House of Commons Hansard #182 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.


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5:20 p.m.


Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, one of the campaigns that struck a chord with all Quebeckers and likely all Canadians was the one that said that drunk driving is a crime. It is now part of our mores. Obviously, people break the law, but everyone understands that drinking and driving is a crime. If drinking and driving is a crime, then driving under the influence of marijuana should be too.

It is difficult to determine what the threshold will be for people who drive while under the influence of marijuana. How will that threshold be determined when a person has consumed both alcohol and marijuana? Until we have a scientifically determined threshold and screening equipment, I think that it would be difficult to move forward.

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5:20 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I am glad to join the debate today on Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. This deals with the decriminalizing and legalization of marijuana in our society.

The issue facing us today is rather ironic for me. Legalization of marijuana is comparable in many respects to a bill I brought before the House of Commons on single-event sports betting. It was about the legalization of something that the public wanted, and the cost of the criminality element to it was very robust. I still get the comparisons to this issue from people who are lobbying to legalize single-event sports betting activities in Canada. My bill was defeated by the Liberals, primarily the Prime Minister and his cabinet.

Therefore, when this passes, people will be able to legally consume cannabis, but they still will be unable to bet on single-event sports. That is around a $10 billion a year of loss that goes to primarily organized crime. Those funds could have been diverted to health care, education, as well gaming addiction and other things related to it.

I say this now because I have seen some of this work develop and specifically why this did not even get moved to a committee. There clearly was a design by the Prime Minister, his cabinet, and his parliamentary cabal to keep that from going to committee for their own purposes, and there are some very debatable reasons for that.

However, I want to focus on this bill. It would move to the legalization of a consumable product, being a drug, which has consequential, sociological, and social elements that will frame our society around the use of it. In particular, we are talking about drug-impaired driving. Since 1925, it has been illegal to have drugs in one's system and to drive a motorized vehicle. Driving while under the influence of alcohol is the largest killer of Canadians under a criminal offence for murder, and we have not yet found the proper repertoire of responses to it.

Listening to the debate today, the Liberals have not really participated much. This is a common thing that happens here. I would invite all those viewing to visit an independent site called “”. People can actually track their members' participation. Many members just sit here and do not participate on a regular basis. People can even look at the volume of what they have chosen to intervene on and what they have chosen not to intervene on.

I have listened with intent to some of the concerns raised by the Conservatives. They relate to some of the practical problems we have with the identification of those who are intoxicated or under the influence of a drug while driving. There is the difficulty that science has right now. There is the expansion of police powers, which are very much challenged under the environment of some of the issues we have had such as racial profiling and a number of different civil liberty issues that have taken place, not only with regard to the police, but also with regard to other different types of services provided by public institutions, which are paid for by all.

One of the concerns raised by the Conservatives was the cost of this, which is legitimate to raise. However, it is rather unfortunate that it has been a discussion point in this. It is to the embarrassment and shame of the government. It should have put this to rest immediately.

When we consider the cost in terms of human death related to this and the mere fact of the gross amounts of profit that the government gets from alcohol sales and consumption, and now of drug consumption, it is nothing short of shameful for the Liberals to come into this debate and not do that appropriately by taking care of those costs and ending that right away. If not, I know as a former councillor and many others also know that they will offload these issues onto an inappropriate tax base to deal with them.

For a law created from a federal standpoint, there should be no debate whatsoever about those costs. We should be getting on with it given the fact that we have such human tragedy associated with this, but we are debating whether it costs $20 a swab or 2¢ a Breathalyzer. It is absolutely shameful that we would change laws and have that debate when the government is receiving significant revenue from current sales of alcohol and other types of prohibited substances, and now drug sales. It is absolutely shameful. It is a black mark on the government for taking this process forward, and it becomes a distraction of what is so important, which is the change to our society with this new drug being legalized in our country. It is extremely unfortunate.

The Liberals always have money for their friends. They always have money for their pet projects. They always have money for the shiny objects they find to chase after, but they never have money when it really counts. It is a scapegoat to have the provinces or the municipalities to have to pick up the slack. They are are clear that it is okay; it is all right. I would tell the councillors, the mayors, the provincial representatives, and the premiers that it is all on them, because the decision rests right here. The buck stops right here in terms of the potential from revenue source and the amount of money that is already capitalized by the federal government's taxation of those products that are currently legal that have some conditions on them.

We have serious issues to deal with. For example, what are the levels of drug influence? Then we have a positive in this bill, which I like, which is making the penalties for drinking and driving under the influence of alcohol stronger. It is interesting because, given the severity of alcohol and drinking and driving under the influence, the Liberals have only just matched other transportation-related death issues. They did not choose to take it to a higher level. They did not choose to do anything else with it. They chose to put it in line where it should have been from day one.

Gone are the days, and they should have never existed, when we passively allowed being under the influence. It was “Oh, it was just a few drinks and it was just an occasion.” No, the serious consequences of that should have always been the case. There was a cultural shift, just like we are going to have a cultural shift with this.

With that, we have to look at the consultations that have taken place. What I worry about and why I talked about the levels and the cost related to this is that it relates to regulations being in place, not legislation, to allow unelected people to set even the lowest and the highest level of bars for the testing, the failing of the testing, and the consequences of the testing. Why would we kick the buck there? I have no idea. It does not make any sense in terms of responsibility.

I represent a border community, and the consultation elements have not been there. The Minister of Public Safety has no answers for consultation with the United States, for example. They have not consulted with the municipalities. For example, if a truck driver happens to be around people who are smoking marijuana and gets it on his or her clothes and in the cab, what is going to be the cost of crossing the border and having the detection in the United States go off?

What is the cost for just-in-time delivery trucks for the auto sector? What is the cost for agricultural trucks? What is the cost of putting all that on our roads to create delays of other goods and services?

There is no answer, which is rather unfortunate because it was all ready to be done, had they simply asked.

