I am thrilled to speak about this piece of legislation, because I had the opportunity in March to invite the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and member for Scarborough Southwest to my riding, to the wonderful town of Whitby. I would like to thank him for his dedication to this file, for coming to speak to community groups, and especially for coming to Whitby.
When he came to Whitby in March, he had the opportunity to have a round table with various individuals in our community. There were mayors and councillors from Whitby and the Durham region. There were police, fire, EMS, bylaw enforcement officers, health organizations and departments, mental health professionals, nurses, and individuals from Durham College and UOIT, which is the university in Durham region.
During that round table they had a number of questions, which I highlighted and which we indicated that with the tabling of the legislation should be answered. I want to answer seven of those questions today in my speech, but I also want to speak to the parents in Whitby. Whitby is a bedroom community and there are a lot of families within Whitby, and I would like to speak to the parents because I am a parent myself.
The first question they asked was about resources to the municipalities and how they would be compensated for security, safety, and building resilience. I want to let my colleagues within Whitby and the Durham region know that we will be investing additional resources to make sure there is capacity within Health Canada, the RCMP, the CBSA, and the Department of Public Health and Emergency Preparedness to license, inspect, and enforce all aspects of the proposed legislation. Some might be saying, “That's not municipalities, Celina.” I understand. I will get there.
The task force recommended that we work with provincial and territorial governments to determine a tax regime that includes equitable distribution of revenues. The bill provides legislation and authority via the various acts, but the government is committed to ensuring that law enforcement and our courts have the legislation, technology, training, and resources required to keep our roadways and communities safe. We have committed to invest the revenue into research, prevention, public education, treatment, and rehabilitation. I think that addresses some of the concerns we have in terms of our municipalities getting the resources.
The second question was around effectively enforcing the four-plant rule. The legislation would allow the municipalities to set conditions as to where and how cannabis can be grown within their jurisdiction. Whitby, as I mentioned, is a bedroom community. It is different from other communities, and not all communities are the same. It is a growing community. Therefore, giving the municipality the capacity to determine where and how cannabis can be grown is an important part of this piece of legislation.
The third question asks about the resources for public education for cannabis. We heard some of that debate here in the House. I would like to quote the Minister of Health.
She said yesterday and in her speech again today that our emphasis is on a public health approach to the introduction of the legalization of cannabis, and it is based on a strict regulatory regime. A public health approach means that we are sure to maximize education and minimize harm. Our government is committed to having a broad public education campaign for Canadians of all ages to the proposed legislation, including the penalties for providing cannabis to youth and the risks involved with consuming cannabis. We have committed $9.6 million in budget 2017 over five years, with $1 million per year in ongoing support of public education. The campaign will be focused on helping young Canadians to make the best choices for their future and to understand the risks and consequences of cannabis.
I would also like to quote the parliamentary secretary, who said, “Under decriminalization, cannabis remains unregulated and this means that users know little or nothing about the potency or the quality. ... As long as cannabis use is illegal, it is difficult [and often impossible] for health care or educational professionals to effectively address and prevent problematic use.”
This speaks to the task force recommendation for a comprehensive public education campaign. We have learned lessons from Colorado and from Washington, where their education campaigns used the revenues from cannabis to support that education campaign, and it happened too late. We are following the recommendations, and while I agree that we could have a more robust campaign, we are committed to public education.
The fourth question related to the additional revenues from cannabis going to treatment facilities. The Prime Minister has said that cash that flows to the public coffers from cannabis taxation should go to treatment of addiction, mental health support, and education programs, and not to general revenues. As a very strong advocate for mental health, I am particularly pleased with this approach, because we know that there is a slippery slope between mental health and addiction, and it is important to ensure that we are looking at treatment.
The fifth question was around setting the age at 18. I am a mom of an 18-year-old, as well as a 13-year-old and a nine-year-old, for that matter. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to go back to Whitby and help my daughter get ready for her prom. It was a great moment, and I want to say congratulations to all the students across the country who are graduating, but in particular to the ones from All Saints in Whitby who attended prom with my daughter. Also, this weekend is the Brooklin Spring Fair, and while, like many others, I would be at the fair with my family during the day, many of our young people tend to go to the fair at night. The message that I have to my daughter and to all young people is not to use drugs.
I say so because currently it is untested, unregulated, and potentially unsafe. We would be naive to think that if we said, “Don't use drugs”, our kids would not use them, because we know that in Canada a high percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds use cannabis. In fact, it is 30% of the population. We want to make sure that when we are talking about 18-year-olds or above using cannabis, we understand that these individuals have reached the age of majority. They can vote. They can join the military. My daughter, in a couple of months, is going to be flying to England to go to school, and she will be living on her own. They have the capacity to make choices.
We are not encouraging the use of cannabis; we are saying that well-informed adults have the ability to make a decision on their own.
The sixth question was about data collection and surveillance. We have learned from Colorado's experience to establish good baseline data. The bill would permit the establishment of a cannabis tracking system. The minister spoke about surveys that would be going out, so there is that investment in research.
Last, what did we learn from other jurisdictions? Number one, we learned that we should take a public health approach and not a commercialization approach to cannabis. We have looked at making sure that we limit our young people's access to promotion of cannabis. We saw a couple of days ago that a young girl in Fredericton drank vaping fluid that was in a package that had rainbows on it. That would not be allowed with this legislation. Our public health approach is directed entirely at reducing both the social harms and the health harms.
As a parent, I firmly support this piece of legislation and I am thankful to the parliamentary secretary, the Minister of Health, and the Minister of Justice for putting forward this piece of legislation.