House of Commons Hansard #150 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on issues of justice. I do not think anything strikes a more resonant chord with Canadians than a justice system that works, that protects those who need protection and that correctly identifies and punishes those who need to have punishment.

I suppose a lot of people do not realize the different parts of this bill but I am going to talk about one that, as far as I know, no one has mentioned yet in the House. It was drawn to my attention by a letter I received yesterday. Because I am not a justice critic I was not aware of this. I am much more interested in the justice of financial things these days since I am one of the finance critics for our party.

However, the topic I want to discuss is the transfer of money. As an aside, it is perhaps illustrative to know that included in this bill are provisions that it is not legal to copy Canadian money unless the size of the reproduction is either 50% larger than the original or at least 50% smaller or thereabouts.

Being in the finance portfolio now, Canadians would probably best represent Canada's dollar by reducing it rather than expanding it because of its value on the international market.

It is against the law to reproduce Canadian money or to make facsimiles thereof or to transmit it by computer or whatever.

I want to talk about another area proposed here, gambling. There are some amendments proposed that are hidden in with all the other amendments, many of which are very important and which my colleagues have already addressed in this reading, the previous reading of the bill and in committee.

I draw attention to the fact that we are, by the amendments that are being put into this bill, big time drawn in to the wave of public ideas of gambling being an acceptable way of transferring money from one person to another.

Of course we have this argument that surely people should have the choice. If I choose to put a dollar on the table and let someone else take it, I should have that choice. Indeed, I support that view. If I see someone on the street who has not eaten yet today, I want to have the choice to say to that person “You come with me to the restaurant and we will eat together”. I should have the freedom to spend my hard earned money in whatever way I wish.

The fact of the matter is that as a society we are buying, in much too large a way, into the whole idea of lotteries. This bill, among other things, expands legal gambling to include games of dice, which have not been included before. We need to be aware of this as members of the House, and we need to be aware of this as members of Canadian society.

I simply contend that having our population spend hours huddled over gambling tables is a tremendous waste of human energy, effort and time. We should start putting regulations into place to make that more difficult, not easier.

The bill says that lotteries will no longer be illegal if they are conducted on international cruise ships within our boundaries. That is incredible.

I will give a little history. Probably about 30 years ago I met a friend. He was not the kind of friend that I hang around with on Wednesday nights, but he was friend. He met me in the hall of a building and he looked both ways. He looked to the left, he looked to the right and then he reached into his pocket and said “Do you want to buy a lottery ticket?” What he had was an Irish sweepstake ticket, which at that time was illegal. Had he sold it to me and had I purchased it, then we could have both been sent to jail. I am sure it is incredible for you to contemplate, Mr. Speaker, that I should have even considered doing something that would have sent me to jail. As a matter of fact, I did not consider it. I said “No, thank you. I am not interested”.

We could talk about the mathematical aspect of gambling. When I was teaching math or statistics I used as an example one of Canada's favourite lottery games, Lotto 649. I had the students compute the probabilities. If a person spends $5 on every draw of Lotto 649, 104 times a year, twice a week, their mathematical expectation of winning the big prize would be once in about 26,000 years.

Statistics show that it is often poor people who engage in gambling because it is their only hope. They are in despair because of all of the taxes the Minister of Finance loads on them or the tremendous burden of being unemployed, particularly young people who are unemployed. A lot of people buy a lottery ticket, as one person said to me, because it is their one little glimmer of hope. Their dollar is gone, but maybe it will give them the big break. They might wait for 26,000 years, on average, if they spend $5 each time.

I guess I would simply say that if that is not dishonest I do not really know how to describe it. All of these schemes indicate that there is a reasonable expectation of winning. Otherwise people would not put their money down.

Of course, what we are talking about in this bill is gambling and lotteries on cruise ships. There probably will not be too many poor people on them.

I guess the reason I am bringing this up is because it is part of the justice system. There are an awful lot of people who are living in despair who consider gambling as their chance, their hope, but what it does is clean them out entirely. No matter what the gambling scheme is, it is designed to return less money than is put in. It is just indefensible in our society.

There is an amendment in Bill C-51 which says that if a person is on a cruise ship they can participate in a lottery scheme. Then there are these absurd conditions. First of all, all of the people participating in this lottery must be on the ship. In other words, they cannot participate in the lottery by phone from shore, by cellphone or whatever. They must be on the ship. The scheme cannot be linked in any way to a scheme that is not on the ship. As well, the ship must be at least five nautical miles from a port.

We have been cutting RCMP in the west. We do not have money for it. Now what are we going to do? People are going to be hired, presumably by the federal government, to ensure, I suppose with a GPS, that these guys do not come within five nautical miles of a port.

Furthermore, they cannot board this ship at a Canadian port and go back to a Canadian port without having stopped, at least once, at a non-Canadian port. If they do not meet that condition, then they cannot have this lottery on board. They have to leave the country for a while. I suppose that here again we are talking about the Minister of Finance who thinks it is great to take some money out of the country and not keep it all in Canada.

This law says that a cruise ship which both leaves a Canadian port and comes back to a Canadian port cannot have a lottery unless it also goes to a foreign port. That is the height of absurdity in my humble and unbiased opinion.

The ship must be registered in Canada and its entire voyage is to be scheduled outside Canada. I shake my head and wonder how the Dickens we are going to enforce this.

I suppose we will have to buy a cruise ticket on every one of these ships for one of our trusty RCMP people. I am sure the solicitor general will be eager to do this with his resources. He will say that from now on all of those RCMP who should be fighting crime, robberies, rapes, murders, drug smuggling and all of these things will be put on a cruise ship so they can monitor this to make sure the law is being enforced.

