Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. Once again I welcome the opportunity to be with you to discuss the estimates of the public safety portfolio.
As you indicated, Mr. Chair, I am joined here by the Deputy Minister of Public Safety, Mr. William Baker, as well as by senior officials of the five agencies in the public safety portfolio: the Canada Border Services Agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Correctional Service of Canada, the Parole Board of Canada, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The committee has before it the main estimates for fiscal year 2011-12, which seek an increase in funds of $797.4 million over the fiscal year 2010-11 for the portfolio. The committee also has before it supplementary estimates (C), which seek approval for funds of $48.5 million for the current fiscal year. These estimates do not reflect initiatives announced in Budget 2011.
As demonstrated in this week's tabling of the budget, the next phase of Canada's economic action plan recognizes the importance of keeping our communities safe by investing in crime prevention and the justice system, with such measures including investing $20 million over two years in the youth gang prevention fund to promote the provision of community-based educational, cultural, sporting, and vocational opportunities for youth; promoting safer aboriginal communities by investing an additional $30 million over two years in the first nations policing program to supplement existing policing services; funding of $8.4 million per year to Canada's no-safe-haven policy for persons involved in war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide; providing $26 million over two years to support the federal victims’ ombudsman to promote access to justice and participation by victims in the justice system; funding $20.9 million to continue to waive firearms licence renewal fees for all classes of firearms from May 2011 until May 2012; and contributing $1.6 million annually to support security enhancements for communities victimized by hate-motivated crime.
These are only a few highlights of this week's budget; however, they stand as a testament to our government's continued commitment to protecting the safety and security of all Canadians.
The committee has before it the main estimates for fiscal year 2011-12, which provide for the day-to-day operations of the portfolio throughout the fiscal year in accordance with our government's ongoing commitment to continue building safer communities for all Canadians at a time of government restraint.
In addition, funds would be prudently invested to provide the Correctional Service of Canada and the National Parole Board of Canada with the resources to implement the Truth in Sentencing Act and the Tackling Violent Crime Act.
It would allow the RCMP to meet incremental requests for policing services by provinces, territories, municipalities, and first nations communities while also implementing or renewing a number of initiatives to further crack down on the activities of organized crime groups as well as others who would threaten the safety and security of Canadians.
It would strengthen the ability of the Canada Border Services Agency to keep our borders secure while expediting the legitimate flow of people and goods across them, and it would allow the agency to support the integrity of Canada's immigration and refugee program by implementing the Balanced Refugee Reform Act.
It would deliver on the commitment I believe all of us share to protecting Canada's digital infrastructure from current and emerging cyber threats by providing needed resources for the implementation of Canada's cyber security strategy, which our government announced in September.
Our efforts to tackle crime will cost more money. We understand there is a cost to keeping dangerous criminals behind bars, and we're willing to pay it. This is a small price to pay to ensure dangerous criminals don't create new victims or terrorize previous ones. We want to ensure that Correctional Service Canada has the resources it needs to keep dangerous criminals behind bars and ensure that our methods and infrastructure keep up with, indeed get ahead of, new forms of criminality.
The protection of Canadians must come first. As victims have repeatedly told us, releasing criminals onto our streets early has a much higher cost than keeping criminals behind bars. In fact, a recent report released by the Department of Justice estimated the total cost of crime to Canadians in 2008 to be $99.6 billion. I'm very pleased that Conservative members of this committee have recently written the Parliamentary Budget Officer requesting a study analyzing the socio-economic cost of crime for victims, governments, and our communities. I agree with my colleagues on the committee that this is an area that has not received adequate priority and analysis.
Our government is aware of the reality and we are prepared to take the steps that will be needed to ensure that Correctional Services of Canada has the tools they need. The main estimates for fiscal year 2011-12 seek an increase to Correctional Services of Canada's budget of $521.6 million, of which $458 million relates to the implementation of the Truth In Sentencing Act, and a further $19.6 million is requested for the implementation of the Tackling Violent Crime Act.
In addition, the main estimates for 2011-12 seek an increase to the Parole Board of Canada's budget of $2.8 million, of which $1.6 million represents the third of six annual increases related to the government's Truth In Sentencing Act. Canadians have told us they want to feel safe on their own streets and in their own communities. They have told us they want police to have the resources they need to do the job. They have told us they want stiffer consequences and stiffer punishments for serious crimes, especially violent gun crimes. They have told us that they want offenders held more fully to account for their actions, and they have told us that they want the interest of victims put ahead of those of offenders. That is what our government is doing.
We are working with Canadians to restore faith in our justice system. All of us have been busy in this session. We have worked together on Bill S-13, which is the Protecting Borders Act, more commonly referred to as “Shiprider”. This is important legislation that would permit designated Canadian and American law enforcement personnel to jointly work on maritime law enforcement vessels in boundary waters and pursue criminals who try to exploit law enforcement gaps at our shared waterways.
We have worked hard on Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act, which is important and very much needed by Canadian travellers as it is going to allow Canadian airline companies to continue accessing southern destinations in the most timely and cost-effective way possible. And it is going to ensure that we continue to strike the appropriate balance between complying with international laws while also protecting the rights of Canadians.
We've worked together to pass reforms to the pardon system so that the Parole Board of Canada has the discretion it needs to determine whether or not granting a pardon might bring the administration of justice into disrepute.
Our children have the right to be safe from sex offenders. That's why I'm very proud that all of us worked to pass legislation to strengthen the national sex offender registry and the national DNA data bank so that all sex offenders are registered with the police.
Tackling crime on all fronts remains a key priority for our government, which is why we also recently introduced legislation to combat the despicable crime of human smuggling. This is indeed a major concern for our government. We need the help of all members of Parliament to pass our firm and reasonable measures that would prevent human smugglers from abusing our fair and welcoming immigration system.
Most recently, we passed reasonable measures to ensure that convicted con artists, fraudsters, and drug traffickers won't be released automatically onto our streets after serving just one-sixth of their prison sentence.
Finally, our Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act passed through the Senate, and we have announced new RCMP technology that will help reduce wait times for individuals, including hockey coaches and teachers, to receive police checks to be able to work with the most vulnerable in our society.
Keeping our communities safe has been a priority for this government, and I know it's a priority for members of this committee. We have taken action on a number of fronts to deliver on our commitment. We will continue to do so in the future, and I look forward to working with this committee over the coming months on a number of fronts to keep Canadians safe.
I am now prepared to answer questions, Mr. Chair.