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

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, as the member has probably heard today, there are all sorts of ways victims can be helped, which everyone would like to do, but only so much can be done with the resources available, so it depends on the costs of programs.

I wonder if he could speculate as to why not one Conservative member has been able to say, after requests from members in the House from various parties, what the cost of this initiative would be. How much would it cost and how much would be left for other ways to help victims?

The public service is a very professional, well-educated body that is used to providing the costs of things it proposes. It is very strange to the public watching on TV why, after a long debate, the Conservatives have either not come up with the numbers or, if they have the numbers, members are not allowed to provide them.

What exactly would be the effect of this bill, what are the estimates by the professionals of how many people would remain in prison longer and what would be the cost of that? Why does the member think that no Conservative member has been able to answer that question?

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

February 15th, 2011 / 12:30 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, the cost I think that it is important to acknowledge today is the cost that victims have to pay. It is not simply a monetary cost; it is an extremely high psychological and emotional cost.

The members here today and all members must understand that the cost we may or will have to pay as a result of this particular bill, whether we take two weeks or two years to pass it, will not change inevitably, but it will change for the victims. Thus, it is extremely important to ensure that there are not further costs for victims in the future.

We must ensure that these offenders are kept in prison for the maximum amount of time they deserve for the crimes they have committed. We must ensure that we put pressure on society to prevent these crimes from happening again. For our government, that is the cost that it is most important to understand today.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, does the member think it is fair to have a process that would allow a committee to meet from 10 o'clock tonight until 3 o'clock in the morning, which is the period of time that we will have witnesses appearing on the bill? Does he think that is fair to the process to have witnesses appearing in the middle of the night?Why could we not simply go through the normal process and add an extra few days of debate and resolve the bill in the way that it is likely to be resolved anyway?

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has been here much longer than I have. I feel I should to welcome him to the club. This is what it is to be a parliamentarian. There are no set hours and we work 365 days a year. This is the nature of the work we have to do. We must do our work regardless of the place or time. It is important and we have to do it now.

This bill is extremely important for victims and for all Canadians who may be victims of fraud or who could potentially become victims of fraud. We want to put an end to this current lack of action. It is appalling. An incredible number of people in Quebec have fallen victim to fraud over the past few years. Again, yesterday, we heard on the radio and on television that some people had been defrauded by their best friend.

Can the members of the House understand the need to act quickly? That is what we are in the process of doing. Fortunately, the Bloc Québécois has understood this message.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member suggests that we need to pass the bill quickly to protect Canadians from fraud. The bill is not just about fraud. This is about a range of non-violent offences, and many of them are very nominal. There is no evidence whatsoever that this will reduce the recidivism rate.

Is the member aware of any evidence whatsoever that longer incarceration will reduce the recidivism rate?

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, the only thing that matters is minimizing the impact on victims.

The simple-mindedness of my fellow members' questions is absolutely unbelievable. We are in this House before you, Mr. Speaker, to try to make all Canadians understand that we are working for them and for their security, and they tell us that it does not matter. I believe that it is important for citizens and all members to understand that we must act quickly.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand today to add my comments on Bill C-59.

I cannot help but at times draw comparisons with the Manitoba legislature and here. When I look at what the government is trying to do through a form of closure to limit debate, I reflect on the Manitoba legislature.

I have heard comments from my New Democratic colleagues that the Liberals did something of a similar nature. I can assure my New Democratic friends that my last experience with closure was actually within the New Democratic government in Manitoba. The NDP use closure in many different ways in the province of Manitoba.

What is important to recognize is what is taking place here and why this is a little more unique than most motions of different forms of closure that might take place.

It is interesting that time and time again we hear the government say how important this is for the victims. Even the previous speaker made reference to the victims. It is all about the victims. I, too, sympathize with the victims. I think every member of the House knows individuals who have been victimized through white-collar crime and other forms of crime. We all sympathize with the victims and we want to do what we can to minimize the impact that crime has on victims.

The big difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals is that we believe that we can do more to prevent victims from having to go through the hardships and emotional circumstances in which they find themselves if we can have a good, sound policy dealing with crime and safety.

At the end of the day, when we look at the differences between the Conservatives and the Liberals, we see that the Liberal Party has addressed this particular issue. My Liberal colleague has raised the issue of legislation or the idea of large-scale fraud and how we attempted to deal with that just over a year and a half ago.

