House of Commons Hansard #28 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

The Budget
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge my colleague's commitment to culture. Curiously, she is praising the budget for putting the money back into culture, even though at some point she said that we had to look deep into the budget to find it. When I was out in the lobby I was thinking we might have to put a finder's fee in there to find that great investment in culture.

The hon. member has spoken accurately in the sense that culture does create jobs; it does create economic activity that brings in tax dollars. How does she feel, knowing that for the last number of years the finance minister, now turned Prime Minister, made severe cuts to that program? Why should we be here cheering now that the Liberals have passed one of the cuts when there are still a whole lot more out there? Why should we be cheering this when we should be giving a good slap on the hand for having made the cuts in the first place?

The Budget
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member is mistaken. In 2002 the government on this side of the House was responsible for the largest reinvestment in the arts in the last 40 years: $550 million. It increased funding for the CBC, increasing acknowledgement of how important a role the CBC plays here.

If we talk about cuts that were made, let us not talk about cuts that were made 10 years ago. Those cuts were made in order to invest in the programs that we are investing in now because we dealt with the deficit. We started paying down the debt. All this talk about how we should take money that does not go into the debt and invest it in strategic infrastructure, we are doing all that.

However, by the very fact that we have been able to pay down a debt which, when I was first elected in 1997, cost us $42 billion in interest, I can only think of how many programs we could fund if we were to bring that into line. We must continue to pay down the debt so we can continue to invest in the programs that are important to my colleague across the way and to those on this side of the House.

The Budget
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I first want to thank the Prime Minister and the finance minister for the tremendous job they have done for the north in this budget. It puts the north on the map, which is very exciting. My counterparts from the other territories and the people in the north were excited when they talked to me about the budget. It is a landmark budget for the north. I will explain a number of provisions that provide to the north, which have made us so excited about this budget.

First, of course, is the $90 million for northern economic development. My colleagues have talked a lot about regional funding. We know regional development funds were sometimes not available for the north but were available for other parts of the country, but now we have the funds for the north. We are tremendously excited.

We are in the process of transiting the north for ideas on the best federal investments in economic development. I can tell members that the people I talked to across the north so far have been very excited about the potential of this investment.

Furthermore, the northern territories are funded through transfer payments and very complicated formulas. They are in the process of renewing them now. In that process will be a $150 million increase in transfer payments over five years, bringing the projected territorial transfer payments over the next five years to more than $10 billion.

As we know, for a couple of years there was an increase of $20 million in health because of the unique circumstances the north finds itself in health care and its unique needs. Now that has been permanently put into the next five years of this formula financing cycle. We are very excited about this increase in health care money for the north.

I now want to talk about northern gas and oil development. The Mackenzie Valley pipeline is on the verge of occurring. The Alaska Highway pipeline will be the biggest industrial project in history, with wonderful wealth creation, not only for the people in the territories but for all of Canada. This budget puts $75 million in to help the process for the federal government to do its role in making these projects possible. This money is needed for the agencies, the environmental boards and the federal departments.

Last week, the minister and I were in the Mackenzie Valley as they are getting ready for this potentially great economic development project in the north. The environmental boards that have to go through this complex procedure need capacity. The local small communities will be impacted. Their infrastructure, their social programs, their health care system and their employees will all be impacted by such large projects. They need the capacity to deal with this. The federal departments in the region, which do not have the capacity to analyze and be involved in coordinating such large projects, need to be upgraded.

The $75 million is needed so that the federal government will do its part to help industry and to help the local people in the north to take advantage of and develop the capacity to have the jobs in the north that this project, which everyone has been working so hard on, can create.

I was also delighted to see once again for the north the $3.5 billion toward the cleaning up of federal contaminated sites. Sixty per cent of that will go to the north. This is a wonderful initiative by the federal government. This is the largest amount of money that has ever been provided by any government in Canada for an environmental program. The money will not only ameliorate the environment, clean up the environmental problems that have been left over the years in hundreds and hundreds of sites, but it will also be a great economic development generated in itself.

As northerners develop the skills to do this through mediation, to clean up these sites on our own territory, we can then sell those skills around the northern world which will have a lasting effect on economic development, as well as, of course, the usage of the sites that are cleaned up.

Another exciting item for the north is the $51 million investment over 10 years for seabed mapping of the Arctic continental shelf. People have heard me speak a number of times in the House about the importance of northern sovereignty and of ensuring our sovereignty in this developing part of Canada, especially with global warming as the seas are opened up.

