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

Report StageGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I might be a little more gentle than my colleague suggests, but the entire Liberal government, the frontbench, all those ministers who were wheeled out to defend the proposed legislation certainly would not smile with expectations of great things for Canadian society, but they constantly express their concern. They think they can use predatory pricing to undercut organized crime. That is not real; it is absolutely unrealistic. We have seen it in American situations and we know it will happen here. Organized crime will use predatory pricing.

We have seen the inability to enforce the illegal tobacco laws in Canada. Schools in my riding of Thornhill in Toronto deal out of the back of trunks of cars in front of the schools. The police enforcement has been absolutely insufficient because the burden of prosecution is simply too great. I fear we are going to see exactly the same thing when organized crime rises to the bait and exploits the loopholes the Liberals are leaving by rushing to implement Bill C-45 far too soon.

Report StageGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Yurdiga Conservative Fort McMurray—Cold Lake, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's speech was very informative. The issue I have right now is that we are potentially allowing 12 year olds to possess five grams. If we transfer the same rules for the marijuana bill to alcohol, we would be saying it is okay for children as young as 12 to possess two ounces of alcohol. I just do not understand this. This is not protecting our children. It is actually downgrading our society to a level I have never seen. This is not good news.

Report StageGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an area of concern. It has been addressed in debate, and it certainly was addressed at committee. There is that contradiction between the capability of a home grow with four plants, producing up to 600 grams of marijuana product, when the legal possession limit is 30 grams. The government says that it will prosecute anybody selling that or giving it away to children. The fact is that these plants will be in the home. Kids today will learn from one another. When it is legal, despite the allowable age to consume, kids will harvest the leaves and experiment. What we are doing is virtually the same as putting fentanyl on a shelf within reach of kids. Having plants in homes is just as wacky, just as unacceptable, and just as dangerous for Canadian society.

Report StageGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec

Liberal

David Lametti LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-45, the cannabis act.

Protecting the health and safety of the public is a key priority for all orders of government in Canada. In fact, that is why we introduced Bill C-45. Its goal is to create a strict national framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale, and possession of cannabis in Canada.

Bill C-45 would legalize access to cannabis, but only for adults, and would allow a limited amount to be grown at home or purchased through an appropriate retail framework, to make sure it is sourced from a well-regulated industry.

The bill would establish controls to protect youth, including prohibitions on selling and providing cannabis to anyone under the age of 18 and restrictions on marketing and promotional activities directed at young people.

Commercial growers and manufacturers of cannabis would require a federal licence and be subject to strict oversight to control product safety and quality.

While Bill C-45 would use the federal criminal law power to create a strict framework to control and regulate the production, distribution, sale, and possession of cannabis, the effective oversight and control of cannabis cannot be achieved without working with our partners in the provinces, territories, and municipalities.

From the outset, our government has been clear that the control and regulation of cannabis requires a pan-Canadian approach, involving all orders of government, at all stages of development and implementation.

This is reflected in the important role that our provincial and territorial partners have played in the work of the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation. This task force was established in June 2016, with a mandate to provide advice to the federal government on how to legalize, strictly regulate, and restrict access to cannabis.

Input from the provinces and territories was essential for the successful work of the task force. The provinces and the territories nominated experts to serve on the task force and make suggestions as to who should be consulted. They met with the task force and shared their views on cannabis legalization and regulation, and on how to best achieve our shared objectives of better protecting health and safety.

It should not come as a surprise that the views of the provinces and territories helped shape, to a great extent, some of the important provisions of Bill C-45. Like the task force report, Bill C-45 proposes a shared framework for the control and regulation of cannabis based on ongoing federal, provincial, and territorial collaboration.

The bill sets out clear controls and standards around cannabis, but provides the flexibility for each government to work within its own jurisdictional authority and experience. Each aspect of the framework would be implemented by those best placed to do so.

At this time, I would like to explain how the different levels of government would share their various roles and responsibilities, beginning with the federal role.