I shake my head in wonderment at the government sometimes. This bill is designed to improve the justice system in Canada and it has utter absurdities in it which are fundamentally wrong in terms of what we are trying to do for people. Why should we be encouraging and permitting lotteries? It is wrong. This proposal is utterly and totally unenforceable, unless a whole bunch of money is put into it.

There is no doubt in my mind that if we were to ask 100 Canadians, 100 of them would say that is not where they want their money to be spent. The system is supposed to be designed to protect them in terms of their justice system.

I could speak on other things, but this was the one item that I wanted to get on the record and I appreciate the opportunity.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

November 5th, 1998 / 11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Shaughnessy Cohen Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wonder whether the hon. member has had an opportunity to speak with some of the members of his caucus from British Columbia, whether he has read the bill or whether he has taken any advice on it. The issue with respect to cruise ships is simply that cruise ships which are operating outside the country and which have gambling on board are simply asking for some assistance in order to carry on with that business.

The interesting thing about this is that it is the ports in the provinces of British Columbia and Quebec and the ports on the east coast that want this to happen. They want those ships to continue to stop at their ports, rather than staying in international waters, avoiding them. Effectively, he is attacking communities along the coast of British Columbia. I find that intriguing for a member of the Reform Party.

Does the member, with his great wish to prevent people, who have a free will, from gambling, ever think about communities elsewhere? Does he ever think, for instance, about the city of Windsor? What is his problem with the city of Windsor introducing dice to their casino? That will create between 400 and 600 good, new, unionized jobs. They will be organized by the Canadian Auto Workers. The average income will be around $50,000 a year. Those jobs will feed families. They will keep our community going. Our community wants that.

What is his problem? Is the Reform Party writing Windsor off too?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have indeed read the bill. I have a copy of it in my hand. I scanned it this morning. I admitted at the beginning of my speech that I am not a justice critic. I admitted at the beginning of my speech that I am not an expert in these areas.

I am merely here to communicate what a constituent has asked me to communicate, that is, why are we wasting our time on this when we should be addressing the real issues of justice? Why are we trying to promote and legalize more lottery spending, setting up a situation which will have the added costs of enforcement?

The hon. member mentioned the jobs that will be created. I am not sure that a lottery job improves our standard of living one iota. What does it produce in tangible terms?

The member should look at real economic value. Nothing is produced by exchanging money from one person to another without the transfer of a good or service. There is no value attached to that.

The only weak argument they could make is that it brings money in from the Americans. That is what I am sure is happening. If they want to give Americans something tangible for spending their money in Canada, I would say that would be 100,000 times more valuable than saying “Come over here and simply throw your money on the table. We will keep 85% of it”. That is immoral. I really do not think the government should promote that kind of lifestyle and justify it by saying “It is good for our economy”.

If the member wants to defend lotteries, gambling and putting people at risk that way, she is welcome to do so. I also agree with freedom of choice. If people choose to do this, fine. But I do not think it should be promoted and sponsored by government.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, without going into too much detail, I heard the member say that we should not be introducing laws which would require using our resources for their enforcement. Is he suggesting that we should cancel all the laws that we have in place now governing, for example, hunting or driving licences? All of that requires enforcement.

I would suggest that we should not be trivializing the matter to the point where if something needs enforcement then we should not do it. Rather we should say there is a need in the community to take action on behalf of the community. We should do what is right rather than what may or may not require more resources. What are my colleague thoughts in this regard?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, the government is the epitome of wanting to regulate everything. When I was a kid, and that was a long time ago, we did not need drivers' licences. I was very young at that time. It was around the time when the automobile was invented; that is an exaggeration. It used to be that we did not need drivers' licences. We did not need to license our vehicles.

However the government found out that was a way of getting revenue. Now we have to buy drivers' licences and automobile licences every year. We have come to accept that. It is part of the money that is required to provide roads and to provide safety on the roads. The enforcement of those rules and regulations is useful and helps us in terms of our personal safety.

What good is it to have rules that say they must be within five nautical miles of the port. I bet most people do not even know what a nautical mile is. Otherwise, if they comes to within 4.8 nautical miles they must shut down their lottery schemes. It is absurd.

I am just talking about the absurdity of it and the fact that we will be wasting enforcement resources on it when there are people literally getting away with murder because we do not have the RCMP and the physical forces to to find those people and bring them to justice. Those are the real issues of justice that we should be concentrating on.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Reform

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, not too long ago in the House we debated a bill which would restrict tobacco advertising. The purpose of the bill was to discourage people from becoming involved in that habit.

Would my hon. colleague from Elk Island agree that there is a lot of false advertising in terms of gambling? We only see pictures of someone winning a million dollars. We only see what can be purchased, such as a dream home and so on. The fact is that we do not see in the advertisements the results in the community of massive gambling. They do not show poverty. They do not show marriage break-ups. They do not show what happens once a person becomes addicted.

Are we not illegally advertising the gambling industry by only showing the small percentage of people who win and not showing the despair that it brings to a community?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is my point exactly. We are holding out a hope to many people who are desperate because of high taxation and the real difficulty of getting jobs. Statistics show that a large proportion of people who engage in gambling activities—not the ones on cruise ships who are clearly in a different financial class—are the average people across the country who buy lottery tickets and play video lottery terminals. We are telling those people that if they put in some money they will get more back. That is the expectation and and it is false. It is an outright lie.

We should be telling those people that there is an extremely high probability of losing every quarter they put into the machine and a very low probability of getting even their investment back. It is just not there. Yes, it is false advertising.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.