view entire issue | view Hansard type of business | new search


Ontario Hansard - 20-November2017

CANNABIS, SMOKE-FREE ONTARIO AND ROAD SAFETY STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 2017 / LOI DE 2017 MODIFIANT DES LOIS EN CE QUI CONCERNE LE CANNABIS, L’ONTARIO SANS FUMÉE ET LA SÉCURITÉ ROUTIÈRE

Resuming the debate adjourned on November 16, 2017, on the motion for second reading of the following bill:

Bill 174, An Act to enact the Cannabis Act, 2017, the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation Act, 2017 and the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017, to repeal two Acts and to make amendments to the Highway Traffic Act respecting alcohol, drugs and other matters / Projet de loi 174, Loi édictant la Loi de 2017 sur le cannabis, la Loi de 2017 sur la Société ontarienne de vente du cannabis et la Loi de 2017 favorisant un Ontario sans fumée, abrogeant deux lois et modifiant le Code de la route en ce qui concerne l’alcool, les drogues et d’autres questions.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate? I recognize the member for Lambton–Kent–Middlesex.

Mr. Monte McNaughton: Well, you got it, Mr. Speaker, and thank you very much for the opportunity to rise and debate Bill 174. I’m pleased to join the debate here today. I know my colleague from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound will be up shortly to debate this bill.

In the words of our Attorney General, it is “a bill that, if passed, would move Ontario forward with a safe and sensible transition to the federal legalization of cannabis.”

Speaker, having had some time to consider the legislation, which is being referred to, in shorthand, as the Cannabis Act, I can say I fully support having the use of automated school bus camera systems and getting legal recognition for the evidence obtained from such systems.

I’d like to begin by congratulating the member from Chatham–Kent–Essex, who brought forward this legislation in a private member’s bill early on in this session. School bus blow-bys are a very scary and all-too-common occurrence in our communities. Even with red lights flashing and the stop sign extended, motorists often speed by school buses as they pick up and drop off kids. There are a few videos that have circulated all across different social media of very young children exiting their school bus and having a terrifyingly close call with a vehicle that clearly is making no attempt to brake. I’m sure all of us here have seen them. As a parent myself, it’s an absolute nightmare to watch, and the perpetrators are rarely held to account. To date, bus drivers have been expected to note the full licence plate number, a description of the vehicle and a description of the driver if there’s hope of holding the offender to account. That’s a lot of information to take in very quickly, in a moment that I’m sure is extraordinarily stressful: watching as children for whom you feel responsible have their lives endangered. The expectation that they’re going to capture all that information—licence plate, vehicle, what the driver looked like—doesn’t strike me as being very realistic. This is a law we’re hearing is being violated regularly and which has proven to be nearly impossible to enforce consistently across the province. It’s obviously a critically important law. That is a situation that it is essential to take action on.

So, Speaker, when the member for Chatham–Kent–Essex brought forward legislation to address this deeply troubling problem back in November 2014, I was thrilled to see it pass second reading with unanimous support—because this type of issue clearly demands all-party support to be passed and brought into force as quickly as possible.

And then that bill, Bill 50, the Highway Traffic Amendment Act (School Bus Camera System), was left to die at committee. The Liberal government would not bring it forward to committee, and would not take the steps necessary to make it law in the province of Ontario. Then, of course, Speaker, the government prorogued, and all the bills they had left to linger on the order paper were killed.

So the PC member for Chatham–Kent–Essex brought forward the legislation once again. We debated it here in this House again, this time as Bill 94, and again called it the Highway Traffic Amendment Act (School Bus Camera Systems), and it passed second reading, again with unanimous support. That was nine months ago.

Then came the Safer School Zones Act. The PC caucus yet again tried to get these safety measures in place by proposing an amendment to the Safer School Zones Act, a related government bill on track for speedy passage. Again, the Liberal government refused to allow these measures to become law.

Now we find essentially the same legislation tucked into a massive bill about something else entirely, which is a tactic that we often see across the border. In the United States Senate, it isn’t uncommon to see a rider—essentially, an unrelated bit of legislation—attached to a bill to ensure or prevent its passage. By tacking a desirable provision to a controversial bill, the hope is to make sure that bill gets passed. Conversely, a controversial amendment might be added to prevent a popular bill from moving forward. Sometimes it’s just about trying to change the conversation.

Speaker, it is disheartening to see this type of tactic being used here in Ontario, where we are accustomed to a more thoughtful and forthright approach to policy legislation. Cameras on school buses clearly have nothing to do with selling pot. I have yet to hear anyone dispute that. Why is the government playing these games with school bus safety? We should be voting on policies on the basis of whether they’re good for our constituents, not on the basis of what they’re attached to. It’s so disappointing to see the Liberal government adopting these American-style political tactics. These tactics have no place in Canada.

When the transportation minister was asked about this, he said, “The travelling public wants to make sure these laws are passed so that they can have safety, and the means by which that occurs is less relevant to most people.” Speaker, I take real issue with that. What the minister is saying there is that the ends justify the means. It’s saying that the legislative process, our very democracy here in Ontario, isn’t all that important. That is very dangerous ground. The people of this province do care that the integrity of the legislative process is maintained. They care about important policies being debated openly and having each policy voted on based on its own merit. For a minister of this government to shrug off democratic norms like that is deeply troubling.

When the Attorney General was asked about this ploy by reporters here at the Legislature, he said, “We’re finding an efficient way of making a good idea move forward,” which makes no sense. This government has bypassed many opportunities to put these measures in place.

While I can’t say I find it altogether surprising that the most efficient route this government could find to enact a law is to debate it twice, sit on it for years, defeat it as an amendment and then reintroduce it in a completely unrelated piece of legislation, I think most people who don’t pay attention to the day-to-day operations of this Liberal government might find that explanation somewhat astonishing.

1340

For years, this same legislation sat on a shelf. For years, these measures to hold reckless drivers to account, drivers who have endangered children’s lives, have not been in place in Ontario because this government wouldn’t move forward with an idea advocated by our caucus. I would hate to think that this government was playing games or putting petty partisanship ahead of something as important as protecting student safety. But here we are, debating these school bus safety measures for a fourth time since the Liberals won a majority government.

Speaker, not that long after the Liberals won a majority government under the current Premier, this issue was highlighted in the media after a month-long trial of cameras on buses captured evidence of hundreds of drivers blowing by stopped school buses. I’d like to read from a related article published by the CBC back on November 7, 2014:

“Safety advocates and some school bus companies want to crack down on careless drivers with cameras—capturing footage of motorists who ignore the stop signs and flashing lights when children are disembarking.

“A month-long trial run by Xerox Cameras and the Toronto District School Board saw hundreds of drivers who broke the law and kept going past stopped buses.

“‘It’s a huge issue when you consider there’s 72 kids on that school bus,’ said Brian Patterson, president of the Ontario Safety League.

“But to convict someone of failing to stop, a bus driver must provide the full licence plate number, a description of the vehicle and of the driver.

“‘That’s virtually impossible, and that’s the challenge,’ said Glenn Attridge of Attridge Transportation.”

This article was from three years ago. If protecting these kids was a priority for this government, we would have had this law by now. And not only did this government not take the initiative to bring forward that legislation until now, their members stood and debated Bill 50 and then Bill 94, they passed over these bills at committee time and time again, and then they refused to accept the PC amendment to the Safer School Zones Act, which would have accomplished the very same thing.

In September 2016, there was a deeply disturbing article published in the Cambridge Times, which it’s difficult to believe didn’t prompt action from the government. I’m going to read a bit about that situation from the Waterloo region as well:

“Student transportation of Waterloo region general manager Benoit Bourgault believed he had a good idea of how bad drivers are when it comes to obeying school bus safety laws.

“It turns out drivers are even worse than previously believed. And now he has the evidence to prove it.

“‘It keeps me awake at night,’ said the transportation manager.

“Working to improve safety on the roads for students, Bourgault urged local school board and regional officials to consider embracing video technology to help catch and penalize drivers who fail to stop when school bus lights are flashing and stop signs are extended.

“Based on approximate assessments provided by reports from school bus drivers, it was believed between 500 and 700 drivers didn’t stop for school buses on the region’s roads each week.

“A pilot project that placed video cameras on the retractable stop signs of six school buses between May 24 and June 30 discovered 97 vehicles passed by a yellow school bus with its stop arm extended and lights flashing.

“According to a report slated for presentation at Waterloo Region District School Board last night (Sept. 26), when extrapolated to include all school buses, the number of violators per week is actually closer to 700 or more.

“When Bourgault analyzed actual video footage with police, there were some incidents that made him cringe with fear for students’ safety.

“‘There are some clear ones where the sign is fully extended and two, three, four cars are driving by.’

“Some of the footage was downright frightening, he said.

“‘We have one student that almost got hit twice crossing the road.’

“The close call happened along Water Street between Galt Collegiate Institute and the Delta (where Water Street meets Dundas Street and Coronation Boulevard).

“The bus had pulled over on the right lane and a student hopped off the bus and was clear to start crossing, and moved into the middle lane. A car approached and the driver, just seeing the child in the nick of time, stopped just shy of passing the bus.

“Seconds later, the student made his way across the other side of the road and was just stepping on the sidewalk as a car in the outer lane blew right by him and the other lanes of stopped vehicles.

“Drivers continue to put children’s safety at risk every day, insists Bourgault.”

Speaker, it’s unbelievable: 700 drivers blowing by stopped buses every week just in the Waterloo region. This article is from over a year ago now. Quick math will tell you that means it’s happened about 8,000 times since that article was published, just in that region. Think about what that means for how many close calls have happened all across Ontario while this government hemmed and hawed over what to do. How many children have had close calls? How many children may have been injured or worse?

CBC was prompted to write again about this issue just last month in an article titled “Wheels of Bureaucracy Go Round for School Bus Cameras.” Speaker, I would like to highlight some of that report:

“What looked to be a speedy solution to the problem of school bus ‘blow-bys’ has been slowed to a crawl by red tape.

“From May 2014 to the end of October 2015, Safer Roads Ottawa put a camera on one east-end school bus route, to catch drivers illegally passing the bus when it was stopped with lights flashing. The stopping rule applies to drivers coming up behind a school bus, and unless there’s a median, to drivers approaching from the other direction as well. The current fine for a first offence is $490.

“Police laid 75 charges during the pilot, and found video evidence of another 150 violations which police weren’t able to pursue within the constraints of the program resources, according to Safer Roads Ottawa coordinator Rob Wilkinson.

“Backers of the program told CBC News in spring 2015 that they hoped to expand it across the city by fall, but two years later, no cameras are operating.”

The article goes on, Mr. Speaker: “Ottawa is not the only community with concerns about drivers around school buses.

“In late September, a father in Perth, Ontario, posted video of a driver speeding past his children’s school bus. The video was shared widely on social media, and Ontario Provincial Police later charged a 68-year-old woman.

“A week earlier, a Windsor-area mother had called for cameras after witnessing a car barrel past her daughter’s school bus on the road’s gravel shoulder.

“Such concerns have prompted Rick Nicholls, the” PC “MPP for Chatham–Kent–Essex, to put forward a private member’s bill to eliminate yet another obstacle to school bus camera programs, which is the need for a witness—frequently the bus driver—to support the video evidence if a ticketed driver contests the charge.

“That bill passed second reading in February, and Nicholls said he had hoped it could become law before the Legislature’s summer recess. It’s now in limbo until the government decides to call it up for consideration by a Queen’s Park committee.

“In late September, in response to questions from Nicholls, Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca said the government would consult on the issue.

“Ottawa’s program will proceed with or without that change to the law, according to Gatien, adding that no drivers contested charges laid during the Ottawa pilot. But it could be a hardship for school bus drivers if they’re asked to forgo work and income to appear in court.

“Over at Safer Roads Ottawa, Wilkinson is buoyed by the thought this city’s pioneering slog through red tape will clear the way for other municipalities to get school bus cameras quickly in the future.

“But as for when the cameras—ultimately six of them in total—will be deployed on Ottawa school buses, Wilkinson said, ‘I stopped answering that question really directly a few months ago. I would love them on my kids’ buses, and protecting them,’ he said. ‘We’re going to get there.’

“Meantime, Gatien said, drivers continue to flout the rules dangerously. One spot in Orleans near a roundabout on St. Joseph Boulevard is of particular concern to him.

“‘We can get somebody there every day,’ said Gatien. ‘They’re just not getting the concept.’”

Speaker, this is a problem I think all of us in this Legislature have heard about anecdotally from school bus drivers and from parents. But part of the issue is we don’t have hard numbers on just how often this is happening. These test cases that I just referenced give us some idea of how big a problem we have here in Ontario, but the government has been kicking the can down the road for a long time on both investigating and dealing with it.

1350

I’d like to speak about this from a more rural perspective as well. A lot of these test cases of using cameras on buses have been in cities where traffic conditions are very different from the more sparsely populated parts of our province. In rural Ontario, where homes are found along roads with high speed limits in long stretches without lights or signs, it is incredibly important that we take every precaution to protect students as they get on and off their school bus. With the implementation of full-day kindergarten, children as young as three are taking the bus daily to and from school. While parents, teachers and bus drivers do their best to teach kids to be careful and observant around roadways, we can’t put the onus of being situationally aware totally on the shoulders of these children.