Under the proposed cannabis law, the federal government would be responsible for establishing and implementing a national framework for the regulation of cannabis production, establishing health and safety standards, and creating criminal prohibitions.

This would include: establishing restrictions on adult access to cannabis and establishing serious criminal penalties for those operating outside the legal system; creating rules to limit how cannabis or cannabis accessories can be promoted, packaged, labelled, and displayed that are in line with the rules that are in place for tobacco products; instituting a federal licensing regime for cannabis production that draws on lessons learned from the current system for access to cannabis for medical purposes; establishing industry-wide rules and standards, for example, serving sizes or potency, as well as the tracking of cannabis from seed to sale to prevent diversion to the illicit market; creating minimum federal conditions to provide a national framework to protect public health and public safety; and enforcing cannabis importation and exportation prohibitions at the border, except when legally authorized.

At the same time, Bill C-45 recognizes that provinces and territories, as well as municipalities, have an important role to play in the new system. Similar to provincial and territorial oversight over the distribution and sale of alcohol, the proposed legislation would recognize provincial and territorial legislative regimes that would oversee and regulate the distribution and retail sale of cannabis in their respective jurisdictions.

The legislative measures would also take into account the fact that the provinces and territories, together with municipalities, have the authority to adapt certain rules to their own jurisdictions and to enforce them with a variety of tools, including tickets.

As per the recommendations of the working group, the provinces and territories, together with municipalities, could establish rules governing the location of facilities for the production, distribution, and sale of cannabis in a community, and locations where cannabis can be consumed in public.

Provinces and territories could also set additional regulatory requirements to address issues of local concern. For example, provincial and territorial legislatures have the authority to set a higher minimum age for cannabis possession or more restrictive limits on possession for personal cultivation, including the lowering of the number of plants or restricting where they may be cultivated. As a result, Bill C-45 is drafted in such a way that provinces and territories can establish these stricter rules under their own authority.

Key roles for our municipal counterparts would include setting and enforcing local zoning bylaws, inspecting buildings, and carrying out local enforcement for matters related to minimum age for purchase, personal cultivation, personal possession limits, smoking, and place-of-use restrictions as well as public-nuisance complaints.

As the framework is implemented, I am convinced that our government will be able to work closely with its provincial, territorial, and municipal counterparts.

I am pleased to note that provinces and territories have already begun to prepare for legalization. For example, our partners in Manitoba have already introduced legislation amending provincial traffic safety laws to help police crack down on drivers who are driving while impaired by drugs and to restrict how cannabis can be transported in a vehicle.

The active involvement of our provincial, territorial, and municipal counterparts will be vital in helping to ensure that young people do not have access to cannabis and that those who sell cannabis outside of the legal framework will face stiff penalties.

Our government has said many times that it will be working with the provinces and territories to raise awareness and educate Canadians on the risks of cannabis use and to monitor the impact of tougher controls around access to cannabis.

In the 2017 budget, the government committed to investing $9.6 million over five years in a public education and awareness campaign and in surveillance activities.

As health is a shared responsibility between the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, provinces and territories complement federal public health programming, including through the management of public health and safety issues and school-based education and counselling.

In partnering with the provinces, territories, municipalities, and local communities, our government has announced that it will invest to provide law enforcement with the necessary equipment and education to ensure road safety. It said that it would also meet with the provinces and territories to continue discussions on how cannabis will be taxed.

Strong collaboration between the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, as much in areas of security and supply chains as in public education, is essential to reaching the goals of strict cannabis regulation, including that of keeping proceeds out of the hands of criminals.

Our government will continue to work tirelessly with all levels of government to realize our common goal of protecting the health and safety of Canadians.

Report StageGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, just today, Doctors of BC is calling for the province of B.C. to not allow home grow. Add that voice to Quebec that will not allow home grow, to New Brunswick that recognizes it is a problem and wants people to lock up their marijuana, and the other 10 provinces and territories that have come with no plan. Therefore, it is clear that they recognize that home grow does not meet the requirements stated in the bill. It does not ensure a quality-controlled supply. It does not get rid of organized crime. It does not unload the criminal justice system. It does not keep it out of the hands of children.

