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House of Commons Hansard #82 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ocean.

Topics

CyprusRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Reform

Ed Harper Reform Simcoe Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the final petition is on the subject of Bill C-205, the private member's bill presented by the member for Scarborough West. The petitioners request that the House enact Bill C-205 to prevent criminals profiting from their crimes.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

October 7th, 1996 / 3:15 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Liberal

Paul Zed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is it agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I wish to inform the House that because of the ministerial statement, Government Orders will be extended by eight minutes.

The House resumed from October 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-55, an act to amend the Criminal Code (high risk offenders), the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Criminal Records Act, the Prisons and Reformatories Act and the Department of the Solicitor General Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Reform

Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and comment on Bill C-55, an act to amend the Criminal Code.

Before I begin, I want to tell the House a story about what happened not long ago in my hometown of Williams Lake, a city of about 20,000 people in the central interior of British Columbia. On July 16, 1996 a wife and mother was innocently riding her bicycle in a wooded area near the city one afternoon. When she did not come home that night, police were called to investigate. Two days later they found her body. She had been sexually assaulted and murdered. To this day her killer has yet to be found despite the outrage in the community and the thousands of dollars which have been put aside as a reward to those who might point to the killer.

I tell this story to the House today, not to sensationalize another murder case, but to give an example of what people in the Cariboo-Chilcotin, and all Canadians I might add, live with every day. People do not know who or where this murderer is and they worry about their safety.

How does this deep concern that Canadians have for their physical safety relate to Bill C-55? The bill deals with changes to the criminal justice system and Canadians want criminal justice reform. They want to be safe. They want to feel safe in their homes. They want to walk down their streets without fear and they want their neighbourhoods restored for themselves and their children to places of peaceful activity.

Will this legislation restore people's basic freedoms and allow Canadians to experience greater freedom from fear? This is the test we place on the legislation as we consider it today.

Let me briefly outline the contents of the bill. Bill C-55 consists of three components: first, a dangerous offender provision; second, a long term offender provision and, third, a judicial restraint provision. I want to examine each of these in turn.

First, let us look at the dangerous offender provision. Bill C-55's dangerous offender provision would give the crown a window of six months after conviction to bring a dangerous offender application based on newly received information. Presently a dangerous offender application must be made at the trial. This new provision does not go far enough in protecting people from dangerous criminals.

As the proposed dangerous offender provision now stands, the crown could find evidence to support a dangerous offender application after the six-month period, but the crown would be unable to bring an application against the criminal because the six-month time period had expired. Consequently, a dangerous offender could still be back in society too soon, still a threat, still causing fear and concern. This provision does not go far enough to protect Canadians and provide them with the safety they seek.

Therefore, Reform proposes that Bill C-55 be amended to allow the crown the right to seek dangerous offender status for persons convicted of crimes causing serious personal harm at any time during that offender's sentence.

To offer Canadians even greater protection from violent criminals, Reform also proposes that Bill C-55 be amended to require the courts to automatically place a dangerous offender finding on any person who commits on two or more separate occasions an offence constituting a serious personal injury offence. I refer to Criminal Code section 752.

Under the present system, the crown has the option to bring a dangerous offender application against a criminal after any number of offences. This Reform amendment would give Canadians greater confidence that all violent criminals would be incarcerated for an indefinite period of time or until that person poses no danger or threat to anyone else.

I want to consider the long term offender provision. The second component of Bill C-55 would create a new class of criminals called long term offenders. These criminals would be supervised by the justice system for up to 10 years after their sentence and the completion of parole. They would be designated long term offenders if it can be determined among other criteria that there is a substantial risk that the offender will reoffend. They must also be convicted of sexual assault, sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, sexual exploitation, exposure, aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm.

This provision does not go far enough in protecting society against these very brutal crimes. To help Canadians feel and be safe in their homes, in their neighbourhoods and in their communities, long term offender status must be broadened to apply to a wider range of offences committed by sexual predators or pedophiles.

Reform proposes that Bill C-55 be amended to include under the proposed section 753.1(2) an offence under any of the following provisions of the Criminal Code: householder permitting sexual activity by a child relating to section 171; living off the avails of prostitution by a child, subsection 212(2); obtaining sexual services of a child, subsection 212(4). I could mention a number of other offences but I list these to make the point that Bill C-55 could be amended to go much further in protecting society from persons convicted of sexual crimes.

