Bill S-6 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Criminal Code and another Act
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
- Dec. 14, 2010 Passed That Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and another Act, as amended, be concurred in at report stage.
- Dec. 14, 2010 Failed That Bill S-6, in Clause 7, be amended (a) by replacing line 9 on page 6 with the following: “3(1), within 90 days after the end of two years” (b) by replacing line 19 on page 6 with the following: “amended by subsection 3(1), within 90 days”
- Dec. 14, 2010 Failed That Bill S-6, in Clause 3, be amended by deleting the following after line 28 on page 3: “(2.7) The 90-day time limits for the making of any application referred to in subsections (2.1) to (2.5) may be extended by the appropriate Chief Justice, or his or her designate, to a maximum of 180 days if the person, due to circumstances beyond their control, is unable to make an application within the 90-day time limit. (2.7) If a person convicted of murder does not make an application under subsection (1) within the maximum time period allowed by this section, the Commissioner of Correctional Service Canada, or his or her designate, shall immediately notify in writing a parent, child, spouse or common-law partner of the victim that the convicted person did not make an application. If it is not possible to notify one of the aforementioned relatives, then the notification shall be given to another relative of the victim. The notification shall specify the next date on which the convicted person will be eligible to make an application under subsection (1).”
- Dec. 14, 2010 Failed That Bill S-6 be amended by restoring Clause 1 as follows: “1. This Act may be cited as the Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act.”
Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons Act
Private Members' Business
April 25th, 2013 / 5:55 p.m.
James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB
moved that Bill C-478, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (increasing parole ineligibility), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me to rise for this first hour of debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-478, which is a bill I have titled the respecting families of murdered and brutalized persons act.
I want to thank the Minister of Justice and the Prime Minister for throwing their support behind my private member's bill. I also want to thank Senator Boisvenu, from the other place, for his support for this legislation and for the incredible work he did when he founded the Murdered or Missing Persons' Families' Association.
Bill C-478 is focused on amending the Criminal Code. Section 745 lays out a number of different codes for sentencing for a number of felonies. This bill would create a new subsection under section 745 that would concentrate on individuals who have committed the three following crimes together: abduction, sexual assault and murder of an individual. We are proposing that rather than one sentence of a maximum life sentence of 25 years without parole, we would give the courts discretionary power to look at increasing that ineligibility to a maximum of 40 years.
This is about empowering the courts. This is about giving another tool to judges and juries to look at ways to evaluate individual cases. Because it would provide discretionary power to the courts, and not mandatory minimums, we would actually be compliant with section 12 of the charter.
Judges, when determining parole ineligibility periods, have to take into account the character of offenders, the nature of the offences and the circumstances surrounding their commission so that judges can task juries with making recommendations for sentencing and parole ineligibility for the individual. Again, today the maximum is 25 years, but sentences could go all the way to 40 years if the person is charged and convicted of first degree murder in association with the other acts of kidnapping and rape.
This is a very important issue that really strikes at what Canadians expect of this government. My private member's bill, Bill C-478, follows suit, and has been modelled after Bill C-48, which was the government's bill on protecting Canadians by ending sentence discounts for multiple murders, and Bill S-6, which is the act for serious time for the most serious crimes. Again, it would provide a tool for the courts. It would empower the judges and juries to give stronger sentences. It is about going after the worst of society.
We are talking about the Robert Picktons of the world, people like Paul Bernardo, Russell Williams, Michael Rafferty, Terri-Lynne McClintic, Clifford Olson, Donald Armstrong, James Dobson, David Shearing and even Luka Magnotta, who is in the system right now. These are the most depraved individuals who all in society find repulsive. These sadistic murderers are the ones who snatch up our children or loved ones, commit their sexually depraved acts upon their victims and then sadistically murder them. It is a true brutalization of individuals.
One of the worst ones we have come across is David Threinen, who was sentenced to life in prison back in 1975. Justice Hughes, who was the judge at the time, stated, in regard to Threinen, that he should “never again be on the streets and roadways of our country”. This individual was so depraved that the judge at the time, taking into consideration his character and the gravity of the crimes he had committed, said that he should never, ever be paroled.
My office has contacted the Library of Parliament and people who are experts in the criminal justice system. With all the research we have done, we could not find one example where these types of sadistic murderers are ever paroled. Clifford Olson died in prison. These individuals are not being released back into society, yet they have tools such as parole hearings at their disposal to re-victimize the families. If they are convicted of second degree murder, they can ask for a parole hearing at year 10. Robert Pickton was only charged with second degree murder, 25 counts. Therefore, he is eligible for a parole hearing at 10 years.
We want to make sure that does not happen. Now the judges could, even if people are charged with second degree murder and not first degree murder, put in a more stringent timeline before they can make parole applications.
Just a few years ago a lot of Canada, including myself, was gripped by the Tori Stafford case. It broke everyone's hearts to see how this little girl was caught on camera being abducted from school and to find out later that she had been sexually assaulted by Michael Rafferty and Terri-Lynne McClintic and then brutally murdered with a hammer. In 2010, Terri-Lynne McClintic was sentenced to life in prison.
At about the same time it also came to light that Russell Williams, a former member of the Canadian Forces, was also arrested and sentenced at the end of 2010, in October, for the murders of Jessica Lloyd and Marie France Comeau, who were abducted, raped and then murdered.
During that time, as Michael Rafferty was still in the court system, Clifford Olson was dying of cancer in jail. In listening to the talk shows, what was weighing on my mind was how we could keep these very gruesome individuals from being released back into society where they have the opportunity to reoffend.
Then I heard the story of Sharon Rosenfeldt, her husband Gary and their son Daryn. I listened to how the family was tormented by Olson, along with the other 10 families who had also lost loved ones to this monster, which I think is the only way one could describe Clifford Olson. When they were getting ready to attend parole hearings he would write to them about not only how he abducted and raped their children over and over again but how he tortured them and the way in which he killed them. I believe all Canadians were repulsed by that recount and by those crimes.
I started looking into how to save families from having to go before the Parole Board every time one of these individuals could apply for parole. Olson did it under the faint hope clause at year 15. Then, starting at year 23, he was again allowed to reapply every two years. He would write to the families and they would be forced to put together all of their victim impact statements and then appear at the parole hearings and restate and relive that traumatic and terrible event of being informed that their child had been brutally murdered.
This bill is about ending the re-victimization of the families. It will end the ability of those sadistic individuals who are incarcerated from using parole hearings to toy with, terrorize and brutalize the families over and over again.
If Bill C-478 becomes law, and if a judge and jury make the decision to apply the maximum sentence of 40 years without parole, it would save the families eight Parole Board hearings over that time, eight times of having to go before the Parole Board, facing the individual who murdered their loved one, having to relive the horrific events that occurred in the past and really, this is about respecting their rights as victims.
