Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on the cannabis act, also known as another poorly thought out, poorly written, rushed-through piece of legislation by the government, which needs time allocation to get it through, only to go to the Senate, where it is going to be butchered and sent back for further amendments, leaving the government wondering why in the world it bothered trying to have independent senators in the first place. However, I understand that is just the working title.
If anyone is watching CPAC at home right now and breathlessly waiting another nine and a half minutes for me to tell them whether I support the bill or not, I will give them a spoiler alert. They should go and have a cup of coffee or something so they do not hear the answer now. Clearly, I do not support the bill as presented. That is shocking, I know.
I want to discuss a couple of highlights, or lowlights, of the bill before I get into the bulk of my speech. We have heard repeatedly from experts and the medical association that setting the minimum age at 18 is way too low. Eighteen is the legal age in Ontario right now, where I am from. Just last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at two different high schools for their graduations, where the huge majority of these children were 18. The government wants to allow children 18 years old to legally smoke marijuana and to go into the stores any time to pick it up. It is disgraceful. Youth aged 12 to 17 would be allowed to have up to seven joints at the same time.
The legislation would put Canada in contravention of international laws and treaty obligations, including the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971, and the UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs. There is no plan from the government right now to address these issues.
There are problems with drug-impaired driving. There is no universally accepted limit for what constitutes impaired driving. There is no common line across the world that has a legalized system to say this is what impairment is. Current drug testing involves oral fluid samples, but it can only provide the presence of the drug, not the concentration. Chemical traces of marijuana stay in an individual's body for a long time after impairment is no longer an issue. Saliva tests are very expensive at $20 to $40 for every single test. Currently, checking for alcohol at roadside stops costs pennies. Now we are going to force this huge cost upon municipalities to bear.
One of the arguments we hear is that legalizing it will push out organized crime. Who in the world thinks the Hells Angels, or anyone else in organized crime currently taking in billions, is going to stop and say, “It's all over. Let's pick up our toys and go home. It's now legal. Maybe we can use our motorcycles to become Uber drivers, because we're obviously out of the business”? It is simple-mindedness to think that the Hells Angels, and all these criminal organizations that have been doing this for years and years, with amazing market penetration, are going to just pack up their stuff and go away. I am not advocating for organized crime or the Hells Angels, but this is reality.
One of the arguments we hear is that it will fill the tax coffers. We can legalize it, tax the heck out of it, and raise a lot of money. Unfortunately, the parliamentary budget office, the same PBO the government is trying to muzzle with its omnibus budget bill, says the opposite. It says the money raised by the government will be measured in the millions and millions, not the billions. To quote the PBO, “The illicit market, their profit margins are very high, so they have room to compete with the legal market, which makes it even more difficult for the government to set the price and the tax rate.”
The PBO says the government is not going to push out illegal drugs unless it keeps prices down. Now we are going to have the government helping to set the price of marijuana low to keep out organized crime, thus making it easier to access for Canadians.
The PBO estimates the pot market is worth about $4 billion to $6 billion. Of that, the feds are going to take $100 million or more, the provinces will take a bit more, and that is only if they keep taxes and prices down. When have we ever seen the government keeping prices or taxes down? Does anyone in Ontario or B.C., with their public liquor store systems, the B.C. Liquor Stores and the LCBO, actually think government is going to keep prices down and undercut organized crime? I do not think so.
President Reagan has many famous quotes, and one of my favourites was when he described governments' view on business as thus: “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” I can very well see a future where the government, with its interference in this market, with regulations and added taxes, makes it difficult for legalized marijuana to compete with organized crime, and therefore, lowers taxes or changes the system, or perhaps even subsidizes it, to better compete with organized crime.
One government member argued that pot arrests are tying up the courts. I have to ask, why not just decriminalize it? The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police says so. My colleagues in the NDP do not disagree with it. What is so magical that on June 30 marijuana is going to be illegal but on the very next day, July 1, it is going to be magically okay? I do not often agree with my friends and my colleagues in the NDP, but they do have a point.
I am stunned that the Liberal member is using this argument about tying up courts when the government has failed to fill open positions in the courts for over a year. My colleague, the member for St. Albert—Edmonton, has been calling for the government to fill the judge positions that the government has neglected to fill.
Murderers are being let go because we do not have judges. Of the 101 applications for release by accused persons because of court delays, 51 were granted, including, from Edmonton, Adam Picard, who was accused of murdering a gentleman named Fouad Nayel, and another one, Lance Regan, also accused of murder.
Here we have the government not filling judge positions but we have another member of the government stating that we cannot tie up the courts with pot. She does not seem to care that we are not filling the judge positions and are allowing accused murderers to go free, but she is concerned about the courts being tied up otherwise.
Why such a big rush to legalize by July 1, 2018? Why the arbitrary cut-off? Is it perhaps because the government is under pressure from so many broken promises, such as balancing the budget by the end of its mandate in 2019, which will now be 2055; the $30-billion deficit, which will now be hundreds of billions of dollars; or the whole open and fair competition to replace the fighter jets, which it is not doing because it is going to CF-18s, so maybe we will throw them under the bus because we have to appease Bombardier.
Of course, the biggest promise the government may have broken is on electoral reform. We know the government rallied youth to its cause with the electoral reform promise, which it has now cancelled. Is it rushing through the bill, putting families and children at risk, just so it can draw this cohort back to Liberal support?
I have to wonder, again, why July 1? Is it so the Prime Minister can light the symbolic first joint on Canada Day, or maybe arrange to photo bomb a bunch of people toking up and get his PR experts to create a hashtag and call it a photo bong?
We have spoken to the RCMP in Edmonton. I have spoken to the police in our riding. They say they are not going to be ready by July 1. The training is not going to be done. The ability to detect levels of intoxication will not be ready. Municipalities have told us they are not ready, and they do not want to get stuck carrying the bill for this poorly thought out legislation.
Provinces are scambling to get ready. The Province of Alberta, just a week ago, started consultations on how it is going to regulate and distribute marijuana in Alberta. That is four million people, and we just started the process. Our schools are not ready. However, the government says not to worry; they have a plan for education and prevention of $9 million over five years. That is 5¢ for every Canadian, over five years.
Let us put that in perspective. The government, in its budget, has put down $120 million for the same time frame as free charging stations for Tesla owners. If people own an $85,000 Tesla, the government is there for them. However, if a family is trying to keep their kids away from marijuana, here's a nickel a year. It is ridiculous.
In conclusion, I wish the government would take a step back and realize it is too soon. I understand it has a majority, it has a mandate, and it is going to push this through. However, I beg the government to slow it down and let us have proper consultations with the provinces, municipalities, and families before it steamrolls this ahead.