Mr. Speaker, today we are speaking about Bill C-45, a Liberal government plan that caused a stir even well before the election. When the Prime Minister was the leader of the Liberal Party and aspiring to his current position, he spoke about his own marijuana use and later said he was going to launch this major project.
First, we must point out that there is a problem we must now deal with. In fact, we have been asking for a long time for the details and the plan for this bill, information that has been lacking for far too long. When someone who is aspiring to be Prime Minister, and an MP before that, stands for election and talks in very vague terms about legalization, it creates a lot of uncertainty. We have seen that the judicial system and police forces are also dealing with a great deal of uncertainty.
When the Liberals came to power almost eighteen months ago, I asked the RCMP commissioner some questions when he appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. I wanted to know how he thought the existing law should be applied in light of the Prime Minister's long-term vision, which was not materializing.
With respect to public safety and security, there are other consequences stemming from the lack of a plan, a vision, or an explanation from the government about this bill. One of those consequences is still present today, and it may very well remain after the bill is enacted: the consequences for Canadians crossing the border to the United States.
Growing numbers of American states are legalizing marijuana. In spite of that, we see that Canadian citizens crossing the border, whether to visit family or to go on vacation or to work, are being asked outright whether they have ever smoked marijuana. They are being judged for that and banned from entering the United States.
While we acknowledge the Americans’ responsibility, and their right, to make that determination for themselves, we can readily conclude that it is extremely problematic that a product legalized in Canada will have such major consequences for Canadians.
In spite of the current scrambling resulting from the behaviour of President Trump, our relationship with the United States is nonetheless very important, and smooth flow at the border remains crucial for many Canadians, for the reasons I outlined earlier.
As we saw when my colleague from Cowichan—Malahat—Langford asked a question today during question period, we have no information about Canada’s various international obligations. We have still not been given the details about how we are going to go about this.
What we are seeing is the consequences associated with a process that was significantly lacking in transparency up until the bill was introduced, in spite of the report of the task force, whom we do thank for that.
I am going to talk about what the bill does and does not contain. Before getting into the substance of this legislation, I want to say that we will be supporting Bill C-45 at second reading. It is high time we moved forward with this debate.
However, even though we support the bill, we have important questions and concerns. Some will be resolved in committee, but others will be more difficult to resolve and will remain unanswered.
The question that comes immediately to mind relates to the responsibilities of the provinces and territories. I raised the question of uncertainty earlier. The greatest uncertainty relates to shared responsibilities with the provinces. For example, important questions arise in relation to taxation, that is, the revenue that will be derived from this. That is often one of the arguments when we discuss legalizing marijuana. People often tell us that one of the positive consequences of legalizing marijuana is that this revenue will no longer be in the hands of organized crime, and will instead be in the government’s hands.
However, we know that given the way our country is structured, all the issues relating to sale and taxation are to a large extent under provincial jurisdiction.
I have heard some Conservatives raise the question of the rights of landlords whose tenants might like to grow plants. Tenants can set rules of their own. That said, in Quebec, for example, it could be the Régie du logement that ends up having to come up with a set of rules. All these questions obviously call for a robust, transparent and very thorough conversation with the provinces.
It does not seem to me that this has happened so far. This is one of the bill's major problems. We will get answers to some of these questions when we have a clearer picture of the role the provinces are being called on to play.
Governing in Canada can be very complicated. There are different issues in the different regions of the country. This is a vast country, as we know. We hope that the provinces will get their say. We are certainly not convinced that they have had a chance to explain their concerns and say how they would like things to be structured.
Naturally, the government could ask that we have these discussions after the bill has passed. As a parliamentarian from Quebec, I see that I need a lot more information about what will be required of the provinces to do and what the provinces may require, in turn, before we can give the government a blank cheque.
In spite of all this, as I said, we support the government’s approach, up to a point. In recent years, there has been much talk about what we know as the war on drugs. That is what the media calls it. It was popularized, in a sense, by Ronald Reagan when he was president in the 1980s.
We agree with the government that the present approach is a failure. Obviously, putting our heads in the sand and contenting ourselves with punishing people is not an approach that promotes education and prevention or benefits young people or cultural communities. Unfortunately, specific segments of the population are too often victims of profiling or discrimination by the judicial system, and, without meaning to generalize, by some aspects of policing.
We can look at the American example and see how marijuana is classified in the United States. In the hierarchy of dangerous and serious drugs, marijuana is classified ahead of other drugs like heroin or cocaine. We see that there is nonetheless discussion happening. The reason I mention the American example despite the fact that it goes outside our borders is that there are a lot of fears circulating. We must take the opportunity to set the record straight.
With respect to discrimination, in our humble opinion, it is too often the same people, the same members of our society, who are punished unfairly or too harshly in connection with their recreational use of marijuana, among other things. That is why we have called for decriminalization for a long time.
When it comes to the Prime Minister, we find it unacceptable that a member of his family is able to get off because of the privileges he enjoys in our society as a result of his status, while young people, or, as I said, other members of society who are too often victims of discrimination will still have a criminal record and the negative repercussions of that record for something that will soon be legal. In the meantime, we are calling for amnesty and decriminalization.
With respect to the question of revenue, which will also have to be negotiated with the provinces, we believe that this money can and should be used for education and prevention. This is a golden opportunity to change the direction of the war on drugs and truly focus on a progressive approach. It must benefit primarily the people for whom it is intended, namely young people. We must not see cronyism or an approach that takes a direction different from the one promised by the Prime Minister.
I may be able to expand on that when I answer questions.