Speech on S-230 Drug-Impaired Driving Detection Act

April 6, 2017

 

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House to speak to Bill S-230, which would authorize the use of approved screening devices to detect the presence of drugs in anyone operating a vehicle. I would like to thank the member for Richmond—Arthabaska for bringing this important issue onto the floor for debate.

The government has been clear on the matter of impaired driving and the hazardous effects on its victims. Canadians cannot tolerate this type of reckless and irresponsible action without consequences. Authorities must have the appropriate tools necessary to ensure the public's safety. That is why our Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness rose in the House on February 9 and reassured members that the RCMP and other police forces across the country, in co-operation with the Government of Canada, have been testing a number of scientific devices for roadside testing of drug-impaired driving. The minister also committed the government to having in place both the legal and scientific regime to deal with drug-impaired driving.

This legislation arrives at a critical time as the government prepares to fulfill an election promise to legalize, strictly regulate, and tax the production of cannabis. Bringing an end to this unsuccessful prohibition program is long overdue. New legislation would provide more protection for children who would no longer be able to purchase the drug from street dealers. Under the new regulations, the purchase of cannabis would take place in regulated businesses and require photo ID. This would protect our youth and remove control from the illicit market. Cannabis would no longer fund the activities of organized crime. Revenues from the sale of cannabis could then be taken back into the health care system, including counselling and education.

While this next step in progressive policy is welcomed by many Canadians, I acknowledge that this change will be cause for concern for some. This is why the government is proposing strict regulations on the production and sale of cannabis.

While regulation and legislation are necessary steps, they are not totally sufficient, and while I support the intent of the bill, what is more effective than punishing a driver who drives under the influence is educating people to prevent them from getting behind the wheel in the first place. Teaching youth about the effects of cannabis consumption is the best way to ensure they never get behind the wheel while impaired by drugs or alcohol.

The task force for legalization and regulation heard at length from Canadians on this very issue. That is why the members of the force argued for a whole of government approach, specifically that Ottawa work with the provinces and territories to develop a national, comprehensive public education strategy to send a clear message to Canadians that cannabis causes impairment.

The good work of the task force fell on receptive ears, and the government included funds to accomplish this very goal in budget 2017. Health Canada will support marijuana public education programming and surveillance activities in advance of the government's plan to legalize cannabis. The government would accomplish this by directing existing funding of $9.6 million over five years, with $1 million per year ongoing.

It is this kind of common-sense policy making that Canadians voted for in the 2015 election. We made a campaign promise. We announced consultations for Canadians to provide further input, and the government listened to those concerns and acted.

Canadians and their government understand that the purely punitive approach is a failed one. We currently have the highest use of marijuana by youth in developed countries around the world. Ottawa must work with the provinces and territories to adopt a plan of action that comprehensively deals with the issues of drug use, based upon science as opposed to ideology.

Currently, anyone, including minors, can access cannabis with greater ease than alcohol or tobacco. This is because minors do not have to go through a regulated business to get cannabis. As it stands, the dealer is the only supplier, and has only one motive, profit. They do not care about age, quality control, or the strength of cannabis. Prohibition, even decriminalization, will not change this attitude.

While the members of the official opposition may still look upon legalization with skepticism, those on this side of the House understand that it is long past time for change. A comprehensive policy will allow Canadians the freedom to choose, but also to encourage responsible consumption. At the same time, we will protect Canadians from impaired drivers, using the most up-to-date technology.

In conclusion, Canadians can be assured that their government and their representatives in Parliament will not compromise when it comes to their safety and the safety of their communities. An important step is providing law enforcement the tools it needs now and will need in the future to ensure drivers operating vehicles are not under the influence of cannabis. This is only one step toward effective public safety policy. All orders of government need to work on providing devices and training so police forces are able to ensure citizens and communities are safe from impaired drivers.

Governments also need to provide effective legislation for distribution, control and testing, and even municipal zoning regulations. Our government is committed to an all-of-government approach to personal and public safety policy and legislation. We will work with our provincial, territorial, and municipal partners, as well as our police forces, to provide improved safety and security for communities and the people living in them. We have to do better in the future than we have done in the past to provide safety for our citizens, especially our youth, and for our communities