House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was medical.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Liberal MP for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley (Manitoba)

Lost his last election, in 2021, with 39% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Cannabis Act November 1st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise to speak in support of Bill C-45, the cannabis act, and the amendments that I and my fellow colleagues on the health committee introduced.

Back in August, I held a town hall in my riding regarding the legalization and regulation of cannabis. Not only am I in support of this legislation, but so are many of my constituents. Teachers, parents, and seniors, groups the loyal opposition regularly lists as being concerned about the legalization of cannabis, have all approached me either at my town hall or by contacting my office about their concerns.

They have concerns that a youth who makes a mistake by possessing a small amount of cannabis may be thrown in prison; concerns that this youth will have to carry a criminal record for the remainder of his or her life and that it will hinder the ability to find employment and lead a regular life; concerns that fellow citizens are unknowingly ingesting products that could be laced with dangerous substances; and concerns that the prohibition of cannabis is not helping to fight drugs but instead allows criminal elements to terrorize communities and profit, just like they did during the American prohibition of alcohol. These are the concerns of my constituents.

As a member of the health committee, I spent several weeks intensely reviewing this legislation. This included a week of back-to-back meetings where we heard testimony from over 100 witnesses. Most of these witnesses were in favour of legalizing and regulating cannabis.

This legislation strikes a balance between addressing the need to end prohibition while addressing the challenges other jurisdictions faced when regulating cannabis.

Bill C-45 would allow an adult to possess up to 30 grams in public, a measure that would ensure that no one would be criminalized for possessing a reasonable amount of cannabis, while ensuring that those who continue to illicitly sell cannabis on the street would be charged.

The legislation would allow home cultivation, with up to four plants per residence, an amount that is within reason for an individual while making it unfeasible for criminal elements to profit. This bill would also protect consumers by implementing industry-wide rules and standards for basic things such as sanitary production requirements, restrictions on the use of unauthorized pesticides, product testing, and restrictions on the use of ingredients and additives. We would create a framework so that Canadians could trust that the products they purchased would be safe and free of dangerous chemicals or substances, without having to take a criminal's word at face value.

As a physician who has spent over 20 years in the emergency room, I have treated patients who unknowingly ingested what they thought was just cannabis. This is indeed a concern worth resolving, and I applaud the government's commitment to the health and safety of Canadians.

This legislation would also protect youth by creating a framework for a minimum age of purchase of 18, through licensed retailers; requiring childproof packaging and warning labels; and providing for public education and awareness campaigns about the dangers associated with cannabis.

I will add that yesterday the government announced a new investment of $36.4 million over the next five years for an education and awareness campaign. This investment is in addition to the funding announced in budget 2017, bringing the total investment in education and awareness to $46 million.

The act would also prohibit products or packaging that were appealing to youth; selling cannabis through a self-service display or vending machine; and promoting cannabis, except in the narrowest of circumstances where the promotion could not be seen by a young person.

This act would also create two new criminal convictions to protect youth by making it illegal to give or sell cannabis to a youth and to use a youth to commit a cannabis-related offence. This bill also has a provision that would protect youth who made a mistake when in possession of five grams of cannabis or less to ensure that they would not carry a criminal record for the rest of their lives.

I want take a moment to address the notion raised by the opposition that we are normalizing cannabis use among youth. The truth is that cannabis use in Canada has already been normalized. With the second highest rate of youth usage in the world, it is obvious that the current system does not work. We need to stop focusing on a prohibitionist model for cannabis, hoping to get a different result in the future. We need to use an evidence-based approach that restricts access to youth while removing the financial incentives that embolden criminal elements.

I would like to touch on another item the opposition regularly states, which is that vehicle collisions and fatalities in jurisdictions that have legalized recreational cannabis have increased. This statement is incorrect. While statistics before and after legalization indicate an increase in impaired driving, public safety officials in the states of Washington and Colorado are in agreement that this apparent increase was the result of improved detection methods.

In a letter from the Governor and the Attorney General of the State of Washington addressed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, they wrote:

...several of the statistics quoted in your letter on the increasing incidence of marijuana DUIs are distorted by the fact that the testing regime has changed with state legalization. Any amount of drugged driving and collisions is too high. Prior to marijuana legalization, blood testing for THC at suspected DUI traffic stops was substantially less common. Consequently, comparable statistics do not exist.

Additionally, in a letter from the Governor and Attorney General of Colorado, again to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, they stated that they have enacted new laws, giving state and local law enforcement additional tools to prosecute individuals driving under the influence of marijuana, and have significantly increased the number of law enforcement officers who are trained to detect drug-impaired driving, allowing the state to identify and detain more individuals who are driving impaired than previously. More importantly, they wrote that the number of impaired drivers went down. The letter states:

In the first six months of 2017, the number of drivers the Colorado State Patrol considered impaired by marijuana dropped 21 percent compared to the first six month of 2016.

