House of Commons Hansard #141 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industry.

Topics

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Devillers Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 it is my pleasure to present a petition from constituents of Simcoe North petitioning the House to make Canada a nuclear weapon free zone.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to introduce a petition from my constituents who wish to see the Queensway Carleton Hospital protected from a major Liberal rent increase.

The Queensway Carleton Hospital is the only hospital that is forced to pay rent to the federal government for the land it sits on. I note with interest that this petition has garnered the support of the provincial Liberal health minister who has come to the support of the Queensway Carleton Hospital and has fallen into disagreement with the current federal Liberal government.

It is an honour to introduce this petition and the subject matter will be voted on tomorrow in the House of Commons with my Motion No. 135.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Chuck Strahl)

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from October 24 consideration of the motion that Bill C-64, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (vehicle identification number), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

October 25th, 2005 / 10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to put some comments on the record concerning Bill C-64, a bill to amend the Criminal Code in regard to vehicle identification numbers.

Auto theft is a huge problem in cities all across Canada. In fact, across Canada in 2003, 170,000 vehicles were stolen.

Today I would like to talk about my home province of Manitoba. As the member of Parliament for Kildonan--St. Paul, I have to say that the crime rates and the rate of vehicle theft are extremely high. Under the guidance of the present Liberal government, we have had real problems controlling this.

In 2004 there were 13,425 vehicles stolen. After talking to community people and in schools and in speaking with people in the justice field in Manitoba, I must say that it all stems from the Youth Criminal Justice Act, which the present government put forward. When the Youth Criminal Justice Act was changed, there were no teeth in it and, over a decade, the Liberal government has not been able to keep the citizens of Canada safe.

Today when we talk about Bill C-64, we talk about it because a very honourable man, Chuck Cadman, put forward an initial proposal that had some teeth in it. Chuck Cadman knew the seriousness of the stolen vehicles issue, the danger that it put youth in, and the problems it put on the backs of families when they were unable to pay for the damage from what I call the joyriding or the stolen cars.

In Winnipeg, as I said before, it is a real problem. In 2005, on average, a vehicle is stolen in Winnipeg every hour, so when we hear the Liberal Party talking about being tough on crime, it is rather worrisome to hear the hyperbole in this House of Commons without any action being put in place.

Chuck Cadman put forth an idea in this country, the idea that people had a right to be safe. He put that forward because in his own life he had experienced a very tragic event, so he started looking at all the aspects of how we could make innocent victims safe.

With the stolen vehicle problem, people in Winnipeg and Manitoba are very fearful of having their vehicles stolen and having no recourse. For the youths and others who steal these cars, because it is not only youths who do it, there are very few or no consequences for their actions. As I said earlier, that is largely due to the Liberal government's watering down of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. It has no teeth. The youths know it. It has no credibility.

Thus we see the litany of the history in over a decade since the Liberals came to power. We see the litany of a history of ineffectiveness, of keeping crime under wraps in Canada.

Chuck Cadman put forward some really good ideas. I want to put this on the record, because in order to better reflect Mr. Cadman's initial desire to create a useful tool for enforcement agencies to tackle auto theft and organized crime, the legislation should remove part of proposed section 377.1(1). This was recommended by Chuck Cadman.

As we know, members opposite in the Liberal government are touting these two bills as the Cadman bills. In actual fact they are not the Cadman bills, nor do they have the intent that Chuck Cadman had when he put these bills into play.

He said, in proposed section 377.1:

Everyone commits an offence who, wholly or partially alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse....

Here is what was added:

--and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle.

This last part was added to Chuck Cadman's original bill and adds to the Crown's job of proving the offence. The phrase “reasonable inference” is ambiguous and could give rise to holes in the bill's successful implementation. Mr. Cadman put the onus of proof for a lawful excuse on the person indicated, which is not included in this bill, Bill C-64.

The problem with the history that the Liberal government has left with Canadians in terms of dealing with the justice system is that we now have a justice system in disrepair. We now have an environment of fear in Canadian cities and on Canadian streets about the safety of the innocent victims who are there every day.

Just a couple of weeks ago, when we voted on a bill to raise the age of consent from 14 to 16, members opposite defeated that bill. The Liberal government said no. In this country, 14 year olds now can lawfully have sex with adults. That is wrong.

Then the government used Chuck Cadman's good name and said it would be tough on crime. The only problem is that the bills that have been brought forward, like this one, Bill C-64 on vehicle identification number removal, do not reflect the spirit of what Chuck Cadman meant when he wanted to make sure that there were some teeth in the bill.

