Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour to speak on this important issue of impaired driving.
In a previous life, before being elected federally, I was an employee with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. One of my responsibilities was to try to make our streets safer. After every fatal accident in my area, I had to write a report on the causes, on why somebody died. It was often very simple issues, such as not wearing a seatbelt or there was impairment involved.
I would work with the local police and the RCMP. These were very sad stories, which were very traumatic for the families and very traumatic for the police officers and first responders from the fire department or with the ambulance service who were involved. It was very traumatic. The RCMP and police forces across Canada are recognizing the impact this has on first responders and the PTSD they are experiencing, too.
It is not a simple issue. It is a very complex issue when people drive impaired. Impairment can be caused by many things. It could be caused by a lack of sleep. It can be caused by forms of dementia or a loss of cognitive skills. It can be caused by prescription drugs. However, the focus of tonight's debate has to do with the use of drugs and alcohol, and legislative changes.
For the last three and a half years, I have been honoured to present petitions in the House. I have received hundreds of thousands of petitions from across Canada from an organization called Families for Justice.
A woman who lives in my riding of Langley—Aldergrove is Markita Kaulius. Markita and Victor lost their daughter Kassandra. I forget if she was just coming from a baseball game or going to a baseball game, but she was very engaged with the community. She was a beautiful young woman. Her life was tragically lost when, as she was driving through an intersection on a green light, somebody who was badly impaired from the use of alcohol blew the light and T-boned Kassandra and killed her. I forget the speeds that were involved, but it was a severe crash. The impaired driver ran from the scene and hid. He was caught, charged, and convicted.
As happens so often in Canada in the justice system, the person receives a sentence that will never bring the lost loved one back. There is no justice, in that sense. We cannot bring their loved one back. While the sentence may be conditional sentencing, house arrest, or just months, the family, for the rest of their lives, is going to have to deal with the loss of not being able to see that daughter graduate, get married, or have children. I am thinking of Kassandra, but to lose any loved one prematurely because they were killed by an impaired driver is a travesty. It happens way too often in this country.
Families for Justice has been presenting these petitions, with thousands of signatures, saying to Parliament, “Please, change the laws.” After presenting petitions time and time again and week after week in the last Parliament, the government introduced the impaired driving act. Unfortunately, it was at the end of the Parliament. To get legislation through, normally it takes two years. Since there were not two years left, it was not going to get through.
Families for Justice contacted all of the political leaders. It contacted the Conservative leader, the Liberal leader, and the NDP leader, and asked if they would support the legislation, the impaired driving act. To the Prime Minister's credit, he responded to Families for Justice, for Kassandra Kaulius, and said he would support legislation like that. Sadly, we should call that what it is, vehicular homicide. If a person kills someone using a car, a 2,000-pound or 3,000-pound weapon, while impaired, the individual choosing to become intoxicated through a drug or a drink, driving a vehicle knowing that he or she is putting the community at risk, and then kills someone, there should be a consequence much more serious than a few months in jail. It asked for mandatory minimum sentencing and for calling it what it is: vehicular homicide.
The impaired driving act, as I said, at the end of the last Parliament had mandatory minimum sentencing. It did not call it vehicular homicide, but Families for Justice continued asking for it. It has a letter, which is a public document, from the Prime Minister, saying that he would support that type of legislation. The closest thing to it that has been received by Parliament was Bill C-226. Unfortunately, the government, which dominates the justice committee, all too often getting orders from the Prime Minister's Office on whether to support something or not, was directed not to support Bill C-226.
The government has introduced legislation that we are dealing with today, Bill C-46, which uniquely and not strangely, is tied at the hip with Bill C-45. Bill C-45 would make it legal for young drivers 18 years and older to smoke a joint, or a number of joints, and to possess 30 grams legally. The Canadian Medical Association is saying that it is dangerous, we should not do that, and that people should be at least 21. At age 25 and older, developing minds will not be affected as severely. It is recommending 25 as the ideal legal age, but would agree with 21. The government ignored the scientific evidence and has gone ahead with the age of 18. Has the government introduced legislation to protect our communities and keep our roads safer? No, it has not. We know from other jurisdictions that it will make our roads less safe with impaired drivers.
We have a problem with alcohol impairment, but we have some tools to indicate whether someone is impaired through blood alcohol testing and breathalyzers. We have devices that test. Whether it is .05 or .08, we know if somebody is impaired. The government has suggested that it is going to pass this new legislation not within a two-year period, but within a one-year period. Why is that? Why would a government want to ram through, speed through, rush through legislation to have it in place by July 1 of next year? It is because it is the marijuana legislation, the one promise it will keep. Its flagship legislation in this Parliament is to legalize marijuana that will allow someone to smoke a bunch of joints. Someone can have 60 joints in his or her pocket, the car, or whatever, all totally legal if the person is age 18 or older. Someone cannot smoke 60 joints, so maybe he or she will be giving them to friends in the car and they will have a big party while driving. It is extremely dangerous.
The government then introduced Bill C-46, the impaired driving legislation, that would keep our roads safe.
Bill C-45 would legalize up to four marijuana plants to be grown in homes. However, are four plants four plants? No. We know through medical marijuana usage that four plants is 12 plants because they grow. There are crops. With a new seed, there are four plants, and when it is halfway grown, it will be another four. Mature plants that are producing will have another four plants. We know how the legislation works: four plants are 12 plants. There will be plants growing in homes where there are children. Does that protect our children? No. Does easy access to recreational marijuana being grown in homes make us safer? No. How about 18-year-olds with developing minds being able to smoke and drive? It creates a disaster scenario.