This is an issue that should have been addressed a long, long time ago. As those articles highlighted, this isn’t just about cameras and being able to hold people accountable. It’s also about raising awareness and making people more conscious of the danger of failing to stop for school buses. I can’t understand why this hasn’t been a priority for this government.

Speaking of which, my colleague from Nepean–Carleton has rightfully been calling the government out on their priorities when it comes to spending on government advertisements. She has been calling for 10% of the government’s $56-million advertisement buy to focus on raising awareness of the opioid crisis. For reference, the government’s fair hydro plan and ORPP self-promotion ads cost $5.5 million and $5.7 million. I think she’s absolutely right, and I think this issue is another example of those skewed priorities. I think the public would have been much better served by hearing about school bus safety than about the ORPP. Although that isn’t a high bar, the public would have been better served by hearing more about many, many things other than the ORPP.

At the start of every new school year, we see signs in front of fire stations and community centres urging drivers to watch out for school buses and to watch for kids being near the road. I and many of my colleagues here and many community groups will push that message through social media as well. That’s really the only time that message is promoted. To date, raising awareness about this problem has been a truly grassroots effort. Communities are concerned, and the government has been very slow to step up.

From the articles I’ve cited here today and from the debate we’ve already heard on Bill 50, Bill 94 and this bill, we know this is a problem from September through June. The government has had no end of excuses why they couldn’t or wouldn’t address it, and now they have brought forward solutions. If it weren’t for the efforts of the members from Chatham–Kent–Essex and Kitchener–Conestoga, I doubt we would be discussing this here today.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Miss Monique Taylor: I listened intently to the member from Lambton–Kent–Middlesex, and he spent his entire debate time talking about the road safety amendments to the Highway Traffic Act. I would have liked to hear somewhat of his opinion on the rest of the bill, the cannabis portion of the bill, and what his party plans to do on this bill. I was in the House the other day and I listened to the member from Lanark–Frontenac–Lennox and Addington, and his entire debate was on the Smoke-Free Ontario Act. So I still haven’t had the opportunity to hear the Conservatives’ stand on the other two schedules of this bill. But that, very frankly, is the fault of the Liberals, because they have again found a way to put together all different sorts of legislation into one bill. These are bills that could be separated. There never should be this many acts covering this many different topics under one piece of legislation.

I’m sure they’re doing that just so that they can tell the Conservatives that they voted against something, just as they do within the budgets they bring forward. We will have a small piece of a huge budget bill that we fundamentally disagree with, and they’ll try to wedge us on that. There will be several of those pieces. We will vote against their bad budget and then they will talk about the couple of little good things that are inside of that bill, saying that we voted against those two. It’s just another game by the Liberals. It’s unfortunate that they’ve put together another bill in the same format.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Hon. Helena Jaczek: It’s a pleasure to rise and make a few comments in regard to the remarks from the member from Lambton–Kent–Middlesex. I was actually beginning to concur with the member from Hamilton Mountain, as he did spend at least 18 of the 20 minutes talking about road safety. My conclusion is that he actually approves of this part of the bill. But he failed, of course, to talk about perhaps the core of this particular issue, which is our regulation of the federal requirement to legalize the use of cannabis. I will pick up on his emphasis on safety and education when it comes to this bill’s important focus on public health and harm reduction, because the most important thing is that we need to ensure that youth and young adult exposure to cannabis use is done in as safe a manner as possible.

We know that we need to protect Ontarians from the health hazards of second-hand smoke and vapour. We have taken the advice of CAMH, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, in relation to setting the age here in Ontario at 19. I think this is a very important thing that we’re doing. This does mirror our use of alcohol in this province. The method by which cannabis will be available is the most important piece of all in this legislation: the use of an LCBO-like retail environment with that ability to check age to ensure that at the outset, when a purchase is made, it’s done appropriately.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Jim McDonell: It’s always a privilege to rise in the House, and I’m glad to be back. We talked about being away for a few weeks, but things haven’t changed. The political games continue to go on. You have a bill that the government must follow through on a plan for cannabis, regulate it. It’s mandated by the federal government. What do they do? They bring in something that we’ve been trying to get through over the last five or six years.

I remember hearing this government, not that long ago, talking about how one of our amendments that we proposed—the member from Chatham–Kent–Essex—about the school bus cameras: how they couldn’t be put in; it’s too complicated and too soon. But lo and behold, they slip it in a bill. I’m trying to figure out why they do this, but of course they do this all the time.

The bill is very adamantly called the Cannabis Act. You’d wonder why you’d bring school safety into such a thing, because if you read through the bill, it really has nothing about keeping your children away from cannabis. I think that a lot of studies show that’s an issue. Instead, they bring through this school bus camera—that if you took them at their word when they said it was impossible to do, lo and behold, a month later they slip it in the bill and they don’t even want to talk about it. I guess it’s that simple.

We see time and time again where we listen to our delegations and the people that come before us and we put in many thoughtful amendments and we see a government that refuses to accept any of them. This is just a classic case, where we see this now: something that was a bad idea just a month ago all of a sudden turns into something that they can quietly slip in a bill.

It’s a government—they talk about it being politics, but really, it’s time that we put the people first and talk about things and debate them fairly. That’s really the problem we have in here: We try to bring things in front of people and debate them fairly.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): We have time for one last question or comment.

Ms. Peggy Sattler: I am pleased to rise on behalf of my constituents to offer some brief comments about Bill 174, the Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act.

Speaker, my community of London is one of the Ontario cities that is going to be getting at least one of the 40 outlets that the government has indicated will be going forward. Unfortunately, the legislation that is before us today raises more questions than answers for my community as to how this legalization plan will actually roll out.

1400

In particular, Speaker, there is absolutely nothing in this bill to address how municipalities will be compensated for the additional costs that they will have to incur to enforce the government’s proposed cannabis monopoly, to deal with the new requirements for public education, and, in addition, the health costs of the legalization of cannabis. We know that there’s going to be a significant burden on cities for policing, for zoning, and for the public consultation that will have to go into determining where these outlets are going to be located and what kinds of changes have to be made to official plans to support that, and also the enforcement of legal cannabis sales.

Municipalities like London and other cities across the province will have many more questions that will have to be answered before we are actually prepared for July 2018.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Now I return to the member for Lambton–Kent–Middlesex for his response.

Mr. Monte McNaughton: I’d like to thank the member from Hamilton Mountain, the Minister of Community and Social Services, my colleague from Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry and my neighbouring MPP from London West. Thanks for adding, I guess, to my 20 minutes on Bill 174.

Speaker, I did dedicate 20 minutes to talking about school bus safety because, like many of us in here, I’m a parent; I’m a father. I’m extremely concerned. This issue goes back as far as the cameras on school buses, to 2014, and I think, quite frankly, it’s a disgrace that the government hasn’t moved forward on this and they’re throwing it inside a piece of legislation, the Cannabis Act. It makes no sense to me. I think it’s irresponsible of the government to do that. School bus blow-bys are very scary and they are an all-too-common occurrence across the communities which I’ve represented and across all communities across the province. Families are extremely concerned about this. When you take your child to the end of the laneway and they hop on that school bus, you’re hoping they get to school and return home from school safely. This should have been dealt with years ago. I commend once again the member from Chatham–Kent–Essex, who heard stories in his own community about this and saw the news, like we’ve all seen over the years, about the number of blow-bys in communities. I made reference to a number of these when I spoke for 20 minutes. These perpetrators are rarely held to account today, and they need to be. This should have been dealt with a long, long time ago. It is disgraceful that the government would put this part of legislation inside the Cannabis Act in Bill 174.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate.

Ms. Jennifer K. French: I am very pleased to be able to have an opportunity to speak to this bill, Bill 174, the Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, 2017.

As we have been discussing since this piece of legislation hit the Legislature, there are a number of different components to this bill and they don’t all connect in a way that we can figure out. We just had a fulsome discussion about road safety and buses.

Now I’m going to take my time and speak to the bulk of this bill, which is the cannabis focus of this legislation, because, Speaker, as I’m sure you’re finding and the rest of us have been finding, this has been a very engaging topic in our communities, and an interesting topic, in that we are talking about a substance that up until recently—we teach our children that drugs are bad and this is a drug, and all of these conversations, and now we’re having a conversation in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and more broadly in the country about legalization, about decriminalization, about access, about revenue and about responsible government. It’s an interesting time. Ten years ago, maybe people didn’t know when we would get here or if we would get here, but here we stand, with a piece of framework legislation in front of us.

This bill, while it is bulky, leaves out a lot of the details. This cannabis bill is a disappointment because it leaves us with so many questions. There are questions about rules that are going to govern the choice of specific retail locations or how many stores our big cities like Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton and Ottawa are going to get. How big are these stores going to be? How is the cannabis going to be priced? Is it going to be competitive? How will it be taxed? We have questions about partnerships with our municipalities or even about an understanding with our municipalities.

We support the legalization of recreational cannabis and support the LCBO’s role in this—and I’ll get more into that in a bit. But there are so many questions about this. The government seemingly arbitrarily chose these 40 locations. They’ve made their list. It turns out that there hasn’t been consultation with the host communities. I know that my community of Oshawa would have opinions, but we’re not on the list, nor do we know if we’re going to be on the list. The Premier has let municipalities down yet again. They put this list out before they even consulted thoroughly with these potential host communities. No shock there—but again, disappointing.

A bit of a quick breakdown: The first schedule of this bill is the Cannabis Act, and the goal of this is to protect public health and safety, protect youth and restrict their access to cannabis, and ensure that the sale of cannabis is in accordance with schedule 2, which is the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation Act.

We know that the sale of cannabis out in our communities is a fairly competitive endeavour. We have an illicit, illegal set-up currently going, and what this is hoping to do is to deter folks, to eliminate the illicit market and to capitalize fairly on the revenue that I think our public ultimately wants to see.

There are so many questions around that. When you look at the street value of cannabis versus the proposed value in one of these dispensary storefronts, how is this government going to ensure that this legal framework ensures a competitive environment? If it isn’t competitive, we’re going to be spending a lot of money on these stores, and we aren’t going to be sure that that isn’t a waste of money if they can’t even demonstrate that they’ve done a solid business case, and we haven’t seen that. Our critic on this file, the member from Essex, in his one-hour speech made that very clear—he has been asking everybody. He has been asking all of the bureaucrats and the policy folks and everyone who has been working on this bill. He wants to know where that business case is and what the projected volume is, and, “Let’s talk about supply and how to be competitive.” There are no answers, or none that we have been given. So we encourage the government to be forthcoming, and if they haven’t done the math on this, they probably should do it.

The biggest—well, it’s not the biggest; this whole thing is big. But one of the big parts of this bill that the government is making very clear is that no one shall be allowed to sell cannabis except through the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corp., the OCRC. When we look across our communities and see the LCBO—that’s where we can purchase alcohol. We’re going to have OCRCs, and we have yet to see what that will look like, but it’s through the LCBO or in partnership—not partnership; the LCBO, I guess, is almost like a parent entity responsible for the OCRC.

1410

This piece of legislation goes fairly tough when it comes to penalties for anyone who would endeavour to sell cannabis illegally, as it should be. We want to deter, we want to eliminate the illicit market. There are pieces of this bill that focus on landlords, that no landlord shall knowingly allow their premises to be used for unlawful selling or distribution. It’s interesting, though; there is no equivalent provision under the Liquor Licence Act that holds landlords so liable. A couple of months ago it was a landlord who came to my office to advocate for their tenants, and they were concerned about how this legislation is going to affect their buildings. One gentleman did come in and talk to us about the federal decision to allow folks to have four personal plants that they can grow. His concern, as the landlord, was grow lamps, the increased potential for hydro use and electricity use, and how that cost would be distributed and borne by the rest of the tenants. That is one thing that is part of this broader conversation.

But there are other pieces to this—that if, through this legal mechanism, someone buys cannabis, it can only be consumed in private residences. There is no public space where it can be consumed. We’ve seen that, of course, with smoking anything else as well, Speaker, but it brings up an interesting point that, again, the member from Essex brought up. In Windsor, they have folks who come over on a regular basis because the legal drinking age is 19, which is a bit of a draw for folks who are living in the States and not yet 21. It’s a tourist draw, that they can partake of alcohol in our fine province. Well, now we have a situation where the age for use of cannabis is going to be 19 as well and you’re going to have an influx, essentially, of cannabis tourism. While they will be able to purchase this cannabis in legal storefronts, they won’t be able to consume it because they don’t live in Ontario. So for them not to be able to safely or legally use what they are legally allowed to purchase, there’s going to be some real tension there. And beyond tension, that’s a legal concern, obviously, because then they can’t take it back across to the States.

Again, we have a piece of legislation here where maybe we haven’t done all of the math on all of the situations. I know the government is open to looking at—I forget how they worded it—the feasibility of other spaces for consumption. We see in communities places like compassion lounges. I don’t know if that’s a direction that they’re going or if they’re working with municipalities and different partners to make sure we don’t have a bunch of loopholes that snag and ensnare people unexpectedly.

Gosh, there’s so much in this and so much to talk about.

The penalties are significant. The penalties, however, for violating the government’s cannabis sales monopoly are much higher than the maximum penalties for selling cannabis to minors. I thought that was interesting. These maximum penalties are vastly higher than what faces unlicensed liquor sellers under the Liquor Licence Act. As you’re really delving into this—and I’m not suggesting that people not be penalized for doing things that are illegal, but it is interesting that the penalties are so high for challenging the government’s sales monopoly rather than the focus on keeping our youth away from this.

