House of Commons Hansard #131 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was parole.

Topics

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

I am sure the hon. member will tie these comments to the subject at hand.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, of course I will tie them together, because the context of a bill or why it is before the House is always a matter of relevance. I can understand why the Conservatives do not want anyone in the House to remind Canadians of their hypocrisy.

When we see the Conservatives and separatists come together and co-operate today on the bill before the House, I think that what the government has said in the past about co-operating with separatists is entirely relevant. Of course, it is understandable why my hon. colleague would not want us to remind Canadians of that.

Again, on hypocrisy, the Prime Minister talked about Afghanistan and bringing the troops home in 2011. That went down the toilet. Bringing any decision or vote before the House on deploying troops back to Canada also went down the toilet. We are used to hypocrisy by the government.

Today we are debating a bill brought forward by the government, supported by the separatists, but I want to talk about the way it was done. It was done in a way that absolutely subverts democracy. Conservatives cut a deal, brought the bill before the House quickly and invoked closure so that we cannot have meaningful debate on the bill.

It was a backroom deal to cut off debate so that we as parliamentarians cannot perform the due diligence that Canadians want us to do to determine the impacts of this bill, how much it will cost and what effect it will have on our prison system. To me, that shows a lack of confidence in the merits of the bill by Conservatives and the Bloc, because if they were confident in it they would not be afraid of having a fulsome and thorough debate in examining the bill.

Let us talk about the bill. New Democrats understand the concern of Canadians and the sentiments that underlie this bill. Two issues have caused the bill to come before the House. The first is the spectre in Quebec of two high-profile white collar fraudsters, Earl Jones and Mr. Lacroix, who defrauded thousands of investors out of millions and millions of dollars. The prospect of their coming out of prison after serving one-sixth of their sentences has, quite rightly, made people upset in Quebec and across this country.

The second is that it is a quite reasonable concern of Canadians to raise an issue with the concept of some people coming out of a federal penitentiary and being moved to other places of incarceration after serving only one-sixth of their time. Those are valid concerns.

Canadians may know that accelerated parole is only available to first-time offenders who have committed a non-violent offence. Canadians may also find it relevant to know that those people are not coming out of prison and going into the community. They are not let out jail; it is the place of their incarceration that is being shifted. Instead of being in a federal penitentiary, after serving one-sixth of their time, they generally move to halfway houses, which are places of incarceration in our communities, where they still serve their sentences. If someone gets a sentence of 10 years, they still get that 10-year sentence but the place where they serve the sentence is moved.

I want to point out that the New Democrats have a long and proud history in the House of being tough on white collar crime. The New Democrats worked to strengthen the provisions in Bill C-21 to toughen the penalties for white collar crime and, I might point out, those amendments by the New Democrats were defeated by other parties in the House.

New Democrats also have a long and proud tradition of standing up for strong regulation in the financial sector, standing up against banks and finance companies and stock market behaviour to make sure those are well-regulated industries and that we minimize the opportunity for Canadians to be bilked or defrauded out of their money. Those efforts, I might add, are generally resisted by the Conservatives, and often by their coalition partner, the Liberals, and now by their new coalition partner, the Bloc Québécois, as they usually try to stop the efforts to ensure that we protect consumers in this country.

I also want to say that New Democrats understand the pain in Quebec. We understand the absolute and profound damage that has been caused by these unregulated white collar criminals who have defrauded so many people out of their life savings, and New Democrats believe that we have to crack down on them. The issue, of course, is to do that in an intelligent and targeted way, in a way that will actually help.

I want to go over some of the facts of this bill.

APR was introduced in 1992 and was expanded in 1997. It was considered a measure to help the correctional services focus on more dangerous offenders and thus save money.

In 2007 the Correctional Service of Canada review panel, headed by the Mike Harris era Conservative minister for privatization, Rob Sampson, recommended that APR be eliminated. We can thus see the genesis of this idea. He argued that parole should be reformed. The roadmap that Mr. Sampson developed and that the panel issued has been widely criticized, comprehensively criticized, as the absolutely wrong approach to our prisons, both in terms of effectiveness and cost.

The Conservatives have introduced measures to eliminate APR twice before, in Bill C-53, which died on prorogation without receiving any debate; and as part of an omnibus CCRA amendment, Bill C-39, which is currently before public safety committee.

I want to review some of the challenges of this bill. On the one hand, we have the spectre of some Canadians getting out after serving one-sixth of their sentence in a federal penitentiary and being moved to a different institution. That is absolutely the wrong message we want to send when talking about serious white collar crimes.

