June 1, 2017

LIB

Marco Mendicino

Liberal

Mr. Marco Mendicino (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my hon. colleague for his remarks, but I do think he seems to be confusing two very basic concepts. One is on the need to safely and strictly regulate cannabis, which we propose to do with Bill C-45, and the second is the need to safely regulate our roads and keep our roads safe. It is important that we disentangle those two concepts.

I think the member will acknowledge, by taking a close look Bill C-46, that we are increasing sentences for certain offences, we are creating new offences which actually help police officers to charge drivers who are mixing drugs and alcohol, and we are proposing to introduce mandatory road screening. All of those measures are why MADD, an organization that my hon. colleague is very familiar with, is very supportive of Bill C-46. If MADD can get behind Bill C-46, why can my hon. colleague not get behind it?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Harold Albrecht

Conservative

Mr. Harold Albrecht

Mr. Speaker, the reason I cannot get behind it is that I have spoken to front-line police officers who tell me, and I am sure they have told him the same, that there is no reliable method of discovering the level of impairment when it comes to marijuana. Right now, they are using what they call drug recognition experts, who go through various tests to determine the level of impairment. However, we have woefully inadequate numbers of these drug recognition experts across Canada.

Again, this comes back to a point we made earlier. Why are we rushing through to implement a bill when we do not have devices in place to adequately measure levels of impairment, like we do for alcohol, for example, where we can specify a certain number of .08 or .05? We can make judgments, but on marijuana the situation is totally different. Front-line police officers are worried that we are going down this track far too quickly.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Todd Doherty

Conservative

Mr. Todd Doherty (Cariboo—Prince George, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I once again rise in the House to speak to Bill C-45, an act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other acts. Bill C-45 would provide legal access to cannabis for adults and would control and regulate its production, distribution, and sale.

Cannabis is and has been an illegal drug in Canada for 94 years. For those doing the math, that means it has been prohibited since 1923.

I have a number of concerns with the piece of legislation before us tonight. I will list a few, and then go into detail on all of them, and I believe it will take the bulk of my 10 minutes.

From the easy and direct pot access for children and youth to the cost of implementation, the taxation, revenue sharing, and allocation, the compromising of international law and treaty obligations, and the risk of jeopardizing our relationships with our allies, including the U.S., Great Britain, and others, there is quite a lot to digest here. I am extremely concerned that this legislation is going to be passed before any of these questions are answered.

Polls would suggest that as Canadians learn more about the details of the Liberals' plan to legalize marijuana and the potential harmful impacts that may follow, some are having second thoughts. This is especially true when it comes to the legal age for buying marijuana. A whopping 58% of Canadians surveyed feel that the legal age should be higher than the age the federal government has set, which is 18. That is more than two in five Canadians who disagree with the government's current trajectory. The Prime Minister's marijuana bill is a promise to pot smokers, not to parents, and there are so many unanswered questions here.

The bill would enable children to have direct and easy access to pot. The Liberals like to say that somehow their piece of legislation would make it harder for children to get their hands on marijuana, but let us be very clear. This legislation is not in any way going to decrease the amount of usage by our children. Allowing a 12-year-old to carry up to five grams of marijuana is unacceptable.

Canada has the highest rate of youth using cannabis of any country in the world. We are not disputing that. In 2015, use among youth aged 15 to 19 was 21%, while the use among young adults aged 20 to 24 was 30%.

As we get closer to 2018, the self-imposed legislation date put forward by the Liberal government, we need to recognize the many unknowns with this legislation. That will be the bulk of my speech.

There are 41% of Canadians who feel that Ottawa is rushing this legislative process, while 53% said they feel that the federal government is underestimating the overall impact on Canadian society. I know I am throwing a lot of statistics at the House, but it is important to underscore how Canadians are feeling on something as important as a drug that will impact the health and safety of all Canadians.

The Prime Minister must also be clear in how we sell this to our international parties. As mentioned earlier, Canada is one of more than 150 parties to three United Nations drug control conventions: the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs; the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances; and the 1988 Convention against the Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. These are not to be taken lightly.

A government memo that came out last year stated that Canada will need to explore how to inform the international community and take the steps needed to adjust its obligations under these investigations. What does this mean? In order to withdraw from any of these treaties, Canada must do so before July 1st of this year. When will the government signal its intent to do so, or has it already?

Canada will be the first G7 country in the world to take steps to legalize this drug, and yet we still cannot answer the most basic of questions. What does it mean for someone crossing the border who may have consumed cannabis earlier in the day or even a couple of days previously?