It is just interesting that the government really, really wants to get a lot out of this. I get it: Revenue is revenue. We had hydro and then we sold it, and that was a revenue stream that was predictable.

So here we have a big opportunity to bring in big money—maybe, because we haven’t seen the business case. I hope there is one, but like I said, how do we know that it will be priced competitively? How are they going to ensure that? I don’t know.

The government wants a lot of money coming in from this. They’re going to make sure to squash any other illegal ventures. Absolutely, squash them. We’re doing this as a country and as a province because we want a safe and responsible legal framework if this is going to be an accessible substance. We want to make sure, though, as with any new venture, that we do it well, we do it responsibly and we do it right. So we have lots of questions.

Briefly, schedule 3 is the Smoke-Free Ontario Act. It repeals the previous Smoke-Free Ontario Act and the Electronic Cigarettes Act, 2015, and basically re-enacts both of them in the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017. It doesn’t, however, seem to re-enact the vicarious liability clause from section 3(4) of the existing Smoke-Free Ontario Act that deems the owner of a store who fails to exercise due diligence to be liable for a sale of tobacco to minors.

Again, why are we loosening a little bit the access for minors? We want to keep that tight because when it comes to being a responsible and capable government, we can’t just do a cash grab—open something up to have all the money come in and sort of wash our hands of who has access. We need to keep our youth safe and we need to do this responsibly, even if it means losing out on a couple of bucks from inappropriate sales to minors. We need to be responsible.

As we’ve heard from the PCs today, we know that schedule 4 is the road safety amendments to the Highway Traffic Act. They focused on bus safety, but some of the other pieces that are being updated or brought in—it adopts a zero-tolerance approach to drugged driving by young, novice and commercial drivers. A zero-tolerance approach—great.

There are also pieces—automatic licence suspensions applied to commercial motor vehicle drivers when approved drug screening equipment indicates a non-zero amount of any drug that the police officer believes to be unauthorized for medicinal use.

I’m actually going to deviate from that a second. One of the conversations I’ve had with members of council in my municipality is that this is going to look different in every municipality, in every backyard. If folks are going to be partaking of cannabis in their own space or their backyard, this is more often than not a smoked substance. Smoke doesn’t actually hold still. It doesn’t stay put. It drifts, it wafts and it hops fences. It will do what it’s going to do.

Some of the questions are not just about enforcing but also about unavoidable or unintended exposure. If you’re sitting in your backyard having a barbecue in the summer and the guy beside you or your neighbour has cannabis smoke wafting into your shared space—I don’t know how all of the toxicology works, but is that going to be someone who could potentially register on a piece of federally regulated equipment that they have cannabis in their system if they’re pulled over?

This was a question, actually, that the mayor brought up. If you have someone who in their line of work is subject to random drug tests and they have it in their system when they aren’t actually using cannabis, we do need to talk about exposure. We need to talk about what on earth the municipalities are going to do to enforce it and how they are going to figure all that out, because if you’re going to increase their responsibility for enforcing these rules but you’re not giving them additional supports, direction or resources, we are going to find that a struggle with our municipalities.

1420

Anyway, back to schedule 4: It has provisions in here about alcohol being detected. If the police officer reasonably suspects that they have alcohol in their system, they can require a second test to determine the concentration of alcohol in the driver’s body. But that’s about alcohol. A friend of mine was in an accident with someone who was determined to be impaired. Without a proper roadside test that can measure the cannabis in their system—and, at this point, even detect for sure; we don’t yet have that federally regulated piece out in our communities. It’s not about putting the cart before the horse; I don’t think this government has done due diligence or done all of the work to make sure that this rollout into our communities is not just responsible but safe. I would like to see them answer those questions. I would like to see them make the commitments to work with municipalities, to work with law enforcement, to work with our neighbours to ensure that we do this right and we do this well.

Let’s see; what else? So many pieces. Really, it’s a hot topic for the last stretch of time. You can’t spend any time in your community at a park or anywhere else without someone coming up and asking you about cannabis and wanting to talk about what this will look like. In the last federal election, this was a significant issue that everyone wanted to talk about. They are wanting to see how this is all going to play out and what it’s going to look like in our communities. I’m curious as well, and I don’t see all of those pieces in this legislation.

We don’t have a lot of the research that has been done because this is a prohibited and schedule 1 narcotic in the US—so we don’t have a lot of research about that. The government has to continue the ongoing research, learning and the education side because this is unchartered territory. I don’t ever have faith in this government that they do things well or that they do things responsibly. I think they do things halfway; they do things quickly. I think they’re really excited to get in on the cannabis conversation because they saw how well it went for the federal campaign. Here we have it actually rolling out in our communities, and there are so many questions about the taxation regime or any revenue-sharing with municipalities. How are we going to support the municipalities as they are enforcing or figuring out—and doing all of the homework that this government really hates to do? When it comes to safety and security at the roadside and the effects on youth, what is the education going to look like? Are we going to have labels on packages or in the windows of storefronts? What are the storefronts even going to look like? What will the cost be? What is the anticipated volume? How are they going to meet the demand? Where will the supply come from? How are they going to be competitive with street value? All of this, I honestly don’t know if they have considered.

Here we have the piece of legislation. We’re going to debate it. We’re going to work with our community partners, go to committee and hopefully make this the best version of this bill that it so much needs to be.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Hon. Chris Ballard: Some good questions and good comments from the previous speaker.

I just wanted to touch lightly on some of the key messages and some of the key issues that I’m hearing, not only from that presentation but certainly hearing in the community.

A bit of background for those who haven’t been involved: What Ontario is putting forward is a response to the federal legalization of cannabis. What Ontario is doing, Speaker, is proposing a very safe and a very sensible framework to govern recreational cannabis use within the province. And I can assure citizens that even as cannabis becomes legalized, it will remain a carefully controlled substance in Ontario subject to some pretty strict rules when it comes to both use and retail distribution.

Speaker, Ontario has significant experience and history managing both tobacco and alcohol—as well as the practical experience of other jurisdictions that have recently introduced legislation. The government has done the math. I can say that in setting the rules that will apply here in Ontario, the government is guided by two very important principles: First, we are taking a safe approach by protecting youth, by ensuring that retail distribution will be carefully controlled; and second, we’re taking a sensible approach, consulting widely with the public, public health, municipalities, indigenous communities, and by learning from the experience of other jurisdictions that have gone before us. We wanted to learn what they’ve done right and what they would do differently.

We’re committed to getting this transition right.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Randy Pettapiece: I’m pleased to rise to add my comments to the member from Oshawa’s speech just a minute ago. She touched on many things that are in this bill that she has issues with. I certainly do have issues with a number of pieces of this bill, and I’ll be touching on a few of them when I do my 10 minutes at the end of the session.

Speaker, one of the things that she said was that a lot of people have been talking to her about this legislation, about the legalizing of marijuana. I have got about zero people that I can remember in my riding talking to me about how important this legislation is. Nobody is talking about it. They’re more interested in—they’re trying to pay their hydro bills. That’s one big issue in my riding. That seems to be one of their issues, and yet we know how the government listens to that.

I do want to bring up one aspect of what the member from Oshawa talked about: the enforcement of the rules. Police are not going to be ready for this. Police are not going to have the tools that will allow them to enforce the safe use of marijuana, especially when people are intoxicated by this and driving down the road. This has been something that has been talked about for quite a while, ever since this legislation was brought up: Our law enforcement people are not going to have the tools to do it with.

I also had a conversation with a doctor last week, and actually, she did talk about this. She said that we’re letting folks who are 18 and older use this product, and brain development does not stop until 25 years of age, so what are we doing with these people?


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Ms. Peggy Sattler: It is a pleasure to rise to offer some comments on the speech from my colleague the member for Oshawa with regard to Bill 174, the Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act.

One of the points that she made that deserves to be repeated is around the inconsistencies in the penalties that are set out in this act when it comes to selling cannabis to minors compared to existing penalties related to selling alcohol to minors and selling cigarettes to minors. Certainly, she has mentioned that the risks of some kind of effect on brain development are significant for young people, whose brains are developing up to age 25, and this is what Ontarians would expect from this Legislature—that we would put in place very stringent protections for our youth. However, ironically, the penalties that are set out in this legislation for selling cannabis to minors are actually less—the financial penalties are less, the prospects of imprisonment or the length of imprisonment are less—when compared to the Liquor Licence Act and the Smoke-Free Ontario Act. This is a major concern, because certainly when we are putting in place a regulatory framework, we want to ensure that the risks of cannabis, the risks of cigarettes, the risks of alcohol—that all of these risks are acknowledged and that the appropriate protections are put in place. We are concerned that this legislation perhaps doesn’t do enough to protect our young people.

1430


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): The member for Etobicoke North.

Mr. Shafiq Qaadri: As you are aware, we in the Legislature of Ontario are bound and also inspired by the federal legalization of cannabis occurring in July 2018 and we need to create the on-the-ground framework.

This is going to be a very momentous weekend, because it is going to be the policy weekend for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. I think many are noting that basically it seems the Tories are doing everything we are, except four years later. That’s approximately what I’ve been able to glean from the Conservative Party’s mandate or their very studied silence with regard to it.

I have to salute the member from the fourth party. At least the man gets on the record. The honourable Jack MacLaren, the member of the Trillium Party, actually comes forward and whether it’s popular or not, votes on principle—reflecting, by the way, his own constituents.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): I hesitate to interrupt the member, but I would remind him that it’s important that his comments relate to the presentation that was just given in the House by the member for Oshawa, and I hope he gets to that.

Mr. Shafiq Qaadri: Absolutely, Speaker. I thank you for that reminder.

With regard to cannabis, if I might add some medical light to it: As you will know, we as physicians encounter it in a number of different guises. It’s used for chronic pain, anxiety, depression, nausea, vomiting, arthritis, migraine, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, pediatric epilepsy, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, inflammatory diseases of various kinds as well as cancer pain.

I have to say that having prescribed, monitored and seen some of the treatment outcomes, that we have actually, I would say, a new respect for this substance and cannabis in its various uses, whether it’s, by the way, smokable, injectable, inhalable and even, of course, now coming in oral forms. I think this is really just part of, as I said earlier, the government’s mandate to reply to the feds.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): That concludes our questions and comments. I return to the member for Oshawa for her reply.

Ms. Jennifer K. French: I appreciate most of the comments.

I would like to address first the comments from the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. He said that this is in response to federal legislation—yes, much of which we haven’t seen. They had sort of left out edibles and now we’ve left out edibles, but they might have provisions for edibles. I don’t know about injectables. I’ve never heard such a thing, but the doctor opposite just talked about injectable marijuana, so maybe they’ll encourage that; who knows?

Maybe it exists; I don’t know. To the member opposite and his comments: It’s a response to legislation, but it doesn’t have to be a rush job, for crying out loud. It needs to be fulsome. It needs to be correct.

To the member from Perth–Wellington: I don’t know what to tell you. I think the difference from riding to riding—when I knock on doors, it’s amazing how many folks in Oshawa want to talk about cannabis. They call it all sorts of different things, but I’m going to call it cannabis. I don’t know about the folks in your riding. I don’t know where they’re partaking or if they do. Again, different communities, different municipalities—we need to have different conversations about the needs in communities, right? Knock on a few different doors, I would encourage the member.

To his point that police are not going to be ready or that they don’t have the tools—that is an interesting one because in the Police Services Act—that’s another piece of legislation where the government is wanting to privatize all sorts of police services. One of the things they want to privatize is the administration of Breathalyzers. If we are going to have a federally approved Breathalyzer for testing for cannabis at the side of the road, that may not even be done by a police officer if this government has their way. That’s a whole other conversation for another day that I’m looking forward to having.

Questions about brain development and questions about youth effects: We need stringent protections as we’re going forward with this change.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. Jack MacLaren: Mr. Speaker, Bill 174, the Ontario Cannabis Act, 2017, is a bad bill. It is bad business. It seeks to put government into a business that government has no business being in. Government does not know anything about the business of cannabis, government does not like the business of cannabis and, most important of all, government is not good at business, period. Government should not be involved in any business that the private sector can do. Government should only be involved in business that only government can do.

At the Trillium Party, we understand that small business is the backbone of Ontario’s economy. We know that small business creates 75% to 80% of all private sector jobs in Ontario. If small business thrives, Ontario thrives. We are strongly opposed to the government’s plan to sell legal cannabis through a large, single-desk LCBO-type government monopoly agency. The Trillium Party strongly supports selling legal cannabis through regulated, independent small business outlets. This will be competitive, effective—


Mr. Bill Walker: Point of order, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): On a point of order, the member for Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound.

Mr. Bill Walker: I don’t believe we have a quorum present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Is there a quorum present in the House?

The Clerk-at-the-Table (Mr. William Short): A quorum is present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): There is a quorum present.

I return to the member for Carleton–Mississippi Mills.


Mr. Jack MacLaren: The Trillium Party strongly supports selling legal cannabis through regulated, independent small business outlets. This will be competitive, effective and efficient, and the lowest-cost service to consumers. The competition that comes from a free market economy will encourage consumers to use regulated cannabis because it will be at a competitive price. This lowest price will provide the strongest competition for illegal sellers of unregulated cannabis and will thus discourage the unregulated illegal sellers on the street. This is the main objective. Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government’s plan to monopolize the sale of cannabis will be a costly, doomed attempt to deny and deprive Ontario taxpayers and citizens of an equal opportunity to help grow the emerging legal cannabis industry.