It is important to note that under the current legislation, there are some crimes that are not eligible for accelerated parole. One thing New Democrats ask is that if there are crimes that we do not think should qualify for accelerated parole, then why do we not study what those crimes should be and add them to the already existing list of crimes for which accelerated parole is not available? That is a surgical, intelligent approach.

Right now, out of 13,000 people in federal penitentiaries, there are approximately 1,000 people who currently would be affected by this legislation. Unlike the Conservatives' approach to crime, which is to take one poster person and target a bill to get at that person and to paint a broad brush of everybody else, it is clear that we do not have a uniform sample within those 1,000 people.

Caught up in those 1,000 people not eligible under this bill would be a person like a young aboriginal woman in jail for the first time maybe for passing bad cheques. She may have children in the community. She may have an addictions problem. She may have a mental health issue. It may be advantageous, both for her and for the community's safety, to move her into a halfway house in the community after one-sixth of her sentence were served in a federal penitentiary, where she could get the help for her issues she could not get inside a penitentiary. That is the kind of person who would also be caught by this bill.

I want to talk about services. I have been in 25 federal institutions in this country in the last year and a half. I will tell the House what I found: Our federal penitentiaries are a complete disaster in terms of offering timely and effective programming to our federal prisoners.

This bill would take 1,000 people who would otherwise be eligible to be moved into community facilities at one-sixth of their sentences, where they would get those services, and would make them stay in prison for another one-sixth of their time. Will those people have access to the types of services they need?

We have heard in committee that 80% of offenders in our federal institutions suffer from addictions. We are also just starting to touch the surface on the secondary problem of mental illness, which is also profoundly substantial.

If those people in our federal penitentiaries are not getting addictions treatment in a timely and effective way or treatment for their mental illnesses, this bill would keep them in those penitentiaries longer. Does the government want to put additional money and resources into our federal prisons to deal with that? I have not heard those members say that. No bill has been introduced by the government that would add those kinds of services to our prisons.

I released an internal document prepared by the correctional service. It stated that two bills alone, Bill C-25, the bill eliminating the two-for-one credit for pre-sentencing custody, and Bill S-6, the bill that adds mandatory minimums for gun crimes, would add 4,000 offenders to our prisons in the next two to three years. They would cause the government to hire 3,300 new personnel, which we estimate would cost a quarter of a billion dollars on personnel each and every year. As well, it has been estimated that it would require the government to spend somewhere between $5 billion and $10 billion to build new prisons in the next five to 10 years.

This bill would take 1,000 people and make them stay in prison longer. That may be a wise thing or it may not be, but I ask the following questions.

Has the government costed out what this will cost? I haven't heard it say anything about that. I have heard the government tell Canadians it is none of their business what the crime bills cost. It claims cabinet confidence when we ask what the crime bills will cost Canadian taxpayers.

Might I remind the government that it is not its money; the money that it is spending is Canadian taxpayers' money. Canadian taxpayers have the right to know the cost of any legislation. Yet the government hides. Why? It does not want to tell Canadians that the result of its crime agenda will cost billions of dollars. What is worse is that it will not make our communities any safer.

The political right in the United States has tried these policies over the last 30 years, people like Newt Gingrich, people in Texas and the American south. They have built more prisons, locked up people, tightened up parole, made people serve longer sentences and are now reversing those measures as we speak. This is not rhetoric. It is fact. The United States is actually adopting the exact opposite policies of this government because it knows that these are bankrupting its treasuries and not reducing crime rates.

As a matter of fact, the states that are focusing on crime prevention, on addressing the root causes of crime, such as addictions and mental health, and are putting resources into treating those issues are making their communities safer and reducing crime rates. However, this government is pursuing a policy that is 30 years out of date and proven wrong.

There is another reason that we might want to move someone from a federal penitentiary after a short, sharp experience into a community facility like a halfway house. It might be better for their reintegration. It would put them closer to their families and support structures. It would allow them to work. I have heard the government say many times that the best social welfare program is a job. It would put that person in a community where they would have more access to required services such as mental health assistance and therapy, addictions treatments and help for any number of different physical or mental ailments they may have.

What are we saying? We are saying that transferring someone into that kind of facility is better for them and makes it more likely they will not reoffend, which is better for community safety.

Have we considered that? No, because the Bloc and the government have combined to ram this bill through in Parliament within a matter of days of debate.

