recognizes this widespread black market and recognizes that marijuana is used by many Canadians for both medical and recreational purposes that it has brought forward this bill to regulate marijuana, so that it will be used as safely as possible and that the economic activity it generates can be properly taxed.

We in the NDP support the legalization of marijuana, with some caveats. First, we are concerned, as I think we all are here—

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

There are members in the chamber who are competing with the hon. member who speaking. I would like to hear the hon. member. I am sure you all have something interesting to say, but I am trying to listen to the hon. member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay. I will let him continue.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It was indeed a bit distracting.

First, we are concerned, as I think everyone here is, about the use of marijuana by children and young people, and recognize there must be no advertising of these products to them. We are happy to see that Bill C-45 recognizes these concerns as well.

Second, there must be a taxation strategy that produces a long-term revenue stream for programs that promote public health, education, and research. One of the big problems with the criminalization of marijuana is that it has made research into its effects, particularly its long-term effects, very difficult. Hopefully, legalization in this country will stimulate serious research on this critical issue and, hopefully, there will be sufficient funds provided by the government to ensure that this research can take place.

Third, there must be legislation in effect to deal with drivers impaired by marijuana. This is covered under Bill C-46, which has already passed the House. I stated my concerns about this issue during debate on that bill earlier. Suffice it to say that I was disappointed with the government's faith in roadside saliva testing, which will not relate to impairment at all and will undoubtedly result in charges being laid against people who are not impaired. I hear that there are already groups lining up to challenge that bill in court.

However, our main concern with the marijuana legalization route the government has taken is that it has not considered immediate interim decriminalization of simple possession of marijuana, or at least allowing discretion on the part of prosecutors and police not to enforce an unjust law. Here we have a government that was elected on a clear promise to legalize marijuana, and yet two years later courts across the country are still giving people criminal records for simple possession. On the one hand, the government is saying that using marijuana is okay, and on the other hand, it is ruining people's lives, often those of young people, visible minorities, and racialized Canadians, by giving them criminal records for using marijuana. It does not make sense. It is really a cruel injustice.

Also, it is clogging our courtrooms for no good reason. We are seeing more and more real criminals go free because they cannot get a trial in a reasonable time frame. We should be looking for ways to clear up the courtroom logjam, and stopping the prosecution of simple possession charges would be an obvious place to start. We should also be pardoning Canadians who have a criminal record based only on past convictions for simple possession of small amounts of marijuana. These people have a very hard time finding work because of their criminal records and cannot cross borders, yet we are now saying that what they did was not criminal at all and, in fact, will now be completely legal. Let us pardon them so they can get on with their lives.

I want to change gears a bit and talk about some of the lessons we might have learned from alcohol prohibition. Marijuana became illegal in Canada back in 1923 at about the same time alcohol was illegal. Alcohol prohibition was rather short-lived and alcohol consumption was made legal again in most provinces by 1930. However, early regulations made consumption of alcohol not much fun. When I was growing up in British Columbia, there were separate entrances for men and women in beer parlours, people had to be sitting when they drank, could not listen to music, and certainly could not dance. Things have changed, and I think most people would agree that the earlier restrictions seem rather silly now, and certainly were not effective in curbing public intoxication.

Beer was once produced only by large, monolithic brewing companies, but now we have hundreds of small craft breweries springing up across the country. They not only produce good beer, but provide good jobs and diversify the economy of many small towns. In my riding, we also make the best wine in Canada. There are hundreds of small wineries in B.C. and Ontario, and a growing number in other provinces. The wine industry is a huge part of the economy in my riding, not only through the sales of wine but also by boosting the tourism industry that is so important in the Okanagan Valley.

What most people like about small estate wineries and small craft breweries is that they are small. They produce diverse products. People can go to meet the people who make the wine and beer. A lot of it is made from organic products, and many advertise the small ecological footprint of their operations.

