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House of Commons Hansard #141 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crisis.

Topics

150th Anniversary of ConfederationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, a number of medals have been issued by the Government of Canada on significant milestones in our country's history to recognize the contributions of everyday Canadians and their communities; contributions that mean so much to so many, but too often go unnoticed and unrecognized.

A medal was issued for our Confederation in 1867, the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation in 1927, the Centennial in 1967, and the 125th anniversary of Confederation in 1992.

However, as part of the Liberal war on history, there will be no medal honouring the country-building contributions of Canadians on the 150th anniversary of Confederation. The tradition is being ignored and community-leading Canadians are being forgotten.

The petitioners from Eganville, Ontario call upon the Government of Canada to respect tradition and recognize deserving Canadians, and reverse its decision to cancel the commemorative medal for the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, if the government's response to Question No. 827 could be made an order for return, this return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 827Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Eglinski Yellowhead

With regard to the Prime Minister’s trip to China in August and September of 2016: (a) what was the total cost to taxpayers of the trip; (b) how much was spent on accommodation; (c) how much was spent on food; and (d) how much was spent on other expenses, including a description of each expense?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions on the Order Paper—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I am now prepared to rule on the points of order raised on December 12, 2016 and February 7, 2017 by the member for Carleton, related to the government response to written Question No. 575, which was tabled in the House on December 9, 2016, and on the point of order raised on February 1, 2017 by the member for Calgary Shepard, related to the government response to written Question No. 510, which was tabled in the House on November 14, 2016.

I would like to thank the hon. members for Carleton and for Calgary Shepard for having raised these matters, as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for his comments.

In his arguments, the member for Carleton indicated that, although the minister did provide a response to his written question, he was dissatisfied with the response which, in his opinion, lacked the specific information he had requested.

He later argued that he discovered that the government had concealed information in the answer it had provided to his written question. The member even suggested: “that this matter may rise to the seriousness of contempt.” Finally, he contended that, as Speaker, I had an obligation to compel the government to provide this information.

As for the member for Calgary Shepard, he explained that, although the government did answer three sections of his written Question No. 510, he did not receive an answer to the other parts. Although satisfied with the answers that he did receive, he explained: “I am not asking you, Mr. Speaker, to review the quality or accuracy of the response. I am asking you to address the lack of a response.”

For his part, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons contended, on February 7, 2017, that it was not the role of the Speaker to judge the content or quality of answers to written questions.

Written questions are a mechanism by which members of Parliament can obtain information from the government and hold it to account. The member for Carleton was correct in his assertion that, “It is a basic right of members of Parliament to ask these questions on behalf of Canadians.”.

By raising their dissatisfaction with the responses to their written questions, both members are in effect asking the Chair to assess the quality and completeness of answers provided to written questions.

Members are fully aware that it is not the first time such issues have been raised in the House and members will note that the Chair has been consistent in its response to these concerns. My predecessor, on May 26, 2015, in ruling on a similar matter, stated on page 14137 of the Debates, and I quote:

Invariably, when members deem that the content or quality of responses to written questions falls short, the Chair is asked to adjudicate. In each instance, the Chair has sought to remind members of the clear and long-standing limitations of the role of the Speaker in this regard.

These limitations are made clear on page 522 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, which I cited on September 27, 2016, at page 5175 of Debates, in a ruling concerning a similar question. To quote it again:

There are no provisions in the rules for the Speaker to review government responses to questions.

On February 8, 2005, Speaker Milliken confirmed this, at page 3234 of House of Commons Debates, stating, and I quote:

Any dispute regarding the accuracy or appropriateness of this response is a matter of debate. It is not something upon which the Speaker is permitted to pass judgment.

This is much like the quality of questions and answers during question period.

My predecessor, on April 3, 2012, in ruling on a similar matter, further stated that it is not the Speaker’s role to determine if the contents of documents tabled in the House are complete.

Members place great importance on their right to hold the government to account, either by asking oral or written questions. It is a right that is legitimized by parliamentary procedure and the role of the Speaker in those instances is to make sure the rules have been followed.