If the House wishes, I can table these two letters from Washington and Colorado for review.

It is evident that any amount of impaired driving or collisions is too high, and that is why I am pleased that the government is progressing with Bill C-46 in an effort to address and curtail impaired driving. It has also committed up to $161 million to train front-line officers in how to recognize the signs and symptoms of drug-impaired driving, to provide access to drug-screening devices, and to raise public awareness about the dangers of drug-impaired driving.

In May of this year, I had the honour of rising and speaking in favour of this legislation at second reading. Since then, the legislation has been amended by my fellow colleagues and I on the health committee. Many were technical elements to strengthen the bill, but there were several amendments of consequence as a result of our witness testimony during our intensive review.

One of the more consequential amendments made was the removal of height restrictions on cannabis plants for home cultivation so that no one who let a plant accidentally overgrow would be deemed a criminal. Additionally, the legislation was amended to ensure that it was in line with the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, which was introduced by my fellow health committee colleague, the member from Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, and which I was proud to second, to ensure that an individual who committed a cannabis-related offence would not be charged if he or she called the police or medical services to report an overdose.

I should add that I was disheartened when the Conservative members on the committee unanimously voted against this amendment that would save lives.

Additionally, our committee amended the legislation to ensure that edibles and concentrates would be entered under schedule 4 of the legislation as a class of cannabis that an authorized person could sell. It would be entered by either an order in council or a clause that would allow it to come into force on the first anniversary of the day on which clause 33 came into force. Essentially, this would ensure that edibles and concentrates would be legalized and properly regulated within a one-year time frame of when this legislation was enacted.

Given the transformative nature of this legislation, our committee introduced an amendment to require the minister to conduct a review of the act after three years and to table a report before Parliament. This would enable us, as parliamentarians, to determine if changes to the legislation were necessary to ensure the protection of public health and safety.

Our committee also amended clause 139 to provide the Governor in Council with the authority to make regulations that would restrict the characteristics of certain items, set limits on the amount or concentration of chemical compounds, and ensure that regulated products under the legislation would be consistent with the provisions found in Bill S-5.

The opposition has been constantly counting down to remind us how many days until legalization and have today reminded us that it is 243 days. While I am glad that my colleagues across the aisle can count backwards on a calendar, I think we should look at it in a different way.

In 243 days, we can end a system that victimizes ordinary Canadians and emboldens criminal elements in our society. In 243 days, we can end a system that ruins lives through lost opportunities and social stigma. In 243 days, we can end a system that should never have been put in place.

Manitoba October 23rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to share that Manitobans gathered this past weekend to select a new leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party, Dougald Lamont. Dougald is a leader committed to changing politics in Manitoba. He knows that everyone matters and that for democracy to thrive, we need to have an economy that is focused on the many and not the few.

In a competition with excellent candidates, Dougald's campaign focused on empowering Manitobans with grassroots job creation; local control of health care; and reconciliation by addressing the first five recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which are all concerned with the number of indigenous children in care. Dougald's extensive experience and expertise in government and business give him a unique perspective and insight into making Manitoba a better place.

I offer my heartiest congratulations to Dougald. I thank him and his fellow contestants Cindy Lamoureux and Jon Gerrard for their tireless service to Manitobans.

Federal Framework on Distracted Driving Act October 18th, 2017

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-373, An Act respecting a federal framework on distracted driving.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand in the House today to introduce my private member's bill, Bill C-373, an act respecting a federal framework on distracted driving. The bill calls upon the Minister of Justice, in collaboration with the Minister of Transport, to work with the provincial and territorial governments to develop a federal framework to coordinate and promote efforts to deter and prevent distracted driving involving the use of hand-held electronic devices.

The framework would include six provisions on: the collection of information relating to incidents involving the use of hand-held electronic devices; the administration and enforcement of laws respecting distracted driving; the creation and implementation of public education programs; the role of driver-assistance technology in reducing the number of collisions and fatalities; the sharing of best practices among jurisdictions; and recommendations regarding possible amendments to federal laws, policies, and programs.

Right now, a person is more likely to be a victim of distracted driving than a victim of impaired driving. Last year, in my home province of Manitoba, over 11,000 collisions were related to distracted driving. That is almost 25% of all collisions in my province. As a result of these collisions, 29 people lost their lives. This is an issue that has impacted all of us here in this chamber, myself included.