The bill is not about tougher punishments, because all the research, and I have to restate this, has shown that these individuals are never released into society. They are incarcerated for life. Parole boards, over and over again, deny them the ability to go back into society. These individuals are not rehabilitated.
I have been reading through victim impact statements from a number of the families with whom I have been in contact. One family even shared with me an email from another convict who was incarcerated at the same time and in the same facility as the murderer of their child. He wrote, “This individual, despite the facade that he is putting on, should never be released into society”, and said to do everything they could to ensure that he stayed in prison.
The bill is about the families of the victims like Linda Bright, Janet and Karen Johnson, Darlene Prioriello, and Sharon Rosenfeldt's son, Daryn.
Linda Bright was only 16 years old when she was abducted by Donald Armstrong in Kingston back in 1978. He applied for parole on numerous occasions, including just recently in March 2012. Linda's sister, Susan Ashley, made this statement. She said, “My heart breaks having to live through this again. My heart breaks having to watch my Mom and Dad drag up their thoughts and pain from that deep place inside them where they tuck their hurt away”.
Linda's mother, Margaret Bright, said, “This is not fair. We should not have to relive our tragedy. When I remember my daughter, let me remember her as a little girl. Don't make me think about the other awful time in 1978....Let me tell you this has been the most difficult thing I have had to do in the last twenty years.”
Sharon Rosenfeldt, who has been very active with the National Victims of Crime organization, attended our press conference this morning with the Minister of Justice and Senator Boisvenu. She was what really drove me to this point, hearing her on the radio, driving around in my riding in Manitoba. I really appreciate that she has been such a powerful advocate.
Her son, Daryn, was only 16, and again, was a victim, one of Clifford Olson's 11 victims. They had to go through the faint hope clause hearing in 1997 and parole hearings in 2006 and 2010. Every time he was denied parole. Her past husband Gary said, “What's really horrendous about this is this is only the beginning. We're going to have to do this every two years as long as Olson lives. And this is a very, very painful experience for myself, my family.”
Sharon said, “Attending parole hearings every two years or five years after the offender has served 25 years is cruel and unusual punishment for the victim's family.”
Terri Prioriello, in talking about her sister, Darlene, who was killed at 16 years of age in 1982 said, “Families have already been victimized once. They shouldn't have to be victimized every two years. Having to face a loved one's killer and to read what he did to her and how her death has affected our lives is something nobody should ever have to do once, never mind twice.”
I ask members of this House to support my bill and really respect the rights of the victims whose children have been so brutally murdered by these horrendous characters.
Opposition Motion—Confidence in the Government
Business of Supply
March 25th, 2011 / 10:30 a.m.
John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Carleton—Mississippi Mills, the chief government whip.
I rise today to speak to the motion introduced by the Leader of the Opposition on a matter of non-confidence in the government.
I wish I could say I am pleased to make this speech today, but I am not. In fact, I am saddened that a Parliament, which has accomplished a lot recently, will come to an end because of the reckless actions of the Liberal, Bloc Québécois and NDP coalition in forcing an unwanted and unnecessary election on Canadians.
Yesterday, I listed 10 important government bills which had received royal assent this week, bills like Bill S-6 to eliminate the faint hope clause, Bill C-48 to eliminate sentencing discounts for multiple murderers and Bill C-59 to get rid of early parole for white-collar fraudsters, a bill the Liberal leader opposed. That was a very positive week.
We also tried to pass important bills like Bill C-49, which would crack down on human smugglers and those who would take advantage of our generous immigration laws, and Bill S-10, which would get tough on drug dealers and date rape artists who would target our youth. I stood in this place just yesterday and asked for those bills to be passed. What was the response from the opposition coalition in passing these bills? No. No to getting tough on human smugglers. No to getting tough on drug dealers.
Instead, we find ourselves here today faced with the most partisan of attacks from an opposition coalition bent on defeating this government at all costs.
I know the Liberal members over there claim that the government was found to have done something wrong. What they are not telling Canadians is that this was an opposition-stacked committee that used the tyranny of the majority to get the predetermined outcome it wanted. Let us be clear. It was predetermined. After all, the members for Kings—Hants, Ottawa South, Joliette and Acadie—Bathurst said so in the media.
In my speech I could focus on all the abuses of parliamentary democracy and the absolute contempt that the opposition demonstrated, not just at that committee but on virtually every other committee of the House in overruling chairs, in making political decisions, ignoring the rules of this place, and on and on.
One may ask why we have never heard about these things. It is because the opposition coalition has a majority on every committee. Its members were the ones who demonstrated real contempt for Parliament, and they will have to answer to the Canadian people for that.
Let us be clear about what this vote of non-confidence is really about. It is a vote against the next phase of Canada's economic action plan. It is a vote against our low tax plan for jobs and economic growth. It is a vote against hard-working Canadians and their families. It is a vote that will weaken Canada's economic recovery.
It is a vote against the budget. It is a vote against our plan.
Let us be clear. The latest phase of Canada's economic action plan encourages owners of small businesses to hire more people. It provides potential employees with new opportunities to train and to hone those skills. It invests in innovation. It lays the groundwork for private sector growth to replace government stimulus. This is good for all Canadians in every region of our great country from coast to coast to coast.
For seniors across Canada, I am proud to report that our government is delivering once again. For the poorest of seniors, we are providing an important hike to the guaranteed income supplement. For people caring for infirm loved ones, we are providing support in the form of a $2,000 tax relief credit. For the many public servants who make their homes in my riding, we are providing a guarantee that we will not slash programs and eliminate jobs as the Liberals did in the mid-1990s. Instead, we will provide a strategic review to enhance efficiency and reduce overall overhead with minimal impact on service to Canadians.
I was pleased to see included a request from the Canadian fire chiefs to provide for our volunteer firefighters. Next week we could be enacting that tax credit in law, but it will not happen because of the Liberal-led coalition.
I hope Canadian colleges and universities will drive innovation and help Canada forge closer ties with promising markets like India's. Carleton University made a great proposal to do just that, but it will have to wait. We will certainly be supporting our students in new ways.
I am especially proud to say that our government is providing real support to people who find their pensions at risk because their employer goes bankrupt. The budget would provide at least some help from the federal government to the former Nortel workers, despite the fact their pension plans were provincially regulated. It is something.
Unlike previous but misguided efforts in this place, this will not hurt Canadian businesses.
In short, Canada's economic action plan is another huge help for people in my riding of Ottawa West—Nepean. It will be a huge help to my home province of Ontario. We are working closely with the government of Dalton McGuinty to cut corporate taxes to make Ontario and Canada a magnet for jobs, investment and opportunity. It will be a huge help from coast to coast to coast right across our great country. It will help secure our economic recovery. It will help create jobs and it will support all Canadians.
