Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to deliver my first speech in the House of Commons. I am honoured to use this opportunity to address Bill C-46, which deals with offences and procedures related to impaired driving for both cannabis and alcohol.
The Minister of Justice tabled this legislation proposing that it would help address the problem of impaired driving, which we all agree is a serious issue, especially given the Liberals' misguided decision to legalize marijuana. However, in my opinion, they missed the mark.
I stand before the House tonight to express my views and the views of my constituents of Calgary Midnapore regarding this bill.
While the Liberals have proposed some good suggestions, this bill is riddled with flaws and inconsistencies. As is, the bill is poorly structured. It fails to consider the significant issues that matter to Canadians, the issues that we ought to consider in an effort to keep Canadians safe.
In discussing the bill, we need to consider some very relevant details. Impaired driving remains one of the most frequent and deadly criminal offences. In fact, it is among the leading criminal causes of death right here in Canada. Each year, roughly 1,500 Canadians are killed by impaired driving and another 63,000 are injured in impairment-related crashes. This is no small matter.
The Liberal government's marijuana task force made a couple of key recommendations. It recommended extensive impaired driving education and awareness campaigns before the drug's legalization. Canada and our legal system are experiencing a changing political landscape. We must be careful not to make policy changes before we carefully consider any implied consequences.
Let us look to our neighbours in the south for the consequences which they have faced. The Globe and Mail reported that two states in the U.S. that have introduced recreational marijuana sales have seen a significant increase in the proportion of fatal accidents. This sets a very dangerous precedent we should be careful not to follow.
The task force also indicated research shows that youth underestimate the risks of cannabis abuse. Young Canadians are the future of our country. We do not want them causing harm to other Canadians. We certainly do not want them causing harm to themselves, and we certainly need to ensure the lives of young Canadians, or any Canadians for that matter, are not being put at risk.
Let me be clear. As a Conservative, I strongly condemn impaired driving of any kind. Impaired driving caused by alcohol consumption or drug use has no place on the streets of our country. I do not want that anywhere my young son and his friends play, and I do not want that in any of the neighbourhoods of Calgary Midnapore.
The Conservative Party supports measures that protect Canadians from impaired drivers. Mandatory fines and higher maximum penalties send a strong message that Canadians will not tolerate impaired driving. We need to be tough on crime. I support measures that deter and reduce incidences of impaired driving, but I cannot support the bill in its current form. The bill has multiple glaring flaws which must be addressed before we can even consider passing it through the House.
First, the bill compromises the safety of every single Canadian who uses a vehicle to commute. As I have stated, impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada. Marijuana-impaired driving is yet another red flag about this legislation. Recreational marijuana use is illegal today, but we know the Liberals' agenda to legalize marijuana. I suspect that the Liberals are recklessly trying to rush through this legislation in order to make it easier to pass their legislation legalizing recreational marijuana. This is a dangerous precedent to be setting. Thousands of lives will be at risk if we allow this to pass. The safety of our citizens is my top concern. Let us please put safety ahead of recreation.
Second, this bill would do nothing to help deter impaired driving. As we know, not only do strong penalties deter criminal activity, but they also limit the potential for criminals to reoffend. However, the bill would actually give first-time offenders a break by reducing wait times to get their keys back and drive once again.
Third, the wording of the bill is incredibly unclear. Bill C-46 would enable law enforcement officers to conduct impairment tests using roadside oral fluid drug screeners, if they reasonably suspected that drivers had drugs in their body. How do we define reasonable? Is it the way someone drives, the smell of his or her breath, or his or her ability to articulate words? The government has failed to define what is and what is not reasonable. This leaves ambiguity for impaired drivers who can evade unsuspecting officers, and for officers to unlawfully violate the rights of law-abiding drivers.
This brings me to my final point.
In its current form, Bill C-46 is an infringement on the rights of Canadians. The bill would implement mandatory alcohol screening. This is a fundamental violation of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms: innocent until proven guilty; the presumption of innocence. Mandatory alcohol screening shifts the burden of proof away from the crown, and toward the individual. This part of the legislation would likely face a charter challenge. Even if not, it is a very invasive practice of the state on an individual without justified reason. We, as representatives of our constituents, need to be awfully sure no legislation that the House passes is an infringement on the rights of Canadians. I fear the government has overlooked this fundamental freedom.
The House must consider three additional factors before proceeding with Bill C-46. I recommend a more cautious and evidence-based approach.
First, let us make the right decisions instead of making fast decisions. The Liberals want to rush these drug bills through Parliament by July 2018. This hurried timeline is unrealistic and puts the health and safety of Canadians at risk. Law enforcement has not been provided the resources or training required to deal with the increased threat of impaired driving associated with the legalization of marijuana.
Second, let us do a better job of consulting with the relevant stakeholders. Jeff Walker, the vice-president of the Canadian Automobile Association, said that legalization of marijuana should not be rushed and that educational campaigns and greater funding for law enforcement should be the immediate priorities.
I also want to point out that former Liberal minister of justice and health, the Hon. Anne McLellan who chaired the Liberal government's marijuana task force, said that the best solution was to give researchers additional time to develop proper detection tools. Let us listen to the experts.
Third, more education is crucial. My colleagues and I are concerned that the government has not developed effective campaigns to inform Canadians how dangerous it is to drive while under the influence of marijuana. Organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving have done an excellent job of helping Canadians understand the risks of drunk driving. However, Canadians must better understand the dangers of all types of impaired driving. This education needs to happen before legalizing marijuana.
The Liberal government has done little to deal with this. Instead, the Liberals propose high mandatory fines and maximum penalties for Canadians who may not fully understand the risks of driving under the influence of marijuana. If we can ensure the safety of Canadians by proactively educating instead of retroactively penalizing, then we can save the lives of Canadians. That is the avenue we have to focus on first.
It is for these reasons I cannot support Bill C-46.