Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on Bill C-93 on record suspensions for simple possession of cannabis. I will be sharing my time with one of my colleagues.
From the outset I would like to say a few words about Bill C-45 because it is impossible to forget. It was no great feat of the government opposite, but it was one of the Prime Minister's rare accomplishments. That should be noted.
Nonetheless, no one will forget that Bill C-45 was bungled from the start and now that it has been in effect since last October, it certainly has not been a resounding success. Many of the projected outcomes of legalizing marijuana did not come to fruition, including reducing the sale of cannabis on the black market to curb organized crime. In fact, the opposite happened. Cannabis sales on the black market have increased.
I cannot ignore the fact that the government opposite also rejected our amendment to create a public registry of investors in the cannabis industry. However, since many of them have direct ties to the Liberal Party and since the money comes from tax havens, we are not holding our breath for the government to set up a public registry. The Liberals said that they would do politics differently and transparently. Fortunately their time is coming to an end.
When the Prime Minister came to power, he decided that his 2015 election promise to pass Bill C-45 at any cost was a national priority, even though other priorities could have easily come before Bill C-45. Like many Canadians, I still have a hard time believing that there was absolutely nothing more important in Canada than legalizing marijuana. Too many people put their trust in the Prime Minister in 2015, believing that he was creating hope in many respects for Canadians. Now, in 2019, it is plain to see that he made a lot of promises and did not follow through on much.
Was legalization truly more important than the economy, safety and security, justice and the future of our children? I believe the history books will confirm that that was indeed the case in this 42nd Parliament.
Getting back to Bill C-93, I want to point out that it can lead to confusion with respect to the use of the term “suspension” in the notion of the record suspension for simple cannabis possession. I want to highlight the importance of thoroughly understanding everything about this notion because many people are surprised to learn about the consequences this could eventually have when they wish to cross the border into the United States.
As we know, U.S. customs have always been very strict when checking the records of Canadians seeking to cross the border and enter their country. They have become even stricter with the legalization of cannabis. When they see that a Canadian has a suspended record for simple possession of marijuana, I am convinced, as are others, that this will have negative rather than positive repercussions. The expungement of criminal records for the simple possession of cannabis would have avoided all of this.
This leads me to wonder about the effectiveness and the goal of this measure. If they wanted to do something about this, record expungement would potentially have been much more effective.
Furthermore, we are debating this matter because after the government legalized marijuana, many Canadians were left with a criminal record for simple possession and inevitably wanted this record expunged. They know very well that a suspension is not as good as an expungement.
Many Canadians have this offence on their criminal records, which prevents them from travelling to the United States. This could be why a powerful lobby asked the Liberal government to suspend the records. Funnily enough, this demand was very much a ploy to win votes, as there are not many days left before the end of this Parliament.
Bill C-45 took effect in October 2018, and the Prime Minister chose to ignore the concerns about the legalization of cannabis expressed by municipalities, police forces, employers, doctors and a number of concerned parents. The Liberals rushed to introduce Bill C-93 at the last minute, at the end of this Parliament, just before the upcoming election. This makes me think that they are desperately trying to pad their record, which is currently light on positives.
The Liberals already promised to legalize cannabis so now they want to please another consumer group, those who were charged with simple possession of cannabis, by quickly getting rid of their criminal record. Still today, an offender with a criminal record for simple possession of cannabis has no choice but to wait between five and 10 years to apply for a pardon. The application costs $631. It is important to reiterate that the cost associated with applying for a pardon was determined based on the cost to the Canadian government and taxpayers, which is fair and equitable. We always felt that is was not up to law-abiding taxpayers to pay for those who break the law.
Bill C-93 is a fait accompli. That being said, even though sound management of public funds is a Conservative priority, we agreed to make pardon applications for simple possession of marijuana free of charge. We know that some verifications were made, that roughly 10,000 people would be eligible to apply for a pardon and that the cost associated with these applications, which would be covered by taxpayers, would be roughly $2.5 million.
It is important to remind those tuning in at this late hour that the purpose of Bill C-93 is to pardon individuals accused of simple possession of cannabis. These are not people with long and colourful rap sheets. As many people have pointed out, the charges usually stem from youthful indiscretions, and in most cases, that is something we can understand.
As such, we believe that Canadians should have timely access to no-fee record suspension. However, as with any bill, it is vital that we ensure it is enforced intelligently, fairly and realistically so that it becomes a good law once passed.
Conservatives understand perfectly well that criminal records for simple possession of cannabis should not create an unjust burden for Canadians now that cannabis use is legal.
Nevertheless, as a responsible party that respects law enforcement, the justice system and public safety, we will always take it upon ourselves to closely monitor the implementation of Bill C-93.