House of Commons Hansard #138 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was vehicle.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed my hon. colleague's comments. The member for Fundy Royal stated the issue very well.

I would appreciate hearing the member's comments on the Criminal Code section dealing with impaired driving, which does impose mandatory suspensions and, at certain points, mandatory prison terms or jail sentences.

I would also appreciate hearing his thoughts with respect to this bill in that in the impaired driving section there are increases in the sentences with subsequent offences. Obviously there is a sense of deterrence because of that. Then we have this bill, where, from the government's perspective, we do not wish to impose additional sentences.

Would the member give us his thoughts on the impaired driving section as opposed to this bill?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy, NB

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague's question is a good question. In the current Criminal Code under the impaired driving provisions that the hon. member has mentioned, there is provision for an increased sentence for serious repeat offenders.

By way of example, let me note that there are situations where someone commits an offence and perhaps learns from their mistake. They do not reoffend. In effect, they have learned their lesson.

But then we hear the horror stories. We are dealing with one now, about repeat sex offenders. Yesterday there was a discussion in this chamber on this very issue. For whatever reason, when people have shown themselves to be an absolute menace to society, to be a danger, or when people have multiple serious offences when it comes to street racing, for example, the party opposite does not want to take it up to the next level and impose a serious consequence.

I think Canadians are left wondering why. In the topic we are dealing with today of street racing, why? When it comes to protection of children, why? When it comes to offences involving property, why?

Why do we not take a more serious approach when people have risen to the top of the class, so to speak, when it comes to criminality and are easily identified as what we would call serious repeat offenders? These people have shown recidivism in their nature. They have shown that they cannot be trusted to honour and respect the safety of their fellow citizens. Yet we will not take a correspondingly serious response. A Criminal Code has to do that. That is an expectation.

The member's point is well taken. If people are showing themselves to be serious repeat offenders, then there should be a correspondingly serious response by our criminal justice system.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his very insightful presentation today.

Earlier we heard about so many things that have gone on this year in terms of justice issues in the House of Commons. I said that yesterday the Deputy Prime Minister, who is also the minister of public safety, was actually smiling as we were talking about very critical issues in the justice field. It really is very chilling to see that.

Would the member please comment on the lack of credibility that we have seen from members opposite over this past decade due to the fact that crime has risen? I know that in Manitoba we are the homicide capital of Canada. This is a fact I am not very happy about.

Also, we have had child pornography issues. This has emerged especially over the Internet. Would the member please comment on the lack of credibility and follow-through on these justice issues?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy, NB

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my hon. colleague. The Liberals have a tendency, which we have seen repeated over and over, to respond to public outrage. The public is rightly outraged about carnage on the streets, about property offences and about people who offend against children and most Canadians, from coast to coast, regardless of their province, town or city, when it comes to the protection of children they want that to be a priority.

There is an absolute reluctance on the part of the government to take steps that actually would be effective. However, because it is just politically smart to do so, there is the need to appear to be doing something. I use, for example, the sex offender registry where, in order to appear to do something, the government introduced a registry but when we scratch beneath the surface we realize that it was a blank registry, a blank sheet of paper with no names, so it was absolutely ineffective. The same for our child protection legislation. It has a nice name. We all agree that children should be protected but what is behind the curtain is an empty shell. It does not protect children.

What we need is a government that looks at the needs of Canadians and addresses them, not in a half-measure but goes all the way by adding some teeth to our criminal justice system so that Canadians will be protected.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take the floor on Bill C-65 to amend the Criminal Code regarding street racing.

I would like to offer a summary, for this is important for the young men and women who are listening to us. Young people often let themselves be tempted by speed. This is too often the case. Young people always tend to say that the politicians prevent them from doing what they want; in this particular case, what we want is to prevent them from engaging in excessive speeding.

Often the only way to curb excesses in the population is to impose laws and standards. It will of course be clear that street racing is a scourge. Some will say that if those who engage in racing do themselves harm, it is their own fault. However, while street racing endangers those who are driving, it also endangers the lives of the other citizens on the road who are the victims of accidents because of this racing.

Bill C-65 amends the Criminal Code by defining street racing and by specifically identifying involvement in street racing as an aggravating factor during sentencing for offences of criminal negligence and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle. The bill also provides for a mandatory driving prohibition order for a minimum of one year for persons convicted of such offences committed while street racing.