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5:30 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Mr. Speaker, in many ways, I disagree with many of the statements the member has put on the record.

First and foremost, the government has been deeply engaged on this discussion, not only in the House of Commons but in every region of the country. Whether it has been the minister responsible or the parliamentary secretary, they have done their homework. It is not just a collective group of individuals in this chamber who are given the entire responsibility of making a change of this nature.

There is a great deal of consultation that has taken place with different stakeholders, such as provincial and municipal governments, law enforcement agencies, and first responders.

I am a bit confused about the NDP's position on this issue. It seems to me that this particular member does not support the general direction our communities want us to go. Could the member tell us, from his perspective, what the NDP's position is on this legislation?

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5:35 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would argue that consultation is actually hearing from people and then acting on it and providing legislation that reflects that. It would be similar to an inclusive process that takes place.

We have not heard the government talk about what it is doing in the border communities. Specifically, who did the government talk to at the U.S. administration, on a federal level, a state level, and a municipal level? We have not heard about any of that.

We have heard the Minister of Public Safety say it is an ongoing process. That is not consultation. That is not enough for the public. It is actually a shame. It is sad. We have to deal with this situation. The reality is that the public deserves answers, open accountability, and consultation, which also means listening.

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5:35 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to recognize the member's persistence in raising issues around his private member's bill. I do admire that. Clearly it is a cause that is very important to him and important to his constituency.

I want to ask his opinion about this issue of consultation around municipal governments. It is interesting that in the government's marijuana legislation there is no provision for municipalities to be informed or engaged around who is involved in home grow. There will be people growing marijuana at home and the government does not have a mechanism by which municipalities are going to be engaged in that process.

I wonder if this creates some concerns for municipalities, in terms of how they ensure compliance with these issues. The member mentioned a past in municipal politics, so I wonder if he can reflect on that and on how the government could do a better job of fixing the legislation on some of those details.

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5:35 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting. With regard to my previous bill, it was on the $8 billion to $10 billion annually going to organized crime and offshore companies, many of them with nefarious backgrounds, that could have actually gone to the government's revenue stream. That was per year.

It is important for tourism, but it is also important to fight against organized crime, which is connected to marijuana. It would have given us the revenue that is necessary. As previously mentioned by the member, with regard to my municipal experience, things used to get downloaded. That came from the Conservative Harris government, in terms of the lingo that was used, the “downloading” that took place from the provincial to the municipal level.

That is what we have here. I think it is very valid that they have raised financial costs related to it. That is why I am talking about the fact that the shame here, and the difficulty about all of the things that are taking place, is that the government could have had a revenue stream, or it currently does have a revenue stream, to take all those concerns away. Why not take them off the table? That would be the simple thing to do.

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5:35 p.m.


Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour to speak on this important issue of impaired driving.

In a previous life, before being elected federally, I was an employee with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. One of my responsibilities was to try to make our streets safer. After every fatal accident in my area, I had to write a report on the causes, on why somebody died. It was often very simple issues, such as not wearing a seatbelt or there was impairment involved.

I would work with the local police and the RCMP. These were very sad stories, which were very traumatic for the families and very traumatic for the police officers and first responders from the fire department or with the ambulance service who were involved. It was very traumatic. The RCMP and police forces across Canada are recognizing the impact this has on first responders and the PTSD they are experiencing, too.

It is not a simple issue. It is a very complex issue when people drive impaired. Impairment can be caused by many things. It could be caused by a lack of sleep. It can be caused by forms of dementia or a loss of cognitive skills. It can be caused by prescription drugs. However, the focus of tonight's debate has to do with the use of drugs and alcohol, and legislative changes.

For the last three and a half years, I have been honoured to present petitions in the House. I have received hundreds of thousands of petitions from across Canada from an organization called Families for Justice.

A woman who lives in my riding of Langley—Aldergrove is Markita Kaulius. Markita and Victor lost their daughter Kassandra. I forget if she was just coming from a baseball game or going to a baseball game, but she was very engaged with the community. She was a beautiful young woman. Her life was tragically lost when, as she was driving through an intersection on a green light, somebody who was badly impaired from the use of alcohol blew the light and T-boned Kassandra and killed her. I forget the speeds that were involved, but it was a severe crash. The impaired driver ran from the scene and hid. He was caught, charged, and convicted.

As happens so often in Canada in the justice system, the person receives a sentence that will never bring the lost loved one back. There is no justice, in that sense. We cannot bring their loved one back. While the sentence may be conditional sentencing, house arrest, or just months, the family, for the rest of their lives, is going to have to deal with the loss of not being able to see that daughter graduate, get married, or have children. I am thinking of Kassandra, but to lose any loved one prematurely because they were killed by an impaired driver is a travesty. It happens way too often in this country.

Families for Justice has been presenting these petitions, with thousands of signatures, saying to Parliament, “Please, change the laws.” After presenting petitions time and time again and week after week in the last Parliament, the government introduced the impaired driving act. Unfortunately, it was at the end of the Parliament. To get legislation through, normally it takes two years. Since there were not two years left, it was not going to get through.

Families for Justice contacted all of the political leaders. It contacted the Conservative leader, the Liberal leader, and the NDP leader, and asked if they would support the legislation, the impaired driving act. To the Prime Minister's credit, he responded to Families for Justice, for Cassandra Kolias, and said he would support legislation like that. Sadly, we should call that what it is, vehicular homicide. If a person kills someone using a car, a 2,000-pound or 3,000-pound weapon, while impaired, the individual choosing to become intoxicated through a drug or a drink, driving a vehicle knowing that he or she is putting the community at risk, and then kills someone, there should be a consequence much more serious than a few months in jail. It asked for mandatory minimum sentencing and for calling it what it is: vehicular homicide.