In the cases before us, both the member for Carleton and the member for Calgary Shepard put their respective written questions on notice, pursuant to Standing Order 39, and pursuant to Standing Order 39(7), their questions were each made an order for return and the answer was tabled.

In view of the precedents available to me, the Chair is bound to conclude that the government has complied with the requirements of the Standing Orders. The Chair is not empowered to rule on the quality or completeness of the answers. I therefore cannot find that there has been any breach of the rules and practices of the House in these cases.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 15th, 2017 / 3:25 p.m.

Markham—Stouffville Ontario

Liberal

Jane Philpott LiberalMinister of Health

moved that Bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other acts, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise on the third reading of Bill C-37. I am particularly gratified at the speed with which the bill has moved through the House of Commons. I want to thank all members, including all parties, who have been very helpful in agreeing to time allocation, agreeing to expediting the committee process, and the fantastic work at the committee level to move the bill along. This demonstrates the serious nature of the bill, and recognizes the ongoing opioid crisis and the need for urgent action.

Bill C-37 is one of a range of comprehensive responses to this very challenging issue. We are eager to advance the bill through Parliament to help protect the health and safety of Canadians and their communities.

It has been said before in the House that problematic substance use is an issue that affects Canadians of all ages. It affects people from all socio-economic groups. We should also point out that there are, however, particular groups that are excessively vulnerable to the risks associated with problematic substance use, people living in poverty, people who have experienced trauma in their lives, and indigenous peoples of Canada.

We are facing nothing short of the greatest drug crisis our country has faced. It is a national public health crisis related to opioids. For example, one may draw attention to the fact that in British Columbia last year more than 900 people died from overdoses. That was an 80% increase over 2015. The majority of those deaths were related to the rapid spread of the drug fentanyl.

Elsewhere in Canada, we are hearing from law enforce officials that there are increasing numbers of seizures of fentanyl and carfentanil.

Last week, we heard about the distressing number of deaths linked to opioids in Alberta. For example, in 2016, 343 people died in Alberta from fentanyl overdoses. That was an increase over 257 the previous year.

It is necessary that the Government of Canada use every single tool at our disposal to help turn the tide on this crisis. We need a policy approach that is comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and evidence-based.

Bill C-37 would further strengthen our government's response to the opioid crisis.

Lest there be any doubt that we are pulling out all the stops to respond to this crisis, let me review what we have done over the past year. It includes things like ensuring naloxone, which is the antidote to overdose, is available on a non-prescription basis across the country. That involved me ensuring that we had naloxone nasal spray available on an emergency order so it would be available to Canadians, and expediting the approval of naloxone nasal spray.

We also launched Health Canada's opioid action plan. This is a plan to improve access to education for both the public, as well as prescribers, to ensure that we support better treatment options, that we reduce access to unnecessary opioids, and that we expand the evidence base.

In the matter of expanding the evidence base and getting better data, we supported McMaster University to produce guidelines for prescribing opioids in situations of chronic pain. Those new guidelines are now available for consultation.

We overturned a ban on prescription heroin so doctors might use it through Health Canada's special access programs to treat the most severe cases of addiction.

We have supported the good Samaritan drug overdose act, which offers immunity against charges for simple possession for individuals so they will call 911 if they witness an overdose and they will stay at the scene to help.

We have also put in place a number of regulations to schedule fentanyl precursors for controlled substances, making it harder for illicit substances to be manufactured in Canada.

I co-hosted, along with the minister of health for Ontario, the opioid conference and summit. At that summit, we had nine provincial and territorial health ministers. We also had 30 other organizations. We produced a joint statement of action that had 128 commitments.

In addition, in collaboration with the provinces and territories, we have put together a special advisory committee that includes the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health. This committee is very active at ensuring we have better access to data that is up to date about the state of the circumstances.

We also have a task force within the federal health portfolio to work with all federal departments in a comprehensive response to the crisis.

We funded the Canadian research initiative on substance misuse. It is providing now evidence-based guidelines for medication-assisted treatment.

In December, I joined the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in introducing Canada's new drugs and substances strategy. We reintroduced at that time harm reduction as a key pillar in drug policy.

