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House of Commons Hansard #140 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was magazines.

Topics

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Reform

Deepak Obhrai Reform Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

I rise today to voice my opposition to Bill C-55, the foreign publishers advertising services act.

I have been in this place for close to one and a half years. I have had the opportunity to observe and interact with members of both sides of the House. At this juncture, I would like to tell my colleague when he said that the Reform member should join his caucus, I extend to him the invitation to come and join us.

What separates the official opposition from the government is not that we have more concern for the people of Canada. What differentiates us is that we have a different view on how to achieve a better society for all.

We both want the same thing, a prosperous and tolerant Canada where all can participate openly. However, while this government feels that this can only be achieved through the cumbersome, heavy hand of central planning and intervention, the official opposition believes that freedom and having faith in people is the right road to take.

At a time when countries around the world are realizing that straight intervention has its limits, this government continues its policies of trying to run almost every facet of Canadian society. Bill C-55 continues this long tradition of Liberal interference in the lives of Canadians.

Before I deal specifically with Bill C-55, allow me to elaborate on my last point.

Many of my Reform colleagues have spent a considerable amount of energy questioning this government on the Canadian Wheat Board. As we know, the wheat board dictates the price at which wheat may be sold, thereby robbing our farming communities of the freedom to sell their goods. Interfering in market forces is no different than the central planning that the east bloc characterized before reaching its senses in the late 1980s.

Another key example is the high taxation levels that Canadians and Canadian businesses continue to endure. Canadians have seen their income shrink as they are forced to transfer more and more of what they earn to the government coffers.

All agree that more money left in the pockets of individuals and businesses will benefit the economy. While the finance minister boasts of balancing the budget, he does not reveal that the way he achieved this was on the backs of Canadian taxpayers and businesses.

The truth of the matter is that taxes have increased since this government took power in 1993. The fact that this government reneged on its commitment to scrap the GST is proof of its commitment to high taxation.

It is no secret there exists a direct correlation between tax levels and job creation. Is it a mere coincidence that the two provinces with the lowest income tax levels, Ontario and my home province of Alberta, lead the nation in creating employment.

Perhaps the minister should ponder whether the Canadian periodical sector could benefit more from lower taxes rather than from eliminating competition.

Today we heard a news report highlighting the plight of Canada's working class. The study released by the Centre for Social Justice states that working families are being devalued in Canada. Families are working harder than they did 10 years ago and have less money to show for their increased efforts. Between 1989 and 1996 the average family suffered a $4,000 decline in their income. Why does the finance minister not realize that the time has come for tax relief for the middle and lower income families and businesses?

I have used the issues of the wheat board and taxes to point to the fact that this government has a track record of intervening in the economy, often with less than stellar consequences.

Bill C-55 continues this Liberal tradition of intervention and state control. While Bill C-55 most definitely has economic ramifications, I would like to focus on its cultural dimensions.

This bill seeks to protect our domestic periodical industry from outside competition. It attempts to do this by prohibiting the right of foreign publications to sell advertising space to companies targeting a Canadian audience. This would free up advertising dollars for Canadian publications.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage introduces this bill claiming it will protect Canadian heritage. However, the minister and indeed this government has failed to recognize the essence of what culture is.

Culture comes as the natural consequence of economic activity. The key word in the last statement is natural. Culture survives and thrives best when it is allowed to grow in a natural state free of artificial crutches and interference. Culture and art must be promoted but never protected and created by the state. When the state starts dictating what culture is, it becomes a slippery slope toward when artistic and cultural freedom end and when state propaganda begins.

I would like to turn my attention to some of the specifics of this piece of legislation. Subclause 20(c) of the bill allows for the minister to make regulations respecting criteria to determine whether advertising services are directed to the Canadian market. By allowing the minister to make orders in council with respect to the nature of advertising, Bill C-55 essentially gives the minister the authority to make laws dealing with international trade without passing them through parliament.

Moreover clauses 4, 5 and 6 allow the minister to create her own culture police to investigate whether foreign publications are carrying advertising geared toward the Canadian market.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

An hon. member

Sheila's cops.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Reform

Deepak Obhrai Reform Calgary East, AB

Sheila's cops, cultural cops, as my colleague said.