After listening to the comments, in particular from the Bloc and from the Conservatives, I wonder why they did not embrace this enthusiasm that they have today back then. Had they done that, I suspect we would have had fewer victims. It is surprising to hear the government and member after member stand and talk about large-scale fraud when the issue of large-scale fraud was before the House on previous occasions. One has to question why it is they did not support dealing with the issue when the issue was first brought to their attention.

The way in which the government is now trying to say that the sky is falling and the bill must pass in the next 24 or 48 hours is somewhat unique. The Conservatives had the opportunity to do the right thing almost two years ago but they chose not to. They decided, in whatever collective wisdom they have among their benches, not to act on a good initiative that was before the House. We can just imagine the number of individuals who would not have been victims had the government done the right thing back then.

I would suggest that there are two issues here. We have the issue of large-scale fraud, which is very serious and which affects thousands of Canadians across this land, but it is also an issue that was before the House well before the government brought in Bill C-59. It is a real issue and it is causing a great deal of hardship in our society.

I understand there is virtually unanimous support from all members of Parliament. I suspect that had the government taken that issue, put it in this legislation and left it at that, the sense of co-operation would have been binding. We would have had wonderful co-operation. That bill would have passed quite quickly.

The Liberal Party has been advocating for that type of legislation for well over a year. Imagine the number of crimes that could have been prevented. Imagine if the government really was passionate about getting at large-scale fraudsters, the ones who victimized so many Canadians. Imagine for a moment that the government really was sincere in its comments and brought in legislation that dealt specifically with that issue. This would have been a wonderful thing to see. The government would not have needed to bring in closure. It would have had the support of Liberals and I suspect New Democrats. The Bloc would have supported the government for sure. The point is the legislation would have passed. It would have dealt with those large-scale fraudsters who caused so much hardship and concern for Canadians, and for good reason.

I have witnessed first-hand over the years individuals who have had their life savings taken away from them, or stolen from them, and the impact that has had on them, especially on someone on a fixed income. An individual on a fixed income does not have much of a choice. It is not like someone 75 years old can re-enter the workforce. Someone who cons a 75 year old out of thousands of dollars so he or she can vacation on some luxury yacht goes against what we believe is right. That is why we have laws of this nature. That is why we need laws to protect our seniors and others, because not only seniors are exploited. I sympathize as to why the need is there and I understand it.

At the airport just the other day I heard a newscast about someone selling vacation packages. It was a fraud. Imagine paying thousands of dollars for a vacation with the family and arriving at the airport find out that no such thing is taking place. People arranged to take time off from work. Commitments had to be changed. Money was allocated for the trip. All of this for naught because of possible loopholes in the law. Individuals took advantage of good, hard-working citizens.

These types of things happen far too often. We could do things in the House of Commons that would make a difference. I appeal to members to look at those things and act upon them.

I said previously that there were really two issues. The other issue is maybe not as pretty, and that is the political agenda of the government. The government's agenda is quite different from what is in the best interests of the average Canadian. The government gives the impression that it is tough on crime. This is one of those bills that it wants to use to demonstrate that.

This is why we have legislation before us that deals with more than just large-scale fraud. This is the reason the Conservatives expanded the legislation. They know it will be more difficult to get it through the House of Commons. They hoodwinked the Bloc, and I will give them that much. However, I do not quite understand why the Bloc would be onside with the legislation. I always thought there was more of a social conscience or more of a responsibility to look at the bigger picture within the Bloc.

I do not think the Liberal Party would do service, as the official opposition and as a party that has done so much in terms of justice, crime and safety in our country, if we closed our eyes and let the government get away with this. We have to recognize what the government is trying to do.

There are two different philosophies. The government genuinely believes the best way to protect society is to build as many prisons as possible and throw everyone and anyone into that prison if they violate a law.

The other day I had said that I was health care critic for the Manitoba Liberal Party. Also, for a short period of time, I was justice critic. In dealing with crime and safety, there is a lot more to that file than building a jail, keeping someone in jail for as long as we can and then letting them out the door.

Given the opportunity to hear the different sides, I believe people will buy-in to what the Liberal Party has to say on this bill. At the end of the day, I want to see less crime in the streets and communities of Winnipeg North. The best way to do that is to come in with an all-encompassing approach that deals with crime and safety. The government is failing in doing that. It is not delivering where it should be delivering because it is more interested in its political agenda of trying to give the impression it is tough on crime.

I will concede one point. The Conservatives are tougher than me in wanting to keep everyone and anyone in jail for a longer period of time, whether it is better or worse for society. I question virtually any policy they have related to justice.

