House of Commons Hansard #48 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senate.

Topics

Tackling Violent Crime Legislation
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.

Tackling Violent Crime Legislation
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this morning's debate. Throughout 2007, I was the justice critic for the official opposition. And throughout 2006, I served as deputy House leader of the official opposition, which is also my current role.

Thus, since the Conservative government's Speech from the Throne in 2006, I have been listening to the Conservative rhetoric, which I have weighed against the actions put forward by this government.

The motion we are debating today is:

That, given the government has declared the passage of Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, as a matter of confidence, and, that the bill has already been at the Senate longer than all stages took in the House of Commons, and that all aspects of this bill have already been the subject of extensive committee hearings in Parliament, and that in the opinion of this House the Senate majority is not providing appropriate priority to the passage of Bill C-2, a message be sent to the Senate calling on the Senate to pass Bill C-2, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, by March 1, 2008.

The Minister of Justice and Attorney General is applauding. Well, I wonder. The Minister of Justice made a big point about how in the 2006 throne speech the Conservative government made tackling crime a priority. It is one of five priorities of the government. Let us look at the record of the government prior to when it prorogued the session that began in the winter of 2006 after the 2006 election. Let us look at that record.

The Liberal record is that we supported the vast majority of the Conservative government's justice bills. The fact is that the Conservative government has needlessly delayed its own legislation. The fact is there has been no opposition obstruction, not from the official opposition, not from the Bloc Québécois and not from the NDP. The only obstruction has been from the government. Let me give an example.

The government talks about the age of consent legislation. In the previous session, the age of consent legislation was Bill C-22 . It is now found in this new tackling crime bill, Bill C-2.

Bill C-22, the age of consent legislation, was originally tabled by the government on June 22, 2006, some four and a half months after the government came to this House and opened Parliament with a throne speech. The House adjourned for the summer months one or two days later. I do not have the exact date with me but at the most, it was two days later. We came back on the third Monday in September 2006.

Did the government then move second reading of the age of consent bill? That is the bill that would raise the legal age of consent from 14 to 16 years. The government had an opportunity, its very first opportunity to move second reading. For Canadians who are listening, no one but the government can move government legislation from one stage to another.

The government tables its bill under parliamentary rules, House of Commons rules. It moves first reading and the motion is automatically deemed to have been adopted. The bill then goes on to the order paper and it stays there until the government moves second reading. We waited through the month of September 2006 and into the month of October 2006. The government did not move second reading.

That is the same government with a Minister of Justice and Attorney General who says that he is concerned, who says that victims, particularly our children who are victims of sexual predators, are among the Conservatives' first and main priority, and the government did not move second reading on the age of consent bill in 2006.

What did the Liberals do? Because that was a bill that we supported unconditionally, our House leader, who speaks on behalf of the official opposition, offered to fast track it.

Again, for those who do not understand the rules of procedure of the House of Commons, and possibly some of the government members who may not understand the rules of procedure of the House of Commons, the Standing Orders, when there is a majority in the House of Commons, whether it be the government only, or the government and another party, the government can fast track a bill.

We offered to fast track the age of consent legislation in October 2006. The government did not take us up on the offer. It ignored our offer. It did not even deign to officially respond to our offer. However, what this did was bring pressure to the government and several days later the government finally moved debate at second reading on the age of consent bill.

For a government, a Prime Minister, a Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, his parliamentary secretary and every single Conservative sitting on the government benches in this House of Commons to say that children, our children, are a priority and then to refuse to fast track the age of consent bill is unconscionable.

That bill could have been law by December 2006. We would have now had 13 months of better protection for our children and that government refused. This is what the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada is not telling the Canadian people. That bill could have been law.

Let us look at another bill that we find in Bill C-2. Let us look at the bill about which the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada attempted to eloquently dis the official opposition. That bill used to be Bill C-35, regarding reverse onus on bail for firearm related offences.

That bill received first reading on November 23, 2006. Guess what? It sat. The government did not move second reading debate through the end of November 2006, the entire month of December 2006 and the entire month of January 2007. That government did not move second reading of the bail reform bill until February 13.

Is it not a coincidence, that is a bill which we offered to fast track. That is a bill that could have been law. It could have been law for over a year now, and that government did not take us up on it.