One thing I have noticed about this chamber is that it is never good public policy to make legislation on the fly, under pressure and without study. I do not care what the bill is: no bill, no federal legislation that will affect thousands of Canadians, should ever be passed by this House without our thoroughly vetting that bill and understanding all of its implications and consequences.

What is the impact on community safety? What is the impact on prison overcrowding? What is the impact and how many more prison cells will we have to build if we have to keep more people in prison for longer? What will it cost? Which crimes should we be targeting? All of these questions are valid questions that any responsible parliamentarian would want the answers to before voting on a bill. However, the Conservatives and the Bloc, the separatists and the Conservatives, have joined together to say, no, we cannot have that debate.

The New Democrats have a number of positive suggestions in this regard. Again, we understand there are some crimes that should not get accelerated parole, particularly by white collar criminals who bilk people out of their savings. However, why do we not look at making surgical amendments to the legislation to add crimes to the list that do not qualify for accelerated parole? A second alternative is to allow a judge to have discretion at the time of sentencing to determine whether a person should or should not qualify for accelerated parole.

Those are amendments the New Democrats will be bringing to the committee tonight, in the four hours the government and the separatists have allotted for debate, after which they are going to invoke closure.

In those four hours, we will be exploring answers to these questions for Canadians. We are going to try to understand the impact of this bill on our penal system and on our treasury. We are going to propose amendments to fix the problems that Canadians want fixed, but do not damage the rehabilitation and community safety. That is what the New Democrats are about: responsible parliamentarianship. That is not what we see in this bill.

I want to focus on the way our parole system works.

Our parole system is a carefully crafted system that has developed over decades. One cannot tinker with just one part and not expect it to have an impact on other parts. There are theories of punishment as to how we can best alter behaviour.

The purpose of our prison system is corrections. It is to try to correct the behaviour of people so that when they re-enter society they do not reoffend. That is the best public safety policy we could have. That is why we have sophisticated notions of punishment and reward where people get a short, sharp experience with prison and then reintegrate into society. As parliamentarians, we should be encouraging that process.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

Noon

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has raised some very good points. Clearly, without having the normal debate on such a bill, it interferes with parliamentarians' rights to have an informed discussion so that they can make good laws and wise decisions.

Having said that, the debate that has gone on so far seems to have focused on certain extreme cases to make the general case. My concern is there are some offences to which this bill would apply where to not have the option of early parole would not be in the public interest. Studies have clearly shown that recidivism rates increase when the amount of prison time increases relative to those who get early parole.

I would ask the member whether or not he is aware of any studies that show that more incarceration actually results in less recidivism in the community.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his astute comments.

We are not the only society grappling with crime in the world. Every society is grappling with crime. There are many different approaches to deal with it. There are very harsh, firm approaches that are characterized in countries in Asia. We see more liberal approaches in northern Europe. There are different approaches all over the world.

I have asked the government with the full resources of the public safety department and the justice department, to name one jurisdiction in the world for which they have data to show that these policies work to reduce the crime rate and make communities safer. It has never given me one example, not one.

We on this side have come up with many examples of states that have tried these kinds of policies and are reversing them. They know that in the real laboratory of life, after spending billions of dollars on building more prisons and putting people in prison for longer, there is no measurable impact on reducing crime. It is quite the opposite.

In Texas, after cracking down on crime for over 30 years, the rate of recidivism was 50%. That means one out of every two people would be going right back into prison. That does not tell me it is a successful corrections program.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for all the work he does on the public safety committee.

The member closed his comments by talking about the corrections system and a series of rewards and punishments, rewards for good behaviour and punishments for bad behaviour to help correct the individual.

I am curious as to why he supports automatic accelerated parole. Would he not favour a system of earned parole if he actually sees merit in a system of benefits for those who behave well in the corrections system?

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I also would like to congratulate the member on the good work he does in the public safety committee.

The first thing I would correct is the misnomer of referring to accelerated parole as automatic. It is not automatic. There is a reverse onus. Someone will get parole after serving one-sixth of the sentence, unless it can be shown by the national parole board that the person is likely to commit a violent offence in the community.

Once again, this policy came out of a different time when it was recognized that we wanted an effective targeted use of prison time and to focus on the people who really need to be in prison, people who are violent, people who cannot function in society, people who need to be supervised. It was recognized that it was desirable to have a different stream after exposing non-violent first offenders to that very harsh environment. And make no mistake, it is harsh. Of the 25 prisons I have visited, I would not want to spend five minutes in any one of them as a prisoner. After exposing people to that harsh environment for a period of time, to deliver that message to them, it is desirable to transition them to a halfway house, as long as we can be sure they are not going to be violent. They are still under their prison sentence. They are still in prison. They are still serving their sentence. They are still subject to conditions, but it gives them access to other programs and resources that are not available in prison.