Private, independent businesses are the lifeblood of Ontario. Our communities are diverse and spread out across this large province, with many citizens eager for a chance to be small business owners. We should not allow the Ontario Liberals to destroy the dreams of Ontario citizens who have been hoping for the ability to take part in the provincial retail sale of adult-use cannabis. The Liberals may talk about supporting entrepreneurs and businesses in Ontario, but the Cannabis Act they propose actively holds back many of our young, female and minority group citizens who are already struggling to find opportunities in business.

Today we have a guest who is with us here today in the gallery, Virginia Vidal, who exemplifies the type of businesswoman who is being shut out from the legal cannabis industry by the Ontario Liberal government’s proposed Cannabis Act. Virginia has invested years of passion and work to create a product that is professional and in high demand. She runs Mary’s Wellness Ltd., a line of cannabis-infused teas and coffee products. Virginia, a mother of six children and caregiver to her elderly grandmother, has been victimized by cannabis laws in the past and is one of the few citizens who have been able to defeat the charges in court. After great expense financially and personally, she defended herself. Many others attempted the same, but most are punished by the laws with no ability to defend themselves.

1440

Our citizens like Virginia trust the government to protect their rights and freedoms, and to allow our residents to enjoy opportunities to contribute to our province. The Liberal Cannabis Act will deprive Virginia and thousands of others of those rights and opportunities, and will criminalize her for being an entrepreneur.

Legalization was supposed to offer our fellow citizens the opportunity to engage in a new business model to provide the products and related services that have been in demand for decades while creating jobs and tax revenue, leasing storefronts, and adding to the diversity of our communities. Many Canadians use cannabis, and they currently face criminalization and extreme hardships in accessing and supplying that product. Many citizens have been involved in the cannabis industry for years and have been waiting for the chance to be legalized.

Unfortunately, the federal Liberal legislation, Bill C-45, does not end criminalization, and allows provinces to introduce their own rules for distribution and retail, which has resulted in this government proposing the worst possible model. Our provincial government owes it to our citizens to get rid of roadblocks and unfair hurdles that deny employment opportunities to the millions of residents of Ontario. We should support the cannabis industry in Ontario. We should promote the creation of as many jobs as possible in retail, marketing, farming, manufacturing, tourism, medicine, research and development, and other ancillary businesses.

It is offensive that the Ontario government is not only going to deny the ability of our residents to enjoy the benefits of a vibrant, diverse, privately run cannabis industry, but they are also actively spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the creation of a new bureaucracy that is unnecessary and viewed with well-deserved skepticism. Not only will the Ontario government waste our precious, limited tax dollars on a new cannabis bureaucracy, but they are also promising to finance a new massive law enforcement crackdown on the existing cannabis industry, an industry that was supposed to be brought out of the shadows and into the light with legalization.

The continued criminalization and demonization of the cannabis industry will make it even more difficult for the Ontario government to be taken seriously as a retailer of legal, recreational cannabis. The Ontario government has no expertise in cannabis. They have no history with or knowledge of the product being discussed in today’s legislation, and, even worse, they express disdain for the very substance they seek to monopolize and profit from.

How can the Ontario Liberal government be trusted to manage this new marijuana model efficiently? How can they have any credibility when they do such a poor job of managing the other businesses they’re engaged in? How can they claim to be eliminating the criminal market in cannabis when they introduce legislation that continues to criminalize cannabis with even harsher penalties?

I say no to the exclusion of our citizens from this emerging industry. I say no to these barriers being put up to prevent the most experienced and knowledgeable to fairly participate. I say no to the increased penalties and violations of rights contained in Bill 174.

The Ontario Liberal plan for a pot monopoly is doomed to fail and will cost Ontario taxpayers many hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars in the years to come. The Ontario government should let our fellow responsible, experienced, taxpaying entrepreneurs and business owners develop and promote this new legal cannabis industry in a way that benefits everyone, not just the Ontario government.

Government should not be in the business of running businesses. We have seen how that has failed before. The Liberals should throw out this entire flawed piece of Cannabis Act legislation and introduce reasonable regulations to let our citizens create the jobs and tax revenue that a truly fair, free market cannabis legalization retail model can provide.

Mr. Speaker, I will be voting no on Bill 174, the Ontario Cannabis Act of 2017.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Toby Barrett: Yes, I’d like to comment on the presentation from my friend from Carleton–Mississippi Mills. One point I’d like to make—I don’t know whether the government is listening—is that we can learn from those jurisdictions that have gone before us. I’m thinking of the state of Colorado and Washington state. It was five years ago—actually, in November 2012—that both Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize not only personal possession but also the retail sale that the member was just talking about. I’ve been out to Washington once for presentations on this and out to Colorado twice and have had presentations. Colorado has made an awful lot of mistakes. They have the commercial sale extended from the medical marijuana distribution system.

In contrast, the state of Washington didn’t have the medical marijuana market before and they have basically set up kind of a government-controlled system which sounds like it is something that this present government might be looking at. I’m just checking my note. Let’s see: Washington began retail sales in 2014, under the Washington State Liquor Control Board. Colorado, as you know, is existing—almost storefronts; many of them are growing cannabis in a warehouse in the back. Certainly, Colorado has made an awful lot of mistakes, and I suspect Washington has as well. Given my experience with 20 years at the Addiction Research Foundation, this government will make a tremendous number of mistakes with this distribution system in the next few years.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Miss Monique Taylor: I listened intently to the member from Carleton–Mississippi Mills, and he brought up some points about things that I’ve wondered about also. What is going to happen to the current distributors who are running businesses in our ridings now and across the province? That’s a major problem that I see within this bill. We’re trying to create legislation to govern our province for federal legislation that currently isn’t even finalized yet. So there are many questions of how we are possibly going to govern this accordingly to ensure that people who are producing teas and different ways of ingesting things for medical purposes—will they be caught in this? How is it going to look for them? How is this going to be taxed? How is this going to be policed? How is this going to be monitored? There are so many questions that we see as we continue to peel apart the layers of this legislation.

1450

And then all of the regulations that will come after the fact—nobody in this House will have any say on them, because, as you know, regulation is created by the government, created by the ministers. They can put anything that they want into regulation. We will have absolutely no say, as legislators, on what that looks like.

What this is going to look like at the end of the day, I think, is really still very much up in the air. How folks are going to be affected and how they’re going to deal with it and recoup costs and ensure that they are made whole again is still very unknown territory.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Hon. Kathryn McGarry: It’s a pleasure to stand up in the House on behalf of my constituents in Cambridge and add my comments to this debate on Bill 174, and address some of the comments made by the member from Carleton–Mississippi Mills.

In response to the federal legislation of cannabis by July 2018, Ontario is proposing a safe and sensible framework to govern recreational cannabis within the province. Even as it becomes legalized, cannabis will remain a carefully controlled substance in Ontario, subject to strict rules when it comes to both lawful use and retail distribution.

Ontario’s approach is informed by provincial history in managing both tobacco and alcohol, as well as the practical experience of other jurisdictions that have recently introduced legalization.

In setting the rules that will apply here in Ontario, the government is guided by two key principles: First, we are taking a safe approach by protecting youth, by ensuring that retail distribution will be carefully controlled; and by introducing penalties for drug-impaired driving and prohibitions against public use that will further protect our youth.

As you know, Speaker, we have proposed that the legal age will mirror the legal age of consumption for alcohol, so youth will have to be age 19 before they are able to consume this product.

Secondly, we’re taking a sensible approach by consulting and continuing to consult widely with the public, the police, public health experts, municipalities and indigenous communities, and by learning from the experience of other jurisdictions and by taking decisions in a deliberate, considered fashion.

We are committed to getting this right. We will ensure that we align with our priorities of protecting youth, promoting public health and safety, focusing on prevention and harm reduction and eliminating the illegal market.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): We have time for one more question and comment.

The member for Carleton–Mississippi Mills can now respond.


Mr. Jack MacLaren: I would like to thank the members from Haldimand–Norfolk, Hamilton Mountain and Cambridge for their comments.

It is unfortunate that Ontario has decided they want to go with a government monopoly agency. The province of Alberta, in contrast, under an NDP government, has gone with private, small business outlets, like we should do here. That would be the right thing to do.

What the government should be doing is sanctioning the existing small business cannabis retailers as legal business people, as opposed to the criminalization of these people, who are experts in their industry.

Virginia Vidal, who is sitting over here in the gallery with us, is such a business person. She has created products and developed a market, and successfully retails them and pays her taxes. She is running a business in Ontario and feeding her family.

Is she now to become an unemployed criminal? If this law was done properly and we acknowledged small business people and let them be in business, she and thousands like her could be employing people, creating profits, paying taxes and helping us to build the province of Ontario. That is the way it should be.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. Bill Walker: It’s a pleasure to stand and speak today to Bill 174, the Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act.

Bill 174 is supposed to be in response to the federal cannabis legislation, Bill C-45, which makes recreational use of pot legal in Canada provided that those 18 years and older may be permitted to possess and use cannabis, subject to any restrictions imposed by the provinces. The fact that the federal government is in the process of legalizing it means the individual provinces are now obligated to respond with their own framework with regard to the sale and distribution of cannabis.

By way of Bill 174, Ontario has proposed to establish the OCRC, the Ontario Cannabis—


Hon. Steven Del Duca: Point of order, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Point of order, the Minister of Transportation.

Hon. Steven Del Duca: When the Chair called for more debate, I believe I was standing. I believe I’m next in rotation, if that’s the right phraseology to use. I’m seeing nods, so I gather that it is.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Please give me a moment to consult with the Clerk.

I thank the Minister of Transportation for his request for clarification. The independent member who just spoke sits there. I decided to go in rotation. I saw the member for Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound stand up. If there was an agreement in the House of some sort, I wasn’t aware of it.

The normal rotation would be, I understand, that after the independent member speaks, to go to the Conservatives.

The member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound has the floor. I apologize if there’s any inconvenience to any member.


Mr. Bill Walker: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I’ll continue on. I may have to talk a little faster to get it all in now, but I think I can do that.

By way of Bill 174, Ontario has proposed to establish the OCRC, the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corp., which will be the sole distributor and retailer of recreational cannabis here in our province. The bill also makes additional changes to the Highway Traffic Safety Act and the Smoke-Free Ontario Act that are unrelated to the distribution and retail of recreational cannabis.

We’re seeing a number of trends here of omnibus bills. We saw the Stronger, Fairer Ontario Act, which is bringing in, I think, about 14 or 15—maybe more than that—pieces of legislation in one, just because they’re trying to steamroll through as we get to the end of the session. We need to do legislation properly. That’s the reality that the government needs to respect.

The bill sets out penalties for those who sell or distribute cannabis outside of the OCRC, with the focus of shutting down the numerous illegal cannabis dispensaries which are currently operating throughout the province. The bill also includes penalties of fines of up to $250,000 and jail time not exceeding two years for landlords who knowingly allow for the illegal distribution or sale of cannabis on their property, but there are also multiple other measures that are completely unrelated to cannabis that don’t belong in Bill 174 and should be removed and reintroduced as separate bills.

I think the members have heard or read about the way New Brunswick has organized its pot legislation. For those who missed the debate speech by the member from Lanark–Frontenac–Lennox and Addington—Randy Hillier, my colleague—I will rehash what he said about New Brunswick’s cannabis legislation:

“The New Brunswick government tabled five separate cannabis bills: one for the retail corporation, one for making lawful—the cannabis use and the framework around that—as well as ... education and awareness of cannabis.”

The Liberals are doing nothing in regard to education, which is very interesting because just a little while ago here in the House the Minister of the Environment stood up and spoke to one of the biggest concerns that they had—protecting our youth. I would ask him and his whole party: Why, then, is there nothing specific to actual education for youth related to this act?

It’s very important that the government recognize the need for separate bills for education and awareness. That is critical, particularly with our youth. We’ve heard from a number of speakers about the concern over the brain not being fully developed at that time, and yet they’re legalizing it at this age. They may not have anything to do with the legalization because that’s federal, but at the end of the day they certainly have the responsibility to ensure there is education and awareness, particularly for our youth.

We want to ask again in this House: Why didn’t the Liberal government of Ontario focus on the education and promotion specific to youth? Instead of following best practices, they introduced this omnibus bill, Bill 174, which even sneaks in surprises like school bus cameras while completely leaving out essentials like public education and awareness.

Like New Brunswick, Alberta too—to the best of my knowledge—had introduced separate bills to deal with highway traffic act amendments and another for retail distribution to allow for proper debate on these three critical aspects. Surprisingly, Bill 174 fails to adequately address, as I’ve already said a number of times, public education of our youth.

1500

Again, New Brunswick has introduced legislation to establish a stand-alone fund to promote youth education throughout the province, as well as help fund additional scientific research on cannabis use and abuse, and its effects on health. This, Mr. Speaker, we believe is fair—but it doesn’t seem, despite them using the word “fair” all the time here, to Liberals.

They espouse the word “fair,” in fact, but it’s interesting that we just debated, in a special sitting here over the weekend, a college strike—the longest in provincial history. Where was the fairness to those college students? They—the ones in my riding and, I believe, across the province—certainly didn’t see much fairness and felt that, actually, it was very unfair to them.