That is a government that sends ten percenters into ridings of my colleagues in Manitoba, in Ontario, in British Columbia, claiming that the Liberals are obstructing the government's justice agenda. The government obstructed its own agenda.

I have to ask myself the following question: is this simple incompetence on the part of the government or is this government being wilfully incompetent?

Is that pure incompetence on the part of the government or is it wilful incompetence in delaying its own legislation?

Those are just two things that we find in Bill C-2 which could have been the law for over a year now had the Conservative government actually been truthful to its claim about victims being its main priority. Had that been the truth, the government would have taken the Liberals up on our offer to fast-track the bill and the age of consent would have been 16 years old December 2006 and reverse onus on bail for firearm related offences would have been the law over a year ago.

However, it gets even better. The government says that the Senate has now had Bill C-2 longer than all stages in the House. The government is counting on the fact that most Canadians will not know the parliamentary agenda and calendar. Bill C-2 was sent to the Senate on December 12, 2007. Parliament adjourned December 14, 2007. Parliament did not resume until Monday, January 28, 2008. The government tabled this motion claiming that the Senate was wilfully obstructing the government's tackling crime agenda.

Had the government been so concerned with Bill C-2 and so concerned about victims and about getting the legislation that it claims is the cornerstone of its priority and agenda, why did it not table a motion last fall for a message to be sent to the Senate informing the Senate that when it receives Bill C-2, we expect it to be reported back to us by x date? The government had all the authority and power to do that last fall but it did not.

Again I must ask whether it was mere incompetence. Is it because the government after two years still does not understand the Standing Orders, which is what we call the rules of this House? Is it wilful incompetence? The government understands full well the authority and powers it has under the House of Commons rules but chooses not to use them in the hopes that most Canadians will not know that it is the government that is actually obstructing its own agenda.

Let us talk about another obstruction. I mentioned how most of the bills, except for Bill C-27, which is the dangerous offender piece of Bill C-2, had already moved through the House and had been referred to the Senate late May, early June, late June of 2007. The Senate only had a couple of days, according to the parliamentary calendar, before Parliament adjourned for the summer. We were scheduled to come back the third Monday of September 2007 but the Prime Minister, in his wisdom, or in his incompetence or in his wilful incompetence decided to prorogue Parliament.

What does that mean? Under the rules and procedures and Standing Orders, it means that every piece of legislation in front of the House of Commons or in front of the Senate automatically dies. The government killed its own age of consent bill, its reverse onus on bail bill and its impaired driving bill, which is interesting because that is the bill we supported wholeheartedly.

I wonder if MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, understands that if the impaired driving bill is not the law today it has absolutely nothing to do with the official opposition or with the Liberal senators, but has everything to do with the government's own decision to obstruct its own legislation, not to move its own legislation through the House of Commons in a timely fashion and then to prorogue and kill its own legislation. That legislation could have been the law for almost a year now had the government not wilfully obstructed its own legislation.

Let us take the dangerous offenders bill. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada talked about how that legislation would ensure that Canadians who commit violent, egregious crimes will not be free on the streets because of the changes that it brought to the dangerous offender system.

One of the things that the government is not telling Canadians is that the way the system worked before the government brought in Bill C-27, the crown prosecutor had full discretion as to whether he or she would apply for a dangerous offender hearing. The government has done absolutely nothing to change that with its tackling crime legislation. The crown will still decide. It does not matter if it is someone who has committed heinous crimes one time, been sent to prison, served the sentence, comes out, does it again, is found guilty and serves another sentence, the crown can still decide whether it will apply for a dangerous offender hearing.

What was the Liberal response to that? The Liberal response was that there should automatically--

Tackling Violent Crime Legislation
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Pierre Poilievre

Yes, right.

Tackling Violent Crime Legislation
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

--be a hearing. I personally proposed that to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to his parliamentary secretary.

Tackling Violent Crime Legislation
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Pierre Poilievre

Oh, God.

Tackling Violent Crime Legislation
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, there is a member on the government side, I believe from the Ottawa area, who seems to be very active in my discussion and my speech. I suggest that if he knows so much about the issues we are talking about, he might want to explain to his constituents why he approved his own government's obstruction of its own legislation. He should go back to his riding and explain why 14 and 15 year olds are still vulnerable to predators for over a year now. Why? it is because he and his government wilfully obstructed their own legislation.