By voting against this motion of non-confidence in our government, the opposition coalition can stop this unnecessary and unwanted election later today. I want to urge the opposition to reconsider its support for an unnecessary and costly election. I hope it will vote for the things Canadians find truly important, for the measures that will help so many right across the country.
That this question be now put.
Business of the House
March 24th, 2011 / 3:05 p.m.
John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON
When members are called smug, they all cheer and applaud.
As for the business of the House, I believe the minister responsible for the Status of Women has a motion that she would like to move after I have concluded my response to the Thursday question. Following that, without anticipating the outcome of any vote of the House, there seems to be an appetite to allow members who will not be running in the next election to have two minutes each to make statements. Following these statements, we will continue with day one of the budget debate.
Tomorrow we will consider the last allotted day in this supply period. I do not know why the opposition coalition is talking about ending this very productive Parliament to force an unwanted and unnecessary election. Recent weeks have led me to conclude that this is the most dysfunctional Parliament in Canadian history.
Yesterday our Conservative government achieved royal assent for the following bills: Bill S-6 to eliminate the faint hope clause; Bill C-14 to provide hard-working Canadians some fairness at the gas pumps; Bill C-21 to crack down on white collar crime; Bill C-22 to crack down on those who would exploit our children through the Internet; Bill C-30, R. v. Shoker; Bill C-35 to crack down on crooked immigration consultants; Bill C-42 to provide aviation security; Bill C-48 to eliminate sentencing discounts for multiple murderers; Bill C-59 to get rid of early parole for white collar fraudsters, a bill the Liberal government opposed but the Bloc supported; Bill C-61, the freezing of assets of corrupt regimes; and Bill S-5, safe vehicles from Mexico. What a legacy for the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
The work of this Parliament is not done. There are a number of key and popular government bills that Canadians want. Next week, starting on Monday, we will call: Bill C-8, the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement; Bill C-46, the Canada-Panama free trade agreement; Bill C-51, investigative powers for the 21st century; and Bill C-52, lawful access.
Does the Minister of Justice ever stop fighting crime? He gets more and more done. In many respects, as House leader I am like the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice.
Of course, we need to complete the budget debate to implement the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, a low tax plan for jobs and growth. Therefore, Tuesday we will debate day two of the budget, Wednesday we will debate day three of the budget and on Thursday we will debate day four of the budget. We have lots to do and I suggest to the members across that we turn our attention back to serving the interests of the public.
While I am on my feet, I would like to serve those interests by asking for unanimous consent for the following motion. I move that, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Marine Transportation Security Act shall be deemed to have been read a second time, referred to a committee of the whole, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.
Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on Finance
Business of Supply
February 17th, 2011 / 4:30 p.m.
Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague from Lac-Saint-Louis, a great riding which has great representation.
I want to start by talking about the comments that were made by the hon. member who just spoke. He was very passionate about the issue of crime and making our communities safe and secure. I applaud him on his passion. The only thing is, I would like to point out that many years ago a lot of American politicians, congressmen, senators and the like, including Newt Gingrich, I believe, and even state politicians, spoke with the same amount of passion, and now they have come back from that and said that they should have put more emphasis in other areas, which the government is not doing currently.
When it comes to recidivism rates, it should be looked at in a holistic way and not just from the incarceration aspect. I will put that aside for a moment.
We are talking about accountability. It has been a while since we talked about the Federal Accountability Act. After several years of having the Federal Accountability Act in place, it reminds me of back in the 1950s when Ford introduced the Edsel. It went over like a lead balloon. It really just stuck around for no apparent reason and wheedled its way out of existence, but we certainly did not forget.
In this particular case with the Federal Accountability Act, it seems to be one of those issues with which we have become familiar when it comes to the Conservative government, where one has to practise what one used to preach.
There is a certain amount of accountability, to say the least, in all of this, including areas of the east coast, where the Conservatives talked about custodial management of the fisheries, when they talked about the Atlantic accord. These were issues that were put out there in the storefront as to what the Conservatives would do as a government. By the time Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and Nova Scotians picked up the product from the window in 2006, metaphorically speaking, and brought it to the counter in an election, it turned out to be a different product entirely. Members will get the idea of what we are talking about, and it goes to the crux of that issue and several more over the past four or five years, and certainly in 2006.
I would like to congratulate my colleague from Wascana for bringing this motion forward. I think he makes some very good points, even in the wording of the motion itself. He talked about the government complying with reasonable requests for documents, particularly related to the cost of the government's tax cuts for the largest corporations and the cost of the government's justice and public safety agenda, which I have already talked about, and a violation of the rights of Parliament, and that this House hereby order the government to provide every document requested by the finance committee by March 7, 2011.
At about 2 p.m. today, the Conservative government tabled documents in response to our request for information. Kicking and screaming, the Conservatives tabled the documents with the House.
At first blush the documents pertain to corporate profits before taxes, cost estimates of the F-35 stealth fighter purchase, detailed cost estimates of the Conservatives' 18 justice bills, including capital operations and maintenance costs by departments. Once again, that is what was in the title.
After a short little while and some investigation, we realized some of the issues that we must address after that tabling in the House. There was no information provided with regard to the F-35 purchase. The government documents do not provide any detailed costing of its 18 justice bills, just surface material. The Conservatives estimate that the 18 justice bills will cost only $650 million over five years. However, earlier this year the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that one single bill, Bill C-25, would cost federal and provincial governments about $5 billion per year.
The discrepancies are incredibly wide. The logic by which it is brought in is probably about two inches thick. It is time for us to give this some serious, sober second thought. That is why I am glad we are having this debate today and making the demand. I certainly hope, and anticipate, that the opposition parties will vote in favour of bringing the information to the House.
Also, Bill C-16, ending House arrest, would have no cost impact according to the Conservatives. Bill C-21, the white-collar crime bill, would have no cost impact according to them. Bill S-6, serious time for serious crime, would have no cost impact as well, on which we throw a lot of doubt, given the fact that we have seen some of the evidence, both in committee and in the House.
Each and every one of those bills would put more people in jail, would require the construction of new prisons and would require more personnel and operating costs. It is not credible that those bills would not require more expenditure. That certainly is the case. Time and time again the Conservatives bring the cost estimates into this House, yet the members that are debating this motion today state they are no longer a factor. The costs must be racked up in order for our communities to be safe and secure. I have nothing against that. The problem is one can say one thing to one group of people and then turn around and say something else.
I mentioned earlier to an hon. member from Quebec about the situation with search and rescue. We hope that sometime soon there will be a commitment to purchase an aircraft for fixed-wing search and rescue or search and rescue airplanes regarding the five bases.
In this situation, in testimony given at the defence committee, we heard from victims whose family members were lost at sea. It is not just search and rescue, it is the Coast Guard as well. At the time the Coast Guard and search and rescue did their utmost to ensure those lives were saved. What we are doing now is questioning the response times and the parameters of response times. Should they be shortened, it would require more resources, not better personnel because they are already the best in the business, in my opinion, but it would require more resources. As a result of that, the questions that came from the government were, “Do you realize the cost of this? Do you know that it is going to cost and extra $200 million, $300 million, $400 million?”