The mapping of the continental shelf, which is possible for us after we recently signed a convention on the law of the sea, will allow us to expand our boundaries beyond the normal 200 mile limit. Other Arctic nations have already done this mapping. Everyone can see that it is very expensive. This will allow us to extend our boundaries, our sovereignty and make sure that it is Canadian laws and Canadian environmental control over precious parts of the waterways around our Arctic islands. I think this is very exciting for all Canadians.

Another item that will have a great effect on the north is the rural infrastructure program where municipalities apply for projects. Past versions of this have been a tremendous success in the north. Virtually every municipality in the Yukon has had projects through this. As we know, this was announced before. In our jurisdiction the $15 million will be a great influx into our economy as cabinet and the government took heed of the fact that it is a lot more than we would normally get per capita because of the very difficult conditions in the north. We appreciate the government's understanding of the difficulties of developing infrastructure in the north.

What this budget did was accelerate the distribution of that money from 10 years down to 5 years, which means our municipalities and communities can spend twice as much each year of that money in developing projects. Once again this provides for more economic development and environmental protection as green infrastructure projects are done in communities.

I also wanted to talk about some of the other things that will be helpful for the north, although I will not be able to get through all of them. I guess I will have to do it during the next budget debate.

Northerners are happy with a number of things in the budget which will help them in a lot of ways, but will also help all Canadians. One in particular is the assistance to the voluntary sector and moral support for the voluntary sector. This is a very important part of our society and I think some people underestimate the importance of it to the smooth running operation and cooperation in health and safety that millions of Canadians put in.

We will receive $12 million over the next two years to continue with the government's initiative in that area. There are some very innovative ideas, such as looking at a bank for the voluntary sector, looking at non-profit organization legislation that would remove some of the red tape, and of course the change in the capital percentage so that a trust fund or endowment fund can be built. They will not have to spend as much each year on operations and it will make it easier for voluntary giving.

Also in my portfolio I am delighted about the amounts of money to help the great needs of the aboriginal people. I will not go into all of them as there would not be time. There is $125 million for the aboriginal human resource development and this is just one of a number of things in the throne speech and the budget is reinforcing and providing the funding to do what is in the throne speech.

There is also $495 million, as we saw in the main estimates, to help aboriginal people, which is about a 9% increase, and that will go toward land claims, water, program funding, education and to capital rust and northern air mail food, once again another program for the north where food is mailed to the very remote northern communities at lower cost.

I will finish by saying that the $7 billion for communities and the new deal for municipalities has been very well received. In my riding it is a substantial amount of funds for the municipalities that they can use on environmentally sensitive infrastructure and other things that municipalities need to help their local communities. It is an exciting budget for the north and I thank the Prime Minister and the finance minister for so much commitment to the north.

The Budget
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's speech. With regard to the $7 billion that the municipalities are looking forward to, I would like to comment on that. It is much less than what the Prime Minister promised the cities and municipalities with regard to the gas tax rebate. I know the money for the north is long overdue in many areas there.

How much confidence does the member have that this will actually happen, in light of the history of broken promises in the budgets of the previous Liberal government? The member could be in for a long wait and many winters before he sees many of these programs implemented there.

The Budget
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the history is that the GST rebate for municipalities started on February 1. The government has kept its promise already.

The Budget
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent to call it 5:30 p.m.?

The Budget
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from March 10 consideration of the motion.

Fisheries
Private Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on Motion No. 136 under private members' business.

Call in the members.

( The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Fisheries
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was not paying attention when the vote was taken. I would like to be recorded as voting in favour of the motion.

Fisheries
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I would like to have the attention of the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. That would require unanimous consent.

Does the House give its consent?

Fisheries
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Fisheries
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Fisheries
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

There is no consent.

Colleagues, let me just clarify the situation here. When the hon. member for Burlington stood up she was opposing the motion and therefore her vote was accepted as such. However, when the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine rose on a point of order, she wanted to vote for the motion but it was too late. She asked for unanimous consent, which she did not get. I declare the motion carried.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

March 24th, 2004 / 6:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Lakeland, AB

moved that Bill C-452, an act to amend the Criminal Code (proceedings under section 258), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker,it is an honour for me to rise today to speak on my private member's bill, Bill C-452. I look forward to discussing the contents of my bill in the House today and as it moves through the House in the future. I think this bill is a true example of a non-partisan bill and I believe that it will be supported. I am looking forward to that.