Why did the government consult broadly and then not listen to any of the provinces?

Report StageGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Mr. Speaker, the criminal law standard, which is within federal jurisdiction, is a heavy apparatus and through our consultations we set the criminal law standard at four plants to allow a certain flexibility to the provinces. The provinces are, within their jurisdiction, able to further regulate on that point. That a number of provinces have chosen to do so or are planning to do so is indicative of a healthy federal system in which both the federal government and the provinces are attuned to the needs of their people and the health of their populations. There is nothing wrong with some variance across the country, as provincial governments determine what to do with that standard.

Report StageGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, we in the NDP are very troubled by today's time allocation motion on Bill C-45. This is the 25th time allocation motion since the Liberals came to power. The committee has only held eight meetings on Bill C-45, and a proposal from my colleague from Vancouver East was rejected. She had requested two additional hearing days to give young Canadians, authorized producers, and edibles manufacturers time to testify.

The Liberals say they have been open and have listened, but these people did not get a chance to be heard. What is more, the 38 amendments proposed by the NDP were all shot down. Not one of the NDP's amendments to improve this bill was approved.

How can the Liberals claim to be open and transparent? How can they say they consider every proposal aimed at improving this bill and at making sure youth are sufficiently well-informed to know that drugs must not be taken lightly? The Liberals say they want to protect youth and take drugs out of criminal hands, but many questions are still unanswered.

Why do the Liberals want to rush the process even more? Quebec and several other provinces have asked for the process to be extended to allow enough time for a comprehensive study.

What does my colleague opposite have to say about that?

Report StageGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her question.

We have been working on this for a long time, since taking office, in fact. We have consulted people across the country. We even set up a special committee to study the matter. We have consulted the provinces from the very beginning. We are working with the provinces to find solutions, and their suggestions have been incorporated into the bill.

With this bill, we have sought to strike the right balance. As a government, we sincerely believe we have achieved that. It is time to move forward.

Report StageGovernment Orders

November 21st, 2017 / 1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to discuss Bill C-45, the pot legalization bill, or as I call it Phoenix 2.0. Why do I call it that? It is because it is an example of government rushing through a bill to meet some nonsensical, arbitrary deadline, despite warnings from everyone involved that we are not ready. In this case, instead of hurting those solely in the public sector, we are going to be hurting Canadians across all demographics, and especially the young.

With Phoenix, we had the opposition, the public sector unions, and department chief financial officers saying not to rush forward. With pot legalization, we have police chiefs from across the country, the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police, the RCMP, and members of the U.S. enforcement agencies saying not to rush forward. Sadly, as with Phoenix, the government seems intent on barrelling ahead, regardless of the warnings.

The Liberals are desperate to show they can keep a promise after all. “Look at me” the PM will say on July 1, hiking up his pants to show off his socks with marijuana leaves. He is going to spark up the first ceremonial doob on Parliament Hill, and run around taking selfies with those lighting up. No doubt, the clever Liberal marketing machine will say the PM just happened to be running by, shirtless no doubt, and a crowd toking up. Of course, his official photographer will just happen to be there taking some pictures. No doubt they will come up with some clever tag about the PM and hashtag it that he was “photobonging” some group.

However, there are real consequences to rushing forward when law enforcement is not ready. Let us look at the Liberal policy on pot from its web page, broken down by statement. The first statement is that current laws do not “prevent young people from using marijuana.” The Liberal solution to legalize the substance that is being consumed defies logic, to argue normalizing pot use and making it available everywhere will somehow prevent young people from using it.

Consider some real-world examples. Colorado went from 13th place to first place overall for pot consumption among its youth, after legalization. Washington State's pot use among students, post-legalization, is 42% higher than the rest of the country. Studies from the U.S. show that the young people have a perception, post-legalization, that pot is harmless and does not cause mental issues.