Instead of providing an opportunity to properly focus on debating cannabis distribution in Ontario, the Liberal government gives us something else—Bill 174—where they have crammed all kinds of measures that have no relation to cannabis distribution and that also, importantly, fail to adequately address public education concerns, as I say again and again and again, the education and awareness for our youth.

Manitoba introduced several acts to address health or safety concerns around cannabis consumption, so again, I’m a bit quizzical as to why in this case the government chose to not include education. They talk about this being safety—and yet one of our critical, key areas of responsibility is for our youth, in making sure they’re properly educated and made aware, especially for something of such significant change in our province.

Manitoba separated the elements of cannabis distribution and retail from amendments to the Highway Traffic Act to address concerns of transportation of marijuana and drug-impaired driving. Why wouldn’t the Liberal government have followed suit? Why would they not have shown leadership in a similar manner to two other provinces that have gone ahead and done this in, we believe, a very responsible manner—to actually debate the specific pieces so we all understand it?

This is monumental legislation. This is a monumental change in our society, to allow cannabis in our province and across our country, Mr. Speaker. Why would this government not show proper leadership and address those very specifics, like some of their colleagues and counterparts? Surely to goodness we can find a way to collaborate when there are other leading examples that have proven to work that we could learn from.

Instead of dividing the provisions into separate bills just as is being done in those provinces, they decide to jam Bill 174 with four different and unrelated schedules. So not only are they not compartmentalizing it and ensuring that we actually debate the merits of the very specific areas; they’ve crammed four other different and unrelated acts into this, just, I think, to throw people off. So they start talking about the shiny object over here—which, again, we see very, very often in the Legislature.

What does school bus safety and children’s safety on a school bus have to do with pot distribution and consumption? And by the way, if this is such a big concern, they could have actually supported my colleague from Chatham–Kent–Essex’s PMB, which he introduced in this Legislature when he wanted to talk about and did talk about the safety arms on school buses. They did not support it. Again, it’s very interesting that they had the opportunity and they didn’t. And now they want to put it into a cannabis bill—very, very interesting. It’s cynical to see this government go out of its way to fuzzy an issue that truly deserves proper debate.

As I just mentioned, two of my caucus colleagues—my caucus colleague from the riding of Chatham–Kent–Essex, Rick Nicholls, and the member from Kitchener–Conestoga, Michael Harris, have been actively pushing Liberals for stronger legislation to deal with careless driving and distracted driving penalties, and school bus cameras. So it’s obvious the Liberals force our support without debate and politicize issues that have no business being politicized. They could have, again, debated those totally separately, had a proper, fundamental debate—which is what we’re here to do—and not brought it in as an omnibus bill. So there is something going on, Mr. Speaker. I’ll let the people of Ontario choose whether that was appropriate or not.

Seeing as there are multiple provisions in this bill that are entirely unrelated to the legalization and retail of recreational cannabis, those aspects should be removed from the bill and reintroduced as separate bills for debate before this House.

Looking at schedule 1, the Cannabis Act, we see the following: It prohibits sales and distribution outside of the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corp., with the exception of medical cannabis—an exemption for medical marijuana patients for the sale, distribution, purchase or attempt to purchase, possession, consumption, offering to cultivate or cultivation, offering to propagate or propagation or offering to harvest or harvesting of cannabis.

It limits all youth under 19 from possessing, consuming, attempting to purchase, purchasing or distributing, cultivating, propagating, harvesting or offering to cultivate, propagate or harvest cannabis. Youth caught in possession of cannabis may be referred to an approved youth educational or prevention program instead of a fine. Also, the use of cannabis is prevented in public, in the home in the presence of a home health care worker, in a vehicle or boat, and anywhere deemed a prescribed place via regulation.

Transportation of cannabis is prohibited in a vehicle or boat unless packed in baggage which is fastened closed and out of reach of the driver. Police who have reasonable grounds to suspect that cannabis is not properly stored in a vehicle may at any time, without a warrant, enter and search a vehicle or boat and search any person found in it. This applies to medical marijuana.

Police can seize anything that is deemed to be evidence of an offence under the act; is being used in connection with an offence under the act and, unless it is seized, would continue to be used in the commission of an offence under the act; or the thing is proceeds of an offence under the act.

It prohibits landlords from knowingly permitting property they own to be used for the illicit sale or distribution of cannabis. When charges are laid for an illicit sale or distribution of cannabis and there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a property—i.e., a storefront—was involved in said contravention, then it shall be closed and barred for entry until the final disposition of the charges laid. It may be ordered closed for a period not exceeding two years.

Fines under the act are as follows: no more than $250,000 for corporations and no more than $100,000 or imprisonment of not more than one year, or both, for an individual. Landlords who contravene the act are liable for a fine of not more than $250,000 or no more than two years’ prison time or both for a first offence. It increases to $100,000 per day an offence took place and/or imprisonment for more than two years.

Corporations which contravene the act are liable for a fine between $25,000 to $1 million on first conviction; it increases to $100,000 per day an offence took place and/or imprisonment for no more than two years.

Those under 19 who contravene section 10—possession, cultivation, etc.—are liable to a fine of not more than $200. A fine for consuming marijuana in prohibited places on a first conviction is no more than $1,000, and, for subsequent convictions, not more than $5,000.

Mr. Speaker, it’s interesting again that in this House we have talked a number of times about the crackdown on illegal smoke shacks as pot dispensaries. Illegal shacks are a growing problem in Ontario, and represent $800 million in unpaid tobacco taxes lost every year by this treasury. As I have said in this House many times and on many occasions, the illegal sale at smoke shacks is very harmful to our youth.

When you can buy a package of 250 cigarettes for less than $10, that sadly is a case where it may very well encourage a young person to begin smoking, to begin a lifetime of that very harmful impact to themselves. It has been interesting when we have debated other acts in this House that the Liberal government of today seems to not be interested at all in going after those, yet they bring out a bill supposedly about the safety of cannabis and they don’t even talk about it. What about the illegal operation of those facilities, where they are actual illegal smoke shacks that could be operating as illegal pot dispensaries? I hope the government will truly take a second look at those.

Looking at schedule 2, the Cannabis Retail Corp. Act, we see the following: The corporation is responsible for buying and selling cannabis and related products and for setting the price. It will be run by a board of directors that shall consist of at least three and not more than seven members appointed by the LCBO, subject to the approval of the minister. The members of the board of directors shall be appointed for a term not exceeding five years and may be reappointed for further terms not exceeding five years each.

Mr. Speaker, it’s interesting again that this government chose to set up yet another bureaucracy rather than actually putting money into the education and awareness of our youth of the impacts and effects of cannabis. I find it very strange that they would actually go again to set up—because we’ve seen it a number of times in this House—partisan, crony appointments to a body that they can actually control and they can set the tone and they can set the agenda, as opposed to actually putting money into the safety of promotion and awareness for our youth.

The OCRC’s net profit shall be determined and paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. It is my hope that in this case the auditor will be involved and make sure that they are using acceptable accounting practices, because we’ve seen recently in the Fair Hydro Act that they have actually moved money around and the Auditor General stepped up and said that that is not appropriate; that is not an appropriate and accredited use that every other province has used and we had used until they tried to use a different system.

I hope in this case, when I see it going into a consolidated fund, it will be tracked appropriately. Maybe, Mr. Speaker, they would accept an amendment that funds going into that Consolidated Revenue Fund would actually be set aside for education and awareness for our youth, which is a huge, huge oversight with this legislation as it currently is written.

The OCRC may borrow funds for capital expenditures. Cabinet may authorize the Minister of Finance to purchase securities of, or make loans to, the corporation in the amounts, at the times and on the terms determined by the minister, subject to maximum principal amounts specified by cabinet that may be purchased or advanced or that may be outstanding at any time. The corporation will be audited annually by the Auditor General.

1510

Again, I go back to that point: I certainly hope they respect the Auditor General’s opinion more in this case and actually use standardized, accepted accounting principles rather than some kind of jiggery-pokery that they used the last time, a bit of a shell game to move money off the books so it didn’t show in their budget. That’s exactly what they did, and they incurred a $4-billion expenditure that won’t be going to things like education and health care or those less fortunate when they did that.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk a little bit—just because I see my time is running fairly short here—about a very significant piece that has been brought to my attention. I want to remind people that the Wynne Liberals have had two years since the government and opposition passed the drug-impaired laws in Bill 31, the Making Ontario Roads Safer act, to provide police the resources needed to keep our streets safe and properly crack down on drug-impaired driving, and they have failed to do so. Bill 31 already called for all those who fail a drug impairment test to face a driver’s licence suspension for three, seven, 30 or 90 days. Bill 174 actually only impacts suspected young, novice and commercial drivers, who will be subject to federally approved—once the federal Cannabis Act is approved—oral swab tests, in addition to the roadside sobriety tests that can be utilized on all levels of licensed drivers.

The province has only provided training for 15% of officers who would be required to carry out this roadside testing and enforcement. Concerns we’ve heard are certainly, from the police side of the equation, “We don’t have the resources. We don’t have the proper machines to do this type of testing. We certainly haven’t all received the training.”

Mr. Speaker, do the people of Ontario really feel safe that only 15% of officers—it’s a bit of a gamble here. Someone could be impaired in a vehicle, and if you get the right 15% of the population of our police officers—who do a great job, by the way—they may actually enforce; they may crack down. But at the other end, at the time, they may very well not have any training, so the person gets off scot-free, or they could do a charge and it may not be the right charge. So again, we’re clogging up our court resources for something that could have been prevented had they actually taken the time. They have had two years. There’s no excuse that they actually could not have got this done.

In September, OPP Deputy Commissioner Rick Barnum told a federal committee that the OPP only has 83 officers trained to recognize drug-impaired driving. They need up to 500, and yet we heard nothing today to help bridge that gap.

In September, Greenwood Village, Colorado police chief John Jackson indicated that legalization in that state drove impaired driving to skyrocket, stating, “We’ve seen the carnage on our highways from it.” Colorado saw its highest number of vehicle crash fatalities in 12 years after pot was legalized. Of the 608 fatalities recorded, 125 were marijuana-related. Exceptions to the rules allowing drivers the use of the drug for medical purposes create a situation where the law is necessarily permitting impaired drivers on the road.

Mr. Speaker, we know that the federal government has approved, so there’s not much the government can do about that. I’ll give them a pass. But it’s their job—this is the actual enforcement; this is the actual implication of how this is going to happen in Ontario. If they are truly serious about the safety of all people on our highways—they incorporated the highway act into this—then why did they not provide the proper training? Why are they not providing the proper resources to those people who are there?

Mr. Speaker, 15%, 83 officers out of 500, is a long way from having this truly ready to go so that the people of Ontario can very comfortably and convincingly drive down the highways knowing that they’re safe. It’s concerning that once again it seems that we want to expedite; we want to get on. We’ve bundled a whole bunch of things into this act that we’re very concerned about. I’m very concerned from the whole perspective that the resources are not there.

There are a lot of questions. Many other speakers in this House have done the same thing. They’ve stood and asked and challenged on questions that aren’t answered yet, and yet it’s, “We’re going forward. We’re going to go forward again,” like, sadly, the Liberals have done on a number of these.

Four times, school bus safety has come to this Legislature and has been voted down. I mentioned earlier my colleague from Chatham–Kent–Essex, with the safety arms on school buses. They could have done that in a separate piece of legislation and already made our highways safer and our students safer, but yet they are trying to bundle it in here just to take away the reality. They’re trying to ram legislation through in this type of legislation, an omnibus bill, and yet, at the end of the day, it’s buzzwords. They are saying it’s about safety, but they haven’t provided the resources.

There are a lot of unanswered questions from our police side of the equation, and certainly the courts are concerned. I’m hearing concerns about how much this might back up our courts, that there may be a lot of cases that go to court and people can’t even be convicted because they haven’t done it properly.

At the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, I would ask this government to go back and review New Brunswick, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, to name a few. They actually separated the pieces of the legislation out so that everyone was clear. Everyone had time to properly debate it, and it was very much debated in a public manner so that everyone was consulted and felt truly safe. They do not, I believe, in the province of Ontario today, feel that this legislation is the best it could be. We need to do our best.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Ms. Jennifer K. French: I appreciated the speech and remarks from the member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, who brings up excellent points that we should always be repeating, and that is about education, consultation and community trust in legislation.

The consultation side: Absolutely, we should have seen fulsome consultation, but certainly, from this point forward, we must see it. We need our municipalities to feel prepared. We need our law enforcement to have the tools and resources that they need—absolutely.

His questions about education and public information, especially when it comes our youth—great questions. When it comes to cannabis use and abuse, health hazards—any of those things—where is that conversation? How are we going to educate? We’re saying, “Hey, new substance that you can buy” at this store that we don’t yet exactly know what it will look like. But there are no risks or responsibilities associated with that consumption? Are they going to put warnings, like they do with cigarettes, on the packaging? I don’t know, and neither do they, and that’s a bit concerning. When it comes to education, public health—all of those pieces—we have to be responsible. The government has to be responsible and give this the thought and the attention it deserves.

As he brought up the penalties—and as we have talked about—for selling to minors or for minors, they’re less stringent than they are with alcohol and tobacco. That is concerning.