The third component of Bill C-55 is the judicial restraint provision. This provision would add to the Criminal Code a process that permits provincial attorneys general to apply to a judge when they have reasonable grounds to believe that an individual will commit a serious offence, a violent crime. The judge would have the power to place those individuals under police supervision, prohibit the possession of firearms, ammunition and firearms acquisition certificates and require them to wear electronic bracelets so that their movements can be monitored.

The Canadian people cannot accept this provision of Bill C-55 because it makes the wrong approach in attempting to reduce crime. The judicial restraint provision can be applied to people who have no criminal record or even to people who have been acquitted of any criminal charges.

I believe that greater physical security can be ensured through deterrence but I certainly do not believe that deterring crime means constituting a broad, indiscriminate and unreasonable infringement of a person's right to a fair trial before his peers.

The minister's proposal is tantamount to conviction without trial and Canadians want nothing reminding them of star chamber proceedings in our judicial system. Monitoring innocent people will not reduce crime. In fact, are we not innocent until proven guilty and not guilty until proven innocent?

This is not the first time we have seen such legislation from this justice minister who is so willing to disregard civil liberties. The first instance of his willingness to ignore Magna Carta civil liberties was Bill C-68 calling for universal gun registration. This legislation penalizes law-abiding gun owners and users and could mean the future confiscation of their firearms. This bill also moves against ancient rights preventing unwarranted search and seizure and the right of a person to not give evidence against himself.

Why does the justice minister distrust law-abiding Canadian citizens so much? How can the government punish people for something it cannot prove or punish them for something someone might do in the future? This judicial restraint provision would be a violation of fundamental human rights and would further break down the trust level between government and law-abiding citizens.

When introducing this legislation last month the justice minister told the House: "We are taking steps to prevent crime before it happens". The way to do this is not by monitoring innocent people but by getting tough on criminals who have committed serious violent crimes. This means bring in truth in sentencing for violent, repeat serious offenders. Bring in tougher sentences. By this I mean sentence every criminal who is convicted a second time for a violent crime to life imprisonment without eligibility for early release or parole. Make prison time hard time, no free time, no law libraries, no holiday pay, no fun experiences at all.

The judicial restraint provision of Bill C-55 must only be contemplated in matters where individuals have been convicted for offences under the Criminal Code of Canada. Clause 9 of Bill C-55 which allows for the surveillance of innocent Canadians must be struck in its totality from the bill.

In closing, I want to re-emphasize that the Canadian people are concerned about their physical security. They want criminal justice reform. They want to feel safe in their homes. They want to be safe in their homes. They want their streets free for their children to play safely and they want their communities restored to them without fear.

Bill C-55 does not go far enough in protecting people's basic freedoms and allowing Canadians to experience greater freedom from fear. However, if the amendments I suggest to the dangerous offender, long term offender and judicial restraint provisions were made to Bill C-55, I would not oppose passage of this legislation.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Reform

Val Meredith Reform Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to speak today on Bill C-55, another attempt by the government to deal with dangerous offender legislation.

As many in this House know, over the past three years that I have been a member of this Chamber I have spent a lot of time and energy dealing with the aspect of dangerous offender legislation. In April 1994, over two years ago, I introduced a private member's bill that dealt specifically with the items that Bill C-55 is trying to deal with.

That piece of legislation has been before the justice and legal affairs committee for well over two years. Had this government really wanted to do something for Canadians in the aspect of dangerous offender legislation, it should have seen to the immediate acceptance of that private member's bill in this House. What the government has done over the past two years has been to introduce legislation that has dealt with partial elements of my private member's bill.

In the last session the solicitor general introduced Bill C-45 which saw the wisdom of taking a section out of my private member's bill dealing with the crown having to prove serious harm or death would be done to a child in order to keep somebody who was likely to reoffend incarcerated. My private member's bill suggested that it was a very difficult thing for a child to express the harm that was done and that it should not be a requirement and only the likelihood of an offender reoffending against the child should be taken into consideration. The government saw the wisdom in using that aspect in Bill C-45 in the last session.