A lot of my constituents say they feel that Bill C-45 will be like prohibition 2.0. This is not what they voted for when they voted for marijuana legalization. They do not want to buy marijuana from huge companies that produce huge quantities of product in indoor facilities that use a lot of power and pesticides to keep production levels up.

I recently met with a group of farmers and business people in my riding who want to grow marijuana on a smaller scale. They would like to grow outside, using sunlight instead of indoor grow lamps and heaters. They want to grow outside so they go organic. They will not have to use the chemicals needed to keep indoor plants free from fungus. They would like to grow co-operatively, each farming maybe a hectare of highly secure land and processing the crop at a central location for distribution. It sounds great. It sounds like the 21st century. It is allowed just across the border in neighbouring Washington state, but all of this would be illegal under Bill C-45.

In committee, the NDP moved 38 amendments to improve the bill and one amendment would have given the provinces the option to create their own licensing frameworks, such as those to allow for craft growers and small producers. The government side voted every one of these amendments down.

I agree that we need to legalize marijuana. We need to get the industry out in the open, away from gangs and organized crime. We need to tax it so we can fund the education, research, and health programs necessary to deal with drug use and addiction that are already so prevalent in our country. However, restricting the production of marijuana so tightly by making producers grow indoors and banning co-operative ventures, we will be incentivizing an ongoing black market that will defeat the original purpose of the bill.

Therefore, let us learn from alcohol prohibition. Let us not go back to 1930 for legalizing marijuana. Let us regulate it in a modern and intelligent way so Canadians who wish to use cannabis can do so in a practical, safe, and healthy manner.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the NDP has a new leader, Jagmeet Singh. He has been pushing the Prime Minister to decriminalize all drugs in the midst of the opioid crisis. In fact, the new leader has indicated that he wants it to be a formal part of the NDP election platform.

My colleague spent a lot of time talking about legalizing cannabis, saying that it should be the priority of the government. Does the member support what his party's newly elected leader is advocating, which seems to be decriminalizing all drugs?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to make up NDP policy on the fly in the House. I think the member and all his colleagues would agree that the reason we are legalizing marijuana is so we can regulate it, tax it, educate people about it, and keep it out of the hands of kids, where it is now. That type of project may work for other drugs. It has certainly worked in other countries, such as Portugal, and it might be a very good thing to look into. The government is taking that approach with marijuana for those very reasons.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will ask my colleague for his views about the concern I hear from many of my constituents of people driving while high. In particular, the concern is about the reliability of the testing that exists.

We know that for driving while impaired by alcohol, there are well-established ways of testing people's blood alcohol levels and precisely correlating levels of impairment with blood alcohol level. The technology is simply not there with regard to impairment by marijuana because the substance works differently. It is fat soluble as opposed to water soluble. There is not the same clear, reliable way of testing impairment on the basis of something like levels in blood.

Is the member concerned that with the government's rush to legalization, we do not have the capacity to effectively assess impairment and respond to it to ensure that people are safe on the roads?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. It is precisely my concern with roadside testing for marijuana, which we heard all about in Bill C-46. The justice committee heard testimony from expert witnesses who said, as the member said, that the level of THC in the blood being measured with roadside tests had absolutely nothing to do with impairment. The amount of THC goes up in the blood, but it is only when it is out of the blood and in the brain that it actually impairs people. Therefore, these tests have no relation with impairment, and that is a real difficulty.

We have to find a different way for measuring impairment with THC than with alcohol. As he said, with alcohol, it is very different. The amount of alcohol in someone's blood is highly correlated with the amount of impairment, but it does not work that way with marijuana. As I mentioned in my speech, groups will be fighting Bill C-46 in court over just this issue. People will be charged for being impaired when they are not impaired at all.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, safety while driving is one concern. Another concern I hear from the industry in my riding is the impact on workplace safety. Without the reliable mechanism for testing impairment if we legalize marijuana, there are significant concerns about people working on industrial job sites while impaired and the impact that could have on others. I wonder if the member shares those concerns, safety while driving yes, but also in an industrial context and in the workplace in general.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a similar situation. There is a great concern now about people on work sites who might be impaired. However, if we use these methods for testing the blood levels of THC, it will show that the people who use marijuana regularly are impaired when they are not and are totally capable of doing the work. Therefore, we have to come up with new ways of testing impairment to look at this problem. The method we use for alcohol will not work at all.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Colin Fraser Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak in support of Bill C-45 at report stage debate. This historic legislation represents a positive first step in the complex process of legalizing, strictly regulating, and restricting access to cannabis.