Allowing every citizen to legally grow pot, up to four plants worth at that, means by definition there will be more pot. The government has so far neglected to adequately explain how it plans to keep the extra pot off the streets and out of our schools.

Next it states, “Arresting and prosecuting these offenses is expensive for our criminal justice system. It traps too many Canadians in the criminal justice system for minor, non-violent offenses.” Let us be frank, things have changed since many of us in the House were younger. Police are no longer focusing on arresting kids for having a joint or two, because they are far too busy working on other important issues.

The police chief of Edmonton stated it clearly. He said that police may use the presence of pot as a cause to search a car or search someone, where they may find guns, opioids, or stolen goods. However, to argue for legalization because too many Canadians are trapped in the criminal system simply does not jive with what the experts are saying.

Next, the Liberals say, “...the proceeds from the illegal drug trade support organized crime and greater threats to public safety, like human trafficking and hard drugs”. Here is a clue for the government. The Hells Angels are already involved in the legal part of marijuana. I quote from the RCMP report to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. “There is no shortage of organized criminal groups who have applied to produce medical marijuana under Health Canada's new MMPR, including...Hells Angels”. Legalization is not keeping out organized crime. Organized crime is already taking advantage of the legal regime.

The Liberal plan goes on to state, “To ensure that we keep marijuana out of the hands of children, and the profits out of the hands of criminals, we will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana.”

In summary, they will keep pot out of the hands of children by legalizing the substance we want to get rid of, legalizing possession for children as young as 12, and making production legal, thus ensuring the supply will skyrocket. At the same time, they say we will keep the profits out of the hands of criminals, even though they have not said how, and they are ignoring the fact that the criminals are already involved in the legal system. The government seems to expect the Hells Angels will just turn over and say, “Well, we had a great run, guys. I guess I'll use my Harley to be an UberEATS driver now”. Maybe the government could offer the Hells Angels some of those reintegration services they are offering returning ISIS fighters.

Honestly, if people have been buying pot from someone for the past five years, getting a great price, and having it delivered to their door, are they now going to trudge down to the local government-run store, 9 to 5 only, Monday to Friday, of course, and on camera, to buy weed at a higher price? I do not think so. Mind you, Kathleen Wynne would offer them Air Miles points, so there is something.

Continuing on with the Liberal plan, it states we will, “create new, stronger laws to punish more severely those who...operate a motor vehicle while under its influence, and those who sell it outside of the...framework.”

Here is a great one. We have no standards on measuring impairment. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police recently met and narrowed down the roadside testing devices to two. We have not yet decided on the best one, much less have them in the hands of the police. More importantly, the failure rate on the device is as high as 13%. Let us think about that. Every single person charged will have a lawyer begging to take on his or her trial. What judge is going to say, “Hey, a 13% failure rate, that's pretty good. You're guilty”? None.

If the courts are jammed now, what happens once every one of these offences is taken to court? The government is letting accused rapists and murderers walk free under Jordan's principle because of its absolute ineptness and inability to appoint judges, and we are about to add thousands of new cases.

We could do blood testing, but that would require the officer to take someone to an emergency room. Our emergency room wait times are legendary as it is. Do we think any nurse or doctor is going to keep someone with a broken arm or a child with a runaway fever waiting just to draw blood for a cop for a weed DUI?

The costs of these roadside devices are $45 to $90 per use. The training for every one of these operators is about $20,000. How many locations are there to train these officers? There are two in all of North America, in the United States. Edmonton currently has only 24 officers trained out of a force of 1,800. Calgary has fewer, about 10. Maybe the Liberals are hoping that, contrary to decades of experience with drinking and driving, people just will not drive when high.

Let us again look at the statistics in the U.S. In Washington state, after legalization, DUIs with pot increased from 18% to 39%. In Spokane, youth pot DUIs grew 1700% versus pre-legalization.

The Liberal plan goes on. Next is those who sell cannabis outside of the regulatory framework. Our police forces are already stretched to the limits. We are not enforcing casual possession right now to focus on hard criminals, yet somehow, by waving a magic wand, we will have people available to go after those who are selling illegal drugs.