Let us look at the gun registry. Everyone knows that we want guns off the streets. We know now that there is more gun violence across Canada than ever before. This is another historic blueprint that the Liberal government has put on the backs of Canadian citizens. There is a lot of money for scandal. There is a lot of money for Liberal-friendly people, but there is no money for soldiers or police forces or for putting more police officers on the street.

When we talk about vehicle identification removal, we have to put the teeth into everything so that there are consequences for the crimes committed. When in Manitoba in the city of Winnipeg a vehicle is stolen every hour and when we have diminished police resources and a Youth Justice Act that has no teeth, we have big problems.

Also today, I would like to applaud this honourable former member of Parliament, Chuck Cadman, who did everything he could to make Canadian streets safer.

Motor vehicle theft costs Canadians an estimated $600 million a year. The impact that this crime has on families is phenomenal. Clearly in this decade it is so regrettable that the current Liberal government is unable to get a plan forward that can protect the citizens of Canada.

For my province of Manitoba, I have to say quite clearly that Canadians can take a lot of hope from the policies we have on this side of the House and from the information and the plan we on this side of the House have.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her story today.

Mr. Cadman came forward with two pieces of legislation, the one we debated last week and this one that we are debating today. Those bills were very strong and were very dear to his heart. They had some very good teeth in them, so to speak, to help prevent the two crimes he talked about, including this particular one about vehicle identification number removal.

Could the hon. member share with the House why she thinks the government, in Chuck Cadman's name, has watered down his two pieces of legislation, specifically this one, and has made them not nearly as strong or as easy to enforce as they might have been?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's question is a very good one. The problem is the culture of a philosophy about crime issues. Members opposite have a philosophy that does not protect Canadians. There are no teeth in the laws nor are there consequences for crimes that are committed. Chuck Cadman's name is used on this bill, but it does not resemble what the hon. member had in mind to curtail these crimes.

It is really a very serious environment that has been set up in Canada, an environment where crime reigns supreme, police officers are diminished and we have big problems on the streets in every major city across Canada.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague as well. I appreciated her remarks. My reaction to this legislation and much of what is debated in the House is this: why do we not really get to and start debating the real causes of violence and crime in our society? We seem to be very superficial in a lot of discussions of this.

I want to zero in on something that has happened in Saskatchewan over the last 30 years or so. Saskatchewan now has the highest property crime rate in Canada and most of North America. The real concern of people in Saskatchewan is that we do not have enough police officers on our streets.

In some cities in the province, we have over 140 Criminal Code incidents per police officer. Now, if we pause and reflect on this statistic for a minute, we will realize that some of these police officers have to deal with a Criminal Code incident every second day of their working lives in the province. How can policemen do a good job of witnessing in the courts and of targeting the criminals in our community when they are so stressed out? They have to do all the paperwork as well, and the amount of paperwork involved in dealing with some of these Criminal Code incidents now is horrific.

It seems as though the Liberals want to get us talking about all kinds of extraneous issues when in fact we should be talking about targeting and improving the enforcement of law and order in our communities. I wonder if the member could comment on that.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's comments and his question are very insightful. I think he has hit the nail on the head: we have to get serious about making sure that we can curtail crime.

Police officers have more to do in terms of paperwork. They lack technology and resources behind the scenes to enable them to do their jobs.

Being a police officer is a very stressful job. Police officers are very committed people who go above and beyond the call of duty every day. They are very brave individuals. From the perspective of being the mother of a police officer, I know the caring that goes into the police regiments that we have across this country.

More important, what we have to do is make sure that more resources are put into police forces so police officers can extend their current role on the street. That role is more than just chasing criminals; it is also a role of befriending young people so they have someone to come to if a drug dealer is pushing them.

Under the Liberal government's watch, crime has risen. Unfortunately, it is out of control now. The only way it will be changed is to have a Conservative government in power that will put some teeth into legislation.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Barry Devolin Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is pleasure to speak to Bill C-64, which is being touted as part of Chuck Cadman's legacy. Many on this side of the House would challenge the legitimacy of that claim.

I am relatively new to this place, having been elected just over a year ago. As such, I never really had the opportunity to know Chuck Cadman. Before I became a member of Parliament, I heard of Chuck and his story of the tragedy that mobilized him to get involved and ultimately run as a member of Parliament. While here, he continued to do his own thing. He did not change to suit this place. He had his own agenda and he pursued issues that were important to him.

The bill before us is being promoted by the government as part of the Chuck Cadman legacy. Based on all I have heard from people who knew Chuck much better than I did, and having looked at Chuck's draft legislation in comparison to the bill before us, I suggest the government is callously and quite cynically sullying Chuck's legacy and reputation by bringing this forward as something he wanted to see. It is a pale imitation of what Chuck wanted.