Since the introduction of the bill, it has been emphasized that the approach proposed by the bill is grounded in the basis of public health and public safety, including the goal of keeping cannabis away from young people.

Consistent with the commitments to protect the well-being of Canadians, our government introduced companion legislation, Bill C-46, which targets those who drive while impaired by drugs. This distinct piece of proposed legislation would strengthen the criminal law response to drug-impaired driving and help to increase the safety of our public streets and roads.

In its consideration of Bill C-45, the Standing Committee on Health heard from the Ontario Public Health Association that “impaired driving is a leading criminal cause of death and injury on our roadways, and cannabinoids are among the most common psychoactive substances found in deceased and injured drivers in Canada.”

Despite having made progress in deterring and reducing the amount of alcohol-impaired driving over the past decades, statistics indicate that drug-impaired driving is actually increasing.

I am fortunate enough to be a member of the Standing Committee of Justice and Human Rights. We studied the companion legislation to Bill C-45, that being Bill C-46. It is obvious that there is a problem on our roads today with drug-impaired driving, and the problem under the current system keeps getting worse.

According to Statistics Canada, of the more than 72,000 police-reported impaired driving incidents in 2015, almost 3,000 of those were related to drugs. This may not seem like a large proportion, but when we consider that this is double the amount of drug-impaired driving incidents since just 2009, the upward trend becomes very worrisome.

According to a recent publication by the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, 20% of cannabis users self-report as having driven at least once within two hours of using cannabis.

Another recent study based on the Victoria healthy youth survey in British Columbia indicates that 64% of males and 33% of females who were heavy users of cannabis reported that they drove while drug impaired.

The Ontario student drug use and health survey of 2015 reported that the percentage of drivers in grades 10 to 12 who reported driving after consuming cannabis was higher than those who reported driving after consuming alcohol. This survey further indicated that an estimated 29,500 adolescent drivers in Ontario alone drove within one hour after consuming cannabis within the previous year.

I think I can speak for all of us when I say that I find this to be very troubling. The fact that driving while impaired by drugs is currently a criminal offence punishable by a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 on a first offence does not seem to be a sufficient deterrent for an increasing number of drivers.

However, the penalty is not the whole answer anyway. What is clear to me and what the preponderance of the evidence demonstrates is that it is the fear of getting caught that acts as the real deterrent to impaired driving.

Given the current statistics on cannabis consumption before driving, I am fully supportive of the government's approach to strengthen the criminal law framework addressing drug-impaired driving. The proposals on impaired driving would authorize a new tool for police officers to better detect drivers with drugs in their body. These devices would determine whether a driver had certain drugs in his or her oral fluid, including THC, which is the impairing compound in cannabis.

The presence of THC in oral fluid is a strong indicator that cannabis was recently consumed and therefore provides useful information to a police officer who is conducting a roadside investigation. Again, what is essential here is that people will know they will be much more likely to get caught if they drive while impaired by cannabis. This will act as a real deterrent and keep our roads safer.

While reviewing Bill C-45, health committee members heard from the public safety minister who recognized “Essential to this new regime is engagement with and support for police and border officers to ensure that they have the tools they need to enforce the law.”

To this end, the government recently announced an investment of $274 million to support law enforcement and border efforts to detect and deter drug-impaired driving and for enforcement of the proposed cannabis legalization and regulation scheme.

Provinces and territories will be able to access up to $81 million over the next five years for new law enforcement training and to build capacity and enforce new and stronger laws related to drug-impaired driving.