We have told the public that they can set up a legal grow op in every house and apartment in town. In Alberta, people are allowed to buy 30 grams of pot per store visit, not per day. That is 75 joints just from one store. How are we going to monitor every single person who can legally buy 75 joints at a time to make sure that they are only those of age, those who are not driving, and those who are not part of a criminal gang?

Finally, the Liberals have said that they will create a task force with input from experts. The experts in public health say that smoking pot before the age of 25 is damaging to brain development. Law enforcement is similarly clear. The chiefs of police are near unanimous. They have said they are not ready, that we should decriminalize not legalize, and that we should slow down.

The government simply dumped sales and distribution onto cash-strapped provinces and municipalities, so we will have a patchwork framework across the country. The Liberals have not listened to the task force.

I realize we are on the road to legalization. However, I implore the government to slow down until our police and communities are ready. It should not put public safety at risk just to meet an arbitrary political deadline.

I met with Edmonton's chief of police last Friday, and he had a poignant warning. He said that in 20 years we would look back at this as the worst piece of legislation ever tabled in Canada.

Let us slow it down and do what is right for our youth and our country, not what is right for the Liberal mandate tracker.

Report StageGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Mr. Speaker, I was curious as to the hon. member's mention of the rates of impaired driving due to cannabis in Colorado and Washington. When serving on the health committee, I received correspondence from the attorneys general of both Colorado and Washington that states that they did not have comparable detection methods before and after legalization and that comparable numbers do not exist. It also shows that since legalization, when they first started collecting data under the new regime, they found a decrease of 12% in impaired driving in both states. I would like to know how the hon. member would respond to that.

Report StageGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, it came from a 400-page, March 2016 report called, “The Washington State Marijuana Impact Report: Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area”, as well as a report called, “Colorado's Legalization of Marijuana and the Impact on Public Safety”, which was put together by a coalition of Colorado police agencies. I would suggest that perhaps the members of the health committee and the member across the way read all of that information instead of just hand-picking the information that suits his cause.

Report StageGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his eloquent speech. There was a little humour thrown in, but it had some very hard-hitting points.

We obviously cannot fit all the points into a 10-minute speech. Unfortunately, the government has called for time allocation, and so we are not going to be able to speak fully on this and put forward the concerns we are hearing from our constituents.

It was interesting to hear the member for Edmonton West speak about meeting with the police force in his riding last week. I did the same and met with the staff sergeant in my riding, who expressed great concern. He said they simply could not be ready. Even if the equipment and detection methods were there, he could not afford to send his staff for the training, and could not get replacement staff while he sent staff for training. He said they just could not be ready.

I would like to hear what the member has to say. Maybe he has a little more time to express more of what he heard last week.

Report StageGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good point, and it was brought up by Edmonton's police chief. He said they are not ready, and it takes time to send people down to the U.S. for the training. He figures that in Edmonton alone, just one city, it would cost $10 million to train officers for this.

I want to bring up something that came up two weeks ago when we were studying the supplementary estimates. In the supplementary estimates, money was set aside for the RCMP to set up a framework to prevent impaired driving. Keep in mind, just in Edmonton alone for 1,800 officers it would cost $10 million. How much is set aside in the supplementary estimates (C)? It is $5 million for the RCMP, which is enough to send 267 officers from the entire country.

One of the issues of the supplementary estimates (C), for which the parliamentary budget officer has criticized the government, is its slow rate of getting out the money, and he even commented that it is going to take months and months to get all the supplementary estimates (C) spending out. We asked the government when it expected to have that money out. Will it be weeks, as is required, or months? The government's comment back was that the money for the RCMP would be months and months, and that was an aspirational goal, not even a commitment to get the money out the door to get our RCMP trained on impaired driving.

Again, I implore the government to slow down. We realize that the government is going to legalize this, but slow it down and wait until the police are ready.