The other thing—oh, we don’t have time; I have five seconds left. All right. Well, I would love to talk another time about impaired driving and how we can ensure that our roads are always safe.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Arthur Potts: It’s a great pleasure for me to stand and make comment on the member for Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound’s wonderful speech in the House here. He raised a number of very, very good issues, particularly around where I think he talks about the legislation being vague in areas and he wants more details. We know, Speaker, that in this piece of legislation it’s very important that we get the base terms in place, and then we can deal with some of the devil being in the details in the regulations.

It gives us a lot more flexibility in order to move forward, and it’s not just on the cannabis and the retail piece; it’s also, if you look at what we are doing, in the vaping sections. I know there has been a lot of concern from a lot people—people who run vape shops—that it all looks very draconian in the way it’s set out in the act. But what the act really does is it sets out opportunities for exceptions to how things are handled, so they can be handled in a very responsible and meaningful way moving forward.

I have spoken with members of the Canadian Vaping Association, with Marc Kealey. They’re in discussions, and they have been since the day that those vaping regulations were first passed in the Making Healthier Choices Act two years ago, but they were never proclaimed. So what we’ve got in this piece of legislation, in schedule 3, is actually marrying up what we have already debated and put forward in a previous iteration of the debate two years ago—just duplicating it here—so it’s all in one heading under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act. That’s important, so we have consistency in how we manage things that are tobacco, tobacco-ish-like—and the marijuana pieces are all in that.

As I say, Speaker, it will be very important as we have those discussions with—I was just at an event with realtors, the Ontario Real Estate Association, and they raised concerns. I look forward to more comment from them about the provision that people can grow four plants in each unit. What is that going to look like, when as a real estate agent you try to certify that a building has never been any kind of a grow op? How are we going to manage that in an effective way?

So some good questions, and I appreciate the member’s comments.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Randy Pettapiece: The member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound brings up a number of very good points in his speech today concerning this bill. Certainly, one is the protection of the citizens of Ontario—especially the youth. We are going to legalize—or the government wants to legalize—a drug that can have some big effects on youth, because they are allowed to purchase this after they’re 18 years old. We’ve heard from a number of medical people that your brain keeps growing and keeps maturing until you’re 25 years old. So what effect is this going to have on those people who chose to use this product?

1520

The other issue that I think has been talked about a couple of times here but that I don’t think is receiving the attention it should receive—again, the member from Grey-Bruce-Owen Sound brought this up—is our police officials. They have emphatically said that they’re not going to be ready for this. I would hate to see police officers out on the road dealing with an impaired person who hasn’t been drinking alcohol, but not qualified to deal with that person using marijuana, lay a charge, go to court and get it thrown out because of this type of thing.

So I think we need address this situation in a very serious manner, and that’s not being done here. This bill is being pushed through just because the Prime Minister of this country wants it pushed through, and it’s not giving the provinces enough time to address it and take some safe measures in order to control its use and also help control what could be a serious problem on our highways.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions or comments?

Ms. Peggy Sattler: It’s my pleasure to rise to offer a few comments on Bill 174, the bill to regulate the sale of recreational cannabis. The member for Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound talked a little bit about medical cannabis, and I think that this is something that we really have to keep in mind: What are the implications of this bill for access to medical cannabis?

I want to speak specifically about my community of London. London, like every other community in Ontario and Canada, is truly in the grip of an opioid crisis. We have the second-highest rate of opioid-related hospitalizations in Ontario, the third highest in Canada. We know that many people who rely on opioids would rather have access to medical cannabis. Unfortunately, we have a health system that covers the cost of opioids for people who are on ODSP or Ontario Works but doesn’t cover the cost of medical cannabis. I know a physician in London who prescribes medical cannabis who says he is inundated with patients who want to get off opioids but can’t afford to buy medical cannabis. He says that he sees at least 3,000 patients at his clinic in London and that many of these patients want to try medical cannabis but can’t afford it.

So as we look at expanding the market of recreational cannabis, we also have to think about what happens with medical cannabis: Will it be insured under OHIP? Will it be taxed the same way? What kinds of concentrations will it be available in to assist people who have medical conditions?


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): The member for Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound can now reply.

Mr. Bill Walker: I’d like to thank the member from Oshawa who referenced a lot about public education and the awareness of youth and the lack of resources to actually do education. She referenced that there are lots of unanswered questions, and she talked about penalties. I’m sure my colleague from Kitchener–Conestoga is going to get into that because, in his briefing to us, he shared a lot of things where there aren’t consistent realities for someone impaired in a legal-drinking-age situation—that’s going to be changing, certainly, with cannabis—and whether those are going to be the same. Certain levels of drivers and certain qualifications of drivers are going to be totally different. It’s going to be very, very confusing.

The member from Beaches–East York used the terms “base terms” and “the devil is in the details.” I definitely appreciate that, but at the end of the day, they’ve had two years, so I would have hoped that they would have handled this and would have broken it out, as I said, like other provinces, into very specific areas so that it was black and white, crystal clear. He didn’t really get into anything about youth awareness, but I’m not certain how that couldn’t have been a priority when they say “base terms.”

The member from Perth–Wellington brought up a lot of good points. Certainly, the one that resonates with a lot of people is the resources out there for our police. They are going to be the people on the roadside who are responsible for enforcing this legislation, and they’re saying, “We don’t have the resources. We haven’t been educated.” I’m not sure—it’s not even crystal clear or black-and-white-defined.

The member from London West talked about medical cannabis, and I’ve heard, similarly to her, that physicians are concerned about being inundated with many people wanting to get on medical marijuana. I have friends who have to use it for medical reasons, and that’s wonderful. But we owe it to them and to all of the other people who are going to be on the road what the clear legal definition is. If you’re impaired, whether it’s by alcohol or some kind of a drug, the reality is that everyone should have same the expectation. Impairment is impairment, and it should be based on that. If you’re impaired, you should not be behind the wheel, period.

At the end of the day, if they had taken this out and done this in five separate compartments or however many we choose, then we could have really dove into the details. We could have had those regulations so that they were crystal clear and everyone knew them, with a focal point of impairment is impairment, and it has to be about safety for all people.


Mr. Vic Dhillon: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Point of order, the member for Brampton West.

Mr. Vic Dhillon: Thank you very much for your indulgence. In the east lobby, we have a former MPP who served in the 38th and the 39th Parliaments, Dr. Kuldip Kular. With him is his cousin, who is visiting us all the way from India, and his wife: his cousin Jaranil and his wife, Jessie Kular. I just want to welcome them.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Thank you very much for drawing that to our attention. Welcome back to the Ontario Legislature.

Further debate?


Hon. Steven Del Duca: I’m very happy to have an opportunity this afternoon to provide some of my thoughts with respect to Bill 174. I know there is lots of interest in this particular legislation, and that’s understandable. I’ve had the opportunity this afternoon to hear from other members in this chamber about some of their thoughts on the legislation. I will focus my time in debate this afternoon, not surprisingly, given my responsibilities, on those provisions within the bill that deal with road safety specifically.

In this chamber and beyond this chamber, over the course of the last three and nearly three and a half years, many have heard me say repeatedly that over the last 16 years—and that would be 16 consecutive years, Speaker—the province of Ontario has ranked either first or second right across North America as it relates to safety on our highways. That is a track record of which I’m very proud, and I think we should all be proud, as Ontarians, of that kind of traffic record. Certainly within the Ministry of Transportation, and in particular within the road user safety division of the ministry, there is a great deal of pride, but also a belief that we continue to have to look for ways to be innovative and creative, to work with all of our road safety partners and with law enforcement and also to examine closely what’s happening in other jurisdictions so that we can keep that 16-year track record going forward into the future.

In my time as minister, we have managed to successfully pass, with the support here in this Legislature, two pieces of legislation prior to this, Bill 31 and Bill 65, both of which contained important advances for road safety. We managed to pass that legislation. Bill 174, as it relates to road safety in particular, I would argue, is no exception—in terms of making sure that we do have this legislation passed so that we can continue to build on our track record and keep motorists and the travelling public, generally speaking, safe on Ontario’s roads and highways.

I will in a moment delve into some of the specifics that are contained in this legislation. I will say, I suppose only in passing, having heard some of the debate this afternoon, that I am completely respectful of the importance of a robust opposition when it comes to legislation, especially groundbreaking or landmark legislation, but I would strongly encourage colleagues on the opposition benches to really and truly consider the outcomes we’re talking about here, whether it’s being prepared so that we can safely transition on our roads and highways to the new reality that will be here, whether they like it or not, come July 1, 2018, because of the federal government’s decision to legalize cannabis; or whether we’re talking about protecting our most vulnerable road users, like pedestrians, both young pedestrians and the elderly, like cyclists and like others on our roads and highways; or whether we’re talking about, for example, a topic that I know is of particular importance to members in the Conservative caucus but also the NDP caucus, school bus safety cameras or video cameras. All of these initiatives, all of the advances that we’re making or proposing to make in Bill 174 deserve their support.

1530

I would say, in listening to the debate this afternoon, I’ve heard many complaints that are being thrown at this notion of what I’ll argue is a process notion. I say that with a great deal of respect for the process that we have here in the Legislature, and respect for the fact that members of the opposition need to do their work and need to do it on a regular basis. But I would only say, as the minister responsible for safety on our highways, that what’s most important for the people who live across this province is that we achieve the outcomes that we are looking for. I would advise members of the opposition to be less focused on, as it relates to road safety in particular, the vehicle that’s being used to arrive at the outcomes that the people of this province, the people all of us are very proud to represent, deserve.

As it relates specifically to drug-impaired driving, a couple of things that have been mentioned already in debate, and certainly when we made the media announcement relating to the road safety provisions in Bill 174: In this legislation, we’re proposing to implement a zero-tolerance policy for the presence of drugs in young, novice and commercial drivers. We chose those three categories not on a whim, not arbitrarily. We chose those categories, Speaker, because we recognize that there are significant challenges inherent in those three classes of drivers that we have on our roads.

We all know that when there is a collision or an accident or an incident on a road or a highway involving, in particular, a large commercial vehicle, very often, and unfortunately, the outcomes can be significant and horrific. We’ve seen that in recent weeks, and we know that we have more work to do in that regard. So making sure that we have a zero-tolerance policy for commercial drivers—I find it hard to believe that anybody could argue with that.

For young and novice drivers, Speaker—not unlike that which exists for alcohol-impaired driving—we wanted to make sure that those who are not yet necessarily used to the rules of the road are in a position to keep 100% of their focus and their attention on what they are supposed to be doing when they are operating any kind of vehicle that they are allowed to operate and are able to get from point A to B safely and make sure that other road users around them, including their own passengers, if they happen to have passengers, are also kept safe at all times.

Speaker, we’re proposing to increase costs and consequences for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians. We’re also proposing to create a new offence—this is particularly important—for careless driving causing death or bodily harm, with tougher penalties for cases involving vulnerable road users. In this moment, Speaker, I would like to pay particular credit to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, our MPP from Burlington, Eleanor McMahon, and I know others in this House as well, including the opposition member from the NDP caucus from Parkdale–High Park: two individuals among many who have, in the past, brought forward private members’ bills that are very similar to what we’re talking about in this provision. To both of them and to all of our road safety partners who have long advocated for this kind of proposal or legislation, Speaker—I want to thank them for their patience and for their perseverance and for working with the Ministry of Transportation to end up with this in proposed legislation or legislation that has been introduced.

Of course, increasing the penalties for distracted-driving offences: In Bill 31, the Making Ontario’s Roads Safer act, we, at that point in time, toughened the penalties significantly for distracted driving. We knew then and we certainly know now, in discussions with both law enforcement and with road safety partners, that we continue to see far too many drivers, far too many vehicle operators on our roads, who are still distracted, who are still looking at their hand-held device, taking their eyes off the road, taking or making a phone call with their hand-held device, sending or receiving a text message. We’ve had a very strong and jarring public relations campaign that many in this House would have seen. It was known as “It happens fast. Put down the phone.” The imagery used in that was designed so that it would be particularly impactful to our road users, to the travelling public. But we hear clearly from law enforcement that we continue to have a very significant challenge in this regard. So in this legislation, Bill 174, we are looking to toughen the penalties for distracted driving, in particular for repeat offenders, for people who are clearly not getting the message.

Also in this legislation, we’re proposing to better protect our children on school buses by making it easier for school bus camera footage to be introduced into legal proceedings and used as evidence in court. On this particular point, I know the member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound in debate earlier today acknowledged the fact that members of his own caucus, particularly the member from Chatham–Kent–Essex, in the past, have brought forward a private member’s bill on this. I acknowledge that. I’ve had conversations with the member from Chatham–Kent–Essex about his passion for this particular initiative. I share that passion. While my daughters, who are 10 and six, don’t actually use a school bus to get to and from school because the school is very close to our home, I will acknowledge, of course, that tens of thousands of young boys and girls across the province are on school buses every single school day of the year, and the Ministry of Transportation, of course, at all times, wants to make sure those tens of thousands young boys and girls get to and from school safely. So I would sincerely hope that members of the Conservative caucus, notwithstanding some of the process observations that they’ve made here today and in the past, would understand that this is moving forward in the right direction and would be supportive.

I will also point out that we propose in this legislation to expand the use of flashing blue lights on enforcement vehicles that currently use flashing red lights to help them be more visible on our roads.

I will say, in both the media events that we did relating to these specific measures contained within Bill 174 and in every single one of the conversations I’ve had with advocates, with road safety partners and, certainly, with law enforcement, there is significant and broad-based support for these measures within Bill 174.

