Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that members of the government side will be splitting their time from here into 10-minute segments.
I am very happy to be able to speak to the issue involving the government's initiative to address the very serious problem of tobacco smuggling. It is my view the problem is not just a smoking problem, not just a revenue problem.
In my remarks today I want to choose a perspective that would target organized crime as the problem. Those who are professional organized criminals would probably argue with me that they are not the problem but rather simply a manifestation or symptom of another part of the problem. I differ with them at this time given the size and volume of the smuggling. In other very obvious problems in our society, organized crime is very much a part of the problem and I believe it is integral to the solution to this program and integral to solutions to other criminal problems we have in our society, which I will refer to later in my speech.
Bill C-11 has been adequately described here by the ministers and members from both sides of the House who have discussed it. It will facilitate police enforcement of the anti-smuggling measures. It will also permit authorities to begin or to continue or to redouble their efforts against the incentive to smoke.
These are some new tools provided by Bill C-11 which I regard as relatively small in stature in dealing with the current problems of cigarette and other types of contraband smuggling. I think I agree with the previous speakers that enforcement is very much a part of the solution. However, it is not the only solution.
The measures announced by the Prime Minister on February 8 will hopefully permit us as a society in the short run and in the long run to deal with the problem of cigarette addiction. At the moment our initiative I believe deals with organized crime, revenue and interdiction, re-establishing an orderly Canadian market in the commodity of tobacco.
What is the background here? I sat in the last Parliament for five years. Relatively early in that Parliament it became apparent that cigarette smoking was going to be a very serious problem. It grew and grew to the point where 40 per cent of the existing $12.4 billion Canadian tobacco industry was being controlled by smugglers. It was putting approximately $5 billion per year into the pockets of smugglers.
I point out that 95 per cent of the smuggling operation was controlled by organized crime. That type of smuggling, the volume of it, and the existence of organized crime was causing very obvious social and economic distortions at least regionally in our country and perhaps arguably across the whole country.
If action had not been taken at this time, I suppose we would wish that action had been taken a year or two years ago. In any event, we are acting now. If action had not been taken, it is estimated that more than 50 per cent of the cigarette market would have been dominated by the so-called smugglers, organized crime, with a value to organized crime of $6.2 billion.
Illegal tobacco seizures by the RCMP increased from 303 in 1990 to 5,044 in 1993, but even at that the RCMP told us that they were only seizing about 1 per cent of the illegal tobacco market.
Trafficking in illegal tobacco products had become an extremely lucrative enterprise. The profits to be made were so high that individuals involved in the drug trafficking trade are now engaging in the smuggling of contraband tobacco products. Traditional organized crime groups are also very much involved.
I want to cite a remark by the President of Colombia, a country that certainly knows organized crime very well, as I understand it, and is very much involved in the very unfortunate sequences that have befallen it in the drug trafficking trade. The President of Colombia said that the only law drug traffickers have not broken is the law of supply and demand. That is essential to my perspective in this particular intervention.
With the profit potential from contraband cigarettes gone, the organized crime elements that cause cigarette smuggling to virtually explode in recent years in our view will likely withdraw from the activity of smuggling cigarettes. With this new initiative the problem of contraband cigarettes will be dealt an effective and decisive blow.
Cigarette smuggling is not the root of the problem. It is only a symptom, as I said before. The same applies to other problems of smuggling involving alcohol, firearms, pornography, prostitution, gun smuggling and gambling. The root of the problem is the opportunity for profit that each of these areas provides to organized crime.
When the Prime Minister responded, he responded by first listening to the experts. The experts, the police authorities in the country, told the Prime Minister that they, by using existing enforcement methods, could not control the volume of smuggling and illegal activity being fostered by organized crime. The government's response therefore is one that is based on the advice of the experts. We could see no other way to deal with this.
Our program is strategic and not based on a simple issue of profit or a simple issue of revenue or a simple issue of a person deciding or not deciding to smoke. We must look at the whole problem and I believe that is what we have done.
Organized crime has more monetary resources than many police agencies. Crime organizations typically use sophisticated equipment to identify intrusive devices and employ countersurveillance methods to elude detection while they are conducting their illegal transactions. They employ computers, legal and financial experts and others to assist in the day to day operations of their illegal enterprises. They use sophisticated money laundering techniques to divert substantial portions of their profits into legitimate businesses.
Organized criminals attracted by high income activities, and these are high income activities, seek out crimes which produce the highest profit with the lowest risk. Current illegal activities, I have mentioned some of them, include not just tobacco, but alcohol, guns, gambling, prostitution, alien smuggling and pornography.
We could I believe literally fill our jails to overflowing with drug addicts, drug dealers and smugglers. As long as there is money to be made in the black market for any of these commodities, organized crime will have an incentive to recruit other people, other consumers and find other ways to carry on their illegal activity.
Integral to our strategy is the need to disable organized crime, at least in this field of tobacco smuggling.
Some examples of expert opinion are from Thomas O'Grady, Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police. He states: "Law enforcement communities, the public and appropriate levels of government", that includes us, "must continue to work together in developing laws and enforcement programs to make it both undesirable and unprofitable to organized crime groups to gain inroads in areas of gaming operations". There are similar views from all around the world published in Canadian legislatures, the United States congressional records, the United Nations records, European records, all focusing on this serious problem of profit as an incentive to organized crime.
I believe, much in the way we dealt with this particular problem of tobacco, we must also deal with drug addiction. We must be strategic. I would like to think that this government will have the ability, the opportunity and the support of Canadians to be able to deal with that other great evil of drug addiction by looking at the entire picture of taxation, of interdiction, of distribution of supply and demand, of all the laws when we address this serious problem of drug addiction.