Mr. Speaker, today the House deals with one of the largest changes regarding controlled substances in my lifetime. Throughout the debate on the larger issue of legalizing recreational marijuana, I have discovered that the issue is not as black and white as some members have put forward in their arguments. I agree with many of the points my colleague from Markham—Unionville raised. However, I said that it is not as black and white, and I will give an example. Every time the Liberal MPs talk about how marijuana legalization would keep the substance out of the hands of youth, it is asinine. For anyone to think that youth currently do not have ready access to illegal marijuana is also rather absurd. I am well aware that Canada has some of the highest rates of adolescent marijuana consumption in the world. It is available far too often in our high schools and I have heard horrible stories of how marijuana consumption has led to disastrous life decisions.
This can also be said of alcohol. It can also be said of crystal meth, fentanyl, and cocaine. I do not for a moment believe that marijuana is in the same column as the illegal substances I just referenced, and it is not my intention to degrade those who consume marijuana for recreational purposes. My intent is to emphasize that we parliamentarians should wade very carefully into legalization of recreational marijuana, which would soon allow every household in Canada to grow four plants.
I have carefully reviewed many of the submissions to the health committee, such as by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses' Association, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. These are just a handful of the over 185 briefs tabled with committee members, and in many respects the concerns these well-respected organizations put forward were almost identical to those voiced by my constituents during the five town halls I hosted on this topic this summer.
The best way to describe Bill C-45 is by quoting a Brandon Sun article published the morning after one of our town halls. I can assure those who think the Brandon Sun is under the umbrella of Postmedia that it is not. The article stated, “If a consensus could be drawn from a wide-ranging town hall in Brandon about the proposed legalization of marijuana, it’s an acknowledgement the legislation is flawed.”
I fully agree with what the article said. That is why I submitted a brief not only to the justice and health ministers, but also to the entire committee tasked with studying this legislation. It was not surprising, but still unfortunate, to report that I received a boiler-plate response from the Minister of Justice that did not even acknowledge the recommendations I put forward. If a duly elected member of Parliament cannot even get the correspondence team in the Minister of Justice's office to go above and beyond just copying and pasting a response, it begs the question of whether the current government has any intention of listening to concerned Canadians.
For a government that pretends it listens, the only way to get its members to back down from a proposal is for thousands upon thousands of angry taxpayers to show up en masse at town halls and write some of the funniest tweets I have ever read. For example, during the taxpayers' revolt this summer, many farmers took pictures of themselves sitting in their combines while harvesting, referring to them as their tax shelters.
I ask the government not only to implement my recommended change to push back the bringing-into-force date of Bill C-45 to 2019, but also that its members listen to the brief by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which stated, “Canadian police services will not be equipped to provide officers with the training and resources necessary to enforce the new regime within the existing contemplated timeframe,” or to the Canadian Medical Association, which recommended a comprehensive public health strategy with a health education component before Bill C-45 is implemented.
If the government thinks that police services, the medical community, and our education system will be ready within the next six months, and that municipalities and provinces will be fully prepared for July 1, I would humbly remind it on its own part, two years later, it still cannot accurately pay public service employees.
It is sad to say, but the government's credibility in implementing and executing effective policies within a reasonable time frame is not that believable. My hon. colleagues across the way have essentially ignored the plea by provinces and municipalities for more time to properly prepare for the government's politically driven July 1 deadline.
Not a single member of this House has any idea what the rules will be in their communities, because their municipal governments have yet to determine what they will be. It will cost serious money for municipal governments to properly train their law enforcement and bylaw officers, and even more, they will not receive adequate financial assistance to do so. They will be stuck with all of the headaches, while the Prime Minister, on Canada Day, will proclaim that marijuana is now legal.
To expand on my recommendations to the government, the majority of my constituents believe that the federal government should not look to marijuana as a cash cow, but should provide a significant portion of the federal taxes it collects from marijuana directly to municipalities in the same manner as it does with the gas tax fund.
For any of my colleagues who believe that police and law enforcement agencies will see cost savings from the legalization of recreational marijuana, it would be naive at best to think that such a highly regulated, controlled substance that will have even more strings attached to it than alcohol will somehow free up their time. Any time a government has decided to legislate, regulate, and control something, I have failed to see the resulting cost savings.
Regardless of the flaws of this piece of legislation, there is still no overall consensus among my constituents that marijuana should be legalized for recreational use. There were many questions about the effects on someone's cognitive abilities and the lack of general education about its long-term impacts.
While we debate this legislation and put a heavy emphasis on educating our youth, we must not forget that millions of middle-aged adults have next to zero experience with recreational marijuana and, therefore, that any educational programs must include this demographic.
It is absolutely imperative that the legalization of recreational marijuana not be rushed until the various law enforcement agencies, provinces, and municipalities are fully prepared.
I urge the government to rethink how the tax revenues will be distributed to those who will have to absorb many of the costs of regulating and policing marijuana use. I ask the federal government to heed the advice of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities not to move forward with this legislation until it receives further direction from its municipal partners.
In closing, I am under no illusion that the government has any intention of listening to the concerns of the good people of Brandon—Souris. It would be an understatement to say that I have hesitations regarding the legalization of recreational marijuana. Regardless of my personal trepidations, it is clear that the country is not ready for the July 1, 2018 implementation date. It is my hope that even if the government ignores every other concern or recommendation put forward, either by me or stakeholders, that it at the very least would push back the bringing-into-force date to allow more time to properly prepare for legalization.
With that I will finish my remarks and urge my Liberal colleagues to break ranks with their whip and the government to listen to its local law enforcement agencies, provinces, and municipalities to do the right thing.