I believe there has to be a consequence to every crime that is committed. I have seen crimes take place where there has been absolutely zero consequence under that administration. Maybe there will be another opportunity at another time in which I will be able to expand on that point.

I care just as much about the victims of crime as the government does. I believe all members care about the victims of crime. The difference is I want to do what I can to prevent some of those crimes from taking place. The way in which to do that is to develop programs that are sound, that make a difference and that get individuals off the wrong road and back on track. By doing that, we reduce the amount of crime in our communities in which we live.

As members know, we recently had a byelection in Winnipeg North. Crime and safety was the number one issue. I take it very seriously. There are areas in Winnipeg North where seniors will not go out of their homes because they do not feel safe in their communities when the sun goes down. Is putting everyone in jail until they hit 45 or 50 years of age the answer to that? Would that allow individuals to be safe? I would argue that is not the case.

Whether it is white-collar crime or other forms of crime, if we want to prevent some of these crimes from happening, we need education and programming. There also needs to be a punishment element, and I do not question that. I do not want the Conservatives to say that I am soft on crime or that I do not believe in punishment.

I do believe in punishment. I do not consider myself soft on crime. I consider myself an advocate in trying to minimize the amount of crime taking place in our communities, and I will talk about those types of government policies.

We could do so much more. We could take it down to the community level. For example, in dealing with white-collar crime, what can we do to better assist, better inform and educate 14 year old to 24 year old single parents? There are many 14 year old single parents. We could teach them to balance a cheque book. We could let them know how wrong it is to allow a cheque to bounce. We could teach them their responsibilities to the community as a whole, one of which is not allowing cheques to bounce.

That is one issue where if it is not dealt with at one level, it has a higher risk of continuing into the future. It potentially could become worse.

Are there things we could do to have an impact on that? I would argue, profoundly, yes. There are many things we could do to make a difference and to prevent people from becoming future victims or becoming victims in the first place.

That is the real challenge the government has to face. I have had an opportunity on one occasion to challenge the government on that. A number of days ago we raised the issue of some funding for gang prevention activities. The government made the decision not to reaffirm any sort of commitment to that. Preventing individuals from getting involved in gangs has an impact on preventing crimes. Why would the government not have the motivation to move in that direction?

When we look at the types of issues in white-collar crime, there are things the government could do. I question why the government has made the decision to expand what would have been legislation that could have very easily passed had it been focused on that large-scale fraud. It had the support of the opposition a year and a half ago. Had the government done that, it would not have had to bring in closure and this legislation could have possibly been passed by now.

With it being as all encompassing as it is, there needs to be more consultation. We need to hear what people have to say. There has to be more work done on the bill. That is the responsible thing to do, and the Liberal Party of Canada is doing the responsible thing.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, I have been paying attention to the debate today and heard the tone of my colleague's speech, which I heard earlier from the NDP.

The opposition is accusing members of the government of oversimplifying the issue of crime by themselves oversimplifying things. We can all have agreements or disagreements on a certain amount of legislation, but the opposition is saying that our government and, therefore, I have no understanding of the responsibility to have a balanced government approach to dealing with crime. Yes for punishment, yes for incarceration, yes for support for law enforcement, but yes for support for programs as well.

To suggest, as the opposition and my colleague have time and again, that the Conservatives are in favour of locking people up and throwing away the key is nonsensical. Every year, I attend a graduation ceremony for a program called a chance to choose. It is run by SUCCESS which, as many colleagues know, is an organization that helps new Canadians who come to this country with the often difficult challenges of becoming a new citizen.

These are kids who are absolutely desperate to have some kind of structure in their lives and some hope. Most of them have been put into a program. Our government has increased funding for these programs. They exist across the country. These are kids who are absolutely at their most desperate point in life, often struggling with substance abuse and broken families who are not there to help them when they need it the most.

Our government is supporting these kinds of programs and organizations all across the country with great success. To oversimplify the debate and say that we do not support these kinds of programs is nonsensical. We support these programs when they work. We do it in my community all the time. To oversimplify the debate and say the Conservatives do not support programs that help kids is ridiculous. I hope he recognizes that and maybe re-calibrates his remarks appropriately.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments, but I must advise the minister that he is thinking outside the glass bubble that the Prime Minister has put him in.