This is an unparalleled power which essentially gives the minister the right to create her own surveillance police. This kind of thing may fly in other countries, but I do not think Canadians will accept such a system.

Because of these issues, I find that Bill C-55 affords the minister authority which goes beyond what our parliamentary democracy should allow.

The bill's extraterritorial application is another area I would like to address. As I have mentioned, the role of Bill C-55 is to protect our domestic periodical industry. The bill makes it an offence for any officer, director or agent of a corporation to run a split run edition, that is, a magazine with editorial content similar to its foreign original but with advertising aimed at the Canadian audience.

It is quite ironic that this government is introducing such a bill after it was so critical of the U.S. Helms-Burton act which sought to hold Canadian companies liable for doing business in Cuba. Perhaps the ministers of heritage and foreign affairs should get together once in a while to ensure that there is some semblance of consistency in the government's policies.

As parliamentarians we must also ask ourselves whether the federal government has the constitutional right to implement Bill C-55. Nothing that I have found either in constitutional or case law puts the area of print media in federal jurisdiction. As well the bill intrudes into provincial jurisdiction in the areas of property and civil rights.

Added to this, the provisions of Bill C-55 contravene sections 2, 7 and 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It violates the freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of association. It also violates charter security rights under sections 7 and 8. Furthermore it contravenes the enjoyment of property provisions found in the Canadian bill of rights.

All this evidence indicates that we are dealing with a very poorly drafted piece of legislation which offends the very basic values and laws which we as Canadians hold sacred.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I must interrupt the hon. member. The time has expired. On questions and comments, the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the comments by my hon. colleague. He was pursuing a very interesting train of thought.

I would like him to address the House on what he believes will be the impact of Bill C-55 on the ability of Canadian culture to continue to exist in a fruitful and productive way in this country. That is what all of us in this House wish to have.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Reform

Deepak Obhrai Reform Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, in short, the government should have more faith in Canadian culture. Our cultural industries have what it takes to compete in an open and unfettered market.

In the narrow sense one can fall into the trap of believing that this piece of legislation will benefit the domestic periodical industry. I question whether it will.

Our country's economic and cultural prosperity has been built on foundations of free enterprise. Canadians have no reason to fear competition. On every occasion that we have faced it we have done well. Why is there a need to push the panic button now? This bill is shortsighted.

In the long run our magazine industry can become the pride of the world. Are some Canadian periodicals facing the threat of extinction? The answer is probably yes for some of them if they do not show innovation and results.

I have confidence that competition will bring out the best in our industry and that this sector will grow to become a world renowned first class industry without intervention.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Reform

John Duncan Reform Vancouver Island North, BC

Madam Speaker, my question for my colleague relates to the fact that if this legislation is found wanting as the previous legislation was found wanting, and the member may correct me if I am mistaken, but I understand that if the legislation is found in the international arena to be lacking, if it is challenged and if Canada loses, retaliatory measures may be sought under the auspices of the international organization to go after another Canadian industry. That potentially puts any other Canadian industry at risk.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Reform

Deepak Obhrai Reform Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a good question. That is something members on the other side should be thinking about. They are here protecting a small industry but they are accusing us of not helping. That is not the issue.

There is a bigger issue is if measures are taken against other industries what will they do then? My colleague is right. Under NAFTA I am sure this bill will be challenged and probably be seen to be wanting, so we will be paying the penalty.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I have enjoyed the comments on Bill C-55.

I think the objective of members from both sides is in part the same, that nobody in this House wants to see Canadian culture be dissolved or diminished in any way. We want to see Canadian culture thrive in the best way possible.

Unfortunately I think for a long time we have had a bit of an inferiority complex with respect to Canadian culture. In travelling to the United States what strikes me very clearly in looking at the American cultural industry versus the Canadian cultural industry is that the Canadian cultural industry can compete and beat the American cultural industry in so many areas.