I suggest that he might want to address that in his own riding rather than attempt to destabilize the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. He has been here long enough and he should know that I am able to drown out and block out nonsense.

Bill C-27 had one improvement to the dangerous offenders system that we find again in the dangerous offender section of Bill C-2. What was that? It was that somebody who has already been deemed a long term offender and who commits a breach of the conditions ordered by a judge or who commits another serious crime will automatically go before a judge as a dangerous offender. That was an amendment by the Liberals.

Is it simply that the government is so incompetent that it did not understand how the dangerous offender system and long term offender system actually operated? By the way, the long term offender system was actually brought in by a Liberal government n the late 1990s.

Is the government simply incompetent or is it wilfully incompetent?

I repeat, is this government simply incompetent or is it wilfully incompetent?

I talked about the prorogation of Parliament. In proroguing Parliament, the government killed the age of consent bill, the bail reform bill, its mandatory minimums bill, the impaired driving bill and the dangerous offender bill. Then when the government brought Parliament back with the new throne speech, it announced to great trumpeting and chest beating that tackling crime would be a major plank in its policy, its agenda and action plan. What did it do?

The government could have reinstated those bills where they were, which was in the Senate. If the government were so concerned about the Senate possibly taking too long to deal with it, it could have brought in a motion, as it did last Friday, giving a deadline to the Senate for dealing with the age of consent bill, the impaired driving bill, the dangerous offender bill, the mandatory minimums bill and the bail reform bill. It did not do that.

Therefore, one again has to ask if it is shear incompetence on the part of the government or wilful incompetence.

My parents raised me, and I am sure many people in the House, if not all were raised the same, to give people the benefit of the doubt. However, my grandmother also used to say, “The first time is a mistake. The second time is a bad habit”.

The first time the government did not take up the Liberal offer in October 2006 to fast track the age of consent bill, to raise it from 14 to 16 years old, one could say that was a mistake. However, when it again refused to take it up in March 2007, that was no longer a mistake. That was a bad habit.

When the government decided to kill the age of consent bill by proroguing Parliament in the summer of 2007, that was not a mistake. I have come to the conclusion that the government's incompetence is not shear incompetence, but it is wilful incompetence.

Then that begs the question. What would be the reason, the justification, for a government to be wilfully incompetent? I am not at a point where I can answer that. While I developed the—

Tackling Violent Crime Legislation
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Pierre Poilievre

Sit down.

Tackling Violent Crime Legislation
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer) Royal Galipeau

Order, please. I apologize to the hon. member. I want to remind the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board that there will be a question and comment period after the member's speech. If he has anything to ask or anything to say, could he hold off until the end of the speech by the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.

Tackling Violent Crime Legislation
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, let us look at what some of the witnesses had to say at committee. They came before the committee on Bill C-22, age of consent. They came back for the impaired driving bill, Bill C-32. They came back for the reverse onus on bail hearings for firearm related offences bill. They came back for the dangerous offender bill. They came back for the mandatory minimums bill.

Let us hear what a representative from one of these associations had to said. This was on November 14, 2007, on Bill C-2, in front of the House of Commons legislative committee. It was the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. The representative said that quick fixes and band-aids were no longer sufficient, that a comprehensive national but locally focused strategy was required to really tackle crime and that the legislative priority for the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police were guns and gangs, child predators, as two example.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police said that because of its legislative priorities, it had asked and pleaded with the Conservative government for modernization of investigative techniques. The association said that the Modernization of Investigative Techniques Act, also called MITA, under the previous Liberal government, died as a result of the election. The association pleaded with the Conservative government to bring it back. It waited all through 2006. The government did not act. It waited again all through 2007. The government did not act.

It is now February 11, and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is still waiting for the government to bring in the legislation for which it has been begging and pleading, that it says it needs in order to deal effectively with violent crime, gun crime, gang crime, sexual predators and child sexual predators. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has asked the government to bring in legislation modernizing investigative techniques for over two years now. What has the government done? What has the government's response been to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Police Association?