The impaired driving bill also proposes new legal limit offences for drugs and driving. Once these offences are enacted, the crown would no longer have to prove that a driver was impaired by a drug if an analysis of their blood showed that they had a prohibited level of drugs in their body. This legal efficiency would provide a much more timely way to prosecute and punish those who choose to mix impairing drugs with driving activity.

I am pleased to note that one of the proposed offences prohibits certain levels of alcohol and THC which, as I indicated earlier, is a particularly impairing combination of substances. This proposed offence would send a strong message against driving after mixing cannabis with alcohol.

In my view, the proposals to address drug-impaired driving are a positive reflection of the government's broader approach to cannabis legalization in that they represent a cautious, public safety-driven response with the ultimate goal of public protection.

To reiterate the remarks of the Minister of Public Safety to the health committee:

...cannabis impaired driving is happening on our streets right now. The faster we get the right tools, the funding, the training, and the legislative and regulatory authorities in place, the safer Canadians will be. Legislative delay does not make the problem go away or get better.

At committee, amendments were adopted to require a review of both Bill C-45 and Bill C-46 three years after coming into force and to table reports before Parliament on the results of these reviews. This would allow the government to clearly communicate the impacts of the new legislation and to determine whether future changes are necessary.

I am pleased to recognize the substantial efforts of the government to fulfill two of its key platform commitments to legalize cannabis and also, importantly, to create new and stronger laws to apprehend and actually deter those who would otherwise drive while under the influence.

In conclusion, it is critical to underscore the objectives of Bill C-45, which is designed to legalize, strictly regulate, and restrict access to cannabis. With the highest usage of young people using cannabis in the developed world, it is clear the current system is not working. We must make it harder for young people to access cannabis, take business away from criminals, and put public health and safety front and centre. That is what Bill C-45 does and that is why all members should support this important legislation.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge the work that the member for West Nova does at the justice committee of which I am also a member. I am glad that the hon. member talked about the seriousness of drug-impaired driving.

In terms of the government's rushed and arbitrary timeline to move forward with marijuana legalization legislation, in terms of drug-impaired driving right now there is no approved screening device. There are serious questions about per se limits and how scientific they are given that there are a lot of questions about the correlation between impairment and THC levels.

According to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, some 6,000 police officers need to be trained but will not be trained in time for July 1, 2018, and then there are currently only about 600 drug recognition experts, whereas evidence at the justice committee and the health committee indicated there is a need for somewhere in the neighbourhood of up to 2,000 drug recognition experts.

In light of all of those things, how can the hon. member say with any confidence that we can be ready for legalization on July 1?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Colin Fraser Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, we did hear lots of interesting testimony at our committee. I appreciate the question the member is asking.

However, it is important to keep in mind a couple of things. First of all, the current system is not working. It is not working as we have the highest cannabis usage rate by young people in the entire world. Second, we also have to recognize that the criminal elements that are involved are profiting greatly from the current system.

As part of Bill C-45, the government, rightly, put in place a framework through which we can ensure that we are able to combat the scourge of drug-impaired driving on our roads, which is happening now. We know that there is an effect that will take place if people are fearful that they will get caught, that if they are using cannabis and driving they will be caught, and that if they are impaired, they will be prosecuted.

With regard to some of the comments my friend made regarding the tools and the training that police officers need, the government has put substantial resources behind the legislative framework to ensure police officers have the tools and the training they need. It is almost $300 million for that alone to be rolled out in due course. It is very important and vital that we get this right. The government is committed to doing it. It will be reviewed in three years' time. The money is there to make sure that the police have the tools and the training they need.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Liberal

Matt DeCourcey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from Nova Scotia who I know does diligent and exhaustive work with the justice and human rights committee. I certainly appreciate his counsel on this and many other matters.

He has spoken about how he has followed the government's plans from task force, through to the reading in the House, exhaustive committee work, and this report-stage debate, as well as consultation with constituents.