Costs become a factor there, but not a factor when it comes to this. That is certainly something we should question a little further.
I did mention the F-35s in this particular situation. There are many countries around the world that are now casting doubt upon their acquisitions when it comes to not just the purchase price, but also their operations and maintenance over many years. We must question whether this is the right time to be doing this.
As I mentioned earlier, the other issue is the corporate tax cuts. If we look throughout the European Union right now, I will not say that it is becoming a veritable basket case, but nonetheless it is a tough situation for the major countries, and not just some of the smaller economies such as Greece, Ireland and other countries, but also for Germany and in the U.K.
The U.K. is going through major cutbacks and increased fees, measures such as these, in order to curb what is about to become a staggering deficit that not just people's children but their grandchildren will have to pay off. In doing so, it is exercising prudence.
I remember during the election campaign in the United Kingdom the parties were not just bragging about how they would reduce taxes, but they were also bragging about how they were going to reduce costs. It seems as though every party involved, whether it was Liberal, Democrat, Labour or Conservative, was bragging about the fact that that party would cut more.
In this particular situation, information is needed. If the Conservatives are saying that they do not want to create more revenues through taxation, I have nothing against that, but I do when it comes to other things like fees. Recently they imposed a security fee at airports. They can attack us and talk about an iPod tax and the like, but why do they have a tax on travellers? Am I being facetious in saying this? A little, but I am illustrating the point. There are security fees involved because at the end of the day, they cannot pay the bills. It has to come out of general revenue, so there has been an imposition of fees on particular segments of the population.
I even would go so far as to say that recreational boaters now have to get a licence that requires a fee. Is that a cost recovery issue? It just might be, but it is an illustration of how things have to be done.
To curb this $56 billion deficit, if the Conservatives want to get back to a zero deficit in five, six or seven years, there will be some serious decisions that have to be made.
My hon. colleague across the way spoke of cutting transfers. Let me talk about that. They have a big issue coming up when it comes to health care and health care transfers. I would like my hon. colleague to stand up and talk about that for just a moment because at some point he will have to justify giving the same or more money at the same time as he is going to reduce this $56 billion deficit. Let us see if he can jump through those hoops.
Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on Finance
Business of Supply
February 17th, 2011 / 4 p.m.
Daniel Petit Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today regarding two important matters.
To begin with, I would like to explain to members how crime affects us all and how it is to some degree impossible to gauge the full cost of crime.
Secondly, the steps that we are taking to fight crime cannot be measured or determined solely by their cost. We have introduced wide-ranging legal reforms in an effort to respond to the concerns of victims and to mitigate the human costs associated with crime. These are major investments, and not only on a financial level.
Crime costs victims dearly; I would go so far as to say that it costs them very dearly. Of course, crime is very costly for all Canadians, but we know that it is the victims of crime who have to shoulder the bulk of this cost.
According to a recent study by the Department of Justice, the total cost of Criminal Code offences was estimated at $31.4 billion in 2008. Since there are no data available for many variables, we know this to be a conservative estimate. Still, it equates to a per capita cost of $943 for that year.
We know that victims are those most directly affected by crime. Of the $31.4 billion in costs, $14.3 billion are the direct result of crimes committed. This $14.3 billion covers medical care, hospitalization, loss of income, school absenteeism, and theft or property damage. More specifically, the drop in productivity accounts for 47% of the total cost borne by victims. Theft or property damage accounts for 42.9% and health care costs account for the remaining 10.1%. These costs are only the tip of the iceberg since they represent recoverable and identifiable expenses, such as those resulting from loss of property or medical care. There is nothing about this that is hard to understand.
The intangible costs such as fear, pain, suffering and decreased quality of life far outweigh the material costs. It is difficult, well nigh impossible, to precisely measure the cost of the emotional and psychological suffering caused by crime, and yet it is important to try to do so.
Research has shown that victims of violent crimes experience stress after being victimized. A crime can influence how victims view the world around them and how much they trust others. It can cause pain and suffering. We know that the psychological effects of crime-related trauma can last a long time. Because of a lack of data, early studies of the costs of crime did not take into account the pain and suffering experienced by victims. The situation is starting to improve because the intangible costs to victims are much too high to be ignored.
According to the results of the study by the Department of Justice, which I mentioned earlier, the intangible costs to victims total around $68.2 billion. Thus the total cost of crime in Canada in 2008 would be $99.6 billion. If we take into account intangible costs, the costs borne by victims represent 82.8% of the total costs. It is a fact that crime is costly for the victims.
The victims are the people most affected by acts of violence, but other people suffer as well. Family members mourn the death of a loved one or must put their daily activities on hold to accompany victims to court or to doctor's appointments, for example.
Governments provide various victims' services and compensation programs to directly help victims, and they work on strategic plans on these issues.
The third-party costs take all these costs into account. In 2008, the total third-party costs were about $2.2 billion.
Why do we need to know the cost of crime and the cost borne by the victims?
We know that no amount of money can adequately compensate a victim of crime or his family, especially when it comes to homicide. No one would choose to die in exchange for $2.5 million or would agree to an assault on his child in return for $10,000.
It is important, though, to establish these estimates. We know that resources are scarce and that programs such as those to increase the number of police officers on the beat or provide funding for health and welfare, to improve the environment, or to build highways and parks are always competing with one another for a share of the public purse.
There must be several facets to our attempt to allay the enormous costs incurred by the victims of crime.
Our government is determined to enhance the safety of all Canadians and raise their confidence in the justice system. That is important. We want to start by dealing with the main concerns of crime victims, those people who have discovered how the system works as a result of an unfortunate experience and have told us that changes are needed. We listened to them.
Canadians are proud of their justice system. It is admired the world over for its fairness. There is always room for improvement, though. Our government is determined to ensure that our justice system continues to be the envy of the world and, most of all, that it is valued in Canada.
In 2006, our government set out its plans for changes to the criminal justice system, and over the last five years, those plans have been realized. It was not easy to ensure that the key changes passed. We were and still are a minority government.
It is easy, though, to see that Canadians support our program to fight crime.
Canadians agree that the personal, financial and emotional consequences for crime victims and the public are too severe and that measures to make Canadians safer, hold offenders responsible and raise confidence in our justice systems are worth the investment.
Allow me to describe a few key legislative changes that illustrate how concerned we are about crime victims and the people of Canada in general.
Our changes were intended to make the punishment fit the crime a little better, something that crime victims and many other people had been demanding for a long time. Changes were made to protect children, our most vulnerable victims. Some changes focused on issues that affect Canadians in their daily lives, such as automobile theft, identity theft, drug-related crime, fraud and street racing.