First, the response has been not to bring in any legislation on that. Second, the government has refused to fast track my private member's bill that would do exactly this. I offered the government to take it over if it wanted the credit for it. It is more important to get it into the law and to give our law enforcement officers the investigative tools they need in the 21st century when they try to fight crime committed through our cyberspace. The government again, as it did with the Liberal offer to fast track the age of consent and the bail reform bills, as it did with virtually every attempt on the part of the official opposition to make Parliament be effective and efficient and put Canadians and their safety and security of Canadians first, turned its head and ignored the opposition. The government acted as though it heard nothing.

The government, through this motion, is trying to put the blame on the Senate. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada continues to say “the Liberal dominated Senate”. What he does not say is Bill C-2 only went before the Senate on December 12, 2007. Two days later the House adjourned and only came back on Monday, January 28.

Had the government been serious that Bill C-2 and its elements were of such importance to the government, that it was a matter of confidence and that the government was ready to go to an election because Canadians safety and security was of the utmost importance to the government, then why did it not put forth this kind of motion when it sent Bill C-2 to the Senate? The same power and authority and the same rule that allowed the government to put this motion, which it tabled on February 7, before the House to have it debated and then voted on could have been done last fall.

Again, I have to ask if it is sheer incompetence or wilful incompetence on the part of the Conservative government, the Conservative Prime Minister, the Conservative Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Conservative Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and all parliamentary secretaries who sit on the government side.

The Senate received Bill C-2 on December 12, 2007. The government tabled this motion on February 7. This means the Senate had the bill for two days in 2007, December 13 and 14, and then on January 28, January 29, January 30, January 31, February 1, February 4, February 5, February 6, and February 7, for a total of eight days. On the ninth day the government tabled its motion saying that the Senate majority was not providing appropriate priority to the passage of Bill C-2, when the government in fact was obstructing its own legislation.

All of the bills in Bill C-2 would have been law over a year ago and one of them would have been law for close to two years had the government not obstructed its own legislation either through sheer incompetence or through wilful incompetence.

Let me see how good I am at math. One year is 365 days. Two years would be 730 days, not counting the 31 days in January, 2008. If I go to February 7, when the motion was tabled by the government, that is 31 days plus 7, which is 38 days. The Senate has had the bill for literally eight sitting days. The government obstructed its own legislation for 730 days.

Who did not give appropriate priority to the age of consent legislation? It was Conservative members. Who did not give appropriate priority to the impaired driving bill? It was Conservative members. Who did not give appropriate priority to the dangerous offender bill? It was Conservative members.

Who did not give appropriate priority to the bill concerning conditional releases? It was the Conservative government. It was not the opposition. It was not the Bloc Québécois. It was not the NDP. It was not the official opposition. It was not the Liberals or Liberal senators in the upper house. It was the government itself. Imagine that.

Canadians must ask themselves the same question that I have been asking myself for the past two years: Is this Conservative government simply incompetent or wilfully incompetent? When one looks closely at the facts concerning all these justice related bills, when one looks closely at the actions and decisions that this Conservative government has taken, or has failed to take, one can only conclude that it is either simply incompetent or wilfully incompetent.

In closing, I would like to thank the members of this House for their attention. I would be happy to answer any questions they may have. If I do not have the answer, I will be frank. I will say so and try to address the issue with that member outside the House.

Tackling Violent Crime Legislation
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, the entire foundation of the Liberal member's remarks is that she and her party would have been delighted to pass this legislation a long time ago. The Liberals claim that they wanted to fast track it.

Let us put aside for a second that such a method of fast tracking is procedurally impossible. Let us just assume that she were telling the truth on that particular point. If they were willing to fast track this legislation then, why are they not willing to pass it now? It is a very simple question.

The legislation has been languishing in the Senate because the senators decided to take all of January off, even though they knew this legislation was itching to be passed. They could have come back at any time in January--they have full authority to do that--to pass the legislation, but the Liberals there refused to do that.

However, it should not matter. The member said that they have had only eight days, but eight days should be too long if we apply her own logic. She claims the Liberals supported this bill for fast tracking months ago, years ago even. We know at the bottom and at the root that is not true.

The Liberals have never supported these tough measures because they were in power for 13 years and did nothing to advance them. They were against raising the age of sexual consent while in government and able to do something about it, and they are still against raising the age of sexual consent.