In that respect, the recidivism rate of people in halfway houses is lower. It is cheaper. It costs about $25,000 a year to keep someone in a halfway house, whereas it costs $140,000 to keep someone in prison. That is the kind of economic theory the government is advancing here today.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway if I understand this correctly. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has projected that it will cost $10 billion roughly over five years to implement the kind of so-called crime control the Conservatives would like to do, although they will not give us any numbers to confirm or deny that. Given that we have seen a lot of evidence all over the place that these kinds of draconian measures just harden beginner criminals and make them into really bad people who get put back into prison, and given that it does not work and it is expensive, what would the member and his New Democrat colleagues do for a better system on preventing crime?

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North has asked an intelligent question. He works hard on behalf of his constituents across the board.

We do know what does work in terms of making our communities safer is to have more community police in our neighbourhoods walking the beat. We need to have a well-functioning judiciary and prosecution system that has enough resources so that it can prosecute crimes in an efficient and timely manner. If we invest in crime prevention, according to the statistics I have seen, every $1 invested in crime prevention saves $4 in terms of later court costs and costs to society. We need to focus on mental illness and addictions treatment. I was at the regional psychiatric centre in Saskatoon sitting inside a federal penitentiary talking to addictions counsellors. I asked them what percentage of the people in that institution who committed crimes did they think would not have committed them if they were not addicts or alcoholics. The answer was 70%. That was not said by me or any other New Democrat. That was said by the correctional officers inside a prison.

It stands to reason that we would be better advised to invest money in addictions treatment and in mental health facilities. Another benefit is it would work to prevent crime.

The best help we can give a victim in this country, in my opinion, in the opinion of New Democrats, is to prevent them from being victimized at all. Victims do not want us to crack down after they have been hurt. They want justice, but what they really want is for us to adopt policies that would make it less likely that they, their children, their families and their loved ones were ever hurt to begin with.

That is what is so wrong about the Conservative policy. It is focused on punishing after the harm has been created instead of focusing on preventing the harm in the first place, which is to be smart on crime.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, would the member comment on how the government is being tough on victims, creating more victims, making Canada more dangerous by spending so much money on jails that could be spent on more police? Would he also comment on what the government has done to reduce the absurdly high proportion of aboriginal people in the federal system?

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, dealing with the latter question first, the answer is nothing. We all know that aboriginal offenders are vastly overrepresented in our prisons. Approximately 30% of the female population in federal prisons is aboriginal. It is approaching that, actually, in our male population as well when they make up about 1% of Canada's population.

That is the other thing the bill may very well harm. If people who are in prison for the first time are disproportionately aboriginal, the bill will quite logically have a disproportionately negative impact on aboriginal people.

In terms of the first question, absolutely, we need to be focusing on putting more resources into policing. That would be far wiser. A neighbourhood police officer on bike patrol embedded in the community or embedded in schools does more to prevent crime than any other factor.

The government claimed it would create 2,500 police officer positions in this country. However, it would not commit to funding beyond five years and it sent the money to provinces without any ties to it. Some provinces have not spent the money and have put it into general revenue.

I have talked to police departments and police chiefs who told me they cannot create the police positions because they do not have stable funding beyond five years. They will not create a police position, which usually requires two civilian staff on top, and go to all that trouble and expense when 48 or 60 months from now they will have to get rid of that.

The government has not created 2,500 police officer positions as the New Democrats have suggested. That would be a far wiser expenditure of funds than building more prisons to lock up people for longer and end up having those people come out more likely to offend than when they went in.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

February 15th, 2011 / 12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to support Bill C-59, which, when passed, will abolish accelerated parole review.

Before giving my speech, I would like to say that I hope that the victims of white collar fraudsters are watching the debate being held in the House today.

The presentations we have just heard by our colleagues opposite—the NDP—were rather odd, to say the least. I do not understand from their remarks how they are helping the victims. I personally heard nothing about that.

I would first like to thank the hon. members for their collective efforts that have enabled us to properly debate this bill and to give priority to the safety of Canadians. I am pleased to speak in the House to tell Canadians that our government is determined to ensure that this bill is passed quickly.