I would remind the House of Bill C-25, the Truth in Sentencing Act, which was introduced on March 27, 2009 and passed three months later on June 8, 2009. The bill received royal assent on October 22, 2009, and the changes came into force on February 22, 2010.
In general, these changes limit the credit for time served in preventive detention to a one to one ratio. A maximum ratio of one and a half to one applies only when circumstances warrant. A maximum one to one ratio applies to the credit accorded offenders who broke their bail conditions or were denied bail because of their criminal record. No higher ratio is allowed than one to one, regardless of the circumstances.
This amendment to the Criminal Code was welcomed by those who were appalled by the two- or three-for-one sentencing credits being given to offenders who were detained before their trials.
Victims of crime welcomed this amendment, which is designed to guarantee that offenders serve their sentences. Victims do not want revenge; they want sentences to fit the crime. Bill C-25 addressed this concern.
Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and another Act, which dealt with the faint hope clause was recently passed by the House and the Senate and will soon be ready to receive royal assent. It will abolish the faint hope clause for individuals serving a life sentence for murder. Those who commit murder after this bill comes into effect will no longer be able to avail themselves of the faint hope clause. Family members of murder victims have been calling for the abolition of this clause for many years. We listened to them.
Our government is committed to abolishing the faint hope clause, which allows murderers who are serving life sentences to apply for parole after serving 15 years of their sentence rather than 25 years. As you can well imagine, murder victims' families could not understand how a life sentence could turn into parole after only 15 years. It was absolutely scandalous. As I said earlier, victims are not acting out of revenge; they just want the sentences to be reasonable. We listened to them.
I would also like to remind the House about Bill C-48, the Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act, introduced on October 5, 2010. This bill deals with multiple murders and responds to the legitimate concerns of victims of crime, who feel that every homicide victim has to count and every sentence handed down to a murderer has to fit the seriousness of the crime. Life imprisonment means spending life in prison. It is impossible to give multiple murderers multiple life sentences since we have only one life. Nonetheless, Bill C-48 will allow a judge to impose consecutive periods of 25 years with no chance of parole for each murder conviction. For example, a person found guilty of two murders—the easiest case to understand—might have to spend 50 years in prison before being eligible for parole. Bill C-48 was passed by the House and is currently at second reading stage in the other place. This bill is another example of our goal to make the punishment fit the crime and to ensure that offenders are held accountable for their actions against victims.
I also want to talk about other reforms centred around victims. I am sure that my colleagues in this House will recall Bill C-21, the Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act, which was introduced in the House of Commons on May 3, 2010 and passed by the House on December 15, 2010 and is currently before the other place. Bill C-21 provides a mandatory minimum sentence of two years for fraud over $1 million. As pointed out in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, of which I am a member, many cases of fraud involving large sums of money already end in prison sentences greater than two years.
I would also like to point out that Bill C-21 has been long awaited by victims of white collar crime. These reforms will do more than just add a minimum sentence. They will allow the court to issue an order prohibiting people who have been found guilty of fraud from having any authority over anyone else's money or property in order to ensure that they do not defraud others. Restitution for victims of fraud will be given greater importance, and the courts will be allowed to take into account community impact statements concerning the repercussions of the fraud. Community impact statements will be a vital tool that will serve to remind the court, the offender and the public that these crimes have negative repercussions on communities and on the victims who suffer direct financial losses.
We listened to victims.
Who among us has never had their car stolen or does not know someone who has had their car stolen? Car theft is common. It is a real scourge. It has a huge impact on our daily lives. Victims of car theft feel huge frustration that is compounded by the fact that the thief is not held to account. Bill S-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime), also called the Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act, was broadly supported and received royal assent on November 18, 2010. That bill will come into force soon.
These changes create new offences related to motor vehicle theft; altering, removing or obliterating a vehicle identification number; trafficking in property or proceeds obtained by crime; and possession of such property or proceeds for the purposes of trafficking. In addition, it provides for an in rem prohibition on the importation and exportation of such property or proceeds.
Bill S-9 also sets out mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offenders.
I will spare you the details of the bills aimed at amending legislation that have been passed by the government. The list is too long. However, I want to point out some, in particular the ones meant to protect our children.
For example, Bill C-22, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service requires Internet service providers to report any child pornography on their network. A breach of that requirement could lead to a series of increasingly higher fines and the person could be put in prison for a maximum of six months for a third infraction and for each subsequent offence. Bill C-22 was widely supported in the House.
It goes without saying that Bill C-22 addresses the concerns of victims of crime. We listened to them. The bill aims to reduce the number of new victims of Internet child pornography. The federal ombudsman for victims of crime was very clear on the need for such a law; we created that ombudsman's office.
Before I conclude, I would be remiss if I did not mention Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sexual offences against children), also known as the Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act, which was passed on November 4, 2010.
These amendments will help us better protect children from sexual exploitation because of two new infractions, namely providing sexually explicit materials to a child for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a sexual offence against the child and agreeing or arranging to commit a sexual offence against a child.
These amendments will also require the court to consider attaching conditions to sentences for offenders found guilty of committing a sexual offence involving a child and offenders suspected of having committed this type of offence to ensure that they are not in contact with children under the age of 16 and that they do not use the Internet without supervision by a designated person.
This will allow for a more consistent enforcement of sentences for sexual offences involving children.
Bill C-54 is currently being studied by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, of which I am a member, and I suggest that, when it is returned to the House, all members show their support for protecting children by ensuring that this bill is passed quickly.
The government is proud of what it has accomplished for victims of crime and for the people of Canada. We are listening to victims of crime and to other stakeholders in the justice system, and we are making reforms that address the needs and concerns of Canadians.
Our government has listened to victims.
February 17th, 2011 / 10:05 a.m.
Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON
I'm asking on Bill C-4, Bill C-5, Bill C-16, Bill C-17, Bill C-21, Bill C-22, Bill C-23B, Bill C-30, Bill C-35, Bill C-37, Bill C-38, Bill C-39, Bill C-43, Bill C-48, Bill C-49, Bill C-50, Bill C-51, Bill C-52, Bill C-53C-54, Bill C-59, Bill SS-6, Bill S-7, Bill S-10.
What are the costs? What are the head counts? What are the implications? Why won't you give them to Parliament?
Abolition of Early Parole Act
February 15th, 2011 / 11:45 a.m.
Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC
Madam Speaker, of course I will tie them together, because the context of a bill or why it is before the House is always a matter of relevance. I can understand why the Conservatives do not want anyone in the House to remind Canadians of their hypocrisy.
When we see the Conservatives and separatists come together and co-operate today on the bill before the House, I think that what the government has said in the past about co-operating with separatists is entirely relevant. Of course, it is understandable why my hon. colleague would not want us to remind Canadians of that.
