Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak again today on Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding offences relating to conveyances. Shortening the title, we are dealing with impaired driving and a review and updating of the old sections of the Criminal Code. It is impaired driving by alcohol or drugs.
I was a policeman for 35 years and held Breathalyzer operator certificates since 1970. I took part in probably well over 1,000 impaired cases involving alcohol and drugs. My first year, there were about 100, as a rookie. In those days, I could arrest a guy for impaired driving, bring him into the office, do up all the paperwork, and get back on the road within an hour or an hour and a half, except once. This is how bad impaired drivers can be.
I remember a case when I arrested a guy for impaired driving and brought him back to the office. At the time, the policy of the attorney general and the province was not to hold or detain, or remove vehicles from the road. I brought the man in and he blew .26. We had to release him, so I released him. Fifteen minutes later, I saw him driving down the road. I picked him up, brought him back to the office, processed him, and gave him an appearance notice because I could not hold him, and let him go. Twenty minutes later, lo and behold, he drove by me again. This time, I brought him in and arrested him. Impaired driving has always been a very serious part of our society.
Is impaired driving going down, whether it is due to drugs or alcohol? That is debatable. We have to thank groups like MADD for their work, but I do not believe it is going down, and I will provide two specific reasons. One is that the time to process a simple impaired driving case takes anywhere from three to four hours, and closer to four hours. Therefore, the police officer is off the road for four hours in order to do the paperwork. Why does it take that long? It is because of all the different wording in all of the legislation. He has to cross all of his t's and dot all of his i's to get a conviction. All we are doing right now is bringing in more legislation, more work for lawyers, and it is going to complicate it that much more.
The second reason is deterrence. I had the good fortune to find a court book from 1950 for Vancouver Island and impaired drivers were being fined anywhere between $100 and $300 in 1950. The average salary in 1950 was about $1,700. In 1970, the fines were still $100 to $300, but people were earning about $5,700. Today, the minimum fine is $1,000 and people are earning an average of $50,000, though I think it is a bit higher than that. Therefore, there is no deterrent to cause people to think about drinking and driving.
I will comment on what my hon. friend from St. Albert—Edmonton said. He brought up in committee that we need to strengthen some of the legislation. An example was to have a five-year mandatory sentence for someone who drives a vehicle while impaired and kills a person, and the Liberal government said no and voted against it. Right now, the minimum fine under summary conviction is $1,000. If we go to the more serious offence of causing injury or death, it is $500 more. That is ridiculous. It was more effective many years ago than it is today.
I will provide some simple statistics for those in the room. One shot of whisky is equal to 12 ounces of beer or a glass of wine. An average 140-pound woman who has three ounces in an hour would probably have a reading of .11, which would put her at .03 over the limit. Here is one place where I can say men might be just a little better than women. A 140-pound man having three ounces in an hour would have a .09 reading. That is because our dissipation system seems to be a bit better, and I will leave it at that.
Science gives us the ability to calculate the effects of alcohol. I could sit down with any person in this room, and if he or she told me what he or she had to drink I could probably break it down and tell him or her what the reading would be.
Proposed section 254.01 of the Criminal Code, the new one that we are talking about, states:
The Attorney General of Canada may...approve
(a) a device that is designed to ascertain the presence of alcohol in a person’s blood;
(b) equipment that is designed to ascertain the presence of a drug in a person’s body;
(c) an instrument that is designed to receive and make an analysis of a sample of a person’s breath to determine their blood alcohol concentration
Paragraphs (a) and (c) have been in existence since the 1960s. With respect to paragraph (b), we are told that some countries have some form of testing that they believe is correct. We are looking at that and testing it right now. However, it is not definite, for sure. I do not believe we have enough scientific evidence out there. However, we will be going ahead with this law to make marijuana legal.
Impaired driving, under proposed section 254 of the bill refers to any conveyance. Therefore, we will be able to go after anybody riding an electric bike, an electric wheelchair, an ATV, a lawnmower, all the way up to a transport truck. All these people will be subject to the new rules and regulations that we are imposing. Some of them will be able to use legalized marijuana for medical purposes, and others will use legalized marijuana for recreational use.
We all know that marijuana goes through the lungs into the bloodstream, then into the body, and gets stored in the fat cells. The sad part about it, which is different than alcohol, is that alcohol dissipates at about one ounce per hour for an average person. Therefore, it is gone. If one has three drinks in an hour, probably three to four hours later one's body is clear of that alcohol. That is not the case with marijuana. It stays in one's brain tissue and fat cells and can come up anytime one agitates one's body or gets excited. What does marijuana do? It knocks the heck out of our senses: sense of time, moods, movements, thinking, the ability to problem-solve, and memory. If we overindulge in the use of marijuana, then we can go into hallucinations, delusions, and psychosis. However, most people will just experience the former part, which is a form of impairment.
Duke University in New Zealand did a number of tests in the last few years with young people. I am saying this because it has proven that kids using marijuana on a regular basis had an IQ that was eight points less than their counterparts who did not use it. That is already a form of impairment right there.
According to Colorado State University, the tests it has done over the last few years show that the THC level of marijuana has increased over 30% in the past 20 years. It is much stronger than it used to be, which is another form of impairment.
My concern is that marijuana stays in one's body for three to 10 days immediately, and it takes up to three months for it to completely dissipate.
The shocking fact is that Colorado sold $14.6 million worth of marijuana in January of 2015. In the month of January 2016, it sold $36.4 million. That is more than double. To me, if the amount has doubled, so has the amount of impaired driving, which means we need to double the amount of money that we are going to spend on education. The current government has told us that it is going to spend a certain amount. We know that as soon as it becomes legal, the use of marijuana is going to at least double.
The legislation in Bill C-46 has some good intentions, and I do not disagree with it, but it needs to be reviewed with more scrutiny. It needs to be looked at. We need to get rid of a lot of the ambiguous parts that are written in there because it is going to tie up police officers on the road and make it very difficult for us to enforce impaired driving, especially with respect to drugs.