Nobody in the House would agree that The Simpsons has better educational value than some W5 programs or some CBC documentaries or dramas that are superbly done and are very educational and very well put together. They are far superior than the vast majority of American cultural efforts in those areas.

If there is one thing I hope we can take from the debate today it is that Canadian companies can compete well and they need to take a much more aggressive view compared to what they do south of the border. Magazines, newspapers, television and especially CBC radio do a superb job of competing south of the border. In the U.S. sometimes they can pick up CBC radio. In comparing the Canadian content of CBC radio versus American content it is like night and day. Canadian content is far superior.

When the Minister of Canadian Heritage speaks to the bill, about American companies coming to our country and diluting Canadian magazines so the content withers away, that is simply not true. Our assertion is that Canadian magazines can compete on their own. What Canadian magazines need is not protection but promotion, and not from the government. It should give the magazines and companies the ability and the tools to compete as any company rather than the situation now where we have a tax burden, rules and regulations that restrict the ability of Canadian companies, be they in the advertising industry or somewhere else, to compete against our neighbours south of the border.

The taxes and rules and regulations are the primary reasons why companies cannot compete as successfully as they should with their compatriots south of the border. I implore the ministers on the other side who have responsibility in this area to come together and work with their counterparts to lower the tax burden and eliminate the rules and regulations that exist not only north-south but east-west. That involves cabinet ministers taking a leadership role with their provincial counterparts to work together to try to remove these barriers to trade which is restricted for so long the ability of Canadian companies to function.

We oppose the bill on a number of levels, one being the issue of freedom of speech. Although we are not enamoured in any way with some big international group being able to hammer little Canada, that is not going to happen. We want to ensure that Canadian companies and magazines are going to be competing on a level playing field.

This bill violates what is very dear to the hearts of everybody and something that is a tenet of our country, the charter. I would not say dear to our hearts but the charter exists and we have to live with it. In the charter is the principle that is very dear to Canadians, section 2(b) which says everyone has the fundamental freedom of thought, belief, opinion, expression, including the freedom of the press and other means of communication. It would be nice if members in the House of Commons had that same freedom under the charter, but that is a subject for another day.

Bill C-55 violates that fundamental freedom and the Canadian Association of Advertisers has spoken against this by saying that it contravenes the ability of advertisers to have the freedom under the charter to compete and engage in advertising across the border. That is why since 1965, although this notion has continued to be pursued by Canadian governments, it has gone absolutely nowhere. It violates the norms of international trade rules and regulations and it has very little to do with being able to protect Canadian culture.

As I said before, since this has been happening since 1965, have we seen Canadian culture go off the map? No. Canadian culture is thriving and Canadian culture can do a lot more and be expanded in a far greater fashion if instead of using government money to promote it we enable individual companies to self-promote.

One thing we can do without using Canadian money, which is actually very interesting, is use our embassies and our foreign services in other parts of the world to promote and provide information to Canadian cultural organizations to disperse Canadian culture in other countries, particularly to our brothers south of the border. The people of the United States would benefit greatly I think from knowing what happens in Canada. Although our border is very porous, we are very close together and they are our greatest neighbours, it is surprising how little many Americans know about us and vice versa. More cultural integration, more trade of information will actually improve the bond that exists between us.

From time to time conflicts do exist, be it on fisheries, whaling or on agricultural products and forestry, and they sour our relationship with our American cousins, but there is still a great deal we can improve on. We take pride in the fact that we have so much trade with the Americans. Eighty per cent of our exports go to the states and we are America's greatest partner. But the fact remains that just scratches the surface. There is so much more that Canadian companies can do south of the border which would be of direct economic benefit to Canadians from coast to coast.

When I was in the United States in March, what struck me was the lack of knowledge on both sides of the border and also the enormous economic opportunities for Canadians south of the border. It is no mistake that last year 46,500 of our best and brightest went to the United States to work. They did not pick the bottom rung. The creme de la creme of Canadians, of our youth, went down there. They went down for many reasons. Americans recognize value for money and recognize the value of Canadians and Canadian expertise.