I would like to talk now a bit about what we have done to support the establishment of supervised consumption sites. Early on, we granted an exemption to the Dr. Peter Centre in Vancouver to operate a facility, and we provided an unprecedented four year exemption to Insite to continue the good work it was doing.

For communities that have demonstrated a need and desire to have such a site in their community, we want to create an environment that will encourage applicants to come forward. That is why, pending passage of the bill, we have adjusted operational procedures in the interests of removing unnecessary barriers to the review and approval of supervised consumption sites.

Just last week, I was very pleased that we were able to issue exemptions for three new supervised consumption sites at fixed locations in Montreal. The time frame to approve these sites was unacceptable. It took a year and a half, and that was due to the onerous 26 criteria that existed under the previous legislation. However, finally we were able to get an exemption for them. These new sites, located in Hochelaga, Maisonneuve and Ville-Marie districts and operated by the Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux du Centre-Sud-de-l'Ile-de-Montréal, will be able to provide care for people in those areas.

Health Canada has expedited a review of 10 pending requests for approval in other communities. There is an additional site in Montreal, three sites in Toronto, two in Vancouver, two in Surrey, one in Ottawa and one in Victoria.

Even while doing this, we have maintained the key essential criteria to ensure we protect the health and safety of staff, people who use drugs, and the neighbours who are in the areas of the proposed sites. We are working with all applicants to ensure that those applications are complete and that the department has received the necessary information.

Passing Bill C-37 will be so helpful to streamline the application process and it will be a big step forward for these communities.

Some have wondered why we have not declared a public health emergency. What I have said for months is that clearly we are in the midst of a national public health crisis of unprecedented proportions related to a growing number of opioid overdose deaths. However, the Federal Emergencies Act, which was formerly called the War Measures Act, is a tool of last resort. It is there to ensure public safety and security when a national emergency cannot be addressed by any other law. This act was not used in the case of SARS, H1N1 or Ebola. It is not the right instrument, but as I have already noted, we will make use of every tool at our disposal. We have already taken extraordinary steps at the federal level, and Bill C-37 is another essential step.

Bill C-37 needs to be passed without delay. This is not a political matter or an ideological matter; it is a matter of saving lives.

With the current growing rates of opioid overdoses and deaths, we have recognized there are gaps and weaknesses in the current federal legislative framework as it relates to controlled substances. To address those under Bill C-37, we will provide the government with the ability to more easily support the establishment of supervised consumption sites, a key measure in harm reduction.

We will also address the illegal supply, production and distribution of drugs. We will reduce the risk of diversion of controlled substances that are used for legitimate purposes to the illegal market by providing improved compliance and enforcement tools.

Bill C-37 would simplify and streamline the application process for communities that want and need supervised consumption sites. It would replace the 26 application criteria with the five factors that were identified by the Supreme Court in its 2011 decision regarding Insite.

It is important for all members to understand that Bill C-37 retains the need for community consultation, and it also adds increased transparency, making it a requirement for the Minister of Health to make public decisions on applications, including any reasons for denial.

To support these proposed changes, Health Canada will post information online about what is required in applications, how the process works, and the status of applications.

Supervised consumption sites are an essential part of a harm reduction measure. There is a vast abundance of international and Canadian evidence that shows that when they are properly established and maintained, they save lives and improve health without increasing drug use or crime in surrounding areas, they prevent infection, and, best of all, they provide a safe, non-stigmatizing, non-judgmental way for people to be introduced to the health care system.

Harm reduction measures in Bill C-37 complement a number of other actions that the government is taking to protect community safety. For example, the RCMP is working with the Chinese ministry of public safety to combat the flow of illicit fentanyl and other opioids into Canada.

Bill C-37 is proposing to prohibit the unregistered importation of pill presses and encapsulators, which would make it more difficult to produce illicit drugs and, in turn, keep these illicitly produced opioids and other substances off our streets. Bill C-37 would also give border services officers greater flexibility to inspect suspicious incoming international mail. As has been said before, just a standard-sized envelope can contain enough fentanyl to cause thousands of overdoses.