We all know that cars and trucks are made up of lots of different pieces. We also know that cars get stolen either in whole or in part. When a set of used tires is purchased from somebody, there is a chance that those tires might have been stolen. Those types of things are hard to track. The police struggle with this, and it is a problem that will not go away.

Each vehicle has an identification number. It is a long tag that is often located just inside the windshield. That VIN identifies the particular vehicle. It is on that basis that the vehicle is registered and licensed so it can be legally driven. That vehicle identification number is one piece of the puzzle of which the law should be able to keep track.

While it may be possible to inadvertently or mistakenly take some piece off a car and sell it or trade it, it is impossible to imagine a situation where a person would accidentally take the vehicle identification number off one vehicle and place it on another. It is beyond reasonable to come up with any scenario where that would happen as an honest mistake or that someone would buy a vehicle knowing that had happened and not think there was something illegal about it.

The world has changed. Cars are more valuable than they ever have been. Many cars stolen these days are exported out of the country. This has made the job of law enforcement even more difficult. It is more difficult to keep track of where these vehicles have come from or where they have gone.

The law needs to change with the times. When there is an obvious loophole or weakness in a law, it is important that something be brought forward to plug that gap. That was Chuck's intention when he brought forward his private member's bill.

In bringing this legislation forward, the government added some words that do not look harmful on first reading. Where I come from we call them legal weasel words. Those words substantively change the impact of the legislation. The reference is, “and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did it to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle”. The onus is now on the police to prove that the person who switched the vehicle identification number did so with criminal intent.

I go back to my first point. It is impossible to accidentally do this or do this for any reason other than to conceal the identification of a vehicle. If it were done, it was done with criminal intent. There is no other reason or way to switch that number other than to do it deliberately. This phrase greatly weakens the bill.

If this bill is passed, a year or two from now, people will be able to look back and ask if Bill C-64 had any impact or was it one more watered down bill, full of legal weasel words that had no impact on the ground. The fear of my party and many of my colleagues is that Chuck's bill in its pure form would make a real impact. It would reduce the number of car thefts by empowering police officers to prosecute. Whereas Bill C-64, as put forward, will have no such impact.

That begs the question as to why the government has brought this forward at this time. Why is it pushing something forward that even in private I am sure it would admit would not change much?

It takes me back to last spring when the government was threatened. The Prime Minister and his cabinet were fearful that the government may fall and an election might be caused. In a defensive, save one's own bacon move, the Prime Minister went on his deal making tour last spring. He tried to do everything imaginable to stay in power himself and to avoid any sort of democratic process in this place that could threaten his government.

Before a critical vote on the budget last spring, Mr. Cadman, who was quite ill at the time, was in town. We all remember the attention on Chuck on whether he would say yes or no. On the Monday evening, a day or two before the critical vote, it was reported that the Prime Minister went to visit Mr. Cadman. What any of us would have given to be a fly on the wall in that meeting.

We have heard stories about other members who were approached with deals, offered goodies, jobs and cabinet seats if they supported the government. We cannot ask Chuck what he was offered on that day. However, I do not think it is unreasonable to speculate that the Prime Minister may have offered Mr. Cadman his commitment that the government would move forward on at least one or two things about which Mr. Cadman felt very strongly.

We do not know whether that was offered, but it is not beyond the realm of the possible. Knowing why Mr. Cadman ran for Parliament in the first place and knowing why he was here and what he felt so strongly about, such a promise or commitment may have influenced his view on whether the government should continue.

Now we get to the really cynical part that. As Canadians know, Mr. Cadman passed away this summer, so we do not have him here to ask that question. We do not have anyone here to answer the question about what was discussed, what was agreed to, what deal was made and whether the Prime Minister and the government lived up to the terms of what they said they would do.

Again I am going to speculate, but what has been put before the House is the most cynical response to that, which is the government will keep the letter of a commitment it made to somebody but, practically, it will weaken it in such a way so that it will do nothing. I have thought about this over past couple of weeks, about why these things have been brought forward for debate, and I think that is a better explanation of how these things got on the order paper and why they are before us now, in this relatively meaningless context.

The irony is that we on this side of the House feel strongly about these issues. We have spoken about them and fought for them for many years. We are opposing a bill that purports to do what we want. Canadians will be sitting at home thinking that the Conservative Party talks about getting tough on crime all the time, that the Liberals have brought something forward saying it will get tough on crime, yet people in the Conservative Party oppose it. I think it is a little Alice in Wonderland-ish for viewers at home.