We are here to debate a bill that will amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act in order to abolish the procedure known as “accelerated parole review”. These changes will ensure that white collar criminals will no longer have access to accelerated parole review. With Bill C-59, these offenders will have to assume responsibility for the crimes they have committed.

I appreciate the efforts made by my hon. colleagues to explain how accelerated parole review works, how it has created a two-tier parole system that allows white collar criminals to apply for parole earlier than offenders who have committed violent crimes, and how white collar criminals need only prove to the National Parole Board that they will not commit violent crimes to be eligible for day parole.

We also heard hon. members on the other side of the House state that they agree that we should ensure that white collar criminals who defraud Canadians serve appropriate sentences for their crimes. We appreciate the important work that has been done and we ask all hon. members to continue to co-operate with us to ensure that this bill is as strong and effective as possible.

My hon. colleagues pointed out the differences between the procedure for accelerated parole review and the procedure for regular day parole review so that we can be sure that all members of the House and all Canadians are aware of the objectives of this bill.

I would like to give you a brief summary of the bill. These amendments will make it possible to repeal sections of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, which governs the procedures for accelerated parole review, so that offenders are no longer eligible for day parole at one-sixth of their sentence and full parole at only one-third of their sentence. When you really stop and think about it, it is fairly ridiculous that, with the existing system, offenders who commit crimes and steal from people who trusted them with their money are put in prison but serve only one-sixth of their sentences. It is completely unacceptable.

The violent recidivism test will no longer apply to accelerated parole review. All offenders will be subject to the same general recidivism criteria. The cases of all offenders will be assessed at a hearing rather than by means of a paper review.

This is the main purpose of the bill. It is actually a simple change. It does not create a new system for white collar criminals by applying a different set of rules to them than to other offenders.

We are simply eliminating a system that has allowed people who commit white collar or non-violent crime to apply for parole earlier than those who commit violent crimes. In our opinion, it is important that those who commit crimes, whether they be moral or violent, serve appropriate sentences.

As any responsible government should, we must ensure that the laws that govern our country are not only fair and reasonable but also adapted to the times in which we live. We live in a time where the ease of transmitting data— particularly financial data since that is what we are discussing today—makes it possible for crime to be committed at an incredible rate. That is why it is important that this bill be passed quickly.

This is certainly not the first time a government has amended legislation to adapt to changing times, which is the case today. Ten years ago, September 11 changed the world. Following those tragic terrorist attacks against the United States, that country, Canada and its allies made significant and often permanent changes to methods for managing safety and security at the border and on their territory.

Of course, the bill before us today is not motivated by such a radical cultural change, but it contains changes made necessary by the rapid rise in crimes like fraud over the past two decades. I believe that in Quebec in particular we have seen some completely unacceptable cases of fraud. Obviously it is never acceptable to commit fraud, but you know what I mean, in that it is important for people who commit this type of crime to be punished accordingly.

We have all read articles in the newspaper about so-called smart and helpful people who have convinced Canadian workers to entrust their entire savings to their so-called solid name. That is the sector where we have seen a rise in white collar crime. These people no longer just go after corporations. Now they are attacking Canadians who worked hard their entire lives and saved money for a bit of financial security when they retire. Those are the people we want to protect with this bill. We want to protect Canadians who work hard to save money their whole lives only to see that money go up in smoke in the hands of a fraudster. This is totally unacceptable.

In the difficult economic times we have seen in the past few years, we cannot blame Canadians for looking for ways to build up their savings. These law-abiding Canadian workers suddenly discover that their savings have disappeared. Everyone here in this House has heard about families who have lost everything and ended up isolated after such a loss. We have seen many examples of this in the past two or three years in particular, and it is important that we do something about it immediately.

It is difficult to imagine the humiliation and embarrassment these people must feel after having put their entire savings in the hands of an expert fraudster. Imagine handing over all your financial assets to someone you trust, only to have them abuse that trust and steal all your assets. It must be absolutely terrible, and it was for many families.

Some victims find the courage to testify at the trial of the person who stole from them, but many victims remain silent because they are afraid to tell anyone what happened. Goodness knows that each of us has had moments where it seemed completely natural to trust friends, who eventually turned against us. And it is not always easy to admit that.

We must understand that the victims who choose to speak and play an important role in the legal proceedings must feel relieved once the criminal is convicted. It takes a long time and a long process before that happens. They must feel a certain sense of victory when the criminal is finally put behind bars for many years.

