House of Commons Hansard #120 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was lake.

Topics

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to a petition.

Sale of Medals Prohibition Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-415, An Act to prohibit the sale of Canadian military and police medals.

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from British Columbia for seconding the bill. As we all know, we get very concerned when we see the medals that have been worn by our proud veterans, our service personnel and the RCMP, for example, being sold at a flea market or on the Internet or anything of that nature.

This enactment would prohibit the sale of any medals given by the Government of Canada to our brave soldiers, our veterans and RCMP officers throughout the country. In our heart of hearts we believe that these medals are not currency. They are very valuable and they should not be sold or bartered in any way, shape or form.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
Routine Proceedings

June 21st, 2005 / 10:05 a.m.

Avalon
Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

R. John Efford Minister of Natural Resources

moved that Bill S-36, An Act to amend the Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act, be read the first time.

(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I move that the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, presented to the House on Wednesday, April 13, be concurred in.

It is an honour to rise in this House to speak to this motion. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

This is a very important motion. I want to share a little of its history. Nine mayors came to the justice committee and shared with us a very important concern of theirs: that nine RCMP detachments were going to be closing in Quebec. Commissioner Zaccardelli also came and spoke to us. We heard from him that there was a plan and we heard the rationale. The rationale was to close these detachments and redeploy these RCMP members to work in a central location to attack organized crime.

The nine mayors who came to the committee were very concerned that the presence of the RCMP was being removed from their communities, with the officers going to a central location. What does this do to these communities? When we remove the police presence, we are giving a message to organized crime members that they can do whatever they want. The nine mayors were very concerned about this.

I have a bit of a background in dealing with the RCMP. Before becoming a member of this House, I was a loss prevention officer. One of the things we dealt with in regard to the RCMP was the importance of the presence of the RCMP. If people do not see a police presence, the message is very clear that they can do whatever they want.

A vast majority of citizens are law-abiding, tax-paying, hard-working Canadian citizens, but there is a small percentage of people in Canada, in our world, who are not law-abiding. That is why we need a police presence. Just the presence of the police acts as a deterrent.

An example of that can be found in traffic issues. People who never see a police officer tend to drive a lot faster. When police officers are present, people slow down. We have all seen that on the freeway. We have seen how people slow down a police officer is there.

All kinds of studies have been done in which a police decoy is put out there. Even if it is a fake car, even an old decommissioned RCMP vehicle or municipal police vehicle, traffic slows down. The presence of the police is very important.

It was important enough for the mayors of these nine communities in Quebec to come to Ottawa and ask us to please stop this because the decision to close these detachments, coming right from the top at the RCMP, was going to be disastrous for these communities. Why? What were some of the reasons?

Not only was the lack of a police presence seen as a problem, marijuana grow ops are a problem right across this country. If RCMP detachments are removed, who is going to be dealing with them? If this happens, we are saying that organized crime can do whatever it wants.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

An hon. member

We're telling them where to go.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

We are telling criminals that these are the communities where there is no more police presence and these are good areas where they can open up these grow ops. If we do not have a police presence, we are telling criminals they can have their legal weapons, that they can do whatever they want to do.

The nine mayors came to committee and asked us to please stop the closure before it was too late, saying that if the police were removed their communities were going to be in trouble.

In December 2004 the committee presented its fourth report. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the committee adopted the following motion on December 9, 2004:

That the Committee recommend to the government that the RCMP keep open the nine detachments in Quebec whose closing was an issue in our hearings and that it maintain a return to them, a critical mass of officers per detachment.

Some of the detachments had only one officer. That is not adequate. We want to have the minimum number of officers that would provide the critical mass.

After the fourth report, we again had Commissioner Zaccardelli speak to the committee. The committee was told that it had already happened and that how dare the committee question it. We also heard the government say that how dare the committee question the RCMP.

Every member of the House is proud of and has great respect for the RCMP. It does an incredible job. The question we had concerned the logic in closing down these detachments. These detachments are not on the border but they are part of the patrol that guards the Canadian border.

We have heard a concern that we are not adequately protecting the Canadian borders. We are a sovereign country and the government has a responsibility to protect Canadians and our border. We have heard that thousands of people every year blow across the border without stopping. These people are not bringing milk across the border or crossing the border to buy cheese. These people are smuggling people, guns and drugs and the government is not doing anything.