The bill defines street racing as “operating a motor vehicle in a race with another motor vehicle on a street, road, highway or other public place.”

The message we want to send to our young men and women is that there are places to engage in racing. That is what race tracks are for. So we do not want to discourage them or deny them the full enjoyment of their vehicles. Many young people put time and money into fine vehicles which are often very powerful. This is very much the fashion, and we do not want to discourage them from it.

What we are saying to them is that, when they do this, there are places for running their automobile trials. It is quite obvious that, for a young person who has spent a lot of money, it is always important to determine in the field whether the goods have been delivered. The message that we want to send our young people is that the only way to do this is on the race track and in those places where this type of racing is permitted.

All other uses of vehicles and all other speed trial activities are now considered indictable offences. I will repeat the definition that is defended by the Bloc Québécois and that we want to see in the Criminal Code. Street racing means “operating a motor vehicle in a race with another motor vehicle on a street, road, highway or other public place”.

The bill provides that in imposing a sentence for the offences cited in sections 220, criminal negligence causing death, 221, criminal negligence causing bodily harm, and 249, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, the court must consider as an aggravating circumstance the fact that the offender was street racing at the time of committing the offence.

This means that when a person is accused of an accident causing death or bodily harm or of dangerous driving, the fact that he or she was involved in street racing is an aggravating circumstance. The sentence will therefore be stiffer.

Our purpose as legislators, as I was saying, as members of the Bloc Québécois and as men and women who work hard to defend the interests of both Quebeckers and Canadians, is not to pass legislation for the fun of it. We are dealing with situations that result in the loss of human life or major accidents that leave very serious injuries. People are left permanently scarred by accidents caused by individuals who were street racing. They are men and women, and not just young people. I must say in their defence that it is not just young people who take part in street racing.

We did it in our day, but we tried to do it in places where it was allowed. The people of my generation were familiar with muscle cars, as they were called. There were places in Quebec for people who liked that, such as the Sanair track. I liked it myself back in those days. But it was always done in places where it was allowed. That is where we went.

So there are locations like this. There are speedways. There are all kinds of activities for people who want to try out their cars. That is allowed in these places. We are not trying to discourage that. Quite the opposite, what we want to discourage are the people who engage in street racing. We want to get them to do it in locations where it is allowed. That is why we support this legislation and will vote in favour of Bill C-65.

We need to understand that it is getting more and more common to have powerful engines. We fight here in this House—we the members of the Bloc Québécois—to ensure that gasoline taxes and prices are fair. We never want to see oil companies taking advantage of their virtual monopoly position—as they did in September—to make astronomical refining profits and try to pocket them.

When gas prices are low, there is another problem. Then we see use of the more powerful vehicles, the gas guzzlers. Some environmentalists will tell us that the answer is to increase the gasoline tax as well as the price of gasoline. And indeed, that would discourage people from owning the more high-performance gas guzzlers. But we do not think that this is the answer, although it is part of the answer.

One thing is certain, however. The industry has to be disciplined. That is why the Bloc Québécois has asked for changes in this House so that a gas price monitoring agency can be created, to ensure that the oil companies never again employ their quasi-monopoly to make indecent profits. We may be faced with some situations on account of the hurricane that is now forming in the Atlantic. Every time there is a threat, we see the prices go up at the pump.

All that we want is to ensure that, when the price of crude goes up, the increase in the gas price is strictly limited to the increase in the costs of acquiring petroleum or purchasing crude, and is not used for three or four days to take advantage of this virtually international situation.

When we are faced with a hurricane, the whole planet is affected. The hurricane is the universal focus of attention. The oil companies must not use this situation to raise their refining prices, to make profit for four or five days on the petroleum they already have in their tanks and suddenly hike the prices so they can fill their pockets, as they have too often done in recent months.

So we want to ensure that the prices paid by the users, the citizens, are always fair. That is what the Bloc Québécois is working on.

On the other hand, with this situation of a reasonable gasoline price we will often see the use of more powerful, more high-performance vehicles. That is what our young people are doing. That, in a way, is the message we are sending. We do not want to discourage those of our young people who invest time and money. They work hard. We know that often they go to school and have a job at the same time, for they are obliged to do both in order to finance their education. They treat themselves to a little luxury. They try to have a car and to invest something in it.