Now Bill C-55 has been introduced in this session. It also is taking a part of my private member's bill which dealt with long term supervision for people who are deemed to be dangerous offenders or likely to reoffend. That clause, adding up to a 10-year supervision at the end of the sentence, comes directly from my private member's bill.

I have to give credit to the government for seeing the wisdom in those aspects of my private member's bill. I would still suggest that had the government been serious it could have enacted and brought into law Bill C-240, which is now Bill C-254 which sits in committee and deals with these aspects plus others.

As with Bill C-45 in the last session and now Bill C-55 in this session, the government is still falling short of providing that kind of protection to Canadians, that people who are likely to reoffend, to cause serious harm or death to an individual are going to be dealt with in a serious manner. Our party is planning a number of amendments which it is hoped will fill those loopholes the system will still have.

This legislation has not dealt with the time frame. Presently a dangerous offender must be designated at the time of sentencing. If for whatever reason the information is not there, the assessments are not done at the time of sentencing, one cannot deem an individual to be a dangerous offender.

This legislation is opening the window to a six-month period of time. What it does not deal with is that in that six months there is one month when the offender will likely be in a provincial remand centre waiting for his appeal to be heard. Then the offender will spend two months in an assessment centre having various tests and information collected. It will be three months into the six-month window before the offender is even incarcerated in his place of residence for the next number of years where he can be supervised and where his behaviour and attitudes can be monitored.

It certainly does not allow the offender any opportunity to take part in counselling to see whether counselling and treatment will be of any benefit to him. It does not allow any possible rehabilitation for the offender. It does not allow any possible length of time for the people who must make these kinds of determinations to review the individual and see whether he is likely to cause serious harm or death upon release.

The concept of six months will not do anything. I would suggest that the government go back to my private member's bill and have a good look at the reasons why it points out that the time to do this kind of assessment or reassessment is in the last year of this individual's incarceration. They can then monitor what kind of treatment this individual had, whether he refused treatment, whether the treatment did any good, whether there has been any effective rehabilitation, whether the individual has had a lousy attitude in the prison system where he has been constantly supervised and monitored. Six months will not allow the people working with this individual any opportunity to make those kinds of assessments.

We see once again the inability of the government to look at the options and alternatives that have been presented by other members of the House which may bring some solution to the problems at hand. We see the inability of the government to go beyond a limited response to the demands of Canadians.

Canadians whom I have talked to want some commitment from the government that it will make sure that known dangerous offenders who wander the streets, people who they know will likely reoffend and cause serious bodily harm or death to an individual are not out there on the streets. They want to know that when their children walk from school or a workplace that they will not become the victim of a person known to those who had them in their care

that they were likely to cause serious bodily harm or death to an individual.

Canadians are looking to their government for assurances that they will be safe on the streets. Once again the government has fallen short. Yes, it is a good step in the right direction. Yes, it is taking some aspects that are likely to work better than what we have now. But there is a refusal to make those decisions that will give the kind of guarantee or commitment by the government to Canadians that the government takes the risk seriously and that it will make those tough decisions to keep somebody incarcerated because it knows they are likely to cause serious bodily harm or death to an individual.

This legislation still will not help the Melanie Carpenters. Auger, her killer, would not be caught under this legislation. Mr. Auger who ended up killing a young Canadian girl who was in her workplace would still be out on the street able to find a victim. That is what Canadians want the government to protect them from. The government has an opportunity to do just that. I would suggest it is not too much for Canadians to ask of their government.

If we can lock up people because they do not pay their bills, or if we can lock up people because they abuse a substance, surely to God we can lock up people who are likely to kill innocent Canadians when we know they are likely to kill innocent Canadians. Surely Canadians can expect their government to bring in legislation which allows them to keep those dangerous offenders off the street.

Why is the government once again coming up short of the mark? Why is the government going part of the way and bringing in another aspect of supervision or another aspect of identifying dangerous offenders but not doing the right thing? When the system that deals with the care and the concern of these individuals is saying that we cannot afford to put these people back out on the street, why is the government not listening to it?