Before I conclude, I want to say a few words about treatment. It is absolutely essential to understand that we will not turn this crisis around by harm reduction alone. People need to have access to the broadest range of treatment options. Delivery of health services, including the treatment of addictions, falls largely under provincial and territorial jurisdiction. That is why I am very pleased to say that this fiscal year the federal government is transferring $36 billion to the provinces and territories to support the delivery of care. With the support of the Prime Minister, we identified new funding for the provinces and territories, in the order of $5 billion for mental health over the next decade, which will help people facing mental illness, including addiction.

We need to address the social drivers of the opioid overdose crisis. That includes things like poverty, social isolation, unresolved trauma, sexual abuse, and mental illness. It is widely understood that untreated mental illness is a common cause of addiction and early intervention is absolutely essential if we are going to counter such addiction.

I want to emphasize in the House that we need to include all four pillars in our Canadian drugs policy: prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and law enforcement. Prevention is so essential, as we understand that issues like social equity are absolutely important, cultural continuity, people having the opportunity to have healthy and safe childhoods, and making sure people heal from any unresolved trauma and grief in their lives, which might drive them to problematic substance use.

There is no single action that, on its own, is going to end this opioid crisis immediately, but Bill C-37 is an absolutely essential step in the process of moving to that end. We need a balanced approach. We need to work collaboratively with all other levels of government and civil society organizations. All Canadians need to work together. We need to have partnerships across the country, including, as I said, with provinces, territories, and municipalities that are very much engaged on this matter and, of course, indigenous leaders. We need to protect Canadians, to save lives, to address the root causes of this crisis, to give people hope, and to make sure that all matters are addressed in order to turn the tide of the opioid overdose crisis.

I encourage all hon. members to recognize the importance of this bill and to support its speedy passage through the House. I look forward to working with all members to that end.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the Minister of Health, for her work on the health file. There is no question in my mind that she has the best interests of Canadians at heart. However, we may agree to disagree on a couple of facts.

First, we agree on this side of the House that the opioid crisis needs attention quickly and forcefully. There is no question about that. The other part of Bill C-37 refers to supervised injection sites. I think we would find on this side of the House, and, indeed, probably within each party, that there are differing opinions on that. In fact, some of the opinions are supported, clearly, by front-line police officers in terms of their safety and efficacy and public safety.

My question for the minister is this. Why did her party not allow the bill to be split into two component parts, which would have clearly allowed fulsome debate on both issues, and then, more importantly, why are Liberals shutting down debate and minimizing the amount of time that members of Parliament, who were elected to represent their communities here in the House, can debate this issue?

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

Madam Speaker, I wonder if the hon. member can understand the kind of pressure we receive when members of the communities are telling us every day that they are going out and literally seeing people dying in the streets. I recognize that the hon. member may struggle with the challenges associated with this, and there is always some anxiety related to how we best respond, but the evidence is clear. The hon. member should meet with the chief of police in Vancouver, and meet with the chief of police in Calgary, and talk to them. Although some leaders at first doubted whether supervised consumption sites would be helpful, they have become absolutely convinced that it is essential to save lives. It is reprehensible for us to not move forward on this. The lives of people are at stake.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Tracey Ramsey NDP Essex, ON

Madam Speaker, the NDP will be supporting Bill C-37. It is so incredibly important to my riding of Essex. I am holding an opioid round table this Friday with stakeholders, and very concerned families who are desperate for help for their family members, and for those in their community who are suffering under this crisis.

As a member of a committee of this House, it is incredibly important that we honour the work that is done at committee. Therefore, my question to the minister revolves around the health committee and the emergency study that it conducted into the opioid crisis. The very first recommendation that was made with all-party support was to declare opioid overdoses a national public health emergency. This would give the public health officer of Canada extraordinary powers to act immediately while Bill C-37 works its way through Parliament.

My question to the minister is this. In the face of this mounting death toll across our country, will the minister stand today and declare a national public health emergency so we can start saving lives in Canada?

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her work, and the members of the NDP for their support in passing this bill in a rapid way.

