House of Commons Hansard #90 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was port.

Topics

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

There is no consent in that respect and, of course, members are not obliged to do that, as ministers would be.

The hon. member for St. John's East has the floor.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for raising that point of order. As the Speaker has ruled, in the absence of unanimous consent it cannot be tabled. I note that the refusal to give unanimous consent came from the other side. This is a report of an officer of the House, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, whose job it is to assist parliamentarians find out the costs of government programs.

To table a report of that nature in the House would add to the debate, as the member said, but it has been refused. I do not really understand why. Is it that the Conservatives do not like the figures, that they do not like the truth, that they do not like the evidence? Do they not want to hear what the Parliamentary Budget Officer has to say?

One of the outcomes of the Parliamentary Budget Officer's exercise was to discover that the government did not have any figures. The only figures produced by the government when it was asked about the costs of the bill was that there was no federal cost and that it did not know what the provincial costs would be. Therefore, the Parliamentary Budget Officer asked recently if the government had any figures now. It said it did not.

We are imposing measures that will have consequences for provincial governments and the Government of Canada. They are measurable. The increased cost as a result of the bill, only for conditional sentences, would come from the larger number of hearings the parole board would have to hold. The government knew the number of hearings and the average cost per hearing. If we multiply one by the other we come up with $8 million. It is not rocket science, but based on actual projections of the number of cases for each of these different offences.

It was a bit tedious, but for the last year in which reports were available, that is, 2008, Statistics Canada could find the exact number of people convicted of these particular offences during that year. The numbers were there, and the number of people who would actually be convicted and go to jail was extrapolated from that. All of these figures came out. However, we had someone on the other side saying that the Parliamentary Budget Officer had not been right yet. I guess there is a big difference between the $750 million the Parliamentary Budget Officer came up with as the five-year cost of this provision and the government's figure, which is, “We do not know”. The government's figure was, “We do not know” and the Parliamentary Budget Officer's figure was $750 million over five years. That is the nature of this debate about the costs to Canadians of just one measure in the entire Bill C-10.

The government members do not want the Parliamentary Budget Officer's information and report to be tabled before the House, I guess because it is a bit of an embarrassment. It is not as if the amount of money over five years, the $750 million, is going to break Canada. I am not suggesting that. However, if it is a difference between $750 million and “We do not know”, then that tells us something about what goes on over there when they are deciding to bring forward legislation.

They do not even bother to figure it out themselves, and they are the ones who seem to be interested in talking about parties' fitness to govern. Is that something we should be wondering about in terms of their fitness to govern here? Are these the fiscal managers, the people who tout themselves as the great fiscal managers of Canada, the ones whom Canadians should have faith in to run the country because they are so good at fiscal management?

We have a contrast here. The Parliamentary Budget Officer, who was appointed by the Prime Minister to advise parliamentarians on these issues, did a report at the request of a member of Parliament and said it was going to cost $750 million over five years. That is just one measure in this huge bill.

The government says “We do not know.” It has never bothered to try to find out, although it did claim it was going to cost the federal government nothing. The Parliamentary Budget Officer says it is going to cost the federal government $40 million over five years in additional expenses and it is going to cost the provinces another $710 million, or something in that range. The government is saying that it is going to cost it nothing, and it does not know what it is going to cost the provinces. It did not even try to figure it out.

This is what we are faced with in dealing with a government that is arrogant and out of touch with the realities of Canadian life.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

It is so arrogant to put criminals in jail—

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

It is out of touch with the consequences of what it is doing, whether it is fiscally, or—

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Breaking the law puts them in jail. That is arrogant.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order. I would ask again that hon. members recognize the hon. member for—

Order, order. The hon. member for Oak Ridges—Markham will come to order.

The hon. member for St. John's East has the floor.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am encouraged by the number of members now showing up to listen to my speech. I thank the members for the compliments on the speech. One hon. member said that he was suffering from insomnia. I guess it is better to suffer from insomnia than to fall asleep on the job. I thank him for his attention.