If a U.S. customs officer finds that Canadians who are going through the border consumed marijuana at any time or within the last 48 hours or 24 hours, they will be deemed inadmissible. They could be detained. Will this affect border times? Will more resources be dedicated to dealing with this issue?

There is even reason to believe that the legislation around impaired driving may be unconstitutional. The National Post has highlighted this point by saying that science is yet to establish a solid link between a given level of THC concentration in the driver's blood or saliva and the level of impairment. I will say again, as I have said before, that impairment with THC or cannabis is completely different from impairment with alcohol, and to this date, despite all of the questions we have asked, all of the questions I have asked, the government has been unable to give us what level of THC needs to be in the bloodstream to determine that an individual is impaired.

Impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death in Canada, and we can only expect these numbers to increase when marijuana is legalized. There are serious questions also being asked about our transportation industry. I have stood in the House many times explaining that I know from my background, 22 years in the aviation industry as well as working with many organizations, that whether it is road, rail, marine, or aviation, these groups will all have serious concerns over this legislation.

There are tens of thousands of commercial trucks on the highways and roadways of our provinces, our communities. What is the government putting forth to communities that have these trucks going through at all hours of the day? What steps is the government taking to ensure that the conductor or engineer of a train hauling hazardous materials through our communities or that the pilots flying our families have not consumed marijuana? What are we saying to the organizations that employ these people?

Will the government provide additional resources? Will we still mandate that drug testing is required? How do these companies that we trust to operate safely and efficiently police their employees?

On the other side of that, we have also heard serious concerns from our insurance and mortgage industries. When a property is sold, there is a purchase contract in place as well as a property disclosure that is typically required. The exact wording from the statement is, “Are you aware if the premises have been used as a marijuana grow operation or to manufacture illegal drugs?” It does not state quantity or whether it was a legal or illegal operation, but simply whether there was any marijuana grown on that property. Once owners have knowledge of this, they are required to disclose it to any subsequent purchaser, which will drastically affect the marketability of that property. Furthermore, the stigma will remain attached to the property for the life of the home and potentially onward.

Financing options for properties that have had marijuana grown on them have become almost obsolete. As a matter of fact, many of the insurance companies that underwrite the mortgages in Canada are in the United States, and they have said that they do not want to touch the bill and do not want to see it go through. Most of our major banks will no longer allow it, and few smaller credit unions who will still consider, are typically charging higher premiums due to risk management.

A phase one environmental assessment is always required to determine the potential damage to the home, and then all remediation is to be completed prior to obtaining a new occupancy permit. This process can cost tens of thousands of dollars, if not more.

In conclusion, has the Liberal government done a thorough analysis and consulted the mortgage and insurance brokers and the transportation organizations on the impact of this legislation? I think I have been very clear on my points today. The legislation is momentous. I do not have to say it is very dramatic. We are in uncharted territory and, if this legislation is passed, the world will be looking at Canada's model, and what it will find are flaws that put the health and safety of Canadians at risk.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this very important issue, and I look forward to the questions.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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?

Alistair MacGregor

NDP

Mr. Alistair MacGregor (Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, my fellow British Columbian laid out some very valid points that the government really does need to address. What I wanted to highlight from his speech are the concerns he raised about Canada's involvement in international treaties. I have now asked the government on two occasions what it intends to do. As the member correctly pointed out, we have until July 1 to announce our intentions, because if we pass this legislation and do nothing, we will be in violation of those treaties, and I do not think we want to besmirch our international reputation and do that. I am just curious. The government has been unable to provide me with an answer. I would have thought that as a part of this legislation, the Liberals would have thought of this. They have been in government now for 20 months. I cannot figure it out. I am just wondering if the hon. member can give me his opinion as to why we still do not have an answer from the government on that important international obligation.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Todd Doherty

Conservative

Mr. Todd Doherty

Mr. Speaker, for a government that says it wants to consult and do thorough analysis, and that any of its decisions are based on science and are evidence-based, we see a piece of legislation that is being rammed through that really has not been well thought out. I have mentioned only a few of my concerns and the concerns of my constituents. I did not attack any of the other things that have been brought up today. I wanted to come at this with a very measured approach. My hon. colleague brings up a very good point. We have time and again asked this question, and to this point, the government has yet to answer.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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LIB

John Oliver

Liberal

Mr. John Oliver (Oakville, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George recite a number of the risks he thinks might emerge with the passing of this legislation. I believe that marijuana is present in our society, and those risks are real and potentially are here today, so I do not think that changes.