I would finish up today simply by saying to all members of this House that we know now that come July 1, 2018, cannabis will be legalized across Canada and, of course, here in Ontario. We can pretend that it should be otherwise; we can wish that it should be otherwise, but we know it is, in fact, a fact. So I would strongly encourage all in the course of debate and in the course of their own deliberations as individual members or as caucuses to give very serious consideration to the fact that—and I say this as Minister of Transportation—specifically as it relates to the road safety provisions, we need to work together, and we need to collaborate to make sure that the people of Ontario can safely transition into that new era post-July 1, 2018, and can continue to be safe on our roads and highways.

Again, Speaker, there is an old saying—and I was sharing this with the President of the Treasury Board earlier this afternoon: “In life, it is better to strike a match than to curse the darkness.” Again, I would strongly encourage members of the opposition parties to focus just a little bit less on the machinations and the inside-baseball process and focus far more significantly on the positive outcomes that I believe we have all been sent to this chamber to produce for the 13 million Ontarians that collectively, I know, we’re proud to represent.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: It’s always a pleasure to rise and to debate today, and I thank the honourable minister for his comments.

I just left OREA, where I had the opportunity to talk about a private member’s bill that I’ve had over many years, and my colleague from—what is your riding?


Mr. Arthur Potts: Beaches–East York.

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: —Beaches–East York was with me. We had a wonderful time. But I did talk about the new impending legislation coming from the federal government and the fact that we need to be prepared for that here in the province of Ontario. I am very concerned about grow ops and clandestine drug operations. I think that that’s going to be something that we have to consider—that we have to actually call a grow op a grow op, especially if it’s illegal; secondly, we need to have a registry; and third, we need to have standards ensuring that we remediate these homes appropriately. I think that these are some of the very important issues that we have to discuss.

But, Speaker, I’m going to take the limited time I have today to talk about something that really rocked my community over the past 24 hours—and it is off-topic; I apologize, but I need to get this on the record. There were two dogs trapped in an apartment building in Ottawa, and the Ontario SPCA was not providing the order to extricate those two dogs that were living in filthy conditions over a period of time.

I had to call the OSPCA today after they had taken away the ability for the Ottawa Humane Society to deal with these issues. I called them, and I’ve got to say, Speaker, I have never been more disappointed in an organization than I was with the Ontario SPCA. Not only were they hard to contact and track down, they were absolutely rude on the phone, and they didn’t act immediately, as they should have.

I wanted to make sure that the people of Ottawa understand that I took that issue that I read about this morning very seriously, and I wanted to raise it on the floor. I do hope the people at the Ontario SPCA understand that cruelty to animals is unacceptable, and we expect them to act when they find out about it.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Miss Monique Taylor: It was interesting to listen to the Minister of Transportation on the section of this bill that deals directly with the transportation act and the important regulations that need to come with this bill that so many people still have so many questions about.

1540

We have federal legislation that is not yet enacted, and yet we’re trying to create our provincial legislation that is going to go hand in hand with the federal legislation that we don’t have finished yet. So I think when the federal government decided that Canada Day, July 2018, was going to be the day, they didn’t really think about the fact of how all of this legislation was going to be completed to ensure that something that is totally going to change our communities—how this was all going to be done so quickly. I’m not sure whether the Prime Minister thought that when the fireworks go off on Canada Day, so would the rest of the crackers.

I’m just not sure why he thought that Canada Day was the day in 2018. It’s what, seven months away? And we have legislation federally that’s not completed. We have legislation provincially that’s not completed. Then it’s all going to be enacted in July, in seven months’ time, when people are going to be able to smoke cannabis throughout the province. We’re not sure where they’re going to be doing it, other than inside their own homes. We have so many questions here on this side of the Legislature that I’m just not sure we’re going to be able to get completed before the next election.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments? The member for Beaches–East York.

Mr. Arthur Potts: Thank you, Speaker, for the opportunity to respond to the Minister of Transportation’s comments on this bill.

It is interesting about this bill—because obviously, it comes from the federal piece, the downloading and the legalization. There are so many different aspects of our society that are affected by the legalization and the more widespread use of marijuana, be it for medical or recreational purposes. I talked a little bit earlier about the vaping sections in this bill and how they had to get transported so they’re all part of a unified section. That’s why the Minister of Transportation has his section—I think it’s schedule 4 in the bill—where we talk about the impacts on drivers and driver safety and give the tools that are needed by our law enforcement agencies to ensure that we continue to keep our roads safe.

It is quite revealing that—I think it was a 2014 study where twice as many people who were stopped had drug impairment as opposed to alcohol impairment. We’ve done an incredibly good job—more still to be done—on making awareness of how it’s just not okay to drink and drive. But that same level of understanding in the general public and among users doesn’t seem to be there with the use of drugs and drug impairment and driving. So the measures that the minister outlined here very clearly—the increased enforcement, the zero tolerance for youth, commercial drivers and drivers who are without their full licence—is extremely important so that we can keep the roads safe.

Now, my kids never went on school buses either, but I did have a very interesting school bus story in my riding where a community wasn’t able to get a school bus, and these kids in grade 4 and 5 had to walk almost three kilometres—two and a half kilometres—to get to their school. Instead of using the bus, they were being bused around in vans and were being charged $100 a month to be bused around unsafely in vans with unregistered drivers. We were able to put an end to that by getting them a free bus from the Toronto District School Board.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments.

Mr. Bill Walker: It’s a pleasure to reply to the Minister of Transportation. I fully support that all of us should be here and safety should be absolutely paramount—and frankly, want to work together. I think we all welcome that invitation. I know certainly my colleague from Kitchener–Conestoga would have been more than happy to meet with him at any time to bring his concerns forward before it was even drafted, to give him good, solid input, and it could have been a better piece of legislation.

He talked a lot about safety, and he even referenced my colleague from Chatham–Kent–Essex, who brought in the arms on school buses. What I don’t understand is why he couldn’t convince his colleagues to actually vote for that. It would have already been in and it wouldn’t have been a distraction now at this time and having to take away from the other safety implications that we have.

He talked about zero tolerance, Mr. Speaker, and again, unequivocally, I fully support zero tolerance. Though the challenge is being asked questions—then why aren’t 100% of our police officers going to be trained when this comes in? Why will they not have 100% of the resources to actually understand when someone is impaired? That’s what I’m hearing from the people who are going to be at the roadside. Right now, they know with a Breathalyzer for alcohol. You blow in, it tells you and they know unequivocally that the person is impaired and is going to go and be penalized. Right now, they don’t have those resources; they don’t have that same confidence. I think it’s a concern that people are going to be impaired, whether it’s through medical use, recreational use or whatever the case may be, and they could very well jump on the highway and endanger all of us.

Mr. Speaker, he talked a little bit, right near the end, about machinations and working together. I truly and respectfully suggest to him that his caucus at times, in committees I’ve sat through—they’ve pulled back amendments of ours, voted them down and put the exact same wording in, and then passed it so that they could say, “We did this.”

If he truly is sincere about these things, then let’s stop it at all levels. Let’s truly be here for the right reasons. Let’s all work together, and let’s make sure that safety is paramount. We’ll be happy to support you if you’re listening to us.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): That concludes our questions and comments. I return to the Minister of Transportation for his reply.

Hon. Steven Del Duca: I thank the members from Nepean–Carleton, Hamilton Mountain, Beaches–East York and Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound for their questions and their comments.

Speaker, I’m going to focus in particular, if you don’t mind, on the member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, who finished up on the questions and comments section.

There are a couple of things that I didn’t convey in debate this afternoon that I should now. Number one is that the responsibility for setting what constitutes the level of impairment does rest with our federal government, as it does with alcohol. The per se limit of 0.08 is something set by the federal government.

Secondly, the oral fluid screening device is technology that is being worked on in partnership with road safety partners, with the centre for forensics, and with provincial and territorial ministries of transportation, but it is also something that is being primarily led by our federal partners, as it should be.

I will also say, as it relates to the school bus safety question, notwithstanding what I said in debate, which I stand by, which is that the member from Chatham–Kent–Essex brought forward legislation—I’ve said this in responses to questions from that member in this House; I’ve said it to media. At the point in time at which that legislation was proposed by that member, a video or a picture that would have been taken by the technology would not necessarily have been permissible in court without having an independent, third-party eyewitness there to attest to the fact that it in fact did take a picture of something that took place.

We wanted to make sure within the ministry, working with our municipal partners and the industry that’s responsible for producing this technology, that we landed it in the right way. I’ve explained that privately to the member from Chatham–Kent–Essex, and I’ve said it publicly many, many times. It is now contained in this legislation because we are comfortable moving forward.

I would sincerely hope that not only the member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, but the official opposition critic, the member from Kitchener–Conestoga, and the member from Chatham–Kent–Essex and others in both opposition caucuses would be supportive of Bill 174.

I look forward to the rest of debate.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): I recognize the member for Kitchener–Waterloo.

Ms. Catherine Fife: It’s a pleasure to rise in the House on this Monday afternoon to add my voice, and some of the concerns that we have as New Democrats, to Bill 174, the Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, 2017.

It is interesting; when you get out of this place sometimes, as some of us manage to do on occasion, and you listen to some of the perceptions of what actually happens here, it gives you pause.

I just came from the OREA conference, where I shared some of our thoughts, our concerns and our plans for the future of how we can grow the economy and ensure that people can reach their potential and yes, one day, that dream of owning a home would be realized for many citizens across this province. I drew the connectivity of the economy and housing as the great stabilizer, if you will.

One of the questions came up from the floor to the panel, which has already been referenced. Our member from Essex was on the panel, and the question was this: “What is the government going to do about trying to control those plants?” The people who are going to be growing plants in their homes, in their rental units or in their condos—I think that realtors across the province are just genuinely concerned about this concept that people will be growing four plants to one metre high. There’s never been solid rationale as to why four plants, why one metre high. Really, it was astounding to me because the member from Beaches–East York responded—and I don’t know if you have some regrets about the way you responded—but he compared cannabis plants, marijuana plants to avocado plants, and I think that we should at least, at the very beginning—


Hon. Steven Del Duca: They’re both green.

1550


Ms. Catherine Fife: They’re both green, yes, says the Minister of Transportation, but I guess we should just come to some conclusion that we are actually dealing with a very different substance than avocado. I enjoy an avocado just like the next girl, but I’m really thinking that when you are smoking a drug in your apartment, your condo or your rental unit, it is very different than growing avocado plants. As a very basic set of standards here, I think we should start right there because the piece of legislation that is before us leaves us with many questions, but that is not one of them.

The realtors have a concern. They brought forward a health and safety concern because they’ve identified the fact that it’s very difficult to address smoking in a rental apartment or condo units, for instance. When you live in close proximity like those condos and apartments and rental units, you are actually living with all of those other people. It’s very close proximity, and depending on construction and depending on if Tarion did their job, which is highly unlikely, the construction is not always up to the standard where you can actually—you know, sounds travel, smells travel, what have you. In this instance the realtors raised a very valid concern in that if smoke is a deterrent from somebody buying or renting a unit,if it’s been identified as a health and safety issue actually for children, second-hand smoke, why would cannabis not also be considered as a problem? There’s been no provision for a safe public space for people to smoke cannabis, smoke pot. That is not part of your provisions. So in not providing a secondary space, a public space, if you will, which obviously would be monitored—has to be—you’re confirming that all smoking of cannabis will happen in a residence. Therefore, you are actually containing it only into a place where actually it isn’t contained, where other people in those rental units will have the second-hand smoke of marijuana, of pot.

The realtors obviously have had long-standing concerns around grow ops in residences. I know the member from Nepean–Carleton called for a registry so that we can find out which homes have had large amounts of marijuana, but the realtors actually said that even the four plants is a concern for them. I know they’ve submitted a paper to the minister. I know they will be coming to committee and they will be sharing their health and safety concerns, but they will also be sharing the impact of having a residence where perhaps a good deal of marijuana may have been consumed and smoked, and the impact that that has on the resale, on the retail value of that property.

I thought I might raise that because it is a huge issue for real estate agents in the province of Ontario.

New Democrats have long called for the legalization of recreational cannabis, and supports the LCBO role in the distribution of this product. We have supported the decriminalization and legalization of cannabis for a long time, and it should not have taken this long to legalize it and establish a government strategy. We’re going to start with that part.

The legalization of cannabis has been called for as early as 1972 by the federal government’s Le Dain Commission and, since then, organizations like CAMH, the Canada Drug Policy Coalition and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse have all called for the legalization of cannabis, and yet here we are, in 2017, only now discussing something that should have happened, honestly, years ago—years ago. This bill is obviously disappointing for us. It leaves us with more questions than answers—some of the questions, I’ve just posed on the part of the Ontario Real Estate Association, which is actually now the Ontario Realtor Party. They are going through a rebranding process.

Schedules 1 and 2 of the bill enact the Cannabis Act. The act establishes prohibitions relating to the sale, distribution, purchase, possession, cultivation and the harvesting of cannabis. Schedule 2 enacts the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corp. This will be a crown agency that is an exclusive seller of recreational cannabis in Ontario.