Who is patrolling our borders? The RCMP is being pulled out of Ontario and Quebec and now it is going after Manitoba. It has to stop. It should have stopped before.

We have an epidemic within our country where police resources are being removed. We have a growing population and a growing crime problem. To remove RCMP members and police forces, who have limited numbers and limited resources, from the streets and put them in an office somewhere does not work. We need to protect Canadians and our borders.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

An hon. member

It is our duty.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

It is our duty and we do need members at the border.

Customs and immigration officers are responsible for our border crossings but between the border crossings it is the responsibility of the RCMP. We do not have enough resources at our border crossings when we see people are blowing across the borders. Statistics from the United States border services show that thousands of people are sneaking in between these crossings. Whose responsibility is that? As I said, it is the RCMP's responsibility to ensure that is being dealt with.

When we remove these officers, close these detachments and send them all to the city to work on their laptops, that is not good management of a valuable resource.

We then have the sixth report, which states:

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), your Committee has considered the matter of the closure of nine (9) Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachments in Quebec.

Your Committee draws to the attention of the House the fact that the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Senior Management of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have not taken into account the opinion expressed by the Committee in its Fourth Report but rather have continued the process of closing nine RCMP detachments in Quebec.

Your Committee recommends that the Minister and the RCMP put a stop to this personnel redeployment plan and reopen the detachments concerned.

This justice committee report about these detachment closures had total unanimity among committee members. We are very concerned about this and it is unanimous, other than in the government. The government for some reason has a plan to close the RCMP detachments and to remove RCMP members from our borders and our freeways. It is remove, remove.

We need an RCMP presence and whatever the hidden plan of the government is, it needs to be exposed. I think Canadians want this dealt with right now. The plan that the government has needs to be exposed and it needs to be stopped.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, we are looking at the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. This is a matter of much interest to parliamentarians and, indeed, to all Canadians and it is one of the reasons that it was debated in this place on, I believe, May 3. The members may want to look at the debate.

I want to just make a couple of points before I put the question to the member. The issue is that the resources in Quebec with regard to the RCMP were, as a consequence of this reorganization, not even reduced by one officer. They were reorganizing to improve the efficiency of the RCMP.

As well, the RCMP, under the RCMP Act, has the authority to manage our national police service and to direct the resources where they are most needed. Subsection 5(1) of the RCMP Act clearly states:

--the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who, under the direction of the Minister, has the control and management of the Force and all matters connected therewith.

The motion really goes straight to the heart of the responsibility and lines of authority with regard to the RCMP and, in fact, undermines the legislative foundation of our national police service.

Having full knowledge of the debate that was held in this place on May 3 and understanding that this was a reorganization for efficiency, is the member suggesting somehow that the reorganization was not the proper thing to do in that it was transparent and open and that it was the decision of the RCMP, not the Government of Canada?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Madam Speaker, the member's question is a good one because that is exactly what we heard at the committee. The rationale was to improve efficiency. We heard that it was more efficient to remove the RCMP from the border.

It did not compute and I do not think it computed with any member of the committee other than the Liberal members of the committee. They said that it was safer for those communities and more efficient to take the RCMP out of those communities and off the borders. We would rely on the Americans to protect our Canadian border.

Canadians do not believe that and not one member of that committee believed that rationale. There is some plan going on here that defies logic.

It is hogwash when we hear the government say that it is more efficient to remove the RCMP members. What is more efficient is to have them where the issues are, where the marijuana grow ops are happening and where crime is happening. These things need a police presence and to remove them makes no sense.

In talking about the lines of authority, the message is very clear. The committee members have no confidence with the decision made by the government. I hope it understood that message. We have zero confidence in the decision that the government has made in regard to removing RCMP officers.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Madam Speaker, the Liberal member claims that it is about efficiency and the delivery of service. Where is the efficiency in continually pumping tens of millions of dollars into a useless gun registry that does nothing to solve crime and which Canadians across the country have rejected as a means to deal with any sort of crime and then looking at other ways to save money? The Liberals then turn to front line police officers at our borders to find those savings.