In my career as an emergency room physician, I provided care to multiple victims of distracted driving, some who died as a result of their injuries. On a more personal note, on Halloween 2009, a good friend lost her teenage sister in a collision with a distracted driver.

I introduce the bill in the hope that we can prevent future tragedies like this.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Child Health Protection Act October 6th, 2017

moved for leave to introduce Bill S-228, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children).

Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to rise in the House today and a introduce Senate public bill, Bill S-228, the child health protection act, which seeks to amend the Food and Drugs Act to prohibit the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children. I would like thank Olympic gold medallist Senator Nancy Greene Raine of British Columbia for her tremendous work on this issue, as well as our Senate colleagues, who unanimously passed this bill last week.

The rapidly increasing rate of childhood obesity has become a matter of national concern in Canada. The World Health Organization's commission on ending childhood obesity found that there is unequivocal evidence that the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages has a negative impact on childhood obesity, and it recommends that any attempt to tackle childhood obesity should include a reduction in the exposure of children to marketing.

As parliamentarians, it is our duty to stand up for those who are most vulnerable in our society, and no group is more vulnerable than our children. The protection of children from the manipulative influence of marketing of unhealthy food and beverages is predicated on a pressing and substantial concern and calls for a federal legislative response.

This bill is that legislative response, and I ask all members for their support.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Veterans Affairs October 3rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, through the Invictus Games, we saw the power of adaptive sport on physical rehabilitation, but we all know that mental health and wellness go hand in hand. The perseverance of these brave men and women who took off their Armed Forces uniforms and found the strength and determination to put on a jersey and compete with representatives of 16 other countries impressed upon us all the importance of coming together to support our veterans and Canadian Armed Forces members. Can the Minister of Veterans Affairs tell us what the government is doing to address the invisible injuries of our men and women and their families?

Employment, Workforce Development and Labours June 8th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, this month, young Canadians in my riding of Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley and across the country will be graduating from high school and getting ready to start the next phase of their education. Demand for skilled tradespeople is growing in our country. A job in the skilled trades is a promising career.

Would the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour please update this House on actions our government has taken to help youth enter the skilled trades?

Cannabis Act May 30th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I would agree with the hon. member. As I have said, in my own medical practice I had patients come in who had consumed what they thought was simply cannabis and in fact they had obvious toxic syndromes consistent with other ingestions. It was clear in their mind that nothing else had been ingested. As we have said, there is not a lot of quality control in a substance that is produced by criminal gangs, and people became seriously ill based on the contaminants that were put in.

This would lead to a strictly regulated product that is not available to the public unless it is subject to strict quality controls of the kind we now have today with alcohol.

Cannabis Act May 30th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, there is a misinterpretation of that statute. This legislation would not legally permit anyone between the ages of 12 and 18 to carry marijuana. There is basically a ticketing offence that does not lead to a criminal record. Contrary to what an earlier speaker said, the substance is confiscated. There is a sanction for this, just not a criminal record.

Cannabis Act May 30th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I agree that if we are legalizing this, we should be looking to other jurisdictions that have legalized it. As for the data the member has quoted from Colorado, I wonder what sources he has used.

Two sources that I have used from Colorado are a report issued by the chief public health officer of Colorado and a report by the public safety department of Colorado. Both have said that there have been some increases, although the data, they admit, is very hard to interpret. Up until now, they have not tracked this.

Therefore, to compare what was happening before the data was being tracked to what is happening today does not make much sense by way of comparison. Even the comparisons they are making are not showing these effects to be devastating. They are showing there are some negatives effects, but they are unsure whether these actually reach statistical significance.

Cannabis Act May 30th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise and speak in support of Bill C-45, an act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts.

At its core, Bill C-45 would allow individuals above the minimum age of 18 to purchase cannabis from a licensed retailer and possess a maximum of 30 grams. This legislation would also allow for home cultivation with up to four plants per residence and would ensure that access to cannabis for medical purposes would be maintained.

The bill has three specific objectives. It would create a legal and regulated market for cannabis to take profits out of the hands of criminals and organized crime. It would protect public health through strict product requirements for safety and quality. It would impose strict serious criminal penalties for those who would provide cannabis to young people.

When marijuana was criminalized in 1923 under the act to prohibit the improper use of opium and other drugs, the reasons that possession, manufacturing, or purchase of cannabis should be illegal were hardly debated. As parliamentarians, it is our obligation to debate to the best of our ability the critical issues facing Canadians in this important institution and to create the laws that protect them and their inalienable rights. Today, we can have the debate that never occurred in 1923.