The impaired driving act, as I said, at the end of the last Parliament had mandatory minimum sentencing. It did not call it vehicular homicide, but Families for Justice continued asking for it. It has a letter, which is a public document, from the Prime Minister, saying that he would support that type of legislation. The closest thing to it that has been received by Parliament was Bill C-226. Unfortunately, the government, which dominates the justice committee, all too often getting orders from the Prime Minister's Office on whether to support something or not, was directed not to support Bill C-226.

The government has introduced legislation that we are dealing with today, Bill C-46, which uniquely and not strangely, is tied at the hip with Bill C-45. Bill C-45 would make it legal for young drivers 18 years and older to smoke a joint, or a number of joints, and to possess 30 grams legally. The Canadian Medical Association is saying that it is dangerous, we should not do that, and that people should be at least 21. At age 25 and older, developing minds will not be affected as severely. It is recommending 25 as the ideal legal age, but would agree with 21. The government ignored the scientific evidence and has gone ahead with the age of 18. Has the government introduced legislation to protect our communities and keep our roads safer? No, it has not. We know from other jurisdictions that it will make our roads less safe with impaired drivers.

We have a problem with alcohol impairment, but we have some tools to indicate whether someone is impaired through blood alcohol testing and Breathalyzers. We have devices that test. Whether it is .05 or .08, we know if somebody is impaired. The government has suggested that it is going to pass this new legislation not within a two-year period, but within a one-year period. Why is that? Why would a government want to ram through, speed through, rush through legislation to have it in place by July 1 of next year? It is because it is the marijuana legislation, the one promise it will keep. Its flagship legislation in this Parliament is to legalize marijuana that will allow someone to smoke a bunch of joints. Someone can have 60 joints in his or her pocket, the car, or whatever, all totally legal if the person is age 18 or older. Someone cannot smoke 60 joints, so maybe he or she will be giving them to friends in the car and they will have a big party while driving. It is extremely dangerous.

The government then introduced Bill C-46, the impaired driving legislation, that would keep our roads safe.

Bill C-45 would legalize up to four marijuana plants to be grown in homes. However, are four plants four plants? No. We know through medical marijuana usage that four plants is 12 plants because they grow. There are crops. With a new seed, there are four plants, and when it is halfway grown, it will be another four. Mature plants that are producing will have another four plants. We know how the legislation works: four plants are 12 plants. There will be plants growing in homes where there are children. Does that protect our children? No. Does easy access to recreational marijuana being grown in homes make us safer? No. How about 18-year-olds with developing minds being able to smoke and drive? It creates a disaster scenario.

I think back to the letter that the Prime Minister sent to the Families for Justice saying that he would support this. Support what? Mandatory minimums. The Liberals believe that the courts needed some guidance. Courts need discretion to provide appropriate sentencing if someone is convicted of an impaired driving offence. We are now introducing even more impaired drivers, I believe, so the courts need guidance.

The government has said that it is going to increase the maximum. If someone is killed, the driver would get 14 years to life imprisonment. Let us look at how often people are being sentenced to 14 years. It is almost never. I would argue that we are not seeing that ever, so by increasing the maximum sentencing from 14 years to life, does that make our roads safer? It does not. These are horrendous crimes against society, taking the lives of Canadians, driving while impaired. Families for Justice is saying it should be called vehicular homicide and that there should be mandatory minimum sentences.

We know from the rulings of the Supreme Court on mandatory minimums that if people kill someone, they would receive at least five years. That is what was being asked for. If there were additional victims, there would be consecutive sentencing, a minimum sentence on top of a minimum sentence. There would not be any freebies. If they kill multiple people, they get multiple consequences. That is what Canadians believe is justice. My point is that we cannot bring back someone who has been lost, and there is tragedy and grief that comes to a family and anyone associated with that crash.

I want to share a little research that I did. We have a government that sadly, I believe, is a government of smoke and mirrors. The letter that the Prime Minister sent is another broken promise to a family who trusted him and hoped he would keep his word to provide the legislation that he promised. That is now a broken promise. Liberals are going to provide smoke-and-mirror legislation to legalize marijuana. One can have lots of marijuana from age 18 and on, but if they drive, they are going to pay the consequences. What kind of consequences will there be? If they kill someone, the maximum goes up to life. We know, through what is happening in the courts right now, there is a very minor consequence for killing someone.

This is a tragedy. How often is this happening in Canada? Impaired driving causing death is the number one criminal offence in Canada. We keep asking the government about how many times. How many times has the Ethics Commissioner met with the Prime Minister? He will not answer that. How many times are people being killed by an impaired driver every year in Canada? Is it a dozen? How serious is this problem? It is the number one criminal cause of death. That is not what I asked. I asked how many times. On average, 1,200 people die every year in Canada from impaired driving.

That means that three or four people die every day. Today, there will be three or four people killed by an impaired driver, and that is with alcohol. We will now add drugs, new drugged-up drivers, because of the legislation that the Liberals are introducing. It is a very serious problem.

I looked at this very interesting document, a report from the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. The Liberals have said they are back and that sunny days are here. Canadians are realizing that sunny days are not sunny days. Communities have to be sustainable, and the commissioner said this about previous Liberal governments.

The 1998 report said the Liberal government “is failing to meet its policy commitments”. In 1999, the report said there is “additional evidence of the gap between the [Liberal] government's intentions and its domestic actions. We are paying the price in terms of our health and our legacy for our children and grandchildren.” Does that sound familiar?

In 2000, it was that the government “continues to have difficulty turning...commitment into action”. In 2001, “the continued upward trend in Canada's emissions [demonstrates that] the government” has not transformed “its promises into results”. In 2002, the federal government's “sustainable development deficit” continues to grow. In 2003, it said there is gap between what the Liberal government said it will do and what it actually is doing. Good intentions are not enough. In 2004, why is the progress so slow? After all, the mandates and commitments are there. In 2005, it was that bold announcements are made and then often forgotten as soon as the confetti hits the ground. The federal government seems to have trouble crossing the finish line.

That was the Chrétien Liberal government, the Paul Martin government, and here we are with another Liberal government. The Liberals are back, involved with controversy, concerns with the Ethics Commissioner, investigations, and smoke and mirrors. We are now talking about smoke and mirrors regarding the safety of our communities.

If legislation would be introduced to protect our communities, a reasonable person would say that if we are to have any enforcement, we have to have people trained. Remember the Phoenix system where people were not trained? It is a system where the Liberals will legalize marijuana for use and they will not have any approved devices to test and confirm impairment. They do for alcohol, but the new drug impairment testing has no approved devices and no new people are being trained.

A previous speaker talked about new costs to municipal governments. I was elected in 1990 until 2004, and I served on a municipal council. The Chrétien and Martin years were extremely difficult for those in municipal government because the Liberals kept downloading more and more. They would make announcement and they would download those costs on to local governments. The tradition is that the cost of infrastructure would be one-third, one-third, one-third. The local governments could plan for that, but not under the Liberal government. They would download those costs.

In the cloudy days that we see ahead there are impaired drivers and no new devices to determine whether they are impaired. There will be legal challenges on charges of impairment, and if we do not have an approved device, likely the government will not be successful. We do not have training. With regard to the police, the drug recognition experts, who will pay for the new officers, the training, the devices that are yet to exist?

One would think that the government would wait until the science is ready to support that with devices. The search for this device is not something new. Experts have been looking for this for the last 15 years. They cannot find a device that can be used to confirm impairment, and yet the government is moving ahead.

I will support it going to committee because at committee we will see how poorly planned this legislation is and how it will hurt Canadians. I wish the government was not doing this and had thought it through more carefully. It is a poorly hatched plan, and it likely will not be supported by a large number of members in this House in the future. However, at this point, we will support it going to committee.

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5:55 p.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario


Bill Blair LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of points of clarification. Perhaps I have not done a good enough job of explaining to the member that the government's actual proposal with respect to Bill C-45 is to legalize, regulate, and restrict cannabis in order to keep it out of the hands of our kids, to take the profits away from organized crime, and to create a safer, healthier, and more socially responsibly environment for all Canadians. For some reason, he did not catch that last part, and I wanted to share that with him.

There have been a number of comments with respect to waiting. I take the member for Langley—Aldergrove's point. He appears to be quite adept at waiting.

The measures that are proposed under Bill C-46 have been introduced in other jurisdictions. For example, in Ireland there was a 23% reduction in impaired deaths as a result of the measures we are now proposing to enact here in Canada. In New Zealand, it was up to 54%, and in New South Wales, Australia, it was 48%.

I have spent many years being responsible for road safety and the safety of my communities, and in my experience tough talk does not keep people safe. What does keep people safe is the absolute certainty that they will get caught. The measures that are proposed in this legislation will do precisely that. Introducing a new measure to ensure that everyone who is legally stopped by a police officer roadside must submit to an alcohol-screening breath test has been proven in many jurisdictions to save lives, so I am confident that although tough talk has not worked for over a decade, the smart action that is proposed in this legislation will do just that.

With respect to the member's concerns about the technology and the devices, his information is a little out of date. In the United Kingdom, oral testing is being used in a jurisdiction with very similar laws to those being proposed here, and the positive results of those tests are used to demand a blood sample, exactly as our legislation proposes. Also, those devices have been in use in Australia since 2009 and have resulted in criminal charges in that jurisdiction.

We have relied on the advice of the drugs and driving committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science with respect to which devices should be approved. We have tested two of those devices in Canadian conditions. They work exceptionally well, and we are very confident going forward.

Now is the time to act. The country has waited a decade for action and did not get it. Now we are prepared to provide the right response, the tools, the technology, and the training.

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6 p.m.


Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would agree with the member that now is the time to act. Now is the time to act to keep the promises made by the Prime Minister to support legislation with mandatory minimum sentences.

I also agree that it is time to act to deal with impaired driving, but if the member is basing his comments on fact, he has to acknowledge that although the testing can confirm the presence of a drug in a person's bloodstream, it cannot confirm impairment. That is the problem. A drug can stay in one's system for days, but it will not necessarily impair that person. That is why we need to have a drug recognition expert, a DRE, to confirm the kind of drug and whether there is impairment. It might be multiple drugs.

Will these saliva test pads that can be placed on one's tongue make our roads safer? Will allowing people 18 years of age and older to have multiple joints in their possession make our streets safer? Will they be afraid to smoke these 60 joints that are in their pocket because they may get pulled over, since the Liberals have said that they will get pulled over?

The Liberals are living in la-la land. It will not work. We need to get tough, and the Prime Minister needs to keep the promises that he made to Canadians to get tough and put in minimum sentencing.

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6 p.m.


Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I can certainly understand his point of view, which may sometimes differ from ours. However, one thing is for certain: he has a sincere and documented concern. It is a health and safety matter, and I obviously appreciate the member's thoroughness.

I cannot help but notice how the government is constantly in a spin. Earlier, Liberal members were saying that profits from the sale of drugs were going to the mafia and organized crime. Everyone knows that. What is sad is that the Liberals are living in la-la land, as the member said. The Liberals are telling Canadians that they are going to fix all this, that everything is fine, that it is nothing but sunny ways when it comes to this issue.

Does the member not think it is pathetic that the bill does not at all reflect his sincere desire to protect people on the roads and to ensure that there is a set regulatory framework in place? The government is going to flounder around at the expense of Canadians, municipalities, and the provinces, and lives will be lost on our roads.

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6:05 p.m.


Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, I shudder to think of the additional cost, responsibility, and challenges this measure would put onto local government. It is, frankly, not fair. Our streets will not be as safe. Our homes will not be as safe. It would create environments within neighbourhoods where there would be tension because people are creating noxious fumes. It would be intolerable to some.

The irony is that we have the government saying this will be good. It says one thing and does another. No matter what the topic is, it says one thing and does another. The Liberals are helping middle-class families, but are raising tax burdens. They are going to make our communities and roads safer, yet they are allowing more impaired drivers. The statistics in Colorado and Washington indicate that our streets will be more dangerous and it will be more expensive for local governments, but the Liberals bring other statistics to argue that point. That is very sad.

We will support this bill going to committee, but I am really saddened by the government's smoke-and-mirrors approach.

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6:05 p.m.


Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, one of the things we just heard the government say is that it would provide the equipment and training, but did it say it would pay for it? When it comes to municipalities, that is going to be one of the big issues.

Someone who has been in municipal politics knows that 20 years ago it took an RCMP officer an hour, for example, to deal with an alcohol-related incident. It now takes six or seven hours. That means our manpower costs to keep our streets safe would be hugely impacted by either taking our forces out or by additional costs.

I know my colleague has experience with municipal politics. Would he like to speak on that matter?

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6:05 p.m.


Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, under the former Liberal government, cost-sharing went from one-third, one-third, one-third to nothing from the Liberal government and 50% from the local taxpayer and 50% from the provinces and territories. The Liberals did that because the debt load that was growing under the previous Liberal governments was going so high. Does it sound familiar? A $30-billion growing deficit is being passed on to our children and grandchildren. As I shared earlier, year after year there were reports from the commissioner. There was lots of smoke and mirrors and lots of confetti, but they just cannot get it done.

It was Stéphane Dion who said, “Why can't we get it done?” They are not getting it done.

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6:05 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Mr. Speaker, we recognize that there is an issue. We have more young people in Canada using cannabis than in any other country in the western world. What Stephen Harper demonstrated was that he could not get the job done. Now we have something that is advancing the issue of cannabis in a very responsible fashion. Stakeholders from every region of our country are recognizing that.

Do not get me wrong. I appreciate the concerns and the support for sending this legislation to committee. We hope the committee will do its fine work—to improve it if possible, but at least to continue to advance it.

I wonder if the member would not at the very least acknowledge that for the first time in decades we are finally dealing with the issue.

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6:05 p.m.


Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, the proof will be in the pudding. If the government is willing to accept reasonable amendments to Bill C-46 and we end up with something that is reasonable, it would be good for Canada, but I am not optimistic because of the bafflegab that we hear from the government and the smoke and mirrors that they want a consultation with Canadians.

I sure hope that the government is sincere in what it is saying, but I am not optimistic.

Notice of Closure MotionExtension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario


Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

Mr. Speaker, with respect to Government Business No. 14, I wish to give notice that at the next sitting of the House a Minister of the Crown shall move, pursuant to Standing Order 57, that debate be not further adjourned.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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6:10 p.m.


Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-46. Just as clarification for folks watching on television, this is not the bill to legalize marijuana, but the bill to deal with offences related to the conveyance, and also to deal with offences and procedures related to impaired driving for both cannabis and alcohol.

It is important to note at the outset that the Conservatives support measures that protect Canadians from impaired drivers. Impaired driving has needlessly taken away too many lives far too early. Unfortunately impaired driving remains one of the most frequent criminal offences and it is among the leading criminal causes of death in Canada. The legalization of marijuana must be considered with this reality in mind.

Let me be very clear. I do not support the legalization of marijuana. The Conservative Party has adopted a much more measured, responsible approach to keep minor marijuana possession illegal but to make it a ticketable offence. This is a position that has long been adopted by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. However, if Liberal backbenchers are willing to support the Prime Minister's dangerous proposal, which sadly appears to be the case, we have a moral responsibility to soberly consider the consequences of legalizing marijuana in so many areas of Canadian life, including on the safety of motorists on our roadways.

As I said, we on this side of the House always have supported measures that protect Canadians from impaired drivers. The mandatory fines and higher maximum penalties send a strong message that Canadians will not tolerate impaired driving. Indeed, this is the type of common-sense legislation the Conservatives regularly brought forward when we were in government and the Liberals opposed. I am pleased to see that on this issue the Liberals seem to have come around somewhat, but we also know there are many factors to take into consideration other than just penalties, and those concerns must also be addressed.

For one thing, the Liberal government has indicated that it plans to rush both Bill C-45, the legalization of marijuana, and Bill C-46, this legislation, through Parliament by July 2018. This is a hurried and unrealistic legislative timeline that puts the health and safety of Canadians at great risk, given the immensity of the task and the volume of the questions that have been left unanswered. One such challenge lies with law enforcement.

While I certainly have confidence in our law enforcement officers, as is to be expected with such radical change, police do not currently have the resources or the training required to manage the increased threat of impaired driving associated with the legalization of marijuana. Moving forward with this legislation prior to properly resourcing and training police in a classic “cart before the horse” scenario but with profoundly dangerous and deadly consequences is reckless.

The chair of the Liberals' marijuana task force has said that the best solution for the issue of impaired driving is to give researchers additional time to develop proper detection tools, yet time is something the Liberals seem unwilling to give. Addressing these issues must be a priority of the Liberal government long before legalization, and adequate time is needed to get it right.

The marijuana task force report highlights a number of the complications that exist when it comes to cannabis-impaired driving. “It is clear that cannabis impairs psychomotor skills and judgment”, it reads, before launching into a list of considerations when it comes into actual testing for impairment.

Here are several of the points raised.

While scientists agree that THC, or the tetrahydrocannabinol, impairs driving performance, the level of THC in bodily fluids cannot be used to reliably indicate the degree of impairment or crash risk. Whereas evidence was gathered over many years to arrive at an established metric for alcohol intoxication, the blood alcohol concentration levels, these types of data do not exist for cannabis. In contrast to alcohol, THC can remain in the brain and body of chronic heavy users of cannabis for prolonged periods of time, sometimes several days or even weeks, far beyond the period of acute impairment, potentially contributing to a level of chronic impairment. Some heavy, regular users of cannabis, including those who use cannabis for medical purposes, may not show any obvious signs of impairment even with significant THC concentrations in their blood. Conversely, infrequent users with the same or lower THC concentrations may demonstrate more significant impairment. There is a significant combination effect when cannabis is consumed with alcohol, leading to a greater level of intoxication and motor control problems than when either substance is consumed individually.

Other challenges exist, including the need to account for the rapid and sharp decline of THC levels in the blood in the hours following consumption through smoking. With edibles, the decline is more gradual. When these complications are coupled with the fact that there is still really no reliable testing device for marijuana impairment, it becomes clear that the July 2018 timeline is pushing the limit. Even with an effective testing device, the task force report noted that there was little agreement among experts on what the limit for THC should be.

With this bill, there are more questions than answers. This does not mean that we cannot find answers; it just means that we need more time to research. The report suggested additional research in these areas: to better link the THC levels impairment; to develop effective and reliable roadside testing tools to detect THC levels and help law enforcement enforce the rules that are put in place; and to hire and train more drug recognition experts and officers able to conduct standardized field sobriety tests.

Second, as the minister of youth, the Prime Minister should understand that adolescence is a critical time for brain development. Research shows that the brain is not fully developed until around age 25, so youth are especially vulnerable to the effects of cannabis on brain development and function. This is because the THC in cannabis affects the biological system in the brain that directs its development.

Health Canada has noted several negative effects of using cannabis, including how:

The THC in cannabis can impair your ability to drive safely and operate equipment. It can also increase the risk of falls and other accidents.

This is because THC can affect one's coordination, reaction time, ability to pay attention, decision-making abilities, and the ability to judge distances.

Health Canada also says:

Impairment can last for more than 24 hours after cannabis use, well after other effects may have faded. People who use cannabis regularly may have trouble with certain skills needed to drive safely for weeks after their last use.

The consequences for driving are obvious and the potential harm this can cause to young Canadians is alarming. Taking the time we need to consider the long-term impact on young Canadians is so much more important than a self-imposed deadline.

Third, public education plays a significant role in ensuring that Canadians do not get behind the wheel when they are impaired. However, we know that even the most effective public education campaign does not achieve success over night. The Liberals have yet to take proper steps to develop effective educational campaigns to deter Canadians from impaired driving. Without a doubt, the government must ensure that Canadians fully understand the risks of impaired driving before moving forward with legislation.

When the Prime Minister expressed his intention to push these new laws through Parliament by July of next year, his main concern was not with the safety of motorists on our roads, but instead about the symbolic optics for him and his party. This should not be the focus of the Liberal government with so much at stake for public health and safety.

While doing some reading on this issue, I came across several articles that I thought would be helpful contributions to this discussion.

In a 2015 Globe and Mail article, data was presented detailing how four emergency rooms in British Columbia surveyed 1,097 drivers and found that cannabis was the most common recreational drug, after alcohol, used among injured drivers; 7.3% were found to have consumed marijuana in the hours preceding their crashes; and 12.6% still showed traces of the drug from earlier use.

Another article shared on the Mothers Against Drunk Driving website, originally in the December 9, 2015, edition of The Province, tells the story of a constable from the Abbotsford police reviewing the report from a Saturday night's roadside counter attack effort aimed at combatting impaired driving. This overnight report included four driving suspensions for drivers impaired by marijuana while there were no mentions of drivers impaired by alcohol. The constable even shared about what he called “a 'Cheech & Chong' scenario, where the windows come down and the billowing smoke comes out of the car.”

In the article, Andrew Murie, CEO of MADD, stated, “There’s this impression out there by young people, especially, that they’re safer (driving) stoned than drunk...If you’re high on pot, your skills to drive a motor vehicle are deteriorated and you’re at risk of being in a crash.”

It is precisely this sort of myth that must be tackled before marijuana becomes not only more accessible to Canadians, including young people, but more acceptable in a recreational context. It must also be considered in the legislation. Time is what is required, time to study this, time to hear from the experts and get the proper research and data we need. I urge the Liberals to take the appropriate amount of time to engage with Canadians in a public education campaign and to abandon their reckless rush on this legislation.

Numerous voices have sent these same messages to the Liberals. In fact, their own marijuana task force recommended extensive marijuana and impaired driving education and awareness campaigns before the drug's legalization, noting in its report, “Public opinion research shows that youth and some adults do not understand the risks of cannabis use.” Worse yet, youth underestimate the risks of cannabis use.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health points out that cannabis affects a person's ability to drive by impairing depth perception, attention span, and concentration, slowing reaction time, decreasing muscle strength, and hand steadiness. Do Canadians, and Canadian youth in particular, know these essential facts? The Canadian Automobile Association concurs on the need for public education and adds “It’s clear from the report that work needs to start immediately in these areas, and that the actual legalization should not be rushed”.

In the states of Washington and Colorado, public education campaigns did not begin until two years after legalization. The task force report noted, “Officials from both states strongly advised starting educational campaigns as soon as possible.”

As a Globe and Mail article highlights, both states have “seen significant increases in the proportion of fatal accidents involving drivers who tested positive for the drug.” It goes on to say, “the percentage of those accidents in which the drivers tested positive for marijuana increased considerably.”

Colorado saw about 10% of drivers involved in fatal accidents test positive for the drug in 2010. In 2014, a year after recreational marijuana sales were legalized, that percentage nearly doubled. A similar doubling occurred in Washington in the same period from about 6% to 12%. Without a proper public education campaign, this legislation will lead to the same tragic mistakes seen in these two jurisdictions.

The task force also identified a need for immediate investment and to work with the provinces and territories to develop a national, comprehensive public education strategy to send a clear message to Canadians that cannabis caused impairment and the best way to avoid driving impaired was not to consume. The strategy is also to inform Canadians about the dangers of cannabis-impaired driving, with special emphasis on youth and the applicable laws and the ability of law enforcement to detect cannabis use.

Much can be learned from the way public education has changed the way Canadians look at drinking and driving. Although we still have far too many tragic incidents, there is a better understanding of the consequences of alcohol-impaired driving today than there has been historically.

If legalization proceeds without taking into account the lessons learned from drunk driving prevention education, including the amount of time it took for public education campaigns to yield meaningful results, it will be a fatal mistake.

I want to reiterate that I have many serious concerns about the legalization of marijuana. If the Liberals are going to move forward with this legislation, it is incumbent upon all of us to lay the proper groundwork for the protection of the Canadian motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians who share our roads.

We must also ensure that young people understand the risks inherent in marijuana usage so that we can avoid needless loss of life based on myths that suggest that marijuana causes somewhat less impairment than alcohol. These assertions must be countered with the truth for the safety of everyone. The Liberals must abandon their politically motivated, rushed timeline to allow more time to prepare for the consequences of marijuana legalization and to ensure that Canadians are protected from impaired drivers.

This legislation is being rushed to committee. It is being rushed through the House. The debate has been curtailed. As Conservatives, the right thing to do is to support it, because we know that the Liberals are going to push it through anyway. We need to get it to committee. We need to study it thoroughly. We need to bring in expert testimony. We need to consider the effects cannabis could have on our youth. We need to consider whether the age limit is correct as is currently prescribed in the legislation.

The medical community has indicated very clearly that the brain is developing until the age of 25 and that the early use of marijuana does irreparable damage to the brain. The medical community strongly suggests that we not legalize marijuana prior to the age of 21, yet the Liberal government has recklessly proceeded with legislation that would legalize it at the age of 18.

The Liberals have said that they want to keep marijuana out of the hands of children and youth. I would suggest that it currently is not as abundantly found in homes as it would be once this legislation was passed. People would be allowed to have four mature marijuana plants up to 100 centimetres. I do not know if that is 100 centimetres in height or length or what, but if it is actually 100 centimetres in height, they would start growing horizontally, and that would create other problems. We know that four mature marijuana plants also means that there would be non-mature marijuana plants growing in the same household that would reach maturity at different stages. As we heard in earlier testimony, that could mean upwards of 12 marijuana plants per household in Canada. Law enforcement would not make a huge effort to ensure that those limits were maintained. That is going to be problematic.

The good thing is that the Liberals are being somewhat proactive with Bill C-46 by at least trying to address the concerns with respect to impaired driving from both cannabis and alcohol.

Something that has not been mentioned, at least I have not heard it mentioned, is what the impact will be on employers. I own a construction company that deals with heavy equipment. What burden will this place on employers to properly test that their employees are not coming to work stoned and under the influence of marijuana? When I am looking at machines that operate 150,000 to 200,000 pounds of payload, and I have a guy operating that equipment who is under the influence of cannabis that I cannot properly detect, that is going to put not only him but many others at grave risk.

There are lots of things in this legislation that need to be carefully examined. I am hopeful that the Liberals will allow for proper time at committee to examine this legislation carefully and to bring in expert testimony. Contrary to what I have seen at committee in the past, I am hopeful that the Liberals will allow for meaningful amendments to be considered and passed.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

This being the usual end of time allowed for government orders, I will let the hon. member for Provencher know that he will have 10 minutes remaining in the time provided for questions and comments when the House next returns to business on the motion.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Veterans AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

May 29th, 2017 / 6:30 p.m.


Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, this past February, we learned of a veteran who was evicted from her home because of delays in receiving her pension. After suffering through a botched surgery, this veteran was medically discharged because she failed a physical fitness test by nine seconds. Despite 27 years of service, and six tours of duty, she was denied a civil service job upon discharge. The needs of this veteran, a single mother and two-time survivor of cancer, could not even be acknowledged with the promise of financial security.

In November 2016, she was evicted from her home outside Ottawa. Just before Christmas, she finally received her pension, five months after her medically mandated release.

Her story is not unique. In fact, the transition process to civilian life has long been a concern. The Prime Minister, the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, the current and former chiefs of the defence Staff, the Auditor General of Canada, and the National Defence ombudsman have all raised concerns about the transition process.

Recently, the defence ombudsman issued a report to the Minister of National Defence outlining the convoluted transition process and offering recommendations to remedy the issues plaguing medically released veterans.

Each year about 5,500 uniformed Canadians transition to civilian life. Of those, about 1,500 are discharged due to illness or injury. The process these ill or injured members go through to receive benefits is extremely complicated. Members must independently prove to VAC that their injuries can be attributed to their service, despite the fact that the Canadian Armed Forces has all necessary records available. This puts an extra burden on former CAF members. It forces them to tell their stories again and again, preventing them from moving on from traumatic experiences.

Additionally, the information systems of Veterans Affairs Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces, and service income security are not integrated. Veterans are left to navigate pages and pages of paperwork on their own, filling out up to 21 separate applications to receive the necessary benefits. Finally, veterans are typically discharged well before their benefits are confirmed and distributed. This is what caused the eviction of a young woman who had faithfully served her country.

The benefits decision process can take up to 16 weeks, not including the time VAC takes to obtain records from CAF or the time members take to obtain and submit their own records. This means that at the very least, medically discharged veterans are left with four months of financial uncertainty.

The recommendations suggested by the DND ombudsman would remedy these problems. The first and most important recommendation is to retain medically releasing members until all benefits and services are in place. The second is to establish a concierge service to serve as a focal point to assist members and their families with administrative matters regarding that transition. The final recommendation is to phase in a web portal to integrate the VAC, CAF, and service income security. This would allow members to input relevant information only once and would help them automatically apply for all services and benefits consistent with their needs.

Talk of creating a seamless transition process has been circulating for more than 13 years. The ombudsman has released clear and objective recommendations. It makes sense to honour these recommendations. We have a sacred obligation to provide care for our veterans.

When will the minister acknowledge and act upon these recommendations to ensure that medically discharged veterans receive their benefits in a timely and unobstructed manner?

Veterans AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne Québec


Sherry Romanado LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite for her work and advocacy on behalf of Canadian veterans. I had the great pleasure of sitting on the committee with her prior to my nomination.

We all can agree that the country owes a great deal to all men and women who have served in the Canadian Armed Forces. As the member opposite knows, due to federal privacy laws I cannot comment on individual cases. However, I can say that this government is committed to ensuring that Canadian veterans, and the families that support them, receive all the benefits, services, and support they require and deserve, including the Canadian Forces pension and superannuation.

I can assure this House that when a specific case is raised, the Department of Veterans Affairs makes every effort to address the underlying issues and to find ways to improve the outcome for the veteran.

Both Veterans Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence recognize that there can be gaps, which is why the Minister of Veterans Affairs was also named the Associate Minister of National Defence. The two ministers and the departments are working closely together to reduce the complexity of the programs and processes, to overhaul the delivery of services, and to strengthen the partnership between Veterans Affairs Canada and National Defence for the benefit of veterans. We want veterans and members of the Canadian Armed Forces to have harmonized services, clear guidance, and an understanding of what is available; timely access to benefits and services; and coordinated case management between both departments during a member's transition. The goal is to help transitioning members become re-established and to help them through this process with the dignity, respect, and support they so fully deserve, however long it may take.

In budget 2016, we delivered $5.6 billion for veterans. By making changes and improvements to the disability award, the earnings loss benefit, and the permanent impairment allowance, we are recognizing the sacrifices made by veterans and ensuring their financial security.

Budget 2017 focused on veterans and their families. We are closing a number of current gaps in the system, restoring critical access to services, and improving the long-term financial security and independence of ill and injured veterans in a fair and equitable way.

Considerable work has already been completed to date to simplify the transition from service in the Canadian Armed Forces to civilian life. The departments are committed to ensuring that the transition is as streamlined as possible. We call it “closing the seam” between National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada.

The minister and I recognize that there is more to be done, and we are working diligently to fulfill the goal of a seamless transition. Moving forward, we remain committed to fulfilling the minister's mandate and to improving the health and well-being of veterans and their families.

As always, I encourage any veteran, or the family of a serving member, who has an issue or a question to reach out to Veterans Affairs Canada. I would say the same to any member of this place who may be aware of an issue affecting a veteran or his or her family. Together we can make things better for members of our Canadian Armed Forces and the veterans and the families that support them.

Veterans AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the threat of financial uncertainty imposed upon medically discharged veterans is unconscionable. We were handed a guide to help us work towards a solution. This is a tremendous opportunity for positive action. Why will the minister not act on these recommendations and protect the sacred obligation we have to aid veterans as they transition back into civilian life?

I heard a promise to return to pre-new-veterans-charter pensions. When will this happen? It needs to happen now. Financial security is key to looking after our veterans and their families, as we have promised.

Veterans AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Sherry Romanado Liberal Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne, QC

Mr. Speaker, we recognize that the current system can be complex and difficult to navigate, which can add additional stress. Veteran Affairs Canada has many initiatives under way to improve the services veterans and their families receive and to make them more veteran-centric. This work includes reviewing and updating policies, processes, and tools to improve the veteran's experience and reduce complexity.

In addition, VAC is committed to a review of the financial benefits offered to veterans to determine how best to meet the needs of veterans and their families and to ensure that they have access to the right programs and services at the right time, where and when needed. That is why we re-opened all nine centres for veterans.

Our goal is to ease that transition process and to ensure the health, well-being, and financial security of veterans as they move into a new phase of their lives.

Public Services and ProcurementAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to follow up on a question I asked about problems at the Translation Bureau.

In early 2016, the Translation Bureau made headlines because it was in a shambles and its interpreters and translators were under intense pressure. The Standing Committee on Official Languages did a study to get to the bottom of things. A report about the Translation Bureau was tabled, and then came a second report, and that is what prompted me to ask the question.

We put so much pressure on the government that we got a response from the Minister of Public Services and Procurement to our first report on the Translation Bureau, but all of the members, not just me, disagreed with the government's response. Even the committee's Liberal members disagreed.

After even more pressure was brought to bear on the government, we received a second response that offered us a little more substance and information. That is why I asked the following question. The Translation Bureau does extremely valuable work to promote our two official languages, but over 400 positions have been eliminated over the past four years and there are plans to cut 140 more this year and next year. Morale is therefore very low at the Translation Bureau. Things have started to get a little better, but there are still problems.

On February 9, 2017, I asked the Minister of Public Services and Procurement whether she thought that the 19 employees who had been hired would be able to replace the 540 employees who would be leaving.

We are told that everything is fine and there is going to be investment in the Translation Bureau again, but there will be only 19 employees to do the work of the 540 employees who have left through attrition. This makes no sense. That is not going to move things forward. This is why I asked this question in February. In fact, of course, the answer was vague.

The Translation Bureau was an institution of renown on the international stage. People from all over the world were inspired by it and came here to train. Unfortunately, for several years now, the Translation Bureau has lost that reputation, first under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, and now under Liberal rule.

The second response from the Minister of Public Services and Procurement is much more encouraging. There seems to be a desire to get back to quality, instead of constantly lowering the quality of services and looking for the lowest bidder. However, the Canadian public still needs a lot more answers.

First, we want to know whether the government is going to reinvest in the Translation Bureau, which needs not just 17 new employees, but maybe a hundred or so.

Second, will the focus be on quality and not on seeking the lowest bidder? This is extremely important. It is one of the two questions I would like my hon. colleague to answer.