The Prime Minister's line is very simple, that the government is tough on crime. Conservatives cannot have it both ways. They cannot tell the public and advertise in their brochures that the Prime Minister and the public safety minister are tough on crime and then in the backrooms say they are a little sympathetic to what is being said and they do support some of the programs. That is not what is being conveyed to the public on the front lines. Either Conservatives believe in them, are prepared to talk about them and use them as examples, or they are not.

In the future, if I get the opportunity, I should ask the member the question with regard to the gang fund and talk about the benefits of it. If we spend billions of dollars every year, some of that money is bound to be spent on good things. However, in the government's press releases, statements and advertising it does not necessarily focus on the issues that the member put forward.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate a number of the comments my colleague raised. He is a representative of an area in my home province that many of my constituents end up going to, constituents who face some of the harshest realities, such as abject poverty and fleeing reserves in northern Manitoba, areas that lack some of the most basic services.

One service the government has claimed to hold great commitment on is recreation and prevention. I can safely say that on reserve, certainly in the communities I represent, there is no money for recreation or prevention. If anything, people have to go to the urban centres where provincial programs exist in order to support some of the young people who live on the margins and are at greatest risk of finding themselves in a life of crime.

I would like to hear the member's views on the importance of such programs in his community and the great shame in losing the funding for gang prevention programs in Winnipeg, a city that offers fantastic services to a lot of youth coming out of northern Manitoba and the young people I represent.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would concur in most part with the member's remarks.

In fact, recreation or alternative activities are of critical importance to me personally. One of the commitments I made to my constituents was that I would not collect my MLA pension. The proceeds from my MLA pension are going to go toward programs and activities for children who do not necessarily have the opportunity to participate. I am thinking of basketball, soccer and activities such as that.

If we take a look at the riding of Winnipeg North and others, trying to better engage our young people or provide opportunities for them to take part in activities such as basketball, soccer and different forms of social and recreational activities is a positive thing. Governments at all levels need to recognize it and adequately resource it.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, this morning at the Standing Committee on Finance, the Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed to us that the traditional practice of governments in Canada has been that once a bill is tabled and under consideration, the assumptions on the costing of such legislation no longer constitute a cabinet confidence.

The finance committee has not been able to get that information, but we as parliamentarians are here now debating a bill, the cost of which is not insignificant. In fact, the Parliamentary Budget Officer said, with regard to one bill, that he does have some information the annual cost would be about $1 billion.

Even more than that, there is an impact on the provincial side. The member is a former provincial member. He would know that when we make laws at the federal level, there are consequences at the provincial level which involve not only the incarceration, but also the rehabilitation side. These are important aspects the House will not have the benefit of debating because of the closure provisions.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is an excellent question. Undoubtedly there is an impact. When we pass a law of this nature there will be costs for each and every provincial government across Canada. It is hard to estimate the actual cost.

Prior to the introduction of the bill, the government should have done its homework. There should have been some dialogue, not only among the federal bureaucrats, but also consultations with the different levels of government, particularly the provincial government, to try to get a sense of the impact on their budgets.

I can assure the member that in future justice minister meetings no doubt it will be a hot topic for discussion, because it will have a profound increase even on the provincial budgets, as they have to compensate for some of the legislation we are actually passing.

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to the conversation between the two Liberal members of Parliament. It is interesting that they are concerned about the costing of our justice legislation, but not the cost of anything else.

The leader of the Liberal Party refers to himself as a tax and spend Liberal, not concerned with all these huge programs and their cost, but are all of a sudden very concerned about the cost of the justice program. Liberals have to look at the cost of not passing legislation like this as well.

The member said that we need to hear from the people on this issue, hear what the people had to say. I am shocked if the members opposite have not been hearing what the people have to say on justice issues all along. I have been hearing that every week in and around my constituency. I am very concerned that the member has not heard the people on this. Why is he not listening to the victims of Earl Jones and people like that, people who have committed white-collar crime, which has deprived people of the retirement they worked for long and hard?

Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, one could ask the question, why was the member not listening to the Liberal critic a year and a half ago when we wanted to deal with this very specific issue dealing with large scale fraud? Why was the member not listening then?

In terms of the cost factor, we cannot blame the opposition when member after member asks members of the Conservative Party, what is the cost of implementing the bill, and the only response is that we should think of the cost to the victims.

Yes, we will think of the cost to the victims, but what is the cost of the bill? It is a pretty straightforward question. We still do not have an answer. One would think there should be an answer to a very simple basic question of the cost of the legislation the government is trying to get through.