My colleagues have spoken about the ability and the responsibility the government has in enabling Canadians to stay within our borders by providing tax relief, the elimination of rules and regulations, the educational opportunities that Canadians require here and the investment in research and development required and necessary for us to be competitive. Having said that, there is much that Canadians can do. Canadian companies can compete and can beat American companies on so many levels.

I encourage the Minister for International Trade to work with his counterpart in foreign affairs and the Minister of Finance and members from across party lines. Our critic for international trade would be happy to provide his expert advice to the government on what we can do to improve our economic opportunities abroad.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, the hon. member indicated how many bright Canadians have gone down to the United States.

As he knows, recently it has been reported in Canada for I believe the fifth year running that we are the number one country in the world in which to live. I wonder if he has any statistical information on how many Americans may have come up to Canada in terms of their best and brightest.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the information. C.D. Howe has done a recent study on this issue and has come up with statistics. I cannot give him the exact point right now, but if he would like I could find it for him. The bottom line is that the imbalance is huge. The American creme de la creme are simply not coming up to Canada. The best and brightest of Canadians are going down south.

The number one reason has been repeated time and time again. Taxes are far too high. A working family of two in the United States after taxes earns 44% more than a Canadian couple in the same situation. When we speak to Canadian youth who have gone down south they say they would much prefer to live in Canada. They love Canada, but how can Canada compete when they are earning 44% more in the United States? It is not only money. They have opportunities to be the best they can become.

Speaking professionally from a medical point of view, the ability to practise medicine and engage in other professional opportunities in the United States is far greater because of investment in research and development.

There are some enormous opportunities for Canada to do some very innovative things. Perhaps there could be an extension on RRSPs over and beyond what we have now. RRSP moneys could be obligated to be invested into Canadian companies on Canadian shore, resulting in Canadian companies having money to be able to work and having capital to invest.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Reform

Grant McNally Reform Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Madam Speaker, I listened with great attention to my colleague's speech. I thought he gave a great overview of the issue.

Earlier in the House we heard the minister of heritage refer to why the bill needed to be introduced. Her interventionist approach seems quite inappropriate in this area. Her arguments are based on the assumption that Canadian industry cannot make it on its own without government protection.

Could my colleague shed a bit of light on that aspect of the bill?

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. It gets to the heart of the fundamental difference of opinion between the Reform Party and the government. The issue is how can Canadian culture be the best it can become.

The government believes that protection is the answer. We believe in enabling these companies, magazines and cultural entities to promote. We believe Canadian culture can compete on its own two legs without government intervention and beat other countries rather than exist in an environment where it has to build barriers. Canadian culture should look beyond, embrace a much larger population and show the best of what Canada has to offer.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Reform

Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Madam Speaker, I am happy to take part today in the debate on Bill C-55, but I am disappointed in the government's approach to responding to the World Trade Organization.

The WTO has asked Canada to redo its law to comply with the ruling made in March and June 1997 against Canada regarding punitive tariffs and tax measures against split run additions. Canada was clearly in contravention of the rules that we signed at this international body. What bothers me most is that Canada has been one of the main proponents at the World Trade Organization and the international body before it, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trades, to establish clear rules of conduct for business.

Canada needs this very badly. Our country has large exports. Forty per cent of our gross domestic product is derived from our exports. That is probably more than any other country in the world. More in fact than the United States whose GDP derived from exports is something like 10%.

Canada clearly needs rules, a rule based regime. Canada recognized this a long time ago. Our government introduced legislation back in 1946, 1947 and 1948 and was the main push behind getting the GATT established, recognizing that it would serve Canada's interests. Canada has held an inordinate amount of sway in these international talks.

I was with the Minister for International Trade in Geneva last spring at the ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization. Canada is pushing for more liberalized trade in investment. We are pushing for more rules in areas like services and trying to bring agriculture under the trade rules which have hurt the industry through trade wars and massive subsidies in the past.

Yet, at the very time when we are going down that road with the trade minister and the government, we have the heritage minister seeming to completely contradict the trade minister by not complying with the World Trade Organization ruling and trying to circumvent the World Trade Organization ruling in June of this year by bringing in Bill C-55. The United States has already said that if the bill becomes law it will ask the World Trade Organization to repeal it.