What the bill would do, though, is restrict youth access to and use of cannabis. It would protect young people by prohibiting promotion and enticements to use cannabis. It would enhance public awareness of the health risks associated with the use of cannabis. It would deter and reduce criminal activity by imposing very serious criminal penalties for those breaking the law, especially those who provide cannabis to young people. I would far sooner see them being punished than see a 10-year-old caught with five grams of cannabis being punished, which seems to be the view across the way. As well, it would protect public health through strict production, safety, and quality requirements.

These are very laudable goals, and every one of us in this House should be standing up and speaking to make these changes. Which of these goals is the member not happy with? If he thinks these are not valid goals, what is his alternative? Which of these very laudable goals do you not support, and if you do support them all, what is your alternative?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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LIB

Geoff Regan

Liberal

The Speaker

I have to remind the hon. colleague from Oakville that when members say “you” in this place, it is referring to the Speaker, unless they are talking about some kind of an animal, I suppose. Members should address their comments to the Chair.

The hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Todd Doherty

Conservative

Mr. Todd Doherty

I appreciate the question, Mr. Speaker, and I want to talk about the government's assertion that this would somehow take dollars away from organized crime.

In doing my preparation for this speech, I looked up information about contraband tobacco. We know that a third of the cigarettes sold in Ontario are contraband, and the Canadian Convenience Stores Association says that number could be as high as 80%. In Ontario alone, about $1.6 billion to $3 billion is lost in tax revenue because of the high amount of black market tobacco. Globally, these dollars from contraband tobacco are being seen as a major source for terrorist groups, such as ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Hezbollah.

What I am saying today, and what I think is our whole message, to answer my hon. colleague's question, is that while there may be some merit to this bill, it should be further thought out, not rushed. While the Liberals like to trumpet that they consult on almost everything, I do not believe they have done nearly enough work on this to answer the questions I put forth in my speech or that any of my colleagues on this side of the House have put forth, whether today or in the previous days with respect to the impaired-driving law as it pertains to the cannabis law.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Sylvie Boucher

Conservative

Mrs. Sylvie Boucher (Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, it is pretty hard to be interesting at this late hour, but I will try.

I had a chance, or the misfortune, depending on your perspective, to read this cannabis bill in its entirety, but I was left wanting more. I had a thousand and one questions I wanted to ask. Why is this bill being rushed through? Why does it not have more teeth? Why is it set up as a framework that absolves the Liberal Party of all responsibility and downloads it all onto the provinces and municipalities? That bothers me.

We are presented with a framework that outlines the use and legalization of cannabis, but the Liberals should have started with decriminalizing marijuana, for now, before legalizing it. They did not really listen to the stakeholders, and that also bothers me. A number of scientists who do research on cannabis use among young people have said in the media just how dangerous smoking cannabis can be for the human brain. Indeed, when people smoke, they inhale smoke; they do not fake it. They want to have fun, and apparently it happens quicker when you inhale.

Before I read this bill, I honestly did not know that the brain continues to develop until age 25. As the grandmother of a six-year-old boy, I have concerns about this bill and its content. Of course, I am concerned about the use of cannabis, but the government never talks about education or putting resources in place. The government is handing that work over to the provinces without establishing a financial framework.

When it comes to a bill that is as massive as this one, the government ought to have an exchange of ideas and have discussions with its peers, whether it be the provinces, the municipalities, doctors, or people who work with addicts. This government had other plans, however. It will leave it up to the provinces to do most of the work associated with this legislation.

The government is saying that the legal age will be 18, but that it will be left up to the provinces. If the government is going to go to the trouble of drafting a bill, why not standardize the legal age across Canada? When drafting a bill, why leave it up to the provinces to take care of legalization, public safety, the education system, and the health care system?

The government also did not think to make investments to deal with psychiatric issues. We have heard many psychiatrists and psychologists say that marijuana, like any other drug, can induce psychosis in people with mental health issues. This bill makes no mention of mental health, even though this issue should have been included and studied. The government is asking the provinces to do all of this at the same time, in just a year, by 2018, as though it were easy.

When it comes to a bill as massive as this one, and one that makes such an important change, we must build on a much stronger foundation that this.

The government is asking the provinces to think of everything. They are given a framework and directives, but apart from drafting the bill, what is the federal government doing? It did not consult anyone, as we have seen in the case of nearly every other file before the House.

The government says it speaks on behalf of all Canadians, but it does not seem to have spoken to the people of Charlevoix, because back home, everywhere I go, pot is not tolerated. No one supports this bill. I do not even talk about it all that much, but people know me and when they see me, they ask what I think. Personally, this bill bothers me. Even though this might not bother the Liberals, they still have to listen to people.

Ordinary Canadians are also concerned about this bill. Canadians were not consulted. This bill was written as an electoral promise, and since it was a Liberal promise, that party did not get the job done, just as it has not gotten the job done on so many other issues before the House.