Could the member speak to the hypocrisy of funding a useless registry and then cutting back on front line officers to prevent crime?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Madam Speaker, my colleague's question is right on the mark. Canadians do want to know why we are wasting their tax dollars. They want their tax dollars to be used wisely and that does not mean on programs like the $2 billion gun registry boondoggle.

People involved in organized crime do not register their firearms. People who smuggle drugs back and forth across the border and who have marijuana grow ops with booby traps that endanger our fire departments and our police officers do not register their firearms.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from British Columbia for sharing his time with me.

I understand the justice report is about the closure of a number of RCMP detachments. It is important that we look beyond the specific detachments mentioned in the report. For the last 10 or 12 years, the problem with RCMP detachments has been a problem. I live in the small community of Sidney, British Columbia which has a local RCMP detachment staffed by 25 officers.

As far back as I can remember this detachment has been chronically understaffed for a number of reasons. Typically the staffing is short by about 25%. Quite often when it sends out a platoon, two officers will be left with one officer out patrolling in a car. For a variety reasons, from maternity leave to staffing shortages to transfers, the detachment is unable to refill positions.

Why has our national police force been put in this position when it comes to replacing members? Sometimes a detachment will wait a long time to fill positions, as we see in the report. A number of small detachments across the country are being shut down completely.

In the early days of the Liberal government, it all but closed the RCMP training depot in Regina because it was not doing its job. We ended up with a serious situation. For years we had very small number of classes, if any, to train new police officers. Therefore, the backlog was enormous. The shortage of hundreds of police officers created difficulties for RCMP detachments across the country.

What was the government's response? Many reports say that the government chose not put front line police officers on the streets so it could save around $2 billion. The Liberals made a very definitive decision to remove front line police officers because there was not enough training to fill the vacancies. Instead they spent billions of dollars on a gun registry. No one in Canada believes people should be walking around the streets with guns.

Prior to this infamous gun registry, on which the government spent billions of dollars, people were not allowed to carry handguns. If they wanted to move them from their home to a shoot or a range, they had to go to their local police for a permit. In effect we had a form of a registry for handguns with the local police. However, the government, in its wisdom, decided it would spend billions of dollars. How could we possibly spend $2 billion on a database, on a gun registry?

One only has to look at the sponsorship program. It does not take a lot of imagination to see where the money has gone. I am sure we will find out in the years ahead, once we see more audits and information come forward, that a great deal of the money probably went to people who were very good supporters of the Liberal Party of Canada. I have no one doubt in my mind that we will see contracts given to high donors to the Liberal Party. It is kind of the normal way of doing business.

Also, we have been put in a more difficult situation in the last three or four years since September 11, 2001.

Canada Customs is in places to deal with ferry traffic going to the U.S. When people go into the U.S., they are pre-cleared. However, U.S. immigration officials refuse to operate inside Canada unless they have an armed police officer with them. This border crossing is right across from the street where I used to live. The Anacortes ferry terminal had one or two sailings a day, four hours a day. An RCMP officer from the detachment in Sidney had to be with the U.S. Immigration Service.

I note the Senate committee has come forward and said that our Canadian customs people need one of two things. They either need armed police officers with them as they are secure our border or they need to be armed. It is ironic that the government will not give Canadian customs officials sidearms or at least an armed police officer, but it will do it for American immigration officials who work inside Canada. That is unbelievable. That is how it is today.

U.S. immigration workers working at the Anacortes ferry terminal in Sidney or downtown in the inner harbour in Victoria where people go on the Coho to the U.S get Canadian police officers because they will not work unless they are in the presence of an armed officer for security reasons. We do not even do that for our own customs officers.

Where are the government's priorities? The RCMP is chronically underfunded. The government decided to put billions of dollars into a gun registry, which by all accounts is not providing an ounce of benefit other than to some people who may be good Liberals and who are who sending in contracts to the national firearms registry and, lo and behold, getting millions of dollars. How could the government possibly spend $2 billion on a database. I would love to have that contract. It is absolutely amazing.

The government cut back training at the RCMP depot in Regina to a bare minimum. This detachment has been chronically understaffed. This is happening in detachments across the country. Sometimes detachments have to wait six months or more to get a replacement for an officer who has been transferred somewhere else. Watch duty officers at these RCMP detachments have to deal with this problem when they scheduling officers. They have to find a way to cut the number of police officers on a platoon because they do not have the bodies.

