Good morning, Madam Chairman and ladies and gentlemen of the committee.
My name is Kevin Gaudet and I am the federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. We are a national, non-partisan, not-for-profit organization with more than 74,000 supporters across the country. We have offices in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, two offices in Ontario--Toronto and Ottawa--and recently we've opened an office, we're pleased to say, in Atlantic Canada. That office is located in Halifax.
The mandate of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is to advocate for lower taxes, less waste, and more accountable government. We've been doing this for a long time now; this is a year in which we celebrate our 20th anniversary.
We don't take government money nor do we issue charitable tax receipts. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the supporters of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation who made generous contributions to help bring me here today, as we did not accept the offer of the committee for its financial assistance to get here.
I'm pleased to be here today on behalf of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation to speak in support of Bill C-31, what we call the Clifford Olson bill.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has played a large role in getting this bill introduced. I'd like to commend the government and the opposition parties for their rare speed in responding to this issue once it became public.
If I may, I would remind the committee as to how we came to be here today and the role the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has played in this issue. In late March, this last spring, an article appeared in the Toronto Sun in which Clifford Olson had bragged to Peter Worthington that he, Clifford Olson, was receiving old age security and guaranteed income supplement payments courtesy of the federal government and of course courtesy of the federal taxpayer. This amounts to some $1,169 a month, $14,000 a year for him and for every prisoner like him.
As soon as this story ran, my organization started to receive contacts from our supporters expressing great dismay with the situation. They were upset that such a heinous criminal should receive such generous and unnecessary largesse at their expense.
We decided that on behalf of our supporters we would put forth a petition calling on the federal government to cease the provision of OAS and GIS payments to prisoners like Clifford Olson. I must say, I was surprised and overwhelmed with the response. In my four years of involvement with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation I have not experienced that type of explosive response before in the number of petitions we've issued. It only took us about six weeks to receive more than 50,000 signatures on the petition. We've had a few other petitions in our past that have generated substantial support, arguably even more numbers, but to get 50,000 responses in six weeks is I think undeniably noteworthy.
We took the petition to Ottawa, where we were very pleased to present the petition to the Minister for Human Resources and Skills Development, Diane Finley. During our meeting with the minister, she did promise to act on the petition and put forth legislation in short order. She kept her promise and here we are at committee some six months later. I know that's relatively Herculean speed given the usual pace at which Parliament works. I think the government needs to be commended in that context.
Canadians and CTF supporters should be pleased to see some of the comments from Ms. Sgro, on behalf of the Liberals, who advocated speedy passage of the bill, and the qualified support expressed by Mr. Desnoyers of the Bloc Québécois and Mr. Maloway of the NDP. Of course, the CTF is happy again to see the support of the government on this issue.
In my role as the spokesperson for the CTF, I do spend a great deal of time being critical of government. However, when government and politicians do things right, we're mindful of the need to give credit where it is due, and we'd like to give it today in that context and this is just that case.
Parliament is moving quickly to end this injustice in providing these benefit entitlements to those who don't deserve them. Thank you for that. Only in Canada would someone serving 11 consecutive 25-year sentences for murder--I think they are concurrent actually, forgive me--collect more than $1,100 a month for old age security and guaranteed income supplements, but this is the case with Clifford Olson.
With federal and provincial prisoners combined, this could amount to some $7 million a year in payments to those who don't deserve them, for purposes that aren't required--payments that we argue ought to be stopped.
Old age security was created in 1951 and the guaranteed income supplement was added in 1966. They were, and still are, programs designed to help seniors make ends meet so that Canadians with little or no income have enough to live on. Robert Clifford Olson is a Canadian over the age of 65. He turns 70 on New Year's day. He is eligible and receiving his OAS and GIS. He will likely die in jail. He has no meaningful living expenses while there.
According to the most recent statistics on the Corrections Canada website, the average annual taxpayer cost of keeping a prisoner like him, a maximum security male, incarcerated was some $121,294 a year. That is $121,294 a year. That was for fiscal year 2006-07.
Mr. Olson was arrested in 1981 and admitted into federal custody in 1982, 28 years ago. It has cost taxpayers more than enough to keep him behind bars already. It adds insult to injury to pay him to be there as well by giving him important support entitlements that were designed to help seniors make ends meet. These entitlements were never meant to help line the pockets of people like him.
As a result of this petition, there have been a number of media stories and opportunities for people to provide e-mails and comments on websites. Let me bring to the committee one of the comments on one of those websites. It's the voice of a victim of Clifford Olson. Let me share her brief posting. It reads as follows: “I'm the stepmother of one of Olson's victims. I live on the same amount he receives, but I pay for my own food, clothing, and essentials.” She wrote that in capital letters. “Colleen's sister is struggling as a single mom to raise three children, and he wants his money.”
One of the other people posting on the website mentioned that the $2 million should go to families of the victims of his crimes: “Just put it into the old age pension and give us a better income”, she writes. “It's terrible how I have to struggle and pay taxes for him to never have to need anything. I also agree that he's grandstanding once again. How sad that there is even a group of people out there that think prisoners have rights.” Those are her comments. “He took my daughter's right to live, and with her went pieces of our hearts. This is really a very sad society”, she writes.
She points out how outrageous it is that struggling taxpayers are squeezed twice, first to house such criminals and then again by lining their pockets with those entitlements. It's this injustice that has to stop, and Bill C-31 does just that.
Thank you for having invited me today. I'd be pleased to take any questions in due course, should you have any for me.