It’s interesting; there is a connection with Kitchener-Waterloo. Kitchener is one of the 14 municipalities that are getting a store in 2018. The Waterloo Regional Police Service is going to certify two additional police officers for drug recognition enforcement to prepare for cannabis legalization. They have raised many concerns with this Liberal government on the cannabis progression. The Waterloo Regional Police Service says that it is difficult to predict exactly how many new police officers will need to be certified ahead of legalization. It costs the police services around $2,500 to be certified.

I’ve raised this in the House before, around the slow response to ensuring that front-line police officers have access to naloxone. I’m not sure why it would take so long; it’s a basic health and safety measure for our front-line services. Our police chief just went ahead and purchased $43,000 worth of naloxone because we had one officer who came in to contact with fentanyl and recognized very quickly that he had been exposed. The result of having exposure to fentanyl can actually be deadly, as we saw this last week here in Toronto.

The police have said that they will need additional funding for the training piece. They have to put some extra training in place to ensure that recognizing cannabis consumption or exposure happens really quickly, especially with those people who may or may not be driving. We know that taking a tough-on-crime approach doesn’t work, but a bill that has more questions than answers is also not the solution.

Some of the big questions that we have as legislators—and I know that this has come through in my riding—are: What rules will govern the choice of specific retail location? Is this just pure politics about who gets a retail store and who does not? I hope that we can all agree that 40 stores are just not going to be enough. If the goal is truly to keep small-time drug users out of jails, they’re going to want to have access to that product, as they have been promised by the Prime Minister in the last election. If they can’t access it, then they’re going to go underground. Then there are all sorts of subsequent issues that happen because of that—perhaps unintended consequences—but since we are notifying you of those consequences, it shouldn’t be unintended and you should actually do something about it.

How many stores? Where are they going? How big will those stores be? How will the cannabis be priced? How will the cannabis be taxed—I think that is one of the bigger issues that I am hearing, aside from the way the government has rolled this out. There was a story in the Toronto Star at the end of September that, “Ontario Considers Price of $10 Per Gram in Government Stores for Marijuana Once It’s Legalized Next Summer.”

So $10 a gram—


Miss Monique Taylor: It’s cheaper on the street.

Ms. Catherine Fife: Is it? I don’t know.

Miss Monique Taylor: Probably.

Ms. Catherine Fife: All right. We’re not quite sure where the government is getting the pricing benchmarks on cannabis, and I’m not quite sure how you’re going to go through the taxation process. It will be very interesting. Who came up with the plan that it was going to be four marijuana plants to one metre high? I often wonder how much cannabis they had consumed when they came up with that plan.

I know that some people are trying not to laugh; it actually is a very funny joke.

The bill isn’t forward-thinking or balanced enough. It is more obvious than ever that 40 locations are not enough for a province of 14 million people. It needs to be said and needs to be enforced—and it will not stem organized crime. Even with online sales, the province won’t be able to meet the demand that exists and thwart organized crime. This won’t stop the sale of unregulated cannabis in our province. I cannot stress that enough. Regardless of where you are on the legalization—hopefully all of us, regardless of political stripe, can agree that the plan that has been put forward by this Liberal government will not stop the sale of unregulated cannabis in our province.

1600

The bill also keeps Ontario in the prohibition era, setting arbitrary restrictions on the use and sale of cannabis. Consumers will likely be confused by the conflict between the legalization of cannabis and the new powers of the police that are far more severe than what exists for alcohol or cigarettes. Some of the provisions could result in heavy-handed enforcement and unintended consequences. I want to point out the police also want clarity. They’ve been asking for clarity in their role in the decriminalization of marijuana as well.

It is interesting; the background on the criminalization of cannabis and its impacts actually should be guiding this legislation. We know that 60,000 Canadians are arrested for simple possession of cannabis every year—60,000—accounting for nearly 3% of all arrests. At least 500,000 Canadians carry a criminal record for this offence, which can significantly limit a person’s employment opportunities and place restrictions on their ability to travel.

The enforcement of cannabis laws is very costly. For 2012, the annual cost of enforcing cannabis possession laws in Canada was estimated at $1.2 billion. Think about where that money could be going: restorative justice practices, if you will; the reintegration of those who have been in our prison system for too long; mental health services. There are so many better ways to spend $1.2 billion.

The prohibition of cannabis and criminalization of its users does not deter people from consuming it. We know this. There is evidence. There is years of research. The evidence on this point is clear: Tougher penalties do not lead to lower rates of cannabis use. They do not.

People who are already vulnerable are affected disproportionately. Evidence suggests that police often use the charge of cannabis possession as an easy way of pulling in folks who are, perhaps, from marginalized populations. These are some of the concerns that have been brought to us from folks in our ridings and from across the province.

I need to go back to this pricing issue, because we are talking about consumer protection in this House, we’re talking about health and safety issues in this House. Right now, as the government is considering pricing cannabis at $10 a gram, how much will it really be priced? This is an outstanding question. At $10 a gram, it still leaves a lot of room for the illicit market to exist.

The Cannabis Act establishes that no landlord shall knowingly allow their premises to be used for the unlawful selling or distribution of cannabis. We can’t even be sure that this happens today in the province of Ontario. Currently, craft brewers and distillers can sell on-site. Will craft cannabis sales also be allowed? When you’re setting the bar for a particular group of entrepreneurs or businesses in the province of Ontario, you set a precedent, right? So you will see, obviously, those who are interested in entering the business of cannabis lobby a government to actually have the same rights as those who are craft distillers or craft brewers, for instance. Actually, this has already come up in my office.

The new act allows for police to refer youth under the age of 19 who are caught consuming or possessing cannabis to an education or prevention program. It is astounding that this is actually in here. The wait-list for youth addiction in the province of Ontario is immense. We’ve been helping an individual who was incarcerated, who accepted a longer term in jail so that he could access the addiction program that was being offered for those who had a longer sentence. He accepted the fact that he was going to have to stay in jail longer but that he was going to get access to this addiction program. However, when he accepted the sentence, the addiction program was full, and he didn’t have access to it. Imagine being so desperate to access therapy, addiction control and counselling that you’re willing to stay in jail longer, and accepting that term, and then being denied the counselling. This is actually what happens in the province of Ontario.

Who will run these cannabis education or prevention programs? Who will pay for them? Given that using prevention programs as an alternative to laying charges will be arbitrarily decided by police officers or prosecutors, how will the government ensure that racialized or marginalized youth are not punished disproportionately? I think this is a very valid question, especially given the latest report that has come out, specifically around Toronto and how poverty affects racialized communities in this city.

The act establishes that “no person shall drive or have the care or control of a vehicle or boat” that contains cannabis that is not “packed in baggage that is fastened closed.” What exactly does this mean? A rule like this is more likely to confuse people than to prevent driving under the influence of cannabis.

You can see that as we make our way through this legislation—which also has bus safety measures included in it—I think the realtors found this very confusing also, as they should. Even as we are very supportive of the legalization of recreational cannabis, there are obviously measures that can create unintended consequences. The fact that there is no provision for public consumption so, therefore, it must happen in a residence—as I said, there are health and safety and housing advocates who have serious concerns about this. The last fellow I spoke to at the OREA conference said it’s even hard to have smoke-free apartments, because if there’s one person in that apartment who is a smoker, you can’t declare the entire threeplex, for instance, a smoke-free building. How will that affect the landlords who are probably trying to create some clean-living situations? How will cannabis affect that scenario?

In conclusion, I think that there’s a lot of interest in where these stores are going to go. There are a lot of questions that are outstanding on how the laws will be enforced, because those laws are quite vague. We as New Democrats find ourselves in a very unusual position, which is that we find ourselves supportive of the idea but very concerned about how the act will be implemented.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for your time.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Hon. Chris Ballard: After listening to the member opposite’s presentation, I just wanted to take a minute—because I’ve heard this a few times today—and focus on consultation.

We know that the timeline for federal legalization is incredibly ambitious: July 2018. The amount of work and preparation our government has had to do and will do over the next few months is daunting.

But I’ll just let people know that we’ve been working on our priorities for over a year now. The legislation that we are proposing and the approach it supports were developed through months of research and policy development across a dozen ministries, led by our dedicated legalization of cannabis secretariat.

We’ve been working very diligently to make sure that we know what questions to ask and that we have the right answers as we move this legislation forward.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments? The member for Nepean–Carleton—sorry; Ottawa-Nepean.

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Yes, Nepean–Carleton, but it’s okay, because it’s in Ottawa, Speaker, so it’s all good. I can go by any riding you attribute to me, anyway, so that’s fine.

I wanted to say thank you to my colleague from Kitchener–Waterloo for her intervention in the debate today to discuss this new Cannabis Act. We may not agree on everything, but I did appreciate her bringing up some of my concerns about illegal grow ops and clandestine operations where it pertains to drugs. She had pointed out something very specific that is a concern of the realtors of Ontario, which is the reduction in plants for multi-unit dwellings. I was there, obviously, as a panellist today, and indicated that, so I will be reintroducing my PMB.

1610

What it would effectively do is designate illegal grow operations as unsafe. It would encourage the inspection of all former illegal grow operations, because I believe there need to be standards for remediation. We would have a registry for all grow ops and former grow ops in the province of Ontario so that there would be a level of consumer protection. There would be mandatory training for home inspectors so that they would recognize what an illegal grow operation or clandestine drug operation is, because this could have severe damage to walls, to your attic or to the air quality within the unit.

And then, finally, the reduction in plants for multi-unit dwellings: This is a very serious issue that has to be considered in advance of this piece of legislation, and I do hope that the government will consider limiting the plants from four to one. I did hear a number of realtors say to me, after the comments made by the member from Beaches–East York about avocados, that they were quite offended by that. It really did bother them—they followed me right out. So I wanted to reiterate that and, again, just thank you for the opportunity to be able to provide my views on this debate today.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. John Vanthof: It’s an honour to be able to speak on this issue. I would like to talk about a real-life experience and what we could learn from that.

My family comes from Holland, and my wife’s parents and all her relatives still live there. A few years ago, we went back to Holland with my four children for their 50th anniversary.

As you may know, soft drugs are legal in Holland, so my kids—and they’re adults—decided to have the true Dutch experience. They bicycled around the canals, and at night they decided to go—in Holland, they’re called “coffee shops”—and buy some legal soft drugs in the coffee shop and see what that was like. My girls chickened out. My son went in the coffee shop, and they had for sale—they were called “space cakes.” They were €15 apiece, and my son said, “I’ll take five.” The guy behind the counter of the coffee shop said, “Buddy, how big a party are you going to have?” Well, he just went by the price; he could afford that many space cakes. So they got one space cake. They cut it up into five pieces; it was supposed to be for eight, and it was a very bad experience for my kids. I don’t think they’ll ever try a space cake again.

But the moral of that story, and why it’s so important—I know edibles aren’t part of this legislation, but if that guy behind that counter hadn’t said those words, my son would’ve bought five, and the consequences could have been drastic. So if we are going to sell this as a government, we’d better make sure that people have all of the information when we do it.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Yvan Baker: I’m pleased to join the debate on this important piece of legislation. I think it is important legislation because it really goes to the heart of our health, of our safety and of protecting our young people. These are things that we think about and talk about in this Legislature every day in different contexts, but I do think that this legislation speaks directly to those issues.

I don’t have time to cover everything, but I think one of the areas that I want to just quickly talk about is safety, particularly road safety. It’s something I know the members in this House will know that I have a strong interest in. I think one of the things that’s really positive is that in this bill we’re putting forward a zero-tolerance policy for those who are driving while under the influence of cannabis, just like we have for driving under the influence. We have stiff penalties for driving under the influence and driving while distracted; similarly, we have put in place a zero-tolerance policy, which will allow us to take strong measures when we need to to make sure that we keep our roads safe.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): That concludes questions and comments. We go back to the member for Kitchener–Waterloo for her response.

Ms. Catherine Fife: Thank you for the comments on the 20 minutes that I had to speak to Bill 174.

I think the issue that my colleague from Timiskaming–Cochrane raised about not having the knowledge around consumption is a very real concern. I had never heard of a space cake before, and I’m happy to learn about it. Obviously, we will be going down that road at one point, because if you’re legalizing a substance like cannabis, the population is going to get pretty creative with what to do with that product and that substance.

I want to highlight the fact that we have not fully thought out or resourced the need for drug addiction counselling that will be needed in this province. We know that for sure because we don’t have enough addiction counselling, and particularly youth addiction resources, in place right now. Even when you are in extreme crisis, you get referred to a wait-list. That is not helpful when you have taken the step and said, “You know what? I do have a problem with this substance, and I want to make sure that I can actually deal with it.” It takes a lot of courage to do that, Mr. Speaker.

The finance minister says that “revenues of more than $100 million annually are possible given that Ontario will have a larger customer base than many US states with legalized marijuana.” That’s a direct quote. He says, “It’s not a ridiculous number to consider because, as you’ve seen in other parts of North America, the numbers have actually been even higher,” as high as $506 million in tax revenue.

So I would encourage this government to stay focused on actually putting that revenue towards helping people with addiction issues in the province of Ontario, particularly those who are youth.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Pursuant to standing order 47(c), I am now required to interrupt the proceedings and announce that there has been more than six and one-half hours of debate on the motion for second reading of this bill. This debate will therefore be deemed adjourned unless the government House leader or his designate specifies otherwise.

I recognize the Minister of Municipal Affairs.


Hon. Bill Mauro: Speaker, no further debate.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Thank you.

Second reading debate deemed adjourned.

top | new search