The prohibition on cannabis has failed. It victimizes ordinary Canadians and it emboldens criminal elements in our society. The current prohibition on cannabis disproportionately targets minority groups in Canada and has altered the lives of individuals who received a criminal conviction for carrying a small amount of marijuana, including lost employment opportunities, immigration issues, social stigma of being branded a criminal, and imprisonment. It is worse than the problem it was designed to protect us from.

Our government acknowledges that the current prohibition on cannabis does not work, and now is the time to take an evidence-based approach.

As an emergency room physician, I have seen many tragic things. This includes the effects of prohibition on Canadians. The effects that I have witnessed range from organized criminals targeting citizens to instill fear in a community to the murdering of competitors to protect their profits to the killing of innocent bystanders. This is the impact of prohibition that I know and I have seen.

Just as an aside, during my time in the emergency room, I have resuscitated patients who have overdosed on opioids, cocaine, and alcohol. However, never have I had to resuscitate anyone who was only under the influence of marijuana.

The only true beneficiaries of prohibition are the criminals who profit from it. Much like the prohibition on alcohol in America in the 1920s, organized criminals continue to see a lucrative opportunity in today's prohibition. By legalizing and regulating cannabis, we can take revenue away from those who terrorize communities and take loved ones away from their families.

I understand that many people have concerns about this legislation and our youth. Everyone in the House, me included, is concerned about young Canadians using cannabis. However, right now it is easier for children to acquire marijuana than it is for them to acquire tobacco or alcohol, with our youth having some of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world. Drug dealers do not ask to see identification or verify someone's age. When we regulate a product like we do for cigarettes and alcohol, we can restrict its usage to persons above a certain age and ensure there are consequences for those who provide it to them.

The legislation would create two new criminal convictions: giving or selling cannabis to youth and using youth to commit a cannabis-related offence. This legislation would do three things to protect children. It would create a minimum age of 18 years for the purchase of cannabis although the provinces and territories have the right to increase this age. It would provide for public education and awareness campaigns of the dangers associated with cannabis. It would require childproof packaging and warning labels.

The bill would also prohibit product and packaging that would be appealing to youth, selling cannabis through self-service displays or vending machines, and promoting cannabis except in narrow circumstances where the promotion could not be seen by a young person.

At this moment, there is no product safety in the recreational cannabis market. Cannabis sold by organized criminals could be laced with harmful pesticides or herbicides or other dangerous drugs. I am keenly aware of this because I have treated patients who smoked cannabis but were not aware that it contained something else.

The legislation would protect consumers of cannabis by implementing industry-wide rules and standards on basic things, such as sanitary production requirements, a prohibition on the use of unauthorized pesticides, product testing for THC levels and the presence of contaminants, and restrictions on the use of ingredients and additives. These are minor standards that we hold so many companies and producers of innocuous items accountable for, and for too long there was a product used by many Canadians who were not aware if the product used pesticides, contaminants, or was laced with a dangerous substance. Essentially, consumers had to take organized criminals on their word that what they were consuming was not dangerous.

Our government will be investing additional resources to ensure there is appropriate capacity within Health Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canada Border Services Agency, and the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to license, inspect, and enforce all aspects of the proposed legislation.

One of the concerns that has been brought up to me by my constituents is persons who are under the influence of cannabis and operating motor vehicles, and their concerns are completely valid. Evidence shows that cannabis impairs an individual's ability to drive.

Impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada and rates of drug-impaired driving are increasing. In 2015, there were more than 72,000 impaired driving incidents reported by the police, including almost 3,000 drug-impaired driving incidents. That is why our government also introduced Bill C-46 at the same time it introduced Bill C-45.

Bill C-46 proposes a significant modernization of the impaired driving provisions in the Criminal Code and is designed to protect the health and safety of Canadians by creating new and stronger laws to deter and severely punish impaired driving. The legislation also provides law enforcement with the tools and resources it needs to improve detection and prosecution of impaired driving.

Bill C-46 proposes to strength law enforcement's ability to detect drug-impaired drivers by authorizing the use of roadside oral fluid screening devices. Canadian police forces have tested devices designed to detect cannabis, as well as other drugs, in a driver's saliva. Police have been asking for these resources, and we will deliver.

There have been concerns that this legislation will lead to widespread cannabis use. In fact, there is already widespread cannabis use in Canada and rates of usage among youth and adults are higher than other jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana. Our society is dealing with a myriad of problems due to cannabis, but most of them are in fact caused by its prohibition.

This legislation will take revenue away from organized criminals, implement, for the first time in Canada, safety standards, actually solve many of the problems, and make it harder for our youth to acquire marijuana. The legislation will make Canada a safer place for all.