Could my friend perhaps talk about what he has heard from witnesses, and what conversations have reinforced his view that this is the proper approach for the government to take at this time?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Colin Fraser Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from New Brunswick for the excellent work that he does in Parliament.

It is an important discussion to have with communities across the country. I understand that there can be apprehension to the sorts of changes that are taking place. However, the most fundamental and basic principle is that the current system is not working. This is a matter of public health and public safety.

The way that we are going to make the system better is by ensuring that there is a regulatory framework in place that makes it harder for young people to access cannabis, and that gets the criminal element out of profiting from selling these drugs and taking advantage of vulnerable people.

Our government is committed to doing that. That is what I have heard from constituents I have talked to about this, that we have to get it right. We have to make sure that the proper regulatory framework is in place. The government is listening to those consultations and, importantly, putting those consultations into a framework that will work for all Canadians, keeping Canadians safe, keeping young Canadians safer, and ensuring that we have the right tools and training for our police forces to enforce the law.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, before I begin speaking to Bill C-45, I would like to highlight for those who are watching today that the Liberals took the opportunity to move time allocation on this important bill. In essence, that means they cut down the debate. They are actually refusing to hear from the members on the opposite side of the House today because they want to rush it through and get it to a vote. Why is it they want to rush it through and get it to a vote? Because they have party preparations to put in place for July 1, 2018. That is unfortunate. It is degrading to our parliamentary process to not have the opportunity to enter into a robust debate with respect to the topic at hand on behalf of the Canadians who have elected us to represent them here.

With that said, when I talk about Bill C-45 and the legalization of marijuana, I am not talking about its legalization for medical purposes, I am not talking about the legalization of marijuana in a way that is well-researched, thoughtful, or has taken into account the different factors that need to be considered, I am not talking about a bill that came out of a lengthy consultation process or a scientific endeavour, I am talking about a bill that was incredibly rushed in nature. It really did not take scientific evidence into consideration. It did not take the insight of law enforcement agents, health care practitioners, or experts into consideration. Really all it does is rush through this piece of legislation at a rate that is unnecessary and with a deadline that is arbitrary. That is of course, July 1, 2018.

I have heard from many people who are very worried about this legislation. Many have spoken out at a national level, including aboriginal leaders, law enforcement agents, health experts, municipalities, provinces, and of course concerned citizens from all across the country. Some of the things that they are saying are that they are concerned about children accessing marijuana easily and the age at which they are legally able to acquire it, the lack of education programs, the timeline and the fact that it is very rushed, the costs to the municipalities and provinces, and the fact that they really do not feel they have been given adequate time to respond. I am hearing from law enforcement agents much the same about the costs and the timeline. As well, they are bringing up drug-impaired driving. Then there is the issue around taxation. Therefore, in this time that I have, I would like to address some of these issues to a greater extent.

When it comes to children, I believe the government should take them and their future very seriously. That is part of what this place is about. There are 338 of us who have been elected to make decisions on behalf of Canadians from coast to coast. Yes, we make those decisions for today, but we also have to be aware of how those decisions will impact those who would come after us tomorrow.

Unfortunately, this legislation is ill-drafted in terms of its legal age of access, which is age 18. If we were to talk to the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Paediatric Society, or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, they would all say that the age of 18 is too young, that the human brain is developing until the age of 25, and that the use of marijuana impedes the full development of the human brain. Therefore, they have called for the legal age to be 25, and then said that perhaps age 21 would be a good negotiating point. That amendment was brought forward at committee. Of course, the Liberals shut that down. Therefore, it begs the question of whether the government is acting responsibly by setting the age at 18. The government also said that it would take the next generation seriously. It said that it would be the party that wants to keep marijuana out of the hands of young people. However, by setting the legal age at 18, and allowing four plants to be grown in our homes, which I will talk about momentarily, it is really not looking that seriously at keeping it out of the hands of young people.