In my community, the RCMP detachment was pretty much chronically understaffed by about 25%. It was a very serious problem. The remaining officers had to fill regular shift schedules. Officers also had to be sent over to the ferry terminals because U.S. immigration officers would not work unless they had an armed officer with them. We do not do that for our own customs officers.

This is about priorities. The government needs to focus on its priorities. We have spent a large portion of this spring session on Bill C-38, the same sex marriage bill. Again, it is a matter of priorities. Why are we not focusing on jobs, the economy, getting taxes down, looking at our health care system? The government's priority is focused on getting Bill C-38 through the House.

We have very different priorities on this side of the House. We want to bring forward legislation that will have a meaningful impact to Canadians right across this country. It is about priorities. It is time the government had a look at what it has done for the last 12 years. Anyone could come to the conclusion that the Liberals have their priorities all wrong.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I indicated that the House debated this matter on May 3. The point was made at the time that under the RCMP Act, the RCMP had the authority to manage the national police service and direct resources where they were most needed under section 5(1). Although it is in conjunction with the minister, the minister has no purview with regard to the day to day operations. It is more in terms of strategic policy.

I also wanted to point out that the commissioner appeared before the committee. The commissioner explained to the parliamentarians that the detachments should be closed. He gave reasons why. The commissioner told the committee that to keep those detachments there and not redeploy would make Quebec less safe, contrary to what the members have been saying. The commissioner also explained that the need for the officers was elsewhere because of the growing priorities in Quebec, particularly with regard to terrorism and organized crime.

Let me reiterate that not one RCMP officer was taken away. It was a redeployment of resources.

Finally, I would also point out that in the last four to five years the budget for the RCMP has been increased from $2 billion to $3 billion. This is a very significant increase in the resources available to our police officers.

Why does the member not believe Mr. Zaccardelli, the head of the RCMP, when he says that closing this would make Quebec less safe?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, whether I believe Mr. Zaccardelli or not, the member should talk with the people in the local detachments. Look at their shift patterns. See if they have 100% staffing. Walk into most RCMP detachments and see if all the positions are filled. I think he will find a lot of vacancies. Of course there is redeployment as they shuffle people around.

Even more so, the member opposite talked about the strategic decisions for doing this. Let us talk about the strategy of the Liberal government. How does it justify another $50 million in this year's estimates for the gun registry? Where are the priorities?

Does the government not think that perhaps the money might be better spent by putting front line officers on the street? Does the government think our RCMP detachments are 100% staffed. Does the government think the detachments are getting increases in their budgets? We are skeptical on this side because we see promises after promises from the Liberal government broken one after the other, right from the mouth of the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister came to my riding during the election last year. He looked some of my constituents right in the eye and promised to help them. He promised he would fix a problem for JDS Uniphase employees and their taxation problem. Now he is saying too bad. The Liberals' word is worth nothing. It is absolutely meaningless.

The member should come out to my riding and talk with some of my constituents. He should talk with some of the JDS Uniphase employees. Whether it is justice matters or taxation matters, the government will do anything and say anything to get a vote. When it comes time to deliver, its word is worth absolutely nothing.

The record speaks for itself. There are billions of dollars spent on a useless gun registry. We shake our heads in disbelief at what the Prime Minister's priorities have been in the last year. Canadians are disillusioned.

The only response from the government to the opposition is to come at the opposition with unfounded allegations and attacks. It is time for this Parliament to bring forward legislation that will have a meaningful difference to every Canadian in every corner of the country.

We have to allow young Canadians, who are graduating from universities and high schools, to fulfill their dreams and aspirations. Businesses should not to be hamstrung by a taxation policy that will not allow them to grow and flourish.

When I graduated from high school in 1975, I was making the same amount of money per hour as the kids are who are getting out of school today. There is something wrong.

The policies of the government have hamstrung the country. The Liberals have been in power for the last 13 years. Their policies are driving this country's economy into the ground. Let us start refocusing our priorities. Let us start watching where we spend the money instead of spending it on their Liberal friends.