In addition to being seriously lacking, this bill is designed to line the pockets of Liberal Party friends according to one newspaper report after another. Quite a few names come to mind. This is another way to make money at taxpayers' expense.

Now let us talk about offences. How is cannabis use supposed to be detected? Has anyone come up with a system like the one we have for alcohol that is sophisticated enough to detect cannabis use beyond a doubt? Has anyone considered people's rights, since this involves taking blood samples? Not all provinces have that kind of legislation and are willing to accept this. The government did not discuss this bill with the provinces before introducing it.

Who did the Liberals consult? I would sure like to know. When they drafted this bill and showed it to us, they said they had done consultations, but we know that nobody in our ridings was consulted. Municipalities were not consulted, nor were public safety people, police officers, or EMTs. Very few people were consulted, not in Quebec at any rate, because not a lot of people in my riding were consulted, and I can say that 90% of my constituents are against this bill for a number of reasons. This bill highlights our weakness.

When I read the bill, what was even worse was learning that the Minister of Justice will make all the decisions. He will even decide how much marijuana will cost. He is going to become the biggest dealer in Canada. He will be our children's dealer because this bill gives him all the power.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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LIB
CPC

Sylvie Boucher

Conservative

Mrs. Sylvie Boucher

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry, but Al Capone is dead. This is 2017. I think that my friend needs a sleep or a smoke to wake up.

Al Capone died a long time ago. Now, they are going to become Canada's modern-day Al Capones.

For all these reasons—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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LIB

Geoff Regan

Liberal

The Speaker

Order. The member's time has elapsed.

I think all members agree that we need some sleep.

On to questions and comments. The hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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LIB

Yves Robillard

Liberal

Mr. Yves Robillard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank the member for her speech. It was a tad demagogic, but we have come to expect that from her.

I would like to end the evening on a good note. Through you, Mr. Speaker, I am asking my colleague to ask her colleagues, the other champions, to be more positive for the remainder of the session.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Sylvie Boucher

Conservative

Mrs. Sylvie Boucher

Mr. Speaker, I do not accept anyone speaking to me like that. I have the right to express my ideas, that does not make me a demagogue. If my colleague does not respect women, that is his problem.

Someone talked about Al Capone and now I am being called a demagogue, even though demagoguery is a traditionally Liberal trait. I expressed my point of view, which is that I will not be supporting the bill because it is full of contradictions. I have never wanted the Minister of Justice to become Canadians' dealer.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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?

Christine Moore

NDP

Ms. Christine Moore (Abitibi—Témiscamingue, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts about something that happened during the election campaign.

I was participating in a debate with young people in grades 9, 10, and 11 at a school in Notre-Dame-du-Nord. When these young people asked the familiar question of what our party would do for them, the Liberal candidate said a few words and then she added that her party planned to legalize marijuana. That is how she answered the question.

I would like to know what my colleague thinks about that answer.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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CPC

Sylvie Boucher

Conservative

Mrs. Sylvie Boucher

Mr. Speaker, I am astounded to hear that the candidate gave that answer at a high school debate. It seems to me that there are many things that the government could do for young people other than getting them high before they are even capable of making decisions.

That being said, the most important thing that we can do for young people is to educate them. They need to get the best education we can give them. The first thing that we need to do is to educate our young people, and we will not accomplish that by smoking pot.

When we talk to our young people, we need to give them hope for a better world. We should not necessarily tell them that they are going to be living in Care-a-Lot, but we should tell them that they are going to be living in a real world where they need to find jobs, be the best they can be, go to school, and have dreams. Being in an altered state is not the same as having dreams.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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LIB

Francis Drouin

Liberal

Mr. Francis Drouin (Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, speaking of altering things, will the Conservative Party be altering its stance on free votes? Will Conservatives be able to vote freely? We all know the member for Beauce said the vote on marijuana would be a free vote.

My colleague asked if we consulted Canadians. Absolutely. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police was consulted. The Barreau du Québec was consulted. The Canadian Association of Police Governance was consulted.

The Criminal Lawyers' Association was consulted. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association was consulted.

A whole bunch of Canadians were consulted. I cannot believe the Conservative Party is being so rigid. Will members on that side of the House be able to vote freely?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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LIB
CPC

Sylvie Boucher

Conservative

Mrs. Sylvie Boucher

Mr. Speaker, I want my colleague across the way to know that members on this side of the House can vote freely when the time comes.

What we saw during yesterday's vote on autism was not a free vote. Many members on that side of the House wanted to vote as we did, but they had to toe the line.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Cannabis Act
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June 1, 2017