With respect to the recommendations of the health committee, it has made an excellent series of recommendations, and has done fantastic work. I would encourage the member to read the Emergencies Act to make sure that it is well understood, and to realize that this particular circumstance does not require the invoking of the Emergencies Act. If the member can tell me a single thing that we could do by invoking that act that we cannot already do, I would be happy to hear it. I have told this House repeatedly that I will pull out every stop and will take every action that is necessary. However, there is nothing that act would allow that we cannot already do. We have the authority to do what needs to be done. I want to encourage provinces, territories, municipal leaders, and health care providers to also do their part. We cannot solve this alone. We will do everything within our power to make sure that it is turned around.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Casey Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on this bill because I was a member of the health committee that studied it. We heard from doctors, nurses, scientists, and police, but the most compelling testimony was from paramedics. I want to mention the paramedics from Vancouver especially, because they deal with this issue day in, day out, all day long. I do not know how they can do it repeatedly. They told stories about finding young people unconscious in alleys with needles still in them, how they would bring them back to life, and then two days later they would get another call and come back to the same situation with the same person. It was an incredible story. What we are dealing with is an incredible emergency, and Bill C-37 is designed to deal with that emergency.

I want to ask the minister this. How can passing Bill C-37 help those paramedics especially, because I do not know how they can do it, day in, day out? It must have a tremendous effect on them and their families.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for his excellent leadership role on the committee, which has done such outstanding work on this crisis. He draws attention to something that is very important, which is that we need to recognize the incredible work of first responders, in particular, paramedics. The pressure on these paramedics is remarkable, and I have heard similar stories.

Bill C-37 would allow the increasing availability of supervised consumption sites so that these paramedics would have somewhere to take people where they would be welcomed, where people would know that they can be introduced safely into the health care system, and where we can prevent death from overdose. They might have an opportunity as well to be introduced to treatment when they are ready for that. Therefore, we encourage the availability of these sites, and encourage all players to make sure that we increase access to treatment so that lives will be saved, so that people will find that there is a way to find hope for their future, and so that we can also make sure that first responders are respected and do not have to go through this terrible ongoing crisis.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I wonder if the health minister can very clearly explain to us why the government did not accept our request for unanimous consent to split the bill. Had the government accepted that, four-fifths of the provision of this bill would already be in the Senate and perhaps would already be law. Why did the government not accept our offer to expedite those sections of the bill so that we could have gotten on with the parts we agree on faster without forestalling the debate on the one section on which we disagree? Why was the government not willing to work in that non-partisan way to actually get those key sections done?

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased that the Conservatives were able to vote in favour of the expedited process in the committee that agreed to move on this. It speaks to the fact that some of their members recognized that this is an urgent matter. When we look at the data from British Columbia, we see there are four, five, six people dying every single day. This is absolutely unacceptable, that we would stand by and continue to debate a matter when we have a bill that could help communities like not only Vancouver but Edmonton, Calgary, and Toronto to be able to have the facilities available. I would be happy to speak with members about any additional ideas they have, but we have to get this bill through.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, as members know, New Democrats support the bill. I spoke at length yesterday about the impact that it would have to support front-line RCMP, ambulance attendants, firefighters, and community volunteers who are doing their best to fight this huge epidemic. My community of Nanaimo has been hit very hard.

I would love, though, to hear more about the minister's reasons for not calling a national health emergency. I note that Dr. David Juurlink, the keynote speaker at the minister's own opioid summit; B.C. health minister Terry Lake; and stakeholders across Canada are all still calling for a declaration of a national emergency by the federal government. It is my understanding that this would facilitate more federal funding, community-based detox, addictions treatment, and emergency pop-up safe injection sites and safe consumption sites on an emergency basis.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

Madam Speaker, I would encourage the member to speak to Dr. Juurlink, who now understands the reasons why it is not appropriate to declare a national health emergency, but there are many features that the member asked for that we are already doing. If she wants more funding, I encourage provinces across this country to accept the $5 billion that we have offered through the health accord, and to put that money to work to provide better access to mental health care and treatment.

We have offered mobile units. The Public Health Agency of Canada has said to many communities, including those in British Columbia, “Let us know when you need our emergency mobile units. We will get in there and set them up.”