Six months will not do the job. It needs to be done the year before they are released. Only then can the decision be one based on fact and not just on what might or might not happen.

I would like the government to seriously consider the amendments which will be proposed by my party. I would like the government to seriously look at amendments which will make the legislation the best piece of legislation it can be in order to protect Canadians and to ensure there will be no Melanie Carpenters in the future.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I read an interesting editorial on this particular bill entitled: "Allan Rock in Wonderland". I chuckled-

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3:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I would remind all members to refer to each other in the traditional manner of the House, which is by ministry or by riding.

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3:40 p.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

My apologies, Mr. Speaker. The justice minister in Wonderland would have been more appropriate.

The editorial described how the justice minister has two views of citizens in Canada. One view is a deep suspicion of law-abiding citizens, that they might commit a crime. The other is that he has an abiding view that the criminals who have already committed a crime just need to be better understood. They need to be rehabilitated. They need to have their backgrounds checked. I chuckled over that because I do not think Canadians will buy that any longer.

I want to illustrate what I consider to be the real flaw in this legislation by talking about how insecure the citizens in my community are in their homes and streets. They are insecure in terms of the safety of their kids when they are at school. I would like to illustrate by example where the justice system is going. This example is not publicly known. The young man who was affected by this would not speak in public. He was concerned that he would be criticized by the media.

A young farmer lives very close to the Saskatchewan-Alberta border. In fact, his farm is right beside the Trans-Canada Highway. One morning he got up to go out and do his combining. As he left his farmstead he noticed a hitchhiker in the ditch along the Trans-Canada Highway. Farmers are really friendly in that part of the country. He stopped, rolled down his window and said: "Buddy, can I do anything for you?" The young fellow woke up and said: "No, I am just catching a few winks before I hitchhike on down the road". He said: "Are you sure I cannot get anything for you?" The hitchhiker said: "No, I am okay. Thanks a lot".

Off the farmer went. He climbed into his combine and went about doing his work. He worked for much of the day doing his rounds. He had a two-way radio in his combine and his brother from a neighbouring farm phoned him and said: "The RCMP want to see you. You had better come home". He went home all concerned. Maybe his wife and children had been hurt in a car accident, or some such problem. They had been visiting another locale.

The RCMP said: "Do you own a motor bike?" He said: "Yes, it is in my garage". The RCMP said: "I do not think it is in your garage. We just caught somebody. We chased him down the highway riding a Harley Davidson registered to you. He has crashed it on the Alberta side of the border near Medicine Hat. You better come and claim your motor bike".

He climbed into his pick-up truck and went. Sure enough, the hitchhiker who had been in the ditch, who had been just waiting for a ride to go down the road, had broken into his garage and stolen his motor bike. He had also broken into his House and stolen some of his money, some of his ID and a firearm, a pistol.

When our farmer friend got to the motor bike, it was badly damaged. These motor bikes are worth quite a bit of money. It was his pride and joy. He bought an old one and restored it. It was all smashed up. It was all bent up.

"I just do not understand how a person could do that. I was friendly to him. I tried to help him". The RCMP said: "This is not a nice dude. We have a record on him all the way from Ontario. He is a vicious criminal". He was able to hitchhike across our big land. He was not stopped. There was no problem for him, but he is caught now and he is in deep trouble with the law. He has broken into your house. He smashed into your private domain. Thank goodness your wife and children were not there because he might have done something really serious".

"Good", he said, "our justice system is going to take care of this dude. I am okay. I will just take my motor bike and my licks and go home".

"Just a second", asked the RCMP, "how did you store your pistol?" "I stored my pistol in my locked home. It is my castle, my domain, locked up. Nobody could get near it". "Have a trigger lock on it, boy?" "What do you mean?" "Don't you know the law? By the way, do you have a permit to take that pistol from your home to the shooting range?" "That's my personal protection against coyotes".

"You're in trouble, my boy. You're in trouble. You had better be talking to the Medicine Hat police because they have your pistol. The fine for what you have just done-you vicious, heinous criminal, not having your pistol locked up with a trigger lock and the ammunition in a different box".

The fact is he had all those things but he was accused of not having them. The fine is $800. There goes our young law-abiding farmer, back home, tail between his legs, whooped, no pistol, big fine coming.