And it is at this stage that the system breaks down and we turn our backs on victims by saying that fraud is not a very serious crime. This is when accelerated parole review comes into play. As it currently stands, accelerated parole review allows white collar criminals to apply for day parole earlier than a violent offender who receives the same length of sentence.

In Canada, financial fraud is not considered to be the same as a physically violent crime. But emotional and psychological abuse are just as serious as physical violence.

It must be a terrible shock and disappointment for the victims of these crimes to learn that the offender has received day parole so soon after being incarcerated. While the victims are still trying to pick up the pieces, the fraudster can apply for day parole and begin to rebuild his life after having served only one-sixth of his sentence.

It is rather unbelievable, when you think about it. Imagine that a fraudster caused you to lose everything you own, and after a year, a year and a half or two years, he is completely free and goes back to his life as though nothing happened. That is completely unacceptable. I am sure that hon. members will agree that that is completely unfair. Our government believes that this system is outdated and that it must be changed quickly.

I would like to stress a very important point. This amendment was not put forward by our government just for the sake of introducing a bill. Canadians told us that they wanted us to defend victims and their families. That is the purpose of Bill C-59.

Furthermore, Bill C-59 is a direct response to the recommendations in the 2007 report of the Correctional Service Canada Review Panel. The report, which made 109 recommendations, expressly stated that the accelerated parole review process should be abolished. Our government studied these recommendations and committed to following through on this recommendation so that all offenders are treated equally when it comes to eligibility for parole.

This amendment will ensure that white collar criminals, such as people who have been convicted of fraud, are no longer able to apply for day parole after serving only one-sixth of their sentence. They will have to wait until they have served at least six months before being eligible for full parole, like any other offender. It will also ensure that white collar criminals participate in their parole hearings and plead their case in person before the NPB.

With this amendment, the rules will change so that the NPB will be able to refuse day parole if it has reasonable grounds to suspect that the offender will commit another crime, no matter what type. Under the current system, the NPB must only determine whether the offender could commit another non-violent crime. With this amendment, the same criterion applies to all offenders when they appear before the board.

I urge all hon. members to support Bill C-59 and to show our total commitment to the many Canadians who have been victims of these crimes. Changing times call for new measures. The sooner we pass Bill C-59, the sooner we can put an end to the two-tier system that makes white collar criminals eligible for early parole. We must work together to provide justice for all victims.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, our biggest objection to the bill is the fact that the government is using closure on it. The government should understand why we are complaining about that move because when it was in opposition and the Liberals were using closure on a consistent basis, it too objected to the idea that the government could ram through legislation. There is no need for this.

We could simply proceed through the normal processes here and deal with the bill in the regular fashion, but the government is getting together with the Bloc to use closure to ram the legislation through. It is not something which should be used on a consistent basis.

Also, we have asked consistently for a costing of these bills. The fact is that no government introduces legislation without having some idea of the cost of the implementation of the bill. We have asked for that information. We are not able to get it.

In 2007, the state of Texas in the United States decided against building more prisons and opted to enhance proven community corrections approaches such as drug courts. It was able to reduce the cost of prisons and get a reduction in the crime rates since 2004 by, I believe, 10% by doing things that actually worked. Republicans and Democrats in the state were working together.

When will the government reconsider its approach on crime and start working with an all-party group in this House to get good crime legislation on the books?

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to hear my colleague talk about co-operation and solidarity in the House.

I am trying to put myself in the position of a victim who has just lost all her savings, who sees us working here in the House of Commons and wonders if we can pick up the pace, if we can do something to ensure that this cannot happen again to her or anyone else.

That is basically what we are thinking: the faster we can pass this bill, the sooner people will feel more secure and ready to trust other people again when it comes to investing their money.

I almost feeling like turning the hon. member's question right back to him. If he were a victim right now, would he not want all members of the House of Commons of Canada to do everything they could to pass some sort of legislation? We have before us an excellent bill to ensure that these things never happen again and, if they do, to punish the criminals for their crimes.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, our government continues to demonstrate our commitment to safety and security for families. I want to know how important the member thinks it is to ensure the changes in the legislation are applied retroactively.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's question. Clearly the bill aims to speed up procedures so that they may begin as soon as possible. I think the Bloc Québécois members have understood how important it is to push this bill through quickly. It needs to be done as soon as possible. It is extremely important that this bill pass today, if possible, and if not, then in a few days or weeks so that it may become law as soon as possible. Thus, we will be able to punish people in a way that corresponds to their crimes.