Let those communities know we are prepared to do everything that it takes.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and address Bill C-37, certainly a very important discussion as we confront what is a national crisis around drug use. However, we have seen a funny pattern from government members, where they draw our attention to a significant problem yet actually refuse to collaborate in a non-partisan way to move these things forward. That is very clearly on the record. Members can laugh, but this is not a funny topic, and it is not funny that we tried to move this forward quickly and the Liberals got in the way.

Let us review the record of what happened. The bill contains certain provisions that are vital for addressing the challenges we face. It also, though, contains a provision that would remove effective community engagement on supervised injection sites. We have a big problem with that, and I will talk about why that is later on in my speech.

It is important for people to understand what the government has done here. Recognizing the need to move quickly on certain provisions but also the need to have thorough debate on this one particular provision on community consultation, our very hard-working member for Oshawa, our health critic, brought forward a request for unanimous consent to split the bill.

What he proposed was very reasonable, and it would have effectively addressed this issue. What he proposed was to split the bill into two sections. The sections on which we all agreed there be urgent action, and I will talk about what those are, he and all of us would agree to immediately deem adopted at third reading, fully adopted by the House, and sent to the Senate. Very likely the Senate would have moved quickly on that as well. Those provisions could already be law today and already addressing this problem right now as we speak. That was our proposal brought forward by the member for Oshawa.

However, the government said no. Why? It insisted that removing an effective voice for communities in the process had to be tied to these other important life-saving measures. It was the Liberals' decision to slow this down by refusing to split the bill. In fact, the offer we proposed in our unanimous consent motion was not just to expedite the provisions on which we agreed. It was also to immediately deem referred to the Standing Committee on Health the provisions on which we disagreed. We were even willing to move that immediately to committee for study while immediately adopting those things on which we agreed. This is how we proposed to work in a non-partisan fashion to move quickly on the things we could move quickly on to get this done.

The government, while pleading about the need and the urgency of this crisis, actually refused to give unanimous consent to our proposal to expedite those sections. Given the strong words coming from the health minister and other members of the government, it is utterly shameful that they refused to work to move this forward.

I would like to highlight the sections of the bill we agree on and the sections of the bill that could today already be law had the government been willing to work in a non-partisan manner. They will still become law eventually, but it is unfortunate that we were not able to move on the timeline we wanted.

The bill proposes to regulate the import of pill presses. Currently, pill presses, which are used for putting together illegal drugs, can be imported freely. The bill contains important provisions that would have any pill press imported registered with Health Canada and that would give our border services officials the authority to detain unregistered pill presses at the border. This is a very important measure that we have strongly supported. It could be law today if the government had been willing to work to expedite this in a non-partisan manner.

Another great provision in the bill would increase prohibitions against certain actions related to controlled substances. This would enhance the ability of the government to stop, in this instance, the transportation of illicit substances. It would enhance the power to do that under the relevant legislation. Again, it is a very positive provision. It would be making a difference if it were law today. It is something we could have moved forward on more quickly.

The bill would grant increased powers to the Canada Border Services Agency to open and inspect packages entering Canada, packages that it suspects may contain contraband such as drugs. Again, it is an important provision that CBSA be given the power to move forward and open packages that it believes contain illicit substances. Again, there is no reason anyone should oppose that. That is why it should have been done by now. It should have been passed quickly. It would have been passed quickly had the government agreed to work with the opposition and split the bill, as we proposed.

In terms of the category of things we agree on, the bill proposes temporarily accelerated scheduling, essentially allowing the Minister of Health to quickly, but temporarily, schedule and control new drugs and substances under the relevant legislation. This is important, because we have seen new drugs coming to the fore on a regular basis. These powers are important.

Four out of the five changes that we would say yes to on this side of the House could already have been law today had the government been willing to work with us.

Why was it so important for us to raise concerns and to insist on further debate on the one provision on which we disagree? The government is proposing to change the community consultation process on supervised injection sites. I have talked before about broader concerns about supervised injection sites. I know that there are many Canadians who do not believe we should have legal islands that allow people to use drugs legally. If we want to send the strongest possible message about the dangers of drug use, we may want to be optimistic in our compassion instead of pessimistic in our compassion. Many Canadians reflecting on that have broader concerns about these supervised injection sites.