I want to go on the record for those people who may be watching this today. The Canadian people are being sold a bill of goods by the government. The bill says that it will do something, but it will not do much. It is the placebo bill. It looks like a remedy and it looks like something that would attack an ailment in society, but it will have no impact. Police officers say that. Members on this side of the House who have tracked this issue for years say that.

In conclusion, this is a sad day for Parliament and it is a sad day for the government. I can only presume it is doing this in a deliberate, calculating and cynical way. It is a particularly sad day that the legacy of a member of this place, who felt very strongly and who fought throughout his political career to try to make real change by improving on issues that he knew affected his constituents, is being sullied in this way by the government.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to respond to the Conservative member's comments. It seems likely to us that the Liberals are proposing measures in Mr. Cadman's name following his death and in light of his vote in this House last fall.

In any event, we support this bill. How can the Conservative member be opposed to Bill C-64? This bill gives police another way to fight against the networks for theft, alteration and resale of motor vehicles, which, as we know, enable criminal organizations to exist and expand in our society.

I heard the Conservatives say that the penalties and consequences were not significant enough for them. We, the members of the Bloc Québécois, know that in Quebec, we believe strongly in cracking down and using deterrent action to fight organized crime. And we also believe in preventive measures. We know that cracking down does not solve everything. In my opinion, there are some valid penalities in the bill.

I want to know what the hon. member has to say on this. Does he believe that an additional multi-year prison sentence can further resolve the situation? Personally, I doubt it. What measures would he prefer to see introduced?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Barry Devolin Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the past year I have seen a problem in the public realm identified and someone, whether a private member, a party or the government, brings forward a proposed remedy to that problem. What is difficult is when, as a member of Parliament, one looks at the proposed remedy and comes to the conclusion that it will not fix the problem or that it will do very little to fix it.

The danger is if one supports that measure and it goes forward, the public gets a false sense of security. It gets a false sense that something has been done and that a remedy has been put in place for the problem or the ailment which has been identified.

As members of Parliament, we must decide whether it is better to support a remedy that is imperfect but moves at least in the right direction or whether it is better to hold out for what we think is needed and in that case defeat the imperfect remedy, recognizing that the appetite for another bill will be greatly reduced if we pass the watered down bill. That is a decision members and parties have to make.

In terms of the penalties, the proposed penalties and sanctions against those who are convicted under legislation only become relevant if law enforcement is able to get a conviction. It is like the argument we have in this place about maximum sentences. It is a completely irrelevant argument because no one ever gets a maximum sentence.

In this case I would argue that we need to first look at the threshold or the burden of proof that law enforcement or prosecutors will have to get a guilty conviction and then see whether the penalties prescribed are appropriate. To focus on the penalties and ignore the fact that it is very unlikely that anyone will ever be found guilty under this new law, at the end of the day means that it has negligible impact. Worse than that, it has created a false sense of security among the population that something has been done.

Finally, it probably reduces the chances of bringing forward something in the future that will fix the problem because there is a misconception that the problem has already been resolved.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to represent the constituents of Edmonton--Sherwood Park in this debate today.

As has been noted, Edmonton is the same as other cities in that it has a notable problem of vehicle thefts, from youngsters taking them for little joyrides to organized crime hitting luxury and other desirable vehicles. Sometimes they use vehicles that are just easy to get into and easy to get running. It is a great cost, a great inconvenience and a great affront to law-abiding citizens who work hard to earn the money to pay for their vehicles only to have them ripped off like that. Certainly in principle, and I think I speak on behalf of all of my party, we agree that measures need to be taken in order to reduce this crime.

Members know that I love numbers. I have been a student of math in my life and I like doing little calculations just for fun. It just so happens that 12 years ago today, many of us here were first elected. It was on October 25, 1993 when we came here in significant numbers under what was then the Reform Party. Now we have brought the Conservative forces together under the new Conservative Party. It is wonderful to see that finally Canadians have a real alternative to the Liberals.

I find it ironic that the Liberals are bringing in legislation that purports to strengthen the fight on crime when there is quite ample evidence that the Liberals themselves, and I do not know if it is parliamentary but I think it is a fact, have been engaging in illegal criminal activities. There is ample evidence on the record that this has been taking place in the past and for all we know it is still taking place. Here the Liberals are saying, “We are going to go after the guy that steals the car, but we will see if we can run away with $1 million or $2 million and get away with it”. To me that has a bit of irony.

On that topic, I think of the sentence for Paul Coffin, which is now being appealed of course. He got this huge sentence and he has to give lectures on ethics at universities because he was convicted of a crime, but it is onerous because he does have to be home by nine o'clock, which I think many of us as members of Parliament would welcome. It would be more of a reward than a punishment if we could be home by nine o'clock.

I am getting on to the topic now. A reporter from the Sherwood Park News --