House of Commons Hansard #115 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was years.

Topics

Remarks Attributed to Member for Ottawa South
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday, December 8, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage attributed a remark to me with respect to the former deputy prime minister of Canada, John Manley. At that time I considered the member's intervention to be of such a frivolous nature, if not in fact malicious, that I did not deem it deserving of a response. However, given he has repeated these remarks outside the House, I feel it is very important to set the record straight. I did not make the comment attributed to me and I want the official record to reflect that fact.

Remarks Attributed to Member for Ottawa South
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, when I asked the member to retract the statement the other day, it was clearly heard by a number of members on our side and I found the comments regrettable. That is why I gave the member the opportunity to withdraw them. It seems to me the former deputy prime minister has in fact taken a very high level, non-partisan position on Bill C-32, one that I think is important. He is joining a long list of leaders in this country who are calling for an update to Canada's Copyright Act to enable employers, to enable investment, to create jobs in this country. I thought the statements he made were outstanding. I found that the comments made by the current member for Ottawa South should be retracted.

Remarks Attributed to Member for Ottawa South
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member may have heard something that he disagreed with, but to my knowledge the alleged remark was not something the Chair would normally rule on. There was no allegation of unparliamentary language. It was a comment that maybe the member does not agree with, but certainly not something that would be worthy of a point of order.

I see the hon. member for Ottawa South rising, so I will hear him and then I think the House would be best to move on to orders of the day.

Remarks Attributed to Member for Ottawa South
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree with you. Once again, for the record, in case the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage who was not here moments ago did not hear what I said, I did not--did not--make the comment attributed to me.

The House resumed consideration of Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and another Act, as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

When the bill was last before the House, the hon. member for Edmonton—St. Albert had the floor. There are three minutes remaining in questions and comments.

There being no further questions, we will resume debate.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh was in the process of asking me a question. May I answer?

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Fair enough. I will let the member for Edmonton—St. Albert respond to that.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, the question had to do with victims and one of the proposed amendments by the Liberal-NDP coalition regarding the bill before the House. It had to do with the alleged request by victims groups to receive information.

The reason the government rejects the amendment that came out of the committee is that it is absolutely impractical for Corrections Canada to anticipate whether or not an offender is going to make use of the faint hope provisions. This is information that is specifically and particularly in the knowledge of the offender and perhaps his or her solicitor. It is absolutely impractical for Corrections Canada to notify victims' families when an offender has chosen not to make application for the faint hope provisions. They just do not know.

More to the point, victims want closure. Victims do not want to be notified by Corrections Canada of an impending faint hope application or that there is not going to be an imminent faint hope application. Victims have told us unequivocally and loudly that they want closure. If the opposition members are really interested in conforming to the wishes of victims, they will allow the bill to proceed as it came to the House from the Senate without any amendments and to abolish the faint hope clause for future murderers.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, is the member aware that the removal of the faint hope clause would not have any practical effect for 15 years? The Conservatives have led the public to believe that somehow they are going to be removing the faint hope clause, but the public does not understand that nothing will happen for 15 more years.

Would the member comment on whether he has discovered why the Conservative government of Joe Clark in 1979 started mailing pension cheques to murderers in prison? Has he been able to investigate that yet?

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is correct. The provisions of this bill will not be retroactive, nor should they be.

There is a principle of criminal law, which has been reinforced by our charter, that these provisions cannot be implemented retroactively. This will only apply to individuals who are convicted of murder on a go-forward basis from the time this bill receives royal assent and is proclaimed into law. That is appropriate.

Although the situations with Mr. Olson have often been cited and family members of the victims of Mr. Olson appeared before the committee to support this bill, the member is quite correct in that this bill will have no effect on those victims.

Realistically, and sadly, we can anticipate that these types of situations will occur in the future. This is to protect future victims—

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I will have to stop the member there as he has gone over his time.

We will move on with resuming debate. The hon. member for Toronto Centre.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am participating in the debate today for two reasons. One reason is that I am concerned about the general approach the government is taking toward the House of Commons and toward the process of debate, discussion and amendment in a minority House. I will come back to that point in a minute. The other reason is our concern about the way in which the government is handling criminal justice legislation.

On the first point, my colleague from Edmonton—St. Albert made much of the fact that this bill has gone through the Senate, which the government now effectively controls, and the House of Commons is now receiving the bill.

The government decided to put the bill in the Senate, not us. It decided to put the bill in the Senate and, miracle of miracles, because the government controls the makeup of the Senate, the bill managed to get through without any changes or amendments.

Then when the legislation comes to the House of Commons, and the House of Commons decides that it should be amended, if that is what the House of Commons decides, it is what the committee decided and we will see whether or not it is what the House of Commons decides, at that point the government takes great offence and says that if we amend this bill, that effectively means it has to go back to the Senate again. This is the government's most powerful reason for not providing any amendments.