What would happen if that were to happen? I believe it will happen because it is in contravention of the ruling. Rather than complying and being gracious about defeat in this area, the minister of heritage has sort of stuck her finger in the eye of the international dispute body, the World Trade Organization. Effectively she has said that we will not comply; to heck with those guys, we will go our own way.

What would happen if the United States took us to the World Trade Organization because of this legislation? What would happen if the World Trade Organization ruled against us for a second time? Canada does not have to comply because those are the rules of the World Trade Organization, but it certainly should because our international reputation would be tarnished. However we do not have to. We can go on with our silly policy if we want, but any country that takes us to court and gets a ruling in its favour has the right to retaliate. Those are the rules of the GATT. A country has the right to retaliate in kind.

What form could that retaliation take? It could take the form of retaliation in the cultural sector, the agricultural sector, the forestry sector, and even in areas that are not distinctly related to this dispute.

Let us assume that they took retaliation in the area of culture. What does Canada have to lose? We have a very big amount to lose. We have a lot of Canadian entertainers in the cultural sector finding employment in the United States. It is a very big market with some 260 million people. Shania Twain and other entertainers go to Nashville and Hollywood. They do not want their access denied. However, if the ruling went against Canada, and I believe it will, the United States could choose to follow that route. I think we are cutting off our nose to spite our face.

What possible good can come out of this? We have the matter of Canadian advertisers who want to advertise in split-run magazines. It seems to me that they would know what is best for their business. It removes a choice from Canadian advertisers. Do we really need a magazine that is so mediocre that it cannot stand up to competition without support or protection? I think not.

Let us look at some of the magazines that claim they need protection. What would happen to those magazines if the United States said it would not let Americans advertise in Canadian magazines if we did not advertiser in theirs? We can flip through the October 26 edition of Maclean's , one of the magazines we are talking about in this whole issue. What is the ad on the first page? Jaguar. It goes on. Three-quarters of the ads in Maclean's magazine come from outside Canada. Is that the message we want to send around the world, that we are not open to business in Canada? Could it function without ads from Volvo, Subaru, Disney World, IBM, Air France, Oldsmobile and Kodak? I do not know that it could.

We are using foreign money to support our magazines right now. On the other side of the equation we are saying that we cannot let Canadians advertise in magazines such as Sports Illustrated because it does not have enough Canadian content.

The ruling has gone against us once and it will go against us again. Then what will the government do? The United States has the right to retaliate. This time I think it just might get tough. We certainly do not want to go down the road of possibly risking closure of the United States market to our entertainers.

Let us examine the issue of whether the industry needs protection. My colleagues have already made some interesting points by suggesting that it probably does not. I would agree that it probably does not, but the industry certainly warrants promotion.

Canadian trade delegations travel all the time. The Prime Minister is very proud of the January junkets he takes to promote Canadian goods. Incidentally, it seems that he only goes to countries in January that have a temperature of about 30° Celsius. Be that as it may, he is out there promoting Canadian goods and services. The trade minister is out there all the time. Canadian businesses are too.

Why can they not promote Canadian culture? Why can they not promote Canadian entertainers, our magazines, our book industry and our publishing industry? They should be very much a part of that promotion in the same way they promote Canadian agriculture, Canadian forest industries or whatever.

The opposite to that is the approach the heritage minister seems to take, one of protection. I thought the protectionist walls had been broken down a long time ago. We have seen protectionist walls in the past. Sir John A. Macdonald put up high tariff walls after Confederation and essentially destroyed Atlantic Canada's ability to trade with the New England States. As a result it became a welfare state of Canada, and the government wants to go down that road again.

We have an $800 billion industry in Canada. That is the GDP of our country. Protection does not enter into very many of those industries. I can think of only a couple like the supply management sector of agriculture, an industry that basically has no exports. It basically has to look at the Canadian market all by itself. There are other sectors of Canadian industry that do not have competition. Largely they are industries like the power industry. Where that happens, public utilities boards are put in to look after the public interest because no competition can occur.