Let us be very clear. That is not the question in this legislation. The question in this legislation is the degree to which, and the nature of how, communities should be engaged in the conversation about that.

The original provisions that were put in place under the previous government established some key requirements with respect to how communities had to be engaged. There had to be strong engagement with the community to maximize the chances that these types of facilities would be successful. The previous legislation put in place a reasonable process to get that done.

The government is proposing in this legislation to significantly pare down any kind of engagement. Previously, there was a requirement that the period of consultation be at least 90 days. The new provisions would allow a period of consultation of up to 90 days. There would actually be no minimum. They could spend two days undertaking the consultation. The requirements in the legislation they put forward are pared down. It says:

An application for an exemption under subsection (1) shall include information, submitted in the form and manner determined by the Minister, regarding the intended public health benefits of the site and information, if any, related to (a) the impact of the site on crime rates; (b) the local conditions indicating a need for the site; (c) the administrative structure in place to support the site; (d) the resources available to support the maintenance of the site; and (e) expressions of community support or opposition.

They have to provide some of that basic information.

They would satisfy the provisions of the new bill if applicants simply said that they talked to a few people in the community about opening a supervised injection site and no one liked it, but at least they talked to some people. That would be sufficient under the proposed legislation.

Let us talk about what the Liberals took out. We hear a lot from the government about the importance of scientific evidence. Actually, the existing application requirements we put in place require “scientific evidence demonstrating that there is a medical benefit to individual or public health associated with access to activities undertaken at supervised consumption sites”. Among other things, the previous legislation actually requires that scientific evidence be presented on what the impacts would be in the context of the application. That would be removed by these new requirements.

We put requirements in place for consultation with local law enforcement and local governments, which are going to be called upon to respond to the challenges and situations that are in place. Those were things that were in place before and would now be pulled back.

One of the defences we hear often from the government and the NDP about supervised injections sites is that there are actually some drug treatment services available at the sites. I know that still does not allay many people's concerns, but the consultation process that currently exists, that we put in place, requires that a description of drug treatment services available at the site be provided with the application. If people are going to apply to open a supervised injection site, they actually have to provide information to the government about the kind of drug treatment services that would be available.

If that is one of the key arguments for allowing supervised injection sites, because it seems that it is, listening to the comments that have been made, then it should be particularly emphasized and required that the person who is applying to open a supervised injection site actually provide some information to the government about what is going to exist in that space vis-à-vis drug treatment. That should be there.

The existing legislation requires, for example, that we have criminal record checks for those who are going to be involved with these facilities. There are a lot of important requirements the existing legislation has in place, and these are basic things, like consultation and engagement with the community and providing information about what is going to be in place in terms of support for people who are trying to get off drugs.

All these things should be there, but we have this vastly pared down proposal in terms of what would actually be required for the application. It is going to be so much easier for people to apply to open these supervised injection sites, and there are no requirements to ensure that we will have the due diligence in place.

Again, members can debate the merits of supervised injection sites, but the existing legislation at least ensures that they are doing the kinds of things they are supposed to be doing. The new proposed legislation by the government completely turns the page on that by not engaging communities and not requiring the kind of due diligence we included in that application at all.

I will conclude by saying again that we had an opportunity to move forward with those provisions on which we all agree. Those could be law today, but instead, we are still debating the entire bill, because the government refused to split it. The Liberals brought in closure on these important community consultation measures.

I say that we move forward with the things that will save lives now, but let us continue an important conversation about whether communities should be engaged when these types of injection sites are opened.

I think it is important that communities be engaged in conversations. I believe that communities are compassionate and that they care about these issues. It is not only the federal government that cares. If we engage communities, if we engage local law enforcement, we will get better solutions that will be more responsive to the needs of the community and will be more likely to solve this problem.

The government needs to know that it cannot fix this problem on its own. It needs to work with the opposition. It needs to work with other levels of government. It needs to work with communities. If we are going to address this problem, we need more voices at the table and more collaboration. That is what we are standing for in the opposition, and that is why, in its current form, I have to oppose the bill.