To say that I am unimpressed with this approach is putting it mildly. The problem we have had with the government in both of its apparitions, the first apparition in 2006 and the second apparition in 2008, is that it has never understood what it means to govern in a minority Parliament.

It is clear that the government has never accepted the fact that it is a minority government. But it has no choice but to accept the possibility that amendments will be made to its legislation if it wants to create legislation on any given subject.

That is why I spoke today about the democracy deficit, which has been a problem with this government since it took power. The performance of the ministers answering questions in the House of Commons is deplorable. They never answer the questions, they just attack anyone who asks a question and there is never any substance to their answers. All they do is attack non-stop. This has nothing to do with democratic dialogue. I would know, because I have been in politics for over 30 years now. In my political life, I have never seen such a performance from a government that is supposed to support the notion of democracy.

I have never seen such a performance as I have seen by the government since my election to this place in 2008. The Conservatives never answer a question of substance. They never deal with an issue of substance. The only method they know to deal with any question is to attack. They attack the character, attack the personality, attack history, attack some other point.

Now the government turns around and says it is not prepared to deal with the amendments to this legislation. I have news for the government. There will be lots of amendments to legislation that it proposes. There will be lots of discussions and there may from time to time even be defeats if it persists in its approach of saying, “It is our way or the highway”.

It is not the way to conduct the public affairs of a country. It is the not the way to conduct the public affairs of a province. It is not the way to conduct the public business of Canada. We see day by day the corrosive effect of the attitude which the government continues to display. The way in which it continues to present itself to the House and the people of Canada increasingly attacks the very notion.

I find it so ironic that it was the Reform Party that came to the House with all of its ideas about how it was going to restore democracy. The government has shown a systematic contempt for parliamentary democracy. It knows nothing of respect for the parliamentary process. It complains about amendments being brought forward by the opposition. Of course there will be amendments. It is our right and our responsibility to bring forward amendments.

The government says it will not deal with them, it will never compromise, it will not negotiate, it will not make any arrangements to allow legislation to go through and that is the way it is going to govern. That is tough because if that is the way it is going to govern, then we have no option but to say we will stand in our places and fight and fight and fight again because this is an approach to democracy which simply cannot be allowed to stand.

The government claims that it is concerned about the economy. The member for Peterborough was up on his feet yesterday asking why we would bring up issues of the charter when we should be worrying about jobs. I would say to the member for Peterborough, show me the legislation you are bringing forward that deals with jobs, every single item. The Criminal Code is going to be bigger than the Encyclopedia Britannica if you guys are allowed to get away with this—

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. I have to take this opportunity to remind the member for Toronto Centre that he has to address his comments to the Chair and not directly to other colleagues.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

I have only been here for years and I cannot get used to not using the phrase “you guys“. I apologize, Mr. Speaker.

I can only say that the approach to criminal justice that is being taken by the government is an approach that is not going to reduce the level of crime one iota. Every jurisdiction in the United States which has attempted the approach that is now being taken on by the Government of Canada is saying to us, “Please do not do what we did”.

British politicians are telling us emphatically that their prisons are overflowing, that they did not realize what the impact of some of their legislation was going to be. They ask us how we have managed to keep things under control. I look at them and say that we did manage for a considerable period of time with a crime rate that has been going down and not up and with protection of the public that has been going up and not down.

The only message the government over there knows is fear, fear and fear again, which has nothing to do with the reality on the ground and with the need to prevent. Does it have a crime prevention strategy? No. Is it encouraging those communities that want to prevent crime? No. Is it working with the provinces to make sure that we deal with gangs in schools and with violence on our streets? No, it is not.

Its only answer is to lock people up, throw away the key, be done with it, minimum sentences, et cetera. That is the only approach the government knows. It is not an approach worthy of the name. It does not pass muster when it comes to dealing with the challenges and problems we have as a country and it does not deal effectively with the problem that we have.

Do we have a problem of crime? Every country has a problem of crime, a problem of crime that comes out of poverty, a problem of crime that comes out of insecurity, a problem of crime that comes out of addiction, a problem of crime that comes out of drug dependence, a problem of crime that comes out of alcohol dependence, a problem of crime that comes out of hopelessness and no opportunity. The government does not get that. The government's answer to those people is to say it is simply going to lock them up and throw away the key.

Yes, the Liberals are going to be moving amendments to this particular bill. We are going to be hoping that our colleagues in the opposition and whoever has the will to stand on the other side will stand and deal with it. If the government says it is very inconvenient because it got this crystal clear bill through the Senate with no amendments and no discussion and there was no problem, as we say in French, tant pis, too bad.

That is the government's problem, not ours. Our duty, as the opposition, is to ask questions, propose amendments and listen to the witnesses who testify before committees, as is the case here. We need to continue to have a positive and responsible approach to tackling crime, instead of all these things that the government is proposing in the House.