He went to his friends and said: "I wonder what is going to happen to the real crook in this thing. What's going to happen to the guy with the criminal record from Ontario who has travelled across our country, who has stolen my Harley Davidson, smashed it in the ditch, stolen my ID and my wallet?"

He actually got in trouble, did our boy. He got in real serious trouble, did our boy. He got 18 months suspended sentence-a little pat on the wrist. Off he went, our criminal.

Could he be a dangerous offender? According to this he could not be a dangerous offender because he had committed a crime. He was misunderstood, probably had some poverty in the family. He probably had a dad who did not take care of him properly, a mother who did not understand him.

The crook in this case walked. The crook in this case smiled. The crook in this case laughs at our justice minister. The crook in this case ends up being the young farmer whose only mistake was not have an electric fence around his home to electrocute this sucker.

The whole idea of our justice minister in wonderland leaves Canadians from coast to coast insecure in their homes, in their schools and in their businesses, cynical about our justice system.

What should have happened here? This is so simple. My grade 9 son was here last week and he knows what should have happened. There should have been a real clanging, slamming of an iron door for the crook.

The young man may have made a mistake by not understanding the storage of the firearm. He had owned this .357 magnum firearm for 15 years. He should have had from the Medicine Hat police a simple document saying: "You must comply properly with the terms of storage for this firearm. Please make certain that you understand the rules". In other words, he should have had the slap on the wrist for a mistake. There was no mistake on the part of this other friend. None whatsoever.

A criminal justice system that sets out to prevent stalking, to prevent sexual predators, to prevent the serious violent crimes in our society is a good start. However, the cynicism that Canadians feel about our justice system will not be addressed by this bill.

Mr. Speaker, where am I at?

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3:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

One minute left.

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3:50 p.m.

An hon. member

One minute too much.

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3:50 p.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Let me summarize then. My colleagues say one minute too much. Maybe they would like to address this issue and ask was the justice system just in this case.

Would the member across like to stand before Canadians and say that the slap on the wrist was directed toward the right individual? If he can stand in this place and say that, this member of Parliament would be surprised.

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3:50 p.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the speech from the hon. member for Macleod. His comments were very appropriate as we debate Bill C-55, amendments to the Criminal Code, high risk offenders. This is the

government's response to Canadians, saying we are going to be tough on crime.

We just heard the hon. member for Macleod point out to us that when the government wants to get tough on crime it gets the wrong guy. The young hood who committed the major crime of stealing, robbing, helping himself to the guys wallet got off virtually scot free, whereas the young farmer had to pay the price.

This type of attitude has to stop. There are many situations in the country where people become victims of crime. When a person becomes a victim of crime, they change their opinion about the offender, the criminal. Obviously the people on the government side have been quite fortunate because they have not been victims of crime.

But let us talk about it from the perspective of a victim. We have heard about and we see every day, unfortunately and far too often, our citizens being murdered, raped, assaulted, victimized, robbed. That means that every time a crime is committed there is a victim and that victim is an innocent person who does not deserve to have that crime inflicted on them. It is the responsibility of the government to stop criminals from harassing and putting fear into ordinary law-abiding Canadians who just want to live their lives in safety and in peace. That is in danger and we hear it time and time again.

I have heard our leader, the hon. member for Calgary Southwest, tell us about the time he was at a town hall meeting talking about crime and justice. He was asking the people what they wanted. An elderly couple stood up and said: "Do you know what we want? We want to be able to leave this meeting, walk down the street to our car and drive home, park our car and walk into our house which is currently in darkness and feel safe. Safe as we walk down the street, safe as we drive home, safe as we park our car, safe as we unlock the door in a dark house and walk in and safe as we live there at night. But we do not have that". That is what every Canadian wants and that is what this government is failing to deliver. People want to be assured that the streets of this country are safe.

We have crime protection units all across the country. We have crime watch. We have all these organizations which are just great, and I commend every Canadian who participates in these, but they are participating in holding up a justice system that is being ignored and let down by this government. It is far more interested in looking after the criminal than looking after the victim.