Let me cite Senator Carstairs, who was on Mike Duffy Live on February 6. She said in her comments that raising the age of sexual consent “might put a chill on family life education programs” and “might prevent young women and young men from reporting sexually transmitted diseases”. If that is the position of the Liberal Party, then why does her colleague in the House of Commons claim the contrary? The reality is the Liberals do not support our bills and they are trying to mask it and cover it up so that they cannot be held accountable for their soft on crime stance.

Tackling Violent Crime Legislation
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, it is not a claim that the official opposition on two occasions made formal offers to fast track some of the bills that are found in Bill C-2. That is not a claim; that is a fact. That is the first thing.

The second thing is that the member talked about the Liberals being soft on crime. No, the Liberals are not soft on crime. We attempt to develop, when we were in government and now as the official opposition, Liberal justice policies that are effective on crime, that will actually reduce crime, that are smart on crime. Let me give one very concrete example of that. No, let me give two.

One is the issue of minimum mandatory penalties for gun crimes. Guess which government brought in the first minimum mandatory penalties? It was a Liberal government.

Let us look at the long term offender system. A Liberal government brought that in. People might ask what the difference is between a dangerous offender and a long term offender. As I have to cut my answer short, I would encourage any Canadian who would like to know how the dangerous offender system and the long term offender system work to communicate with my office. The telephone number is 613-995-2251 and the email address is jennim@parl.gc.ca.

Tackling Violent Crime Legislation
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, because I was so intrigued, I want the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine to finish what she was about to say. Would she be so kind, for the benefit of my constituents, to finish what she was about to say?

Tackling Violent Crime Legislation
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the dangerous offender designation has been in existence for several decades. Basically, when the Liberals came back to power in 1993 the way the system operated was that the Crown in its discretion was not obliged, there was nothing in the law that required the Crown to apply for a dangerous offender hearing once someone had been found guilty of a series of serious egregious violent crimes. However, if the Crown did apply for it, the judge could then send the offender, before sentencing the person, for an expert psychological evaluation. Corrections Canada would also examine the person and produce expert reports. The judge would then decide if the person was so dangerous that he or she should be sent to prison for an indefinite period. The problem was that the judge was reluctant to do so, so the Liberal government brought in the long term offender. That is someone who has already been deemed to have been a dangerous offender.

Tackling Violent Crime Legislation
Government Orders

February 11th, 2008 / 1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with some interest to my hon. colleague's comments. The claim about the eight days that the bill has been in front of the Senate is simply a fallacy.

If we take a look at the precursor bills to Bill C-2 in the previous Parliament, those being: Bill C-10; Bill C-22, age of protection; Bill C-27, dangerous offenders; Bill C-32, impaired driving; and Bill C-35, reverse onus on bail for gun offences; four of those five bills had already passed through the House and had spent a significant amount of time in the Senate. The only one that had not was Bill C-27, which had been to committee and had been amended.

We were a very accommodating government, I thought. We basically bundled all of that legislation as it appeared in the previous session of Parliament, with the amendments, put it back in a bill, put it before the House and now it is sitting in the Senate.

We are not asking for anything that is extremely onerous.

My colleague also brought up the fact that she wanted to get her numbers right on something. Well, it is very clear from the information that I see, whether it is on TV or through various polls, that 70% of Canadians support tougher legislation against crime.

Is it sheer incompetence of her leader and her party, or wilful incompetence of her leader and her party, that they cannot get the Senate to pass the legislation?

Tackling Violent Crime Legislation
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, let us look at some of the facts concerning these bills. The age of consent bill, Bill C-22 in the last Parliament, was introduced by the government on June 22, 2006. The government moved second reading on October 30, 2006, and only sent it to committee on March 21, 2007. That bill, which we offered to fast track in October 2006 and which could have been the law in December 2006, only was adopted at third reading in the House on May 4, 2007. The Senate only received that bill on May 8, 2007.

When the member says that all of the bills had gone through the House and were sitting in the Senate, he is being wilfully incompetent or he is being sheerly incompetent by not giving the actual dates. It is the same thing for Bill C-32, Bill C-35, Bill C-10 and C-27.