Madam Speaker, I am joining the debate on Bill C-93 today, and the clock has been pushed out. I was originally supposed to speak some time ago, but as happens often in the House, we were delayed. Therefore, I am delayed in my phone call with my friend Wolf Solkin, a 96-year-old veteran at Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue in Quebec. If Wolf is watching, I will be calling him after these remarks.
Wolf would inspire all Canadians. He is 96. He helped liberate the Netherlands. Now he is an advocate for veterans and his comrades at Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, which is a hospital I helped transfer to the Quebec government as minister. However, the service is not living up to the standards we expected. We are trying to work on Wolf's concern and solve that, so I will be with Wolf in a moment.
The only time I dealt with cannabis as veterans minister was as a form of treatment for veterans. With Bill C-93, we are looking at the expedited record suspension route for simple possession of cannabis, but this is actually an example of another fumbled element of the cannabis legalization from the government. As the Liberals approach the election in the fall, that is literally the only issue I think the Prime Minister can look to and say that he kept his promise.
However, we have actually had to deal with the aftermath of rushed and often ill-conceived timelines and consequential public policy moves with respect to the Prime Minister's election promise. This is an example. That is not to say that we are going to turn back the clock when the Conservatives form government in the fall. Marijuana will remain legal, but we will try to address some of the public safety concerns, such as some of the concerns that pediatricians, the Canadian Medical Association and others have had.
It may have come as some surprise to some of the Liberal MPs who were not here in the last Parliament that I, and many MPs in the Conservative ranks, including my colleague from Kootenay, David Wilks, a former RCMP officer, supported the legalization step of decriminalization. It was not a full legalization rushed in this fashion. It was a ticketing approach by law enforcement, which the Liberals suggested would be a big problem, but it actually would not. In many ways, it was an unofficial way law enforcement could deal with it while still keeping the substance a controlled drug and illegal and keeping our international treaties and things like that in line. That was the approach many of us were advocating, because it was time to look at a new approach with respect to cannabis. Many of us recognized that. We did not want to see serious criminal sanctions for young people, but how could we also still talk about the public health risks associated with this drug? It is a minor drug with fewer complications and harms than many others, but let us also not kid ourselves. There are public policy and public health challenges with it. Therefore, I want to thank my former colleague, David Wilks, and other people for a serious discussion on this.
We are not going to turn back the clock. The leader of the Conservative Party has said that clearly, but we will try to address some of the concerns that have been raised on border issues by the CBSA, on public health and particularly on youth and the impact of cannabis on the developing brain. I was a little disappointed, personally, as a father and someone who has delved into this issue for many years in Parliament, that there was not any guidance with respect to the age of 18 or perhaps a higher age. These are the debates we should probably have rather than the rushed, often misguided public policy we have seen with the government.
I am going to raise a few concerns I have with the bill. Nothing shows the poor planning of the government more than how many pieces of substantive legislation it has on the docket with literally fewer than 20 days of Parliament left. The Liberals now have us sitting literally until midnight every day to try to rush through things that they say are priorities, such as Bill C-93, such as child welfare for indigenous Canadians and a whole range of other bills. That shows that they are not a priority, when after four years, they are in the final weeks of Parliament.
The main public policy concern I have is that the bill would actually create a new category of record suspension. Where there is a normal sort of pardon record suspension process, this would accelerate it and have no cost for a certain provision.
I do not think Liberals have raised a public policy rationale for why that is done, particularly when they defeated the bill from my colleague and friend in the NDP, the member for Victoria, on expungement. There were a lot of Conservatives who voted for the NDP bill and wanted more of a discussion of expungement within the context of record suspension. Why? It is because one of the major problems with the Liberals' rush on marijuana has been the border issue.
Canadians may not realize, and this is acute in places like Windsor and British Columbia, that if they are asked by an ICE agent, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent in the United States, whether they smoke marijuana, they can be barred from entry to the United States. If they need to go to the United States for work, that hurts their economic liberty and job prospects. Even with President Obama, the Prime Minister's bromance friend, as he has described it, the government could not get an assurance that ICE would take that one screening question off its list. That would have been a modest proposal.
In light of that, expungement is actually a superior route, because a record suspension is not recognized by the United States. If we are talking about creating a special category, we should have a wider discussion of expungement because of the risk that the U.S. would not agree. Maybe the Prime Minister brought it up with the vice-president today. He certainly did not bring up a whole range of issues, but that is still a big miss, because people's liberty could be impacted. The member for Victoria put forward some very thoughtful proposals. He is a member who will be missed for the public policy input he has.
A concern the Canadian Police Association has raised, which is very on point, is the fact that there is no ability to distinguish simple possession cases that were initially more serious cases that had been pleaded down to simple possession. In criminal cases where the Crown pleaded down a charge to simple possession, at the time the Crown did that because there would still be a criminal charge and a criminal record associated with this, so the Crown was satisfied with pleading down the charge, saving the judicial system money and that sort of thing. We should probably try to pull those cases out of a one-size-fits-all approach to record suspension.
A lot of us want expungement or some sort of ability to recognize that since marijuana is legal now, people's job prospects and other things should not be encumbered by a criminal record. However, we should also say that if the Crown could really only guarantee a conviction on simple possession, but the person was culpable or guilty of many other things and there was a plea deal, those cases are very different from the typical case of a young person or someone not causing any harm, not dealing, not doing any associated criminal acts and being caught for simple possession. This rushed one-size-fits-all approach does not allow that to be distinguished, and that is what the Canadian Police Association has raised as a serious concern.
As we are in the final days of Parliament, the Liberals crushed the expungement bill of my colleague from Victoria getting to committee. We really have not had a serious discussion of the issues underlying expungement versus record suspension and why the government seems to suggest that expungement is open for other former crimes from the past. We are really glad to see some of the past violations for sexuality and things like that removed and expunged. That is good, but we should also have a debate on why that route was not chosen in this case, because of the impacts on people's ability to travel to the United States. Until the government deals with that issue bilaterally with the United States, that will remain something Canadians should be very concerned about.
I have a final few words about the rush here. The Canadian Medical Association, physicians, pediatricians, the provinces themselves and law enforcement have all asked at various times in the government's marijuana agenda for input and slowing down the process. After 100 years of one way, we should make sure we get the balance right. I can assure Canadians of one thing: We will try to get the balance right when the Conservatives are on that side of the floor in the fall.