I think back to the letter that the Prime Minister sent to the Families for Justice saying that he would support this. Support what? Mandatory minimums. The Liberals believe that the courts needed some guidance. Courts need discretion to provide appropriate sentencing if someone is convicted of an impaired driving offence. We are now introducing even more impaired drivers, I believe, so the courts need guidance.
The government has said that it is going to increase the maximum. If someone is killed, the driver would get 14 years to life imprisonment. Let us look at how often people are being sentenced to 14 years. It is almost never. I would argue that we are not seeing that ever, so by increasing the maximum sentencing from 14 years to life, does that make our roads safer? It does not. These are horrendous crimes against society, taking the lives of Canadians, driving while impaired. Families for Justice is saying it should be called vehicular homicide and that there should be mandatory minimum sentences.
We know from the rulings of the Supreme Court on mandatory minimums that if people kill someone, they would receive at least five years. That is what was being asked for. If there were additional victims, there would be consecutive sentencing, a minimum sentence on top of a minimum sentence. There would not be any freebies. If they kill multiple people, they get multiple consequences. That is what Canadians believe is justice. My point is that we cannot bring back someone who has been lost, and there is tragedy and grief that comes to a family and anyone associated with that crash.
I want to share a little research that I did. We have a government that sadly, I believe, is a government of smoke and mirrors. The letter that the Prime Minister sent is another broken promise to a family who trusted him and hoped he would keep his word to provide the legislation that he promised. That is now a broken promise. Liberals are going to provide smoke-and-mirror legislation to legalize marijuana. One can have lots of marijuana from age 18 and on, but if they drive, they are going to pay the consequences. What kind of consequences will there be? If they kill someone, the maximum goes up to life. We know, through what is happening in the courts right now, there is a very minor consequence for killing someone.
This is a tragedy. How often is this happening in Canada? Impaired driving causing death is the number one criminal offence in Canada. We keep asking the government about how many times. How many times has the Ethics Commissioner met with the Prime Minister? He will not answer that. How many times are people being killed by an impaired driver every year in Canada? Is it a dozen? How serious is this problem? It is the number one criminal cause of death. That is not what I asked. I asked how many times. On average, 1,200 people die every year in Canada from impaired driving.
That means that three or four people die every day. Today, there will be three or four people killed by an impaired driver, and that is with alcohol. We will now add drugs, new drugged-up drivers, because of the legislation that the Liberals are introducing. It is a very serious problem.
I looked at this very interesting document, a report from the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. The Liberals have said they are back and that sunny days are here. Canadians are realizing that sunny days are not sunny days. Communities have to be sustainable, and the commissioner said this about previous Liberal governments.
The 1998 report said the Liberal government “is failing to meet its policy commitments”. In 1999, the report said there is “additional evidence of the gap between the [Liberal] government's intentions and its domestic actions. We are paying the price in terms of our health and our legacy for our children and grandchildren.” Does that sound familiar?
In 2000, it was that the government “continues to have difficulty turning...commitment into action”. In 2001, “the continued upward trend in Canada's emissions [demonstrates that] the government” has not transformed “its promises into results”. In 2002, the federal government's “sustainable development deficit” continues to grow. In 2003, it said there is gap between what the Liberal government said it will do and what it actually is doing. Good intentions are not enough. In 2004, why is the progress so slow? After all, the mandates and commitments are there. In 2005, it was that bold announcements are made and then often forgotten as soon as the confetti hits the ground. The federal government seems to have trouble crossing the finish line.
That was the Chrétien Liberal government, the Paul Martin government, and here we are with another Liberal government. The Liberals are back, involved with controversy, concerns with the Ethics Commissioner, investigations, and smoke and mirrors. We are now talking about smoke and mirrors regarding the safety of our communities.
If legislation would be introduced to protect our communities, a reasonable person would say that if we are to have any enforcement, we have to have people trained. Remember the Phoenix system where people were not trained? It is a system where the Liberals will legalize marijuana for use and they will not have any approved devices to test and confirm impairment. They do for alcohol, but the new drug impairment testing has no approved devices and no new people are being trained.
A previous speaker talked about new costs to municipal governments. I was elected in 1990 until 2004, and I served on a municipal council. The Chrétien and Martin years were extremely difficult for those in municipal government because the Liberals kept downloading more and more. They would make announcement and they would download those costs on to local governments. The tradition is that the cost of infrastructure would be one-third, one-third, one-third. The local governments could plan for that, but not under the Liberal government. They would download those costs.
In the cloudy days that we see ahead there are impaired drivers and no new devices to determine whether they are impaired. There will be legal challenges on charges of impairment, and if we do not have an approved device, likely the government will not be successful. We do not have training. With regard to the police, the drug recognition experts, who will pay for the new officers, the training, the devices that are yet to exist?
One would think that the government would wait until the science is ready to support that with devices. The search for this device is not something new. Experts have been looking for this for the last 15 years. They cannot find a device that can be used to confirm impairment, and yet the government is moving ahead.
I will support it going to committee because at committee we will see how poorly planned this legislation is and how it will hurt Canadians. I wish the government was not doing this and had thought it through more carefully. It is a poorly hatched plan, and it likely will not be supported by a large number of members in this House in the future. However, at this point, we will support it going to committee.