Again, on hypocrisy, the Prime Minister talked about Afghanistan and bringing the troops home in 2011. That went down the toilet. Bringing any decision or vote before the House on deploying troops back to Canada also went down the toilet. We are used to hypocrisy by the government.
Today we are debating a bill brought forward by the government, supported by the separatists, but I want to talk about the way it was done. It was done in a way that absolutely subverts democracy. Conservatives cut a deal, brought the bill before the House quickly and invoked closure so that we cannot have meaningful debate on the bill.
It was a backroom deal to cut off debate so that we as parliamentarians cannot perform the due diligence that Canadians want us to do to determine the impacts of this bill, how much it will cost and what effect it will have on our prison system. To me, that shows a lack of confidence in the merits of the bill by Conservatives and the Bloc, because if they were confident in it they would not be afraid of having a fulsome and thorough debate in examining the bill.
Let us talk about the bill. New Democrats understand the concern of Canadians and the sentiments that underlie this bill. Two issues have caused the bill to come before the House. The first is the spectre in Quebec of two high-profile white collar fraudsters, Earl Jones and Mr. Lacroix, who defrauded thousands of investors out of millions and millions of dollars. The prospect of their coming out of prison after serving one-sixth of their sentences has, quite rightly, made people upset in Quebec and across this country.
The second is that it is a quite reasonable concern of Canadians to raise an issue with the concept of some people coming out of a federal penitentiary and being moved to other places of incarceration after serving only one-sixth of their time. Those are valid concerns.
Canadians may know that accelerated parole is only available to first-time offenders who have committed a non-violent offence. Canadians may also find it relevant to know that those people are not coming out of prison and going into the community. They are not let out jail; it is the place of their incarceration that is being shifted. Instead of being in a federal penitentiary, after serving one-sixth of their time, they generally move to halfway houses, which are places of incarceration in our communities, where they still serve their sentences. If someone gets a sentence of 10 years, they still get that 10-year sentence but the place where they serve the sentence is moved.
I want to point out that the New Democrats have a long and proud history in the House of being tough on white collar crime. The New Democrats worked to strengthen the provisions in Bill C-21 to toughen the penalties for white collar crime and, I might point out, those amendments by the New Democrats were defeated by other parties in the House.
New Democrats also have a long and proud tradition of standing up for strong regulation in the financial sector, standing up against banks and finance companies and stock market behaviour to make sure those are well-regulated industries and that we minimize the opportunity for Canadians to be bilked or defrauded out of their money. Those efforts, I might add, are generally resisted by the Conservatives, and often by their coalition partner, the Liberals, and now by their new coalition partner, the Bloc Québécois, as they usually try to stop the efforts to ensure that we protect consumers in this country.
I also want to say that New Democrats understand the pain in Quebec. We understand the absolute and profound damage that has been caused by these unregulated white collar criminals who have defrauded so many people out of their life savings, and New Democrats believe that we have to crack down on them. The issue, of course, is to do that in an intelligent and targeted way, in a way that will actually help.
I want to go over some of the facts of this bill.
APR was introduced in 1992 and was expanded in 1997. It was considered a measure to help the correctional services focus on more dangerous offenders and thus save money.
In 2007 the Correctional Service of Canada review panel, headed by the Mike Harris era Conservative minister for privatization, Rob Sampson, recommended that APR be eliminated. We can thus see the genesis of this idea. He argued that parole should be reformed. The roadmap that Mr. Sampson developed and that the panel issued has been widely criticized, comprehensively criticized, as the absolutely wrong approach to our prisons, both in terms of effectiveness and cost.
The Conservatives have introduced measures to eliminate APR twice before, in Bill C-53, which died on prorogation without receiving any debate; and as part of an omnibus CCRA amendment, Bill C-39, which is currently before public safety committee.
I want to review some of the challenges of this bill. On the one hand, we have the spectre of some Canadians getting out after serving one-sixth of their sentence in a federal penitentiary and being moved to a different institution. That is absolutely the wrong message we want to send when talking about serious white collar crimes.
It is important to note that under the current legislation, there are some crimes that are not eligible for accelerated parole. One thing New Democrats ask is that if there are crimes that we do not think should qualify for accelerated parole, then why do we not study what those crimes should be and add them to the already existing list of crimes for which accelerated parole is not available? That is a surgical, intelligent approach.
Right now, out of 13,000 people in federal penitentiaries, there are approximately 1,000 people who currently would be affected by this legislation. Unlike the Conservatives' approach to crime, which is to take one poster person and target a bill to get at that person and to paint a broad brush of everybody else, it is clear that we do not have a uniform sample within those 1,000 people.
Caught up in those 1,000 people not eligible under this bill would be a person like a young aboriginal woman in jail for the first time maybe for passing bad cheques. She may have children in the community. She may have an addictions problem. She may have a mental health issue. It may be advantageous, both for her and for the community's safety, to move her into a halfway house in the community after one-sixth of her sentence were served in a federal penitentiary, where she could get the help for her issues she could not get inside a penitentiary. That is the kind of person who would also be caught by this bill.
I want to talk about services. I have been in 25 federal institutions in this country in the last year and a half. I will tell the House what I found: Our federal penitentiaries are a complete disaster in terms of offering timely and effective programming to our federal prisoners.
This bill would take 1,000 people who would otherwise be eligible to be moved into community facilities at one-sixth of their sentences, where they would get those services, and would make them stay in prison for another one-sixth of their time. Will those people have access to the types of services they need?
We have heard in committee that 80% of offenders in our federal institutions suffer from addictions. We are also just starting to touch the surface on the secondary problem of mental illness, which is also profoundly substantial.
If those people in our federal penitentiaries are not getting addictions treatment in a timely and effective way or treatment for their mental illnesses, this bill would keep them in those penitentiaries longer. Does the government want to put additional money and resources into our federal prisons to deal with that? I have not heard those members say that. No bill has been introduced by the government that would add those kinds of services to our prisons.
I released an internal document prepared by the correctional service. It stated that two bills alone, Bill C-25, the bill eliminating the two-for-one credit for pre-sentencing custody, and Bill S-6, the bill that adds mandatory minimums for gun crimes, would add 4,000 offenders to our prisons in the next two to three years. They would cause the government to hire 3,300 new personnel, which we estimate would cost a quarter of a billion dollars on personnel each and every year. As well, it has been estimated that it would require the government to spend somewhere between $5 billion and $10 billion to build new prisons in the next five to 10 years.
This bill would take 1,000 people and make them stay in prison longer. That may be a wise thing or it may not be, but I ask the following questions.
Has the government costed out what this will cost? I haven't heard it say anything about that. I have heard the government tell Canadians it is none of their business what the crime bills cost. It claims cabinet confidence when we ask what the crime bills will cost Canadian taxpayers.