It is phenomenal. If one has the opportunity to go to various shows, it is clear how much money is spent on cars. One aspect this money is spent on is the power of the engine. This leads to the phenomenon of street racing. An individual gets a powerful car and wants to try it out, so competitions are arranged.

The real message from the men and women representing the Bloc Québécois in this House is to tell our young people that there are places for this. We are not trying to discourage you. You have nice cars that are beautiful, high-performance toys. Nonetheless, when you want to use them to go fast, there are places such as speedways and competition race tracks throughout Quebec that are available. Look into it. You could engage in your activities quite safely at these locations. Through this bill, we hope you will no longer race on the streets.

I will close by repeating, once again, the definition of street racing.

The bill provides that street racing means operating a motor vehicle in a race with another motor vehicle on a street, road, highway or other public place.

Please, ladies and gentlemen listening, do not race in public places, or on streets or roads any more. It is for your own safety and the safety of all Quebeckers, who can end up in an accident that is not their fault because you were not paying attention. That is why we support this bill in this House.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Northumberland—Quinte West
Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his support and his party's support for the bill. Clearly, this is a problem that has been of great concern to many, especially in urban centres where street racing has become extraordinarily prevalent.

With respect to the criticism that has been levied in comparing these two bills, that is the bill brought forward by Mr. Cadman and the bill the government brought forward, if we examine the first offence category, in a majority of cases they are first offenders who are being dealt with under legislation in situations where street racing has been involved and a death has occurred.

If we look back and reflect on the previous bill that was brought before the House as a private member's bill, the mandatory minimum prohibition for driving was one year, with a maximum of three years. In this bill there is a mandatory minimum driving prohibition of one year with a lifetime ban as the maximum penalty.

Does the hon. member think it has been fair to make the comment that this bill is a watered down version of Mr. Cadman's bill?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not think that the bill waters anything down. In regard to minimum sentences, the Bloc Québécois feels that it should be left up to the courts to determine the sentences. Since involvement in street racing is an aggravating circumstance, we are absolutely certain that the courts will react by increasing the sentences.

The bill states that this will be an aggravating circumstance, in particular under sections 220, 221 and 249 of the Criminal Code. This means implicitly that the courts will react by increasing the sentences. Do we absolutely have to have a minimum sentence to start with? There are parties in this House, of course, that advocate this way of doing things. For our part, we are in favour of leaving it up to the courts to determine the sentences. We are convinced that the judges in our courts will make the right decisions.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague from the Bloc and found his speech interesting. However, could he tell the House what his views are with respect to the impaired driving section of the Criminal Code, which imposes minimum sentences and increases the penalty in subsequent offences? Does he think that is not a deterrent? What we are looking at in the Criminal Code is a deterrent for serious offences. Why does he think there should be a difference in this, which is the most serious of the driving offences, aside from the impaired driving section?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is true that under subsection 249(3) of the Criminal Code, being found guilty of dangerous driving results in a mandatory driving prohibition ranging from a minimum of one year to a maximum of ten years and one is liable to a sentence of ten years in prison.

In view of the fact that involvement in racing is an aggravating circumstance, we are absolutely sure that there is no need to start off with a minimum sentence. This is an aggravating circumstance, and so the sentences handed down by the courts, especially through the case law, will automatically not go off in the opposite direction. When it has been decided that this is an aggravating circumstance, we are convinced that the effect will not be to reduce the sentence.

We fail to see why we should start by establishing a minimum sentence. Since this offence is an aggravating circumstance, the courts will react automatically under the circumstances by imposing stiffer sentences on people who commit this offence. We just need to give judges a chance. In the setting of sentences, as we know, there is always the question of recidivism. Is this the first offence? We do not want to automatically turn our youth into hardened criminals. We want them to be able to take advantage of all the circumstances available to people who commit crimes. We want to leave it up to the courts to determine the sentence.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was interested in the questions by the member for Northumberland. I am not questioning his sincerity, but what he has tried to do is deflect the issue and in effect confuse and diffuse the issue. He has missed the main point about which we are concerned.