When a crime is committed and the police arrest a suspect the victim becomes a disinterested bystander. The fight is now between the government and the suspect, where the government proves its case and the suspect puts up his defence and a decision is rendered guilty or not guilty. The role of the victim has been completely bypassed and ignored, and the victim feels like they have been trashed by the system. That is what we are trying to stop. We need compassion for the victim and we have to ensure that there is a proper punishment handed out to the criminal, not like what my friend from Macleod was saying.

We have very loose and open parole systems in this country. We have a parole system that says even though someone is sentenced to a period of incarceration by a judge for this length of time, they can actually get out by serving as little as one-sixth.

That does not mean they are going to get out after serving one-sixth of their time, but when they serve as little as one-sixth of the sentence imposed by a judge, somebody else comes along, some parole officer, a patronage appointment by the way, who is making $100,000 a year because they happen to be well connected with the right political party at the right time, and sits in judgement and says: "The recommendation or the decision by the court, by the judge, at the time the criminal was found guilty is irrelevant. We are going to let this guy walk out on the street". Now they are going to say: "Maybe we are going to put some more restrictions on that".

We have been debating Bill C-45 which says that if a judge recommends that a person be locked up for 25 years, after 15 years we should take another look and let him out on the street. That is being soft on crime.

While the Liberals may talk about their dangerous offender class the whole point is they want to get these people back out on the street faster and as quick as possible, ignoring the recommendations of the judges, ignoring the wishes of Canadians in the street, ignoring that these people are going to be committing crimes on an ongoing basis. That is what has to stop.

If the government gets into this whole realm of dangerous offenders, and this is what it wants to do, why did it not bring in Bill C-55 earlier? There are many people who should be locked up for a very long time who are already walking down the street, courtesy of section 745 which allows earlier parole. Now it wants to bring in this type of legislation before the election to say "look how good we are".

I do not think this legislation is very good. While it is a good start, it is only a start. It is not in any way, shape or form recognized as a bill that is going to really address the issue which is going to punish our criminals, which is going to make sure they realize the benefits of a disciplined environment, shall we say, in prison where they learn normal rules of society. I know that may be difficult in prison, but we can start.

The only time that I have seen the inside of a prison was as a member of Parliament. I had the opportunity of visiting the maximum institution in Edmonton. I have to admit our visit was quite sufficient. There is no requirement there for people to cut their hair, be dressed properly and get to work. They have a problem filling in their time. They laze around.

We need an institution that puts people to work all day, every day, six days a week, so that they can be ready to work when they go back out into the general public. We let them lie in jail and by mollycoddled. I think I heard my friend from Fraser Valley West the other day talk about the fact that they are going to get a cost of living increase in jail. What is a cost of living increase in jail? We should not be paying these people unless they are actually producing something.

Bill C-55 is a small attempt, a poor attempt and not much of an attempt to really make Canadians feel more comfortable about being out in the streets, to know that the streets are safer, that they can feel this government is concerned about them as individuals more than looking after criminals. It is a small start. Let the Reform Party finish the job after the next election when we are given the right to be over there on the other side.

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4 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is the House ready for the question?

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4 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

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4 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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4 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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4 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee.)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-26, an act respecting the oceans of Canada, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

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4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to oppose passage, at third reading, of Bill C-26, an act respecting the oceans of Canada.

I oppose this bill aimed at, among other things, recognizing Canada's jurisdiction over its maritime zones for a number of reasons. Some of them were set forth in the speech I made in this House on June 11.

Bill C-26 seeks to establish a national oceans management strategy, while defining federal responsibilities in this regard. It is these very fundamental aspects of this bill that concern the Bloc Quebecois-major concerns which I fully share. This bill abuses several provincial prerogatives by giving the fisheries minister power to act without prior endorsement from provincial governments.

Canada is known to be one of the countries of the world which has the longest coast, on three oceans. Our oceans contain numerous resources, not only water resources, but also various kinds of fish and marine mammals, beluga whales, seals, and so on that live in them. Canada's waters also contain numerous as yet undeveloped resources, oil and natural gas, for instance.