Might I remind the government that it is not its money; the money that it is spending is Canadian taxpayers' money. Canadian taxpayers have the right to know the cost of any legislation. Yet the government hides. Why? It does not want to tell Canadians that the result of its crime agenda will cost billions of dollars. What is worse is that it will not make our communities any safer.
The political right in the United States has tried these policies over the last 30 years, people like Newt Gingrich, people in Texas and the American south. They have built more prisons, locked up people, tightened up parole, made people serve longer sentences and are now reversing those measures as we speak. This is not rhetoric. It is fact. The United States is actually adopting the exact opposite policies of this government because it knows that these are bankrupting its treasuries and not reducing crime rates.
As a matter of fact, the states that are focusing on crime prevention, on addressing the root causes of crime, such as addictions and mental health, and are putting resources into treating those issues are making their communities safer and reducing crime rates. However, this government is pursuing a policy that is 30 years out of date and proven wrong.
There is another reason that we might want to move someone from a federal penitentiary after a short, sharp experience into a community facility like a halfway house. It might be better for their reintegration. It would put them closer to their families and support structures. It would allow them to work. I have heard the government say many times that the best social welfare program is a job. It would put that person in a community where they would have more access to required services such as mental health assistance and therapy, addictions treatments and help for any number of different physical or mental ailments they may have.
What are we saying? We are saying that transferring someone into that kind of facility is better for them and makes it more likely they will not reoffend, which is better for community safety.
Have we considered that? No, because the Bloc and the government have combined to ram this bill through in Parliament within a matter of days of debate.
One thing I have noticed about this chamber is that it is never good public policy to make legislation on the fly, under pressure and without study. I do not care what the bill is: no bill, no federal legislation that will affect thousands of Canadians, should ever be passed by this House without our thoroughly vetting that bill and understanding all of its implications and consequences.
What is the impact on community safety? What is the impact on prison overcrowding? What is the impact and how many more prison cells will we have to build if we have to keep more people in prison for longer? What will it cost? Which crimes should we be targeting? All of these questions are valid questions that any responsible parliamentarian would want the answers to before voting on a bill. However, the Conservatives and the Bloc, the separatists and the Conservatives, have joined together to say, no, we cannot have that debate.
The New Democrats have a number of positive suggestions in this regard. Again, we understand there are some crimes that should not get accelerated parole, particularly by white collar criminals who bilk people out of their savings. However, why do we not look at making surgical amendments to the legislation to add crimes to the list that do not qualify for accelerated parole? A second alternative is to allow a judge to have discretion at the time of sentencing to determine whether a person should or should not qualify for accelerated parole.
Those are amendments the New Democrats will be bringing to the committee tonight, in the four hours the government and the separatists have allotted for debate, after which they are going to invoke closure.
In those four hours, we will be exploring answers to these questions for Canadians. We are going to try to understand the impact of this bill on our penal system and on our treasury. We are going to propose amendments to fix the problems that Canadians want fixed, but do not damage the rehabilitation and community safety. That is what the New Democrats are about: responsible parliamentarianship. That is not what we see in this bill.
I want to focus on the way our parole system works.
Our parole system is a carefully crafted system that has developed over decades. One cannot tinker with just one part and not expect it to have an impact on other parts. There are theories of punishment as to how we can best alter behaviour.
The purpose of our prison system is corrections. It is to try to correct the behaviour of people so that when they re-enter society they do not reoffend. That is the best public safety policy we could have. That is why we have sophisticated notions of punishment and reward where people get a short, sharp experience with prison and then reintegrate into society. As parliamentarians, we should be encouraging that process.
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
February 14th, 2011 / 6:50 p.m.
Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON
Mr. Speaker, I certainly agree. The process that is being used is denying members their right to debate government legislation and bring the interests of Canadians to bear on that legislation. That is a fundamental right. In fact, it is our responsibility under our system of responsible government to do that.
The member is also right that in order for us to be able to do the analysis and bring the appropriate scrutiny to bear on bills, we have to know how much these government initiatives cost. That is why the finance committee demanded that the costs be revealed by the government.
I do not often give the Liberals credit, but in fact past Liberal governments gave us five-year projections. I am going to take a minute to remind the House what bills are at stake. There are: Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts; Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and another Act; Bill S-7; Bill S-9; Bill S-10. There are 18 crime legislation bills in total and the government will not provide to members of the House the costs of implementing this legislation. It is unconscionable and it denies members the ability to do their jobs properly.
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
February 14th, 2011 / 6:05 p.m.
Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON
Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the comments of the member in this chamber, and I am a bit surprised, because he is actually engaging in substantive debate around the bill to which the time allocation motion applies. However, what is really before us in the House today is the time allocation motion itself and the government cutting off the amount of time for debate on the bill.
We should not be debating the merits of the bill itself at all, yet I just heard the member say that all kinds of crime bills have been stalled at committee.
Let me give the House a number of the bills that have now passed through the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights: C-4, C-5, C-16, C-17, C-21, C-22, C-23A, C-23B, C-39, C-48, C-50, C-51, C-52, S-2, S-6, S-7, S-9 and S-10. Can the member really suggest that the crime agenda of the government is being stalled?
Some of us would argue they are the only bills we have been dealing with in the House. I wish the member would return to what we are really debating here tonight, and that is the time allocation motion, not the substance of the government's crime agenda.
Standing Committee on Finance
February 11th, 2011 / 10:35 a.m.
Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am saddened today to feel the obligation to rise to address comments with regard to the question of privilege raised by the member for Kings—Hants on February 7.
It is like the movie Groundhog Day. Anyone is familiar with that movie knows it was very successful. American actor Bill Murray relives the day over and over again until he learns his lesson.
It appears the government is reliving the same thing and forcing all other members of the House of Commons and Canadians to relive the same days we experienced back in 2009-10 with regard to a request from the special committee on Afghanistan for the production of documents from the government. The government resisted that. It took a question of privilege to be raised in the House. It took comments from many members of the House. It took considerable reflection and study on your part, Mr. Speaker, before you made a ruling that there was a prima facie case of privilege in that regard.
Yet, again, we are faced with the exact same situation today.
If I look at the timeline, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance tabled its 10th report on Monday, February 7. The member for Kings—Hants, pursuant to that report, raised the question of privilege of which we are now all aware.
However, I wish to note a number of points. I also wish to address, in particular, the issues of cabinet confidence and the requests with regard to all the justice bills. It is important to do so, particularly with the time of events and the government's response to date to the committee's requests for the production of documents. We have not yet heard the government's response in the House with regard to the question of privilege.
On November 17, 2010, the Standing Committee on Finance passed a motion, ordering the Government of Canada to provide the committee with five-year projections of total corporate profits before taxes and effective corporate tax rates from the 2010-11 fiscal year until the 2014-15 fiscal year, inclusive. The November 17 motion also ordered the government to provide the committee with certain financial information pertaining to justice bills, which I will enumerate.