Not only that, I heard from a group of young people who I meet with on a monthly basis to advise me on different topics at hand. We talked about the legalization of marijuana, and they said this, “If we legalize marijuana”, and of course we are going down that road, “and we do it according to the mechanisms that are at play here without education”, which there is none of right now, “it will normalize it and young people will think it is just okay, that there are no negative repercussions to the use of marijuana.” The young people I am listening to are telling me they are quite concerned. They are concerned for themselves, for their peers, and are very concerned for their younger siblings and what they might fall prey to. I think that is definitely worth considering.

A further point we need to consider related to child access is definitely education. In their budget, the Liberals did promise a considerable amount for education. They said $9.6 million over five years. In my estimation, that is not enough. I do not know if they are going to be able to afford an adequate education campaign with that amount of money over five years. Nevertheless, it is money put aside. It is money that was promised to this cause, and the Liberals did commit to a “robust”, which is the Prime Minister's word, campaign with regard to educating young people.

To date, we have seen nothing. There has been no action, nothing, just a broken promise. We see them talking out of one side of their face saying that education is very important and we want to keep it out of the hands of young people, but then out of the other side, they are actually not willing to move the dial and invest money in getting an education program up and running, which of course means that we are actually setting young people up for experimentation and for the normalization of drug use among our children.

I have yet another concern. This proposed legislation would allow for four plants to be in every household. Let me amuse the House for just one moment. I did a little research, and one plant equals 1.2 kilograms or 1,200 grams of marijuana, which is how much that would produce. If there is 0.66 grams in each joint on average, which is what my research told me, then one plant would actually produce 792 joints. However, we would be allowed not one but four plants, and four plants would actually produce 3,168 joints. Now at 3,168 joints—and on average people smoke about three joints a day, which is what my research told me—then four plants in a household would produce 1,056 days worth of joints. I ask the House if that sounds like a personal amount. I am just curious. This would leave plenty to sell and plenty to use, and those plants would be right in a person's home.

I am not speaking out on this on my own. Law enforcement agents are also very concerned about this, and they are begging the question of why we would allow four plants in a home when we are legalizing marijuana and people can go down the street and get it a store.

My next point is with regard to law enforcement agents. They came to the committee and told us their concerns, and there are many of them. One is that they are concerned about the deadline of July 1. They are telling us that they will not have their men and women in uniform trained to deal with this. They are saying that the wait list for training is super-long and the cost is extravagant. Not only that, but agents would have to be sent to the United States to access that training. In essence, they told the committee that they needed more time and more than double the number of police officers who are certified to conduct roadside drug-impaired driving testing.

This should concern us. I do not want to be on the road. I do not want my nieces, nephews, brother, sisters, parents, or anyone else on the road when there are individuals out there who are impaired, and that is normal. I am not okay with that. Again, we need that robust education program put in place so that people understand. Also, we need law enforcement agents in place so that they can actually enforce the law.

The officers who came to committee also said that we can expect about a six- to 12-month gap between the legislation coming into effect when people legally have access to marijuana and the point where the police are actually caught up and able to enforce. This is a six- to 12-month gap, and they said that this will allow organized crime to “flourish”. So much for keeping organized crime down.

I also want to draw to members' attention the costs and consequences that this proposed legislation would mean for municipalities and provinces. We are talking about a cost for our law enforcement agents. We are talking about a cost with regard to putting policy in place. We are talking about insurance costs for private employers and policy costs at that level as well. We are talking about costs with regard to just different legislative pieces that have to be put in place, and all of the consultations and legal work that have to be done around that.

All in all, the point I wish to make today is that the Liberals are rushing through with the bill. They are choosing to rush this proposed legislation through based on an arbitrary deadline that carries absolutely no weight or essence in the House. They could stop it. They could halt it. They could adequately consult. They could be responsible and listen to the experts who have spoken on this proposed legislation. Right now, the government is choosing to act irresponsibly, and I highlight the word “choosing”. They are choosing to put inadequate legislation in place over this country.