Today I would like to explain to the House why I have decided to put this particular bill forward. I intend to outline the contents of my bill, both in specific and general terms, and then provide members with some information which will help them in their decision to support this proposed legislation.

First, my intent with regard to Bill C-452 is simple. I want to keep drunk drivers off our roads. I want to help stop the death and destruction caused by impaired driving. And I want to make sure that when people do make the decision to drive while drunk, they no longer will be protected by the current loopholes in the Criminal Code. I want to briefly outline how Bill C-452 will prevent impaired drivers from getting off on technicalities.

This bill would give the courts the ability to use sample test results as proof of the accused's blood alcohol content at the time of the alleged offences. If the accused were to dispute those results, this bill would then place the evidential burden on the accused to establish factors that affect the reliability of those results based on the balance of probabilities. Bill C-452 will increase the time allowed for the taking of breath or blood samples from an accused to three hours from the current two, and I will explain why that is necessary.

The legislation states that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of more than .08. We all know that. That is currently in the Criminal Code. In order to ensure that this law is enforced effectively, Parliament enacted two statutory presumptions. The first, the presumption of accuracy, is that the breath or blood tests accurately reflect the driver's BAC at the time of testing, that is, the blood alcohol concentration. The second, the presumption of identity, is that the driver's blood alcohol level at the time of testing is evidence of his or her BAC at the time of driving, provided the samples were taken within two hours of the alleged offence.

While Parliament extended the time limit for police to demand breath samples from suspects to three hours in 1999, we failed to make a corresponding change to the presumption of identity. This means that the Crown has to call a toxicological expert to testify in each case that samples are taken more than two hours after the alleged offence. This is time consuming and expensive, and often, sadly, prosecutors will simply choose to drop the charges rather than spend the time and money that would be required to make this case in court.

The timeframe for the presumption of identity, as it is called, should be extended to three hours. My bill would do that.

Once again, I want to be clear about the intention of my bill. The issue of drunk driving and the pain and destruction it causes has been a concern for me for some time. I want to make Canada's roads safer for all of us, for our families and for our loved ones. Last year, and this is what really prompted me to bring this bill forth, I met with representatives from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD Canada. They reminded me that drunk driving is still the number one criminal cause of death in Canada. I want to emphasize that fact. Drunk driving is still the number one criminal cause of death in Canada.

On average, we lose four Canadians every day and another 200 are injured due to drunk driving. Those numbers represent hundreds of families who are left to deal with the grief and trauma of having their loved ones killed or hurt by drunk drivers. As legislators, we owe it to those Canadians to help reduce this devastation if at all possible, and MADD Canada told me that it is possible. It has outlined several areas where our laws are lacking.

When I met with its national president, Louise Knox, she told me that one major problem stemmed from the fact that the courts have interpreted the Criminal Code in such a manner that breath or blood tests are often thrown out, based solely on the accused's own testimony, which contradicts the science-based test results. Without the test results being accepted as accurate, the charges are usually dropped and the accused is acquitted. What kind of a system is this when the accused's testimony overrides the scientifically based test procedures? It is simply crazy.

I want to tell the House about the two main defences being used by those accused of drunk driving to avoid being punished. They are defences that are successfully used in many cases. These loopholes are the exact ones that my private member's bill, if passed, will close.

The first is called the “Carter” defence, whereby the accused testifies that he or she had only a small amount to drink prior to the offence. The defence calls a toxicologist to confirm that the accused's blood content would definitely have been below the .08 level if such a small amount were consumed.

If the court accepts the accused's evidence, the test results are completely disregarded even if they were administered properly, even if they were consistent with the reading on the roadside screening device, and even if they are supported by the officer's evidence that the accused showed signs of intoxication. It is incredible.

I want to put this defence into perspective so that what I am saying is crystal clear. Let us say that someone gets picked up due to erratic driving or after they have had an accident. The police suspect impaired driving and do an initial roadside test. It tests positive for BAC above the legal limit. The individual is then taken down to the local police station for the next test. The result is again positive. The police have done their job, right?