Report StageGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to mention to the hon. member that, as we know, Canada is number one in regard to cannabis consumption already. It cannot be worse than that.

I would ask the hon. member to inform us about other countries where cannabis is legalized, whether the consumption of cannabis among youth has increased or decreased.

Report StageGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in my speech, I was looking at two states that I know have legalized: Washington and Colorado. In one city in Washington, Spokane, which is a fair sized city of about one million people, impaired driving among youth post-legalization was up by 1,700. For Washington state post-legalization, consumption among students was 43% higher than the rest of the U.S. Numbers for Colorado were similar. The statistics show that if it is made more available, people are going to take it up and smoke it, and that includes all demographics, especially the youth.

Report StageGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Leona Alleslev Liberal Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-45,an act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other acts.

As my colleagues have pointed out a number of times, the current approach to cannabis is not working. It has put money in the hands of criminals and organized crime and failed to keep cannabis out of the hands of young Canadians.

The fact that cannabis is a controlled substance has not stopped Canadians from using it. In 2015, approximately 12% of Canadians reported consuming cannabis in the past year. For young adults between the ages of 20 to 24, that rate is more than double at 30%. The vast majority of Canadians are obtaining cannabis products from the illegal market. This cannabis is produced without regard for public health and safety, often in clandestine circumstances, with no oversight over how it is produced, no testing for dangerous or unhealthy contaminants, and no requirements whatsoever with respect to appropriate safeguards, factual and accurate labelling, or child-resistant packaging.

That is why our government is moving to enact this legislation. It would better protect the health and safety of Canadians by providing access to a legal and quality-controlled supply of cannabis, while implementing strict controls to restrict youth access to cannabis.

On the illegal market, cannabis products are often grown, produced, stored, and sold without regard for public health and safety or accountability to the consumer. The products may be contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals, moulds, and bacteria. The source of this cannabis is often obscure or unknown.

The bill would ensure that the production of cannabis in Canada is subject to a high and consistent national standard, in terms of product quality, as is the case under the current regime for the production of cannabis for medical purposes. This means that, under Bill C-45 and the supporting regulations, all producers would be subject to a licensing process that verifies that they have the capacity to meet the product quality-control standards. Producers would also have to conform to standards in terms of the safety and security of their facilities, the vetting of personnel, record keeping, and inventory controls. This would include rigorous requirements for product quality testing, standard operating procedures that must be observed throughout the facility, a sanitation program, and product recall measures to address any product-related issues.

The proposed framework would require that product quality be controlled through mandatory testing and that a robust compliance and enforcement regime be in place. In fact, Canada already has a world-leading system in place to regulate the production of cannabis for medical purposes, which provides a solid basis upon which to build.

Let me provide some of those regime requirements. Under the current regime, which has been in place since 2014, Health Canada is responsible for licensing and overseeing cannabis producers. These producers are required to operate within the regulations to provide quality-controlled cannabis to registered patients. There are currently 67 producers that are licensed to produce cannabis for medical purposes. These producers are the only commercial source in Canada of legal, quality-controlled cannabis for medical purposes.

The regulatory framework sets out a series of strict requirements that must be met to protect the health and safety of Canadians and the integrity of the legal system. For example, licensed producers are required to utilize strict production practices in their facilities, such as having a quality assurance person and a sanitary program.

Each licensed producer is required to test each and every product lot prior to its sale to the public. This includes tests for metals, mould, bacteria, and other potential contaminants, which can be harmful to public health. If the test results are outside of identified specifications, the product must not be sold.

Licensed producers are also required to test each lot for THC and CBD potency levels, and the results must be displayed on the labels.

Health Canada also announced recently that it will require all licensed producers to conduct mandatory testing for the presence of unauthorized pesticides in all cannabis products destined for sale.

These standards and controls are backed by a robust compliance and law enforcement regime to ensure that licenced producers fully comply with the rules at all stages of the production process.