It is disturbing to know the enormous expense that comes with the bill. The Minister of Justice and the Prime Minister have from time to time said so what, that is the nature of the Constitution. They say that they have the responsibility for passing the criminal law and that the provinces have the responsibility for the administration of justice. If that is their constitutional responsibility, they say that they are prepared to let them take their responsibility and they will take theirs. However, that belies the nature of our Confederation. We have a country that depends on federal-provincial co-operation, or at least respect, at least consultation on matters like the cost.

The minister talked about how the government consulted. I do not deny that some provinces sought some of the measures that are in the bill but there is not unanimity among the provinces on the bill. Some are opposed and some are in favour. However, I think all are concerned that they would need to bear some of the additional costs that are associated with the bill.

The minister says that the government has increased its contributions to the provinces through transfer payments in the last year or so but they were not increased specifically to deal with this proposed legislation. There was no consultation on the cost of it. The Government of Canada did not say that it had some changes that would cost a considerable amount of money for some provinces in terms of additional incarceration costs. The provinces would need to build more prisons to keep more people housed in jails and that would cost some money. However, the federal government did not make the provinces aware of that. It did not give them an implementation schedule or say that it was prepared to consider ameliorating some of that cost. We did not hear that.

What we hear is that the government does not even know the costs. It is not even going to look at what the costs would be. It is not going to consult on the burden of the costs. It is just going to go ahead and say that it is the federal government's job to pass criminal law and that it is the provinces job to pay the costs of incarcerating people, the prosecutorial costs, the legal aid that is generated by the new provisions and the extra amount of trials that there would be to deal with the mandatory minimums. That would all fall on the heads of the provinces and the federal government would let them look after it because, after all, it is their constitutional responsibility.

There is a nice intellectual argument that, yes, we can divide sections 92(a) and 92(b) in the Constitution, but the reality is that the Confederation of Canada involves a partnership and that partnership needs to be respected. The dignity and role of the provinces must be acknowledged and respected in terms of that imposition. I used the term “downloading” once and someone suggested that was wrong because the provinces had those responsibilities in the first place. However, if it is not downloading, it is creating new costs for the provinces that are not there now. The federal government is creating these costs because it would increase the number of people who end up in jail.

Someone opposite said that all the government was trying to do was put criminals in jail. If that is all it is trying to do, I could still argue on how long offenders will be put in jail. We could argue about whether jail was the best place for some of them or whether a rehabilitation program would make our communities safer. The assumption from members opposite seems to be just to put criminals in jail.

If the members on that side just want to put criminals in jail and want us to agree with them, that would not be much of a debate because that is not our responsibility as members of Parliament. Our responsibility is to examine the laws to see whether they will actually work and whether this is a bill to make streets safer or a bill that will result in more crimes, more criminals and more victims. That is our concern about the other side.

Foreign Affairs
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, a month ago, I stood in the House to bring attention to the anti-democratic practices currently ongoing in Russia. Twice in the last three months, election fraud has been strongly alleged in the Russian federation, once in the Duma elections on December 4 and, most recently, this past Sunday in the Russian presidential elections.

Our Minister of Foreign Affairs recently noted with concern the identification of procedural irregularities that tainted the vote in nearly one-third of the polling stations. An observer for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe stated:

There was no real competition and abuse of government resources ensured that the ultimate winner of the election was never in doubt

As the Prime Minister of Canada has said:

...one of the human rights we treasure most is the right to freedom of expression. Without it, there can be no democracy, no free press, no freedom of enterprise...and no free exchange of ideas, the universal catalyst for human progress.

I hope all members of the House will stand with me today and urge the Russian authorities to respect the rights of their citizens to demonstrate peacefully and for both sides to refrain from the use of violence.

Status of Women
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, International Women's Day is just two days away. I would like to take this opportunity to draw the attention of the House to the many abuses suffered by women in general, and refugee women in particular.

Around the world, women are victims of all manner of violence, particularly sexual violence used as a weapon of war.

In the 21st century, there should be no need to use terms such as “rape capital of the world” or “most dangerous place in the world to be a woman”. Women are forced to flee their countries to preserve their dignity.

Every year, Canada offers hope for a better life to persecuted women. We are known for being welcoming, compassionate and caring, values that we demonstrate by welcoming women who are victims of persecution. My heart goes out to refugee women who are victims of spousal abuse and who are excluded from our protection because of the narrow definition of the word “refugee”.

I hope that March 8, 2012, will inspire us to think about how we can better protect those women.

Freedom of Speech
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, universities in Canada are often thought of as the bastions of free speech and expression. Certainly they are the last places where censorship should occur. I wish this were true, but sadly, it is not.

When it comes to some of the most sensitive issues, such as pro-life issues, many universities are exactly the opposite.

For example, when students at Ottawa's Carleton University put up a pro-life display, some students found the photos offensive and complained. I expect that most Canadians would find such photos offensive but that was the point the group was making: that abortion and particularly late stage abortion is offensive.

What is of concern is how the university reacted. It demanded that the group remove its display and then charged the students when they refused.

Similar censorship has occurred at universities in Toronto, Calgary, Fredericton and, most recently, Victoria where students are banned from carrying out pro-life activities and were forced to apologize to groups that were offended by their display.

I call on all universities to truly become places where students and society can count on free speech and free expression being allowed and, in fact, encouraged.

South Africa
Statements By Members

March 6th, 2012 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I recently returned from a very moving and memorable trip to South Africa, which included a reunion with the leaders of the anti-apartheid movement and lawyers for Mandela, and meetings with government, parliamentary and civil society leaders, at an important constitutional moment, the 100th anniversary of the ANC. I have tabled a motion to remove our presumptively inadmissible visa policy and the 15th anniversary of the inspiring South African constitution that has drawn on our Charter of Rights and Freedoms whose 30th anniversary we will soon be celebrating; and where we have been the beneficiaries of this symbiotic constitutional relationship, as when I introduced the national justice initiative against racism and hate as justice minister; and where South African initiatives in areas of women's rights, freedom of expression and hate speech have inspired our own.

I am sure all colleagues will join me in extending best wishes to the ANC and to South Africa on these milestone anniversaries.

Decoration for Bravery
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, on June 8, 2009, Ms. Lana Mae Krieser of Brandon, Manitoba, rescued an 11-year-old boy who was electrocuted during a school trip.

While hiking, the boy and his friend had noticed something in the bush that piqued their interest and went off the main trail. After finding a dead deer, the boys were about to return to the main trail when one boy slipped on the wet grass, fell on the ground and came into contact with a live hydro wire. His friend ran to get help.

When Ms. Krieser arrived on the scene, she found the young boy in convulsions and a small brush fire burning close by. Without any concern for her own safety, Ms. Krieser pulled the young boy off the live wire, electrocuting herself in the process. Despite knowing the risks involved in moving a victim while he was still in contact with the power line, her selfless actions saved this boy's life.

It is with pride that I share with the House that Ms. Krieser was recently awarded the Governor General's Decoration for Bravery for her courageous act. I wish to recognize Lana Mae in the House as her actions are an example for us all to follow.

Volunteerism
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, on February 21 I had the honour of attending the Eastern Townships' Gala du Mérite organized by the Sherbrooke newspaper, La Tribune. Among the honourees were a professor from Bishop's University, a young farmer from Bury, an athlete from Coaticook and several other deserving individuals and volunteers.

In rural settings, volunteerism is crucial to the survival of leisure activities, culture and sometimes even the communities themselves. This was clearly demonstrated the day after the gala, when I visited a small village of 768 residents, Saint-Isidore-de-Clifton. I received a very warm welcome and had the pleasure of speaking with elected officials, elementary students, business people, ordinary residents and volunteers. I was quite moved by the vitality of such a small village.

Furthermore, it is not the only municipality in my region that depends on its volunteers. The town of East Angus was created on March 14, 1912, and, thus, will be celebrating its centennial next week. The celebration will last for the rest of 2012. These festivities would not be possible without the hard work of dedicated volunteers. I would like to congratulate them on their courage, their tenacity and their pride, and I wish East Angus another 100 years of prosperity and community spirit.

Long live the volunteers in my riding.