Why should we be afraid of competition? We are out in the world every day exporting product. The two way trade between Canada and the United States is worth over $1.4 billion a day. They are saying that we cannot compete. All we need is a small piece of the American pie, and I think we are doing very well. Many Canadian artists have already discovered that. That is why Shania Twain travels to Nashville. That is why Terri Clark from Medicine Hat is in Nashville. They are looking at that big market. They are not only serving Canadians. They are out there looking at a much bigger world.

Canadians will not be intimidated. They will look outward. They will look at the global economy. They have enough confidence to take that on, but we have to get things right at home. We have to get the fundamentals right.

When the foreign affairs and international trade standing committee did a study on why small and medium size businesses were not exporting as we believed they should, the message was strong and clear. They said the government had far too much regulation and that the cost of doing business in Canada was too high.

A representative of one small company with under 100 employees came before our committee and said that he had to move his operation to Illinois. He said that he could do better business, that he could trade more effectively back into Canada with his company in Illinois than he could when he was located in Ontario because of interprovincial trade barriers.

Small companies are telling us that is the problem. I suggest that many of these companies such as Maclean's are not small companies at all.

They are relying right now on the international marketplace. They are relying on international investors and companies to advertise in their magazines. I think they can make it. Canadian cultural businesses, small or large, have to face the reality that there is a big world out there. They have to go after a portion of that market. They can do it. We have to get past this myth that subsidies and barriers are a great thing in Canada.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I apologize to the House for taking up its time. In the normal course of events we have these discussions in the respective lobbies, government and opposition. I wonder if this speaker needed approximately five more minutes to finish his intervention, without a period of question and comment, then we would seek the consent of the House to defer the amendment of the Reform member to be voted on at the expiration of Government Orders on Tuesday, October 27.

If someone else wants to speak, I understand they will refuse that consent. I apologize for taking the House's time on this negotiation on the floor of the House. I have tried to have some discussions.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is there unanimous consent?

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

An hon. member

No.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Order, please. The member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve advised me in writing that he was unable to introduce his motion during the hour provided for consideration of Private Members' Business on Friday, October 23, 1998.

As it was not possible to change positions on the list of priorities, I ask the clerk to drop this motion to the bottom of the list. The hour provided for consideration of Private Members' Business will, therefore, be suspended and the House will continue to examine the matters before it at that time.

The House resumed from September 24 consideration of the motion that Bill C-251, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (cumulative sentences), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

October 22nd, 1998 / 5:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-251 to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. I compliment the hon. member for Mississauga East for bringing this act forward. Most of the citizens in my riding would overwhelming support this bill which enhances penalties for sexual offences and murders.

I am not the critic for justice. I am not even a lawyer. Our very able critic for justice, the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, is a former crown prosecutor. He has outlined the benefits of this bill and endorses it completely. I will follow his recommendation from a professional point of view.

From of a personal point of view I want to add my support. As I said, I am not a justice critic but I am a Canadian. I feel, as I am sure the member who put forth the bill feels, so often criminals get the benefit of the doubt. Some of our structures for offences and imprisonment are not in tune with what the Canadian people think or want. As a member of parliament I serve an area that has two correction facilities in it, a new one for women in Truro, Nova Scotia built in 1993, and the one in Springhill which is multilevel correctional institute.

Correctional Service Canada is probably one of the biggest employers in my riding. It plays a huge role in my riding and everyone is touched by Correctional Service Canada and the impact it has. It works with many of our other institutions like the community college in Springhill. It provides all kinds of information to us and the communities provide information back. It is very much a community effort. I believe in any community that has a correctional institution there must be a connection between the community and the institution to be successful.

This is why I recently proposed that the correctional training centre proposed by the solicitor general be established in the community of Springhill adjacent to the major prison there. Also it would tie in nicely with the expertise of the people. It would tie in nicely with the facilities. We have the community college in Springhill which would be more than glad to establish a curriculum that would help train correctional officers for correctional facilities all over Canada.

The Springhill institution is now the reception centre for all prisoners in Atlantