Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other acts. What we are talking about here is enabling police officers to detect impaired drivers.
Before I begin, I want to make one thing clear. I think we all want to support measures that protect Canadians on our roads no matter where they are. However, I am not convinced that the bill before us addresses all of our questions and concerns.
This is an issue that matters a lot to me and that I have done a lot of work on because it ties in with marijuana legalization, which the government wants to implement on July 1, 2018.
First, I want to point out that I supported the bill introduced by my colleague from Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other acts. This bill also amends the Criminal Records Act so that the offence of impaired driving and the offence of failing or refusing to comply with a demand are no longer exceptions to the offences, rendering null and void the record suspension. My colleague has done an excellent job. However, unfortunately, this was rejected by the government. This bill makes consequential amendments to these laws and others that are directly related to the bill we are debating today.
Second, I also sponsored Bill S-240, introduced by Senator Claude Carignan. This bill sought to implement measures to combat impaired driving. The bill amends the Criminal Code in order to authorize the use of a screening device approved by the government to detect the presence of drugs in the body of a person who was operating a vehicle or who had the care or control of a vehicle. It also authorizes the taking of samples of bodily substances to determine the concentration of drugs in a person's body based on physical coordination tests and the result of the analysis conducted using an approved screening device.
Once again, even though all senators, regardless of their political stripe, and all opposition parties unanimously agreed, the government nevertheless decided to reject all the Senate's hard work. The bill had passed all three stages of the legislative process, but now we have to start from scratch. It will be too late and no one will be ready if the bill to legalize marijuana is rushed through.
Third, I asked about 15 questions and I took part in many of the debates we have had here in the House of Commons.
Fourth, I met with representatives from various businesses that produce drug screening devices in order to learn more about these devices' ability to screen for faculties impaired by drugs.
Fifth, I met with senior officials responsible for training police officers at the École nationale de police du Québec. Unfortunately, I learned that they had not been consulted as part of this process and that they feel unprepared to deal with the consequences of this bill to legalize marijuana.
Sixth, I asked the citizens of my riding for their thoughts on this plan to legalize marijuana, and more specifically the consequences it will have on road safety.
Seventh, I studied the cases of Uruguay, Colorado, and Washington in particular, and I reviewed all of the legislation on the subject from other places in the world.
That is why I can talk about this issue today with a full knowledge of the facts and confirm that Canada is not ready to legalize marijuana, especially not by July 1, 2018. Before any bill to legalize cannabis is passed, the police must have the proper tools to prevent many lives being lost on our roads.
To be frank, I find it hard to understand why the Liberals dragged their feet for so long before introducing a draft bill that they are now saying must urgently be passed before the summer recess. Let us be serious. The legalization of marijuana has been part of the Liberal platform for years. To get elected, the Liberals even told Canadians that they had a plan.
Once elected, it took them two years to introduce a bill in the House because their legislative agenda has been flawed from the start. Ironically, the Senate is not working very hard compared to when other governments were in office. Now, all of a sudden, things have picked up and the Liberals are trying to quickly pass bills without allowing them to be thoroughly studied in committee.
Two bills need to be quickly passed so that everything is in place in time for the next election. That is simply irresponsible, and the Liberals are to blame. In short, this bill is critically important in protecting Canadians from the growing scourge of drug-impaired drivers who get behind the wheel. It becoming increasingly urgent to eradicate this scourge in light of the Liberals' bill to legalize marijuana.
Every jurisdiction that has legalized marijuana has experienced an increase in the number of accidents and impaired drivers. Here is what the Canadian Police Association told the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs:
Driving while intoxicated by drugs impairs judgment and motor coordination. In one study involving aircraft, ten licensed pilots were given one marijuana joint containing 19 mg of THC, a relatively small amount [for users, or so I am told]. Twenty-four hours after smoking the joint, they were tested in a flight simulator. All ten of the pilots made errors in landing, and one missed the runway completely.
The report also said that, according to a recent opinion poll about drug-impaired driving, 58% of Canadian drivers did not know if their province or territory had any administrative laws on drug-impaired driving. The clearly demonstrates the need to sort out the drug-impaired driving issue before cannabis is legalized. Unfortunately, I doubt that can happen given the Liberal government's unrealistic and irresponsible timelines. for things to happen that fast, the Liberals will have to rush the process, which will jeopardize Canadians' health and safety. That is extremely unfortunate.
I would like to share a few quotes that I compiled about impaired driving because I want to give everyone a real sense of just how big an issue this is even though the Liberals are trying to downplay it.
According to Washington State toxicology lab manager Brian Capron , since the state legalized marijuana, over a third of impaired drivers tested positive for the drug. They test over 13,000 drivers every year.
According to Dr. Chris Rumball of the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, the Prime Minister's plan to legalize marijuana should take into account sobering U.S. experiences. In Washington State, fatal crashes among drivers who tested positive for marijuana doubled from 8% in 2013, before legalization, to 17% in 2014 after legalization. In Colorado, the number tripled from 3.4% to 12.1%.
“The number of car accidents in Colorado increased because of marijuana usage,” said Kevin Sabet, former advisor to Barack Obama on drug policy.
According to the Quebec police, “Canadian police forces are worried about drug-impaired driving [in the wake of Ottawa's announcement that it intends to legalize marijuana]. Police are concerned about trivializing consumption [and] an increase in drivers under the influence of drugs.”
I also have this quote from Annie Gauthier, CAA Québec's spokesperson. “We must continue to collect data, put technology in place and establish guidelines that will enable police officers to properly control and deal with this new situation in order to prevent it from spiralling out of control.”
I have many more similar quotes and I could go on at length.
In closing, every effort to make our roads safer is critical. I sincerely hope that the Liberals will allow sufficient time for a thorough study of the bill in committee. The Liberals' irresponsible marijuana legalization proposal aside, there is still the issue of impaired driving that needs to be addressed as soon as possible, whether or not legalization is about to happen.