Quebecers and Canadians are aware of the existence of these marine resources, and react quickly whenever they are threatened. They also know that water controls the Earth's climate and releases a lot of oxygen.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans also knows how concerned Quebecers and Canadians are about these natural resources. That is why he created ocean day on June 8, 1996. I remind the House that this special day was a result of initiatives taken at the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. National ocean day is there to heighten public awareness of the influence of oceans on our daily lives.

Despite his desire to educate the public about the importance of Canadian waters, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has introduced a bill that does little to deal with what Quebecers and Canadians really want in this regard.

Bill C-26 being extremely centralizing, the provinces have virtually no role left with regard to the ocean policy. Yet we know that provinces are much more aware of what the people want than the federal government.

As for the partnership between the federal and provincial governments, the former Minister of Fisheries and Oceans had supported the idea, but I see in this bill that the possibility of partnership has been ruled out. As a matter of fact, clause 29 of Bill C-26 tends to view provincial governments as mere collaborators, on the same level as aboriginal organizations, coastal communities and other interested persons and bodies.

I believe that Bill C-26 will lead to endless discussions as well as long and painful struggles between both levels of government.

The bill contains other clauses showing the desire of this government to centralize powers. Cases in point are clauses 28 to 36 dealing with the development of a management strategy for estuaries, coastal waters and marine waters. Not only do these clauses infringe upon provincial jurisdiction, but they give the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans powers already belonging to the federal environment minister.

It should be noted that the environment is an area of jurisdiction not explicitly attributed to either level of government under the Constitution. Before 1985, the Quebec government played a significant role in environmental issues. The federal government only got involved in areas related to its own jurisdiction. However, after

1985, Ottawa started to be very active in environmental issues through its spending powers. This led to a lot of duplication and overlap.

Bill C-26 is a further step toward centralization, which the provinces, Quebec especially, find unacceptable. Overlap exists mainly in federal-provincial regulations regarding the environment. As a result, companies must often spend a lot of money, time and energy to learn about the many existing government programs and to abide by the stringent requirements of both governments. Bill C-26 only makes matters worse since the federal government, in spite of its financial problems, is creating new structures to protect a specific ecosystem.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans also wants to unilaterally impose, on the marine industry, fees for all coast guard services, including navigational aids and ice breaking, as stated in clauses 41 and 47 to 52 of the bill.

The Bloc Quebecois proposed several amendments to these clauses in order to make the fees more equitable and force the minister to consult the industry and the provinces before he imposes fees or raises the rates. This new federal tax threatens the competitiveness of the port of Montreal-as you know, I represent Montréal-Nord which is part of the greater Montreal area-of other harbours on the St. Lawrence and of all Quebec businesses that depend on marine transportation.

The Quebec minister of state responsible for the Montreal area, Serge Ménard, and the president of the Communauté urbaine de Montréal, Vera Danyluck, have condemned this improvised and dangerous tax. It must be pointed out that the federal government ordered the coast guard, the agency responsible for the safety of marine transportation in Canada, to charge ship owners $160 million before 1999, beginning with $20 million this year, in 1996.

However, the impact will be worse for Montreal and other Quebec harbours because the federal government wants to implement three different fee schedules, one for the St. Lawrence, one for the west coast and one for the maritimes.

For instance, Ottawa will collect a fee from a foreign vessel arriving in Montreal, while that vessel will not pay anything if it goes to American ports on the Great Lakes. It must be pointed out that half of the some 726,000 containers that are carried each year to Montreal go to and from the American Midwest and the state of New York and the New England states.

Costs at the port of Montreal will increase and this will benefit harbours on the eastern seaboard of the United States that are competing with Montreal. Unfortunately, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans did not wait for the results of an economic impact study before introducing this measure. Clearly, through this action, Ottawa wants to favour the other regions to the detriment of Quebec.

The first fees have just been collected for navigational aids: buoys, lighthouses, traffic control, but the hardest for Quebec will come in 1997, when ice breaking fees will be implemented. Port activity generates major economic spinoffs of $1.2 billion for Montreal, as well as 14,000 jobs in Montreal.

On April 3, I met officials of the port authority in Montreal with my Bloc Quebecois colleagues from the Montreal area. They told us that container traffic is at an unprecedented level and that the port authority has a net profit for the sixteenth year in a row. This net profit was at $9.3 million in 1995, compared to $8.7 million in 1994.