As all members in the House know, I am the justice critic for the official opposition. Therefore, all the information, all the documents requested through the motion of the finance committee have direct pertinence to the committee on justice and human rights. Those justice bills were Bill C-4, the youth criminal justice bill, Bill C-5, Bill C-16, Bill C-17, Bill C-21, Bill C-22, Bill C-23A, Bill C-23B, Bill C-39, Bill C-48, Bill C-50, Bill C-51, Bill C-52, Bill S-2, Bill S-6, Bill S-7, Bill S-9 and Bill S-10.
The motion specifically requested:
—detailed cost accounting, analysis and projections, including assumptions, for each of the bills and Acts, conducted in accordance with the Treasury Board Guide to Costing.
Members are now aware, by the issue of privilege raised by the member for Kings—Hants, that the motion established a deadline of seven calendar days, which ended on November 24, 2010.
On November 24, Finance Canada replied to the committee, and I will read the department's response in its entirety because it is quite important, particularly to any Canadian and any member sitting in the House who takes his or her work as an elected official representing Canadians, a sacred duty in fact, to know the response. It said:
Projections of corporate profits before taxes and effective corporate income tax rates are a Cabinet confidence. As such, we are not in a position to provide these series to the Committee.
The department claimed it was not in a position to provide these documents to the committee because, according to the government, these documents were a cabinet confidence. That is the heart of the matter. Do the documents requested constitute a cabinet confidence and, if so, are they excluded from the rule of the House of Commons, the power and authority of Parliament, to require documents to be provided?
As the House knows, because it has been mentioned by others in the House who have commented on the issue of privilege raised by the member for Kings—Hants, the government has yet to speak to this issue. I understand that one of the parliamentary secretaries has said the government is taking note of all of members' comments in the House, relating to the issue of privilege, and will respond in due course.
On December 1, 2010, one full week after the deadline of November 24, 2010, the committee received a reply from Justice Canada regarding projected costs of the justice bills. I will read the response by Justice Canada in its entirety. It said:
The issue of whether there are any costs associated with the implementation of any of the Government's Justice bills is a matter of Cabinet confidence and, as such, the Government is not in a position to provide such information or documents.
That is interesting because in justice committee, of which I am a member, when we have repeatedly asked the minister for the cost analysis of a government bill before the committee, the minister has never stated that he could not give us that information because it is a matter of confidence. I would challenge members to check the transcripts of justice committee. What I did hear was he did not have the information with him or some befuddled answer that did not answer the question.
On December 7, 2010, after the government had refused to provide the information ordered by finance committee by the established deadline, the member for Kings—Hants provided the committee with written notice of a motion by which, if passed, the committee would draw the attention of the House to what appeared to be a breach of its privileges. That has been done. The committee adopted the motion and the member for Kings—Hants rose in the House to speak to the issue.
On December 10, the committee received an additional response from the Department of Finance Canada in answer to its motion ordering the production of documents relating to the projections regarding corporate taxes before profits.
In response, the department stated:
To the best of its knowledge, the Department of Finance has determined that [the] "series" or projections of corporate profits before taxes or the effective corporate income tax rates have never been previously disclosed. These projections are from a comprehensive economic and fiscal projection that constitutes a Cabinet confidence.
To reiterate, according to the second or additional response of the Department of Finance to the finance committee, the Department of Finance, acting on behalf of the government, claimed that these projections have never been previously disclosed and constitute a cabinet confidence.
As pointed out in this chamber before, but which bears repetition, I would suggest to any Canadian to Google the phrase, “Corporate tax profits before taxes”, and restrict their search to the domain of the Department of Finance Canada. That Canadian would get exactly two results: the HTML and PDF versions of “The Economic and Fiscal Update“ from November 2005. In that update, we find precisely the information that the Department of Justice, in its December 10 additional response to the finance committee, claimed had never previously been disclosed because it constituted a cabinet confidence. In fact, it was disclosed in the November 2005 economic and fiscal update that was issued by the previous government comprised of the Liberal Party of Canada's elected members of Parliament.
Therefore, the assertion on the part of the government, through its Department of Finance, justifying its refusal to obey, respect and act on the order of the finance committee to produce the documents is an outright fabrication.
The government department could have said that in the past the information had been released, but that the policy had been changed with a new interpretation of what constituted a cabinet confidence and, as a result, would not be releasing those documents to the finance committee. However, that was not the reason given by the department, by the government, for refusing to release that information. The reason given to the committee for not providing that information, that it is a cabinet confidence, is pure nonsense.
What is the state of legislation regarding cabinet confidence?
As mentioned, one can look to the Access to Information Act and the law of evidence act, and one will find that the government does not have a leg to stand on, and in fact does not have two legs to stand on.
Any reasonable Canadian reading the pertinent sections of the Access to Information Act and the law of evidence act would see that the two responses given by the Department of Finance and the response given by the Department of Justice are nonsense.
As I said, we know that in 2005 the previous government recognized that projections of corporate tax profits before taxes were not covered by cabinet confidence. Such projections are not considered a cabinet confidence when, as is the case with Finance Canada's revenue model, these projections are used by the department in a manner not exclusively related to cabinet operations.
What has changed between 2005 and 2010-11? On what grounds is the government now claiming that these projections constitute a cabinet confidence when there was no such assertion in the past and governments in the past have in fact provided and disclosed that information?
The costs of the justice bills are also important because the Department of Justice, as well, replied to the finance committee by claiming cabinet confidence as a justification for not releasing that information to the finance committee.
We know that due diligence would have required that cabinet consider the cost implications of each justice bill before making a decision to proceed with each bill. We know that under normal practices, an analysis of the cost implications of each justice bill would have been included with the memorandum to cabinet prepared for each justice bill.
Why do we know this? We know it because the Liberal Party of Canada has formed government in the past. We know that when we came power the government that preceded us, the one formed by the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, had done that as well. So these are normal practices. These are practices of a prudent, diligent and competent government.
No diligent, prudent and competent government would consider an issue, whether amendments, or a justice bill bringing in new legislation to the Criminal Code or amending existing sections of the Criminal Code, because that constitutes government policy, would do so without informing itself of the cost of those changes.
That is what previous governments have done, because those previous governments, whatever their faults, have followed prudent, diligent and competent practices with regard to taking decisions on issues brought before cabinet.
As I said, we know that under normal practices, an analysis of the cost implications of each justice bill would have been included with the memorandum to cabinet prepared for each justice bill.
Now let us look at the legislation that deals with what is, or is not, cabinet confidence and whether or not something that falls into cabinet confidence can be accessible.
If one looks at section 69 of the Access to Information Act, it tells us that such analysis and background information is not, and I repeat, not, a cabinet confidence, if the cabinet decision to which the analysis relates has been made public.
A cost analysis of the implications of a justice bill should have been included, and I believe was included, in the memorandum to cabinet, as it is on each and every justice bill.