I think that everybody understands that Bill C-65 is the act to amend the Criminal Code to include street racing and also to make an amendment to another act. What the proposed bill will do is amend the Criminal Code by defining street racing and by specifically identifying the involvement in street racing as an aggravating factor during sentencing for a number of offences. Those offences would include: dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm; dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death; criminal negligence causing bodily harm; and criminal negligence causing death. It also provides for a mandatory driving prohibition order if street racing is found to be involved in one of these other factors.

We want to see this type of prohibition, but the Liberals are stopping short of what they are trying to convince the public is being done. We need to look at the history. This bill is something that was championed by a number of people in the House, but chiefly by the recently deceased member, Chuck Cadman. He had been attempting to legislate changes to the street racing provisions since December 2002. Previous versions of the bill also included Bill C-338 and Bill C-230, for those who want to explore and do some research into the background on this.

What is important is the government for years refused to accept the premise of what Mr. Cadman and others were asking for, and that was that there should be some minimum mandatory sentencing if street racing were an aggravating factor. There is no question that the whole issue of street racing seems to be a growing problem. It involves absolute disregard for the life, safety and security of other people. Our citizens across the country are asking that something be done about this.

As much as I appreciate the half step being taken, once again it is only under extreme public reaction and sustained anger over a long period of time that the federal Liberals seem to get it and want to respond. That is a constant frustration in the House, with so much legislation that is common sense, that is needed by people and that is protective of them. Unless the Liberals see in the polls that it will affect some votes, they are very reluctant to move on principle. It is always on politics and that has been a frustrating part of the progress of this. Chuck Cadman was frustrated by this lack of progress for a long time.

We understand that there may have been some background discussion, that the Liberal ministers or others in their camp may have had discussions with Mr. Cadman prior to his decease and gave him some kind of reassurance that what he had asked for,over a number of years would be granted. That may have helped Mr. Cadman in some of the decisions he was making at the time or it may not, I do not know. The Liberals only moved on this as they saw extreme anger and public reaction over a sustained period of time and the possibility of winning support for this and other votes. That is what has been frustrating.

They are pretending that this bill is everything Mr. Cadman, and others who wanted to see this progress, wanted. In fact, it is not. It falls short. It does include street racing as an aggravating factor for sentencing, but it totally ignores the very serious area of repeat offenders. The aspect of repeat offenders was an essential part of what Mr. Cadman wanted to see happen

Why are the Liberals so reluctant to get tough on crime or to get serious about serious crime? Why are they so reluctant to deal with minimum mandatory sentencing? Sometimes when we use that phrase, it can sound like we are saying a certain very serious and grievous crime deserves a minimum sentence. We do not mean to minimize it. We are saying that in many cases the judiciary has too much discretion when it comes to sentencing and too often the judges will not apply any kind of sentence to a grievous and serious crime. Therefore, it does not serve as a deterrent.

The problem, philosophically, is liberals have a great struggle in terms of their view of human nature to accept that there are times when a very serious crime deserves very serious time. Liberals tend to diminish personal responsibility when it comes to crime. They tend to say that since we are all basically born good, the only reason anybody does any bad things is because they are influenced by society, or by their mothers or fathers or by some other extraneous force. When liberal philosophy does not in general accept that there can be personal responsibility, especially when it comes to serious crime, then they are greatly reluctant to assign any imprisonment or so-called punishment to that. They say that it was not that person's fault, that they were influenced by society, or by their parents or by the car manufacturer, the car was too fancy or too fast.

We are talking about minimum mandatory sentencing for this type of serious crime or others. We constantly raise the issue of serious repeat offenders in the House. We know repeat offenders perpetrate most of the crime. We have to deal with them. Repeat offenders have to be deterred by knowing there will be a serious mandatory sentence, one that a judge cannot get around. If it does not work as a deterrent and they go ahead and repeat the crime, then at the very least they are off the streets for awhile and society is protected.

That is a clear philosophical difference between liberal thinking and conservative thinking. People have to take responsibility for their actions and that actions bring consequences. Sometimes those consequences are not pleasant, but the consequences of seeing innocent people maimed, injured or killed by irresponsible street racers are serious and must be met with serious offences and imprisonment for repeat offenders. The philosophical problem we deal with all is this liberal thinking.

We ask people to recognize that this bill is like so many areas where Liberals philosophically in their heart of hearts disagree with it, they do not like it and it makes them feel all queasy. When they see the population wants the particular law because it makes sense, they have this internal battle between feeling all queasy about demanding responsibility and consequences and the possibility of losing votes. They think about how they can capture some votes and at the same how they can ease off the queasy feeling inside them. Because they like to feel squishy rather than queasy, they take a half step, thinking that will ease the pressure. They will do it today. They will stand and say that they have the mandatory provision in the bill. They will say “There, all you vengeful people, we will put that person in jail for awhile”. It has nothing to do with revenge. It has to do with common sense, consequences and people taking responsibility for their actions.

We are asking the Liberals to take responsibility for their actions. They made a commitment to follow through on a commitment that was made to Chuck Cadman. As Mr. Cadman was representing a majority of citizens on this issue, it is a commitment to the citizens. The Liberals said that they would do something, but they have not done it. We are asking them to put in the mandatory provisions for serious repeat offenders. Do the right thing is all we are asking.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member will have five minutes for questions and comments when the debate on this matter resumes at the conclusion of his speech, but his time has now expired. We will now proceed to statements by members.

Canadian Library Week
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize Canadian Library Week/Semaine nationale des bibliotheques which runs from October 17 to October 24, 2005.

Canadian Library Week highlights the many roles a library plays in our communities. Libraries offer services that promote literacy, access to information, innovation and productivity among our community members.

This year's theme is “Lifelong Libraries -- Discover Us”. It focuses on the lifelong contribution that libraries make to the everyday lives of community members. Libraries provide a broad range of information, regardless of one's age, religion, social status, race, gender or language. They also maintain the history and culture of our communities and our nation.

Libraries will be holding events across the country to raise awareness of the services they offer to the public. I stand today to encourage all my colleagues and all Canadians to discover their local library.

Good News Report
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I bring a good news report.

I could tell members that Sherwood Park placed first in its category in the annual national Communities in Bloom competition. Congratulations are due to the citizens and the organizers.

I could tell members about the exciting upcoming visit of Canada's National Arts Centre Orchestra to Saskatchewan and Alberta. Both provinces are being honoured by this tour as part of their centennial celebrations. There are eight major concerts with many more events for students in all our schools in communities large and small. How exciting.

I could tell members about the wonderful new exhibit, “Acres of Dreams”, at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in honour of the pioneers of Alberta and Saskatchewan and celebrating our centennial.

It is too bad that this is all overshadowed by the goings on of this corrupt and failing government.

I am so glad to be a part of an optimistic future when we form government and Canadians will be able to celebrate the good times without this Liberal cloud.

South Asia Earthquake
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I send my heartfelt sympathy to all Pakistani Canadians, especially those who have lost loved ones in the wake of the October 8 earthquake in Pakistan.

I have met with many representatives of the Pakistani community and various relief agencies. These organizations include both the Canadian Relief Foundation and the Pakistan Relief and Development Foundation. I salute the efforts of these relief organizations and the many Canadians working with them, people such as the seven members of the Elahi family of Brampton. They are but one of the many families in my riding who are working tirelessly right now to provide urgent medical, fundraising and other services.

The Canadian government has committed to match every dollar donated by individuals, but only until October 26. I would ask that the Minister of International Cooperation consider extending the deadline beyond October 26. As the needs have grown, so has Canada's support. Canada can and must continue to provide substantial support to the victims in Pakistan.

Public Library Week in Quebec
Statements By Members

October 20th, 2005 / 2 p.m.

Bloc

Maka Kotto Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebec is celebrating its seventh public library week until October 22.

A magical kingdom where our imaginations run wild, where mythic tales and brilliant ideas abound, where the men and women who have invented humanity live on thousands of pages, public libraries are more than places providing books and knowledge; they are places for sharing ideas and making discoveries, opening a window into arts and culture, and a window on the world.

The Bloc Québécois invites Quebeckers to visit our libraries this week and discover the talented writers born from the diversity within Quebec and elsewhere. This is an excellent opportunity to once again ask the federal government, which cares little about creators, to increase the Canada Council's budget to $300 million, abolish the GST on books, give creators a tax exemption on public lending rights and royalties, as Quebec has already done.

I say to all Quebeckers, happy public library week and happy reading.