Under this system, every licenced producer will undergo multiple unannounced inspections every year in order to verify that they are using the best production practices and following specific rules regarding the use of authorized pesticides. These inspections will also ensure compliance with rules on physical and personnel security, and record keeping. Last year, for example, Health Canada inspectors conducted more than 270 inspections on site and every licenced producer in Canada was inspected on average seven or eight times.

The features described are designed to ensure that any cannabis product released for sale to the public meets a high quality standard, but as in any industry, there may be circumstances in which a product may be released for sale that does not meet the established regulatory standards. Therefore, to address these situations quickly and authoritatively, the regulatory framework requires that licensed producers have a recall system in place to promptly contact clients and remove products that do not meet these high standards.

In short, Bill C-45 would build on a well-functioning, effective system to help ensure that cannabis that is legally sold in Canada is strictly regulated and quality controlled. In addition to setting controls similar to those existing under the cannabis regime for medical purposes, Bill C-45 would put in place a set of additional measures, tools, and resources to protect the health and safety of Canadians.

Industry might use marketing techniques to increase demand and revenues. We have a responsibility to establish reasonable regulations for these marketing activities to ensure that important public policy objectives, such as protecting the health and well-being of young people, are achieved.

The facts are conclusive. We have seen with tobacco that exposure to advertising, even if it targets adults, has an impact on children. Under the bill, advertising restrictions would apply to cannabis based on lessons learned from our experience with tobacco.

The proposed legislation and supporting regulations would also ensure that packaging is child resistant, reducing the risk of accidental consumption. They would also set limits for potency and portion size and require factual information to be clearly presented on the product. The oversight and regulation of production at the federal level would provide all Canadians with the assurance that, no matter where cannabis is produced or sold, it would be subject to the same high quality and safety standards and requirements across the country.

In conclusion, this bill provides a real opportunity for Canada to address health and public safety issues associated with the illegal cannabis market. The proposed framework would establish a robust system that would allow adults to have access to legal and quality-controlled products as a result of a well-regulated framework, compliance, and enforcement. This would place Canada in a better position to protect the public health and safety of its youth and Canadians as a whole.

Report StageGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite quite rightly pointed out that we have had a medical marijuana system in Canada for four years. It is a very well regulated and controlled system, with quality control testing and good tracking on the production and distribution of medical marijuana. The health committee heard that Washington state extended its medical marijuana system to recreational marijuana and got the best results in terms of eliminating organized crime and making sure young children, up to the age of 21, cannot get a hold of the drug.

Why did the government not take that experience from Washington, which had the best results, and put that system in place if it is going to legalize it, instead of this haphazard patchwork thing that we have across all provinces and territories?

Report StageGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Leona Alleslev Liberal Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, for medical purposes, we have a world-leading system of regulation, control, and licensing of the sale of cannabis, and we are using this leading edge to ensure that we can expand it to the recreational as well. This is important. We have to address the situation now because it is in the hands of criminals and our youth, and people are using it now. We need this legislation to be able to protect the Canadian public's health and safety, so they know the quality of the product they are getting and that we have regulatory oversight of it.

Report StageGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like the hon. member to comment on the fact that, although we are hearing warnings from the other side not to rush, we in fact have emergencies across Canada. We have an opioid crisis that is killing literally thousands of people across our country. I want the member to reflect on the fact that the little character at the foot of the stairs who is selling marijuana to our kids today is not just selling marijuana.

Report StageGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Leona Alleslev Liberal Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, ON

That is at the very core, Mr. Speaker. Fundamentally, we have a crisis. Fundamentally, we have a problem with our youth and organized crime and with the quality and safety of the product, because it is not just marijuana. Often that product is much more than just marijuana.

We do not have the luxury of waiting. We as a federal government have a responsibility to protect public health and safety and to provide a standardized framework across the nation.

We cannot confuse the execution of this with the standards and regulatory responsibility that we have to Canadians. We will determine the execution of this afterward, but at the same time we do not have the luxury of time. We cannot afford to wait.

