Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by simply summarizing what the bill is trying to accomplish.
If we look at subclause (2), it simply states:
Every person who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than ten years less a day.
Then it simply states:
No person shall possess, produce, sell or import anything knowing it will be used to produce or traffic in a substance referred to in the [schedules]....
We have no problem supporting the bill going to committee for study. However, I have some preliminary concerns. We want to ensure that people are aware that they will be violating the law if we look at subclause 7.1, “possess, sell or import anything knowing that it will be used to produce”. A lot of detail, presumably, will need to be put in the regulations but that is something that we will need to work out and study in some detail.
Once again, we support the bill going to committee but my main point today is why now and why in this particular context.
These recommendations in the legislation actually emanate from a Justice Canada report from 2007. That is fine. However, if this is so important at this time today, why is this not in a government bill? The government has had no difficulty pursuing a law and order agenda. I would like to go through that and talk about why it has done that.
We have had the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and the response of the Conservative government has been law and order legislation. We have had the loss of approximately 500,000 full time jobs and the government's response has been law and order legislation. We have had an isotopes crisis so Canadians cannot get the testing they require for cancer treatments. The response from the government has been law and order legislation. We have had the reduction of Canada's place inside the G8 and the best GDP to the worst. The response of the Conservative government has been law and order legislation.
We have had an EI crisis and the government's response has been legislation that divides Canadians between the good workers and the bad workers, between the long term workers and the short term workers and nothing for seasonal workers. The further response of the government has been law and order legislation.
We have an H1N1 pandemic crisis. We have a failure of the government to have a national pandemic plan in place as confirmed by Canada's Auditor General. The response of the government has been law and order legislation.
We have an Afghanistan torture scandal and the response of the government has been law and order legislation.
Why do we keep going to law and order legislation?
I want it to be clear that I support the member's efforts in terms of this legislation, but this is one that should have been far up on the law and order agenda. Why did it take a private member to introduce this? Why was this not already introduced and passed earlier? It should have been because we do have serious problems in Canada.
In terms of these particular drugs, we have high emergency room rates, deaths, the permanent alteration of a human's brain and psychiatric disorders. The statistics from an American study show that 2.3% of all eighth graders, which I find shocking, have tried these drugs, 2.4% of tenth graders and 2.8% of twelfth graders. Therefore, there must be something similar in Canada, although we do not have those studies.
Once again, I support this legislation but if it had been government legislation rather that a private member's bill more could have been done. Where is the money for prevention? Where is the money for education?
So that everyone understands, when it comes to private members' legislation, and I am not criticizing my friend who introduced this, he is not allowed to put provisions in a private member's bill that involves the spending of money, so it is not his fault. However, if the government had introduced this legislation, there could have been spending on these issues: crime prevention, drug education, education in schools for children and treatment programs, all of that for the sufferers who take these drugs and for the prevention to try to avoid this.
My friend's bill would have been far superior, once again, no fault of his own, if this had been government legislation but it is not.
I have the honour of serving on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, so I am aware of some of the statistics. Eighty per cent of criminals who are incarcerated in our prisons have either substance abuse or mental health issues. That means that a huge majority of people who commit crimes and are eventually incarcerated already have these problems. What is the government doing to prevent that, to try to help and cure them before they actually commit crimes? If this had been government legislation, it could have done something, but it is not.
In terms of treatment in prisons, there are clear admissions from various experts who appeared in committee. People need to understand that most prisoners get released into society. If they go into prison because of mental health or addiction issues, logically we would want to ensure they get the treatment required before they are released.
It would have been quite nice if this were government legislation doing something about that because experts have admitted that people in prison are not getting the treatment they require before being released. That is a public safety issue and, frankly, in order to protect the Canadian population, one would want those people to be released better than when they came in.
The other issue in terms of drugs, since that is the topic we are discussing with respect to prisons, is that there are clear admissions that the prison population is getting illegal drugs into prisons. What is the government doing to prevent these drugs from seeping into our prisons? It should be doing something.
If this were a government bill, it could have been part of a larger package to try to effectuate such changes, both in society and in the prison population. Once again, it is not the fault of my friend as he is only allowed to introduce a private member's bill.
In terms of what the government has done to further its law and order agenda, let us look at some of the examples it has put ahead of this, such as the sex offender registry. I support that legislation but it was introduced weak. It came before Parliament without the benefit of the report of the committee. Some things that should have been included based on all the experts were clearly omitted, such as mandatory licence plate registrations of convicted sex offenders.
The government and the Minister of Public Safety specifically said that they had chosen not to include that in the legislation despite the fact that all the experts recommended it and that it was logical. Even when they pursue the law and order agenda, they are not doing it properly.
In another piece of legislation we have the faint hope clause. None of the experts were clamouring for any changes to that. It was the same thing on conditional sentences: two for one, time served, mandatory minimums. None of this was a societal problem like drugs. In comparison, this is certainly a greater problem. However, the government chose not to do anything with respect to drugs on the streets and left it to a Conservative private member to introduce this legislation. He is not allowed to make any suggestions to put money on the streets, establish reforms or help in any measurable way. That is a mistake.
This legislation should have been, based on the 2007 recommendations from the Justice Canada report, at the front of the line or close to the front of the line for this law and order agenda. It was not and that was a mistake.
I compliment my friend for bringing this private member's bill forward. I support it going to committee but I question why the government has pursued, in response to all the problems Canadians are facing, a law and order agenda and then not even putting the most serious law and order issue, such as drugs on the street in this context, at the front of the line or close to the front of the line in order to help Canadians. The government has ignored that, which is a mistake. I compliment my friend for fixing the problem or at least trying to.