Now the individual arrives in court. The accused's defence is that he or she drank so little that the test simply must have been wrong. It is only the word of the accused that he or she drank so little that the tests have to be wrong. The way the Criminal Code is currently written, it allows judges to throw out the test results, which are scientifically based and which have proven to be very accurate in hundreds and hundreds of tests. If a person gets the right lawyer and the right judge, he or she is let off the hook for a very serious crime that has often led to death. More accurately for the public, if they get the wrong lawyer and the wrong judge, they are often let off the hook due to technicalities alone.

My bill would close that loophole. Those accused of impaired driving would have to prove on the balance of probabilities that the tests were wrong.

The second defence that is commonly used is the “last drink” defence. In this case, those who are accused testify that they consumed a large amount of alcohol immediately before driving but they say the alcohol could not possibly have been absorbed into the bloodstream when they were stopped by the police.

These accused argue that their blood alcohol content was below the legal limit when they were driving and only rose above the limit in that interval between the time they were caught driving and when the testing was done. Again, the breath results are rejected and the accused are acquitted, strictly on their word that they had taken a large amount to drink just before driving so therefore their alcohol content simply could not have been high enough at the time of driving.

These technicalities are simply not acceptable. They are not an acceptable way for people to get off the hook when they are in fact guilty of drunk driving. What I propose to do is help prevent some of the four deaths that occur every day and the 200 injuries that occur every day from people getting off the hook due to technicalities. If it did happen that someone drank too much booze and then drove but was not technically over the limit when driving, is it unreasonable to change the law to send a clear message, “Too bad, simply do not drink that amount and drive”?

People simply should not drink an amount which could bring their alcohol content level above that which would make them impaired when they drove. Or better yet, people simply should not drink and drive.

What has been the result of these two loopholes being allowed to remain? Despite an estimated 12.5 million impaired driving trips every year in Canada, the majority of offenders are not even stopped by police. We can understand why. The police cannot be everywhere; we understand that. However, even when people are stopped, officers often do not press charges. Police do not believe that their work and effort will result in convictions because the laws are simply not strong enough and most important, because those loopholes are there.

In other countries these things simply are not allowed to happen. For example, the impaired driving legislation in the United Kingdom takes into account in all cases the assumption that the accused's blood alcohol content at the time of driving was not less than that indicated in the blood test. The only exception arises when the accused proves that he or she consumed alcohol after driving, but before providing the breath and blood sample proves that, and also proves that as a result of this consumption his or her blood alcohol content would not have exceeded the limit at the time of driving. In the United Kingdom they have to prove those two things.

Obviously this places a much heavier onus on the accused who wishes to challenge the blood alcohol content results from scientifically based testing.

It is similar in the United States. The onus is placed on the offender to prove his evidence. I believe that Canada is the only western democratic country which allows these types of technicalities to interfere with convictions in this type of a situation. It is no longer acceptable and my bill would change that.

When I tabled the bill in the last session before Parliament prorogued, the then parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice said that he would like to do everything possible to deal with those who would drive impaired upon our roads. He criticized portions of my bill, specifically the provision allowing a court to consider evidence of the accused's driving and demeanour. The parliamentary secretary pointed out that such evidence is irrelevant to an over 80 charge. He is correct.

However, he did not understand the thrust of my proposed amendment. While not relevant to the proof of the offence itself, these factors are very relevant to the accused's contention that there is evidence to the contrary casting doubt on the BAC reading. He missed the point entirely. I do not think he was really listening to what I said.

For example, it would clearly enhance the accused's claim that the BAC results are in error if, with even a moderately high BAC, he or she did not show any of the usual indicators of alcohol consumption, odour, slurred speech or any sign of impaired driving.

Since only credible evidence is capable of constituting evidence to the contrary, the court should consider all available evidence in assessing whether the accused's claim is credible.

The parliamentary secretary went on to speculate that there may be some resulting challenges under the charter should the bill pass, a common argument that we hear from the other side. This legislation was drafted by lawyers, refined by lawyers, reviewed by a former attorney general, and analyzed yet again by lawyers after I presented it in the House last year. They have not raised this concern about a charter challenge, so it is bogus.

I encourage all members of the House to examine this bill carefully. I encourage them to support not only my bill, but to support Mothers Against Drunk Driving in their cause to cut down on the four deaths and 200 injuries that occur every single day across this country. They can do that by supporting this bill and eliminating those two loopholes which allow people who are guilty of drunk driving to avoid being successfully charged.