Report StageGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

It is funny, Mr. Speaker. I hear a lot of Liberals talking about the opioid crisis and the cannabis legislation when in fact the opioid crisis is a legitimate public health emergency and yet, for some reason, they do not consider it enough of an emergency to declare it a public health emergency.

Cannabis is a bit different. While I believe it is imperative to legalize it, there is certainly no emergency to do so. It is not the NDP or the Conservatives who are asking the government to slow the process down; it is the provinces, including Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, and New Brunswick. Police forces, indigenous communities, and municipalities are also asking the government to slow the process down. We are not talking about defeating the legislation like the Conservatives are doing. New Democrats believe that cannabis should be legalized and we want to work with the government to do so.

My question has to do with pardons, which this legislation does not deal with. Could my hon. colleague tell me if the Liberal government has any plan whatsoever to issue pardons to the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who carry criminal records for possession, an offence that this legislation would no longer make a crime after July 1, 2018?

Report StageGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Leona Alleslev Liberal Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-45 is about taking leadership. It is about setting a new standard. It is about taking the next step in Canadian public health and safety. If not now, then when? It is our responsibility to address a public safety and health issue that is in front of us and is affecting our youth. We do not have the luxury of time. Now is the time to address something that is at the core of our safety.

Report StageGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Edmonton Centre. He will have five minutes, and then another five minutes when we return to the bill.

Report StageGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise to speak in the House today in support of Bill C-45, an act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other acts. In my remarks today I would like to focus on why a new approach to cannabis is needed in this country and why we need to act now.

The evidence is clear. The current approach is simply not working. All that it has managed to achieve is to unduly criminalize Canadians for possessing small amounts of cannabis and to encourage them to engage with criminals in order to consume products of unknown origin, potency, quality, and safety. It has also allowed criminals and organized crime to profit.

What the current model does not do is protect Canadians, especially young people, against the risks and dangers of using cannabis.

Although cannabis has been illegal for decades, the usage rate among young Canadians is one of the highest in the world.

We cannot allow this to continue. A new approach is required as soon as possible to better protect our youth and to make sure that adults have access to products that are quality controlled and have known origins, and so that they no longer run the risk of having a criminal record for possessing or sharing small amounts.

During the hearings at the Standing Committee on Health, Mr. Ian Culbert, the executive director of the Canadian Public Health Association, said:

Unfortunately, we don't have the luxury of time, as Canadians are already consuming cannabis at record levels. The individual and societal harms associated with cannabis use are already being felt every day. The proposed legislation and eventual regulation is our best attempt to minimize those harms and protect the well-being of all Canadians.

Any further delay in implementation would simply perpetuate a system that is already failing to protect the health and safety of Canadians. This is exactly why our government is committed to bringing the proposed legislation into force no later than July 2018. Upon the coming into force of Bill C-45, Canadians who are 18 years of age or older would be able to possess, grow, and purchase limited amounts of cannabis for personal use. This would mean that the possession of small amounts of cannabis would no longer be a criminal offence, and it would prevent profits from going into the pockets of criminal organizations and street gangs.

The bill would, for the first time, also make it a specific criminal offence to sell cannabis to a minor and would create significant penalties for those who engage young Canadians in cannabis-related offences.

Canada is more than ready for a new approach that will better protect the health and safety of Canadians. As my colleagues are well aware, Canada has already gained valuable experience that will help us create a sound framework for cannabis legalization and regulation. We already have a system in place that provides access to medical marijuana, and that system is recognized as one of the best in the world.

Let me share some more of the features of that system we are building upon. Under the existing health regime that has been in place since 2014, Health Canada is responsible for licensing and overseeing cannabis producers. These producers are required to operate within strict regulations to provide quality-controlled cannabis to registered patients. This rigorous licensing process ensures, for example, that entrants to this market have gone through a thorough security check and that producers have appropriate physical security infrastructure in place.

Canada also has a world-class compliance and enforcement regime intended to ensure that licensed producers fully comply with the rules in place.

Report StageGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The hon. member for Edmonton Centre will have six minutes remaining in his speech when the House next returns to this subject.