The Montreal Port Corporation is stepping up its efforts to stimulate activity and expand its facilities. However, the Canadian Coast Guard cost recovery project counteracts the Montreal Port Corporation's efforts to become more competitive. It also hurts industrial users such as the oil industry.

Shipping is vital to the economy of Montreal and Quebec as a whole. The port of Montreal alone handles 20 million tonnes of cargo per year. Since 60 per cent of the freight passing through the port of Montreal is shipped by rail to various destinations throughout the continent, the profitability of the rail system will also be affected by the proposed fee structure. This bill will aggravate the situation in the Montreal region, which faces enormous economic problems as well as an outrageously high unemployment rate.

When I spoke to Bill C-26 last June, I listed the many reasons why I was opposed to this bill as it was presented to us. Today, I reaffirm my opposition because the bill provides for too much federal interference in areas of provincial jurisdiction. As a member who is sensitive to the needs of the people who elected him, I am unable to endorse a bill that totally ignores their concerns.

In this, I agree with my Bloc colleagues, who show the same consideration for their constituents. That is why I supported all the motions put forward by the Bloc Quebecois, and especially by my colleague from Gaspé. For all these reasons, I oppose Bill C-26.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened quite attentively to the comments and critique of the hon. Bloc member on Bill C-26, the oceans act.

In light of the fact that my hon. colleague from Skeena had made a number of amendments, I believe seven, at the time the bill was before the House at report stage, what specifically is different about the amendments the Bloc is bringing forward?

I heard his concern about the fee structure for the coast guard marine services fees. It sounded very reminiscent of the same concerns that were being put forward by my hon. colleague from Skeena at that time, and certainly support his concerns about that section of the bill and the amendments he has brought forward.

Reform was concerned about the dedication of costs to ensure that the costs that were attributed to the provision of certain services were actually documented. Therefore the fees would be structured in such a way as to be specific to those costs being incurred by the government, that they would not go beyond that.

Could the hon. member enlighten me and the House regarding what specifically is different about the amendments being brought forward and debated at this time by the Bloc? What is different from the Reform amendments that were brought forward at report stage, which unfortunately were subsequently defeated in the House?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, the amendments proposed by Bloc members would provide for greater provincial involvement in the development of an oceans strategy and policy. We also want a fairer fee implementation scheme, and I mentioned that the government scheme would have a major impact on Montreal. We agree that a strategy should be developed, but provincial jurisdiction in this area should be respected, and I think the bill violates this principle.

I should add that some of the Reform Party's amendments were in line with those put forward by the Bloc Quebecois, which was a mere coincidence. Unfortunately, all these motions were defeated by the members of the majority party, and I find this regrettable.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Bernier Bloc Gaspé, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the words of the hon. member of the Reform Party and the hon. member for Bourassa, what is different about the amendments brought forward by the Bloc Quebecois, compared to those brought forward by the Reform member for Skeena, who also sat on the parliamentary committee, is mainly the relationship between the provinces and the central government in Ottawa.

I found the amendments put forward by the hon. member for Skeena-which dealt mainly with a feedback mechanism to establish, for instance, whether the services provided by the coast guard were performed efficiently-most appropriate.

The second amendment asked for transparency to be exercised in developing a price setting mechanism. We would have liked to come back and debate this in the House. I am pleased that the hon. member for Skeena addressed these issues. We had gone about it in a slightly different way.

Still in response to the remark my hon. colleague from the Reform Party made today, I would like to point out that, in light of the fact that an agreement between British Columbia and the federal government is imminent, the Bloc Quebecois tabled this afternoon an amendment to have the next reading of Bill C-26 deferred by six months, since the discussions between the province and the federal government on the sharing of management measures regarding, for example, resource conservation will dictate how the federal government should act thereafter, with its individual provincial partners.

These were the main differences between our amendments and those put forward by the Reform Party. But on many other aspects, it is clear that we can work together to impress upon the government party that time has come to face the facts and recognize that this committee's work was not partisan, but aimed at moving things along. If the process stalls, the people will be the judge of that later.