Madam Speaker, it is an honour to participate in the debate today on the Speech from the Throne.
I would remind the House that our government has repeatedly stated that jobs and economic growth is its top priority. This is a theme that was central throughout the throne speech.
Since July 2009, Canada has created 160,000 new jobs, tangible evidence, I would submit, that Canada's economic action plan is working. Statistics Canada reported that Canada's unemployment rate fell from 8.3% to 8.2% in February and that 21,000 new jobs had been created last month. That is the fifth month of job gains in the past seven months, but our determination remains unchanged. Our government will not be satisfied until every Canadian who has lost his or her job is working again.
In that regard, we are completing year two of our economic action plan with an additional $19 billion of stimulus spending to create and protect jobs. We will invest in new targeted initiatives and make Canada a destination of choice for new business investment. We continue to lower taxes to maintain Canada's competitive advantage and significantly we will establish the red tape reduction panel to reduce paperwork for business.
Many of my constituents in the riding of Edmonton—St. Albert are small business owners. It was with great enthusiasm that I told them that an advisory committee on small business and entrepreneurship made up of business persons would be created to provide advice on improving business access to federal programs and for information.
Small and medium-sized businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and sustain us in whatever economic situation we may currently be facing. I submit that the small and medium-sized enterprise innovation and commercialization program will allow small and medium-sized business to develop and promote innovative prototype products and technologies to federal departments and agencies.
However, Canadians want to know that their government will do everything possible to ensure the future economic stability and growth of this country. An integral part of our government's strategy is the reduction of the deficit and a return to balanced budgets. In that regard, we will follow a three-point plan: we will wind down temporary stimulus measures, restrain growth in spending and conduct an in-depth review of the government's administrative functions and overhead costs.
The economic recession has affected every corner of the globe. No country remains untouched but Canada has risen to lead the way with the soundest financial system in the world. The Speech from the Throne emphasizes our response as measured and responsible and makes it clear that Canada is well on its way to economic recovery and stability.
The focus of the throne speech may be the economy and job creation. However, our government remains just as committed to its safe streets and safe communities agenda. The government has addressed the issues of crime by bringing forward legislation mandating prison sentences and ensuring that criminals serve the sentences they have been given.
We will continue to focus on protecting the most vulnerable among us, our children, by increasing the penalties for sexual offences against children and strengthening the sex offender registry. We intend to introduce legislation to crack down on white collar crime and ensure that tougher sentences are issued. As recent high profile cases remind us, white collar crime is all too prevalent and affects many hard-working Canadians personally as they see a lifetime of savings disappear instantly.
The Speech from the Throne points out that our justice system must be made to be more effective. As a result, we will introduce legislation that would cut the number of protracted trials and offer tangible support to victims of crime and their families. The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime welcomed the government's additional funding of $6.6 million over two years as the way to build on its earlier investment in the federal victims' strategy and the creation of the federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.
The throne speech outlines the need to move forward on essential legislation, including the repeal of the long gun registry and the re-introduction in their original form of the then Bill C-6, the consumer safety law, and the then Bill C-15, the anti-drug crime law, some pivotal pieces of our government's crime agenda.
The former Bill C-15, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, is designed to tackle drug crimes and would mandate two year prison sentences for dealing drugs, such as cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines, to youth. It would also increase penalties for trafficking in GHB and flunitrazepam, most commonly known as the date rape drugs. Mandatory minimum sentences would also be imposed for the production and sale of illicit drugs.
Significantly, it also would allow the drug treatment courts, such as the one in Edmonton, to suspend a sentence where the addicted accused person takes an appropriate treatment program. Drug treatment courts encourage the accused person to deal with the addiction that motivates his or her criminal behaviour and break the cycle of crime to further his or her drug addiction.
New offences would be created for gang-related drug offences, as well as drug offences that are specifically targeted toward children, such as selling drugs near our schools. The hon. Minister of Justice has said “these measures are a proportionate and measured response designed to disrupt criminal enterprise; drug producers and dealers who threaten the safety of our communities must face tougher penalties”.
In my view, these changes are long overdue. They would send a strong signal to criminals that it is unacceptable for them to put dangerous drugs onto our street. We must protect our children from drugs and other illicit behaviour and ensure that drug dealers end up where they belong: behind bars.
I look forward to the reintroduction of that bill.
The former Bill C-46, investigative powers for the 21st century act, would ensure law enforcement and national security agencies have the tools they need to fight crime and terrorism in today's high-tech environment. Legislation must be updated to reflect an ever-evolving technological world and to provide investigators with modern communication technologies to perform complex investigations.
When this bill is reintroduced, the amendments would address the constant struggle to keep up with the high-tech world. It would create a new offence, carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years, to prohibit anyone from using a computer system, such as the Internet, to agree or make arrangements with any other person for the purposes of sexually exploiting a child. This new offence would also be used in the context of undercover investigations. Police would also be able to obtain data from the telephone and the Internet by creating a new concept called “transmission data”.
Those and several other additional changes to help police obtain transmission data would allow law enforcement agencies to track domestic cybercrime and enhance international co-operation. Cybercrime has no borders and the transnational nature of organized criminal activity means that international co-operation is not a luxury but a necessity.
This proposed legislation, when reintroduced, aims to provide the police and other stakeholders with the tools they need to investigate computer and computer-related crimes while ensuring that the rights of Canadians are protected.
The Speech from the Throne highlights the decisive actions our government has taken to crack down on crime and ensure the safety and security of our communities, and we will move ahead with this critical crime legislation. We take the issue of law and order seriously to make this a stronger and safer Canada, both now and for the future.
The struggle to keep up with emerging criminal technologies and crime is a constant struggle, full of setbacks, both for law enforcement and for legislators, with sometimes minor and occasionally major advances. However, it is a pivotal struggle for lawmakers because the laws that we debate and pass in this House must be premised on preserving the safety and liberty of law-abiding citizens.
As indicated, it is a constant and pivotal struggle but, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, one of the authors of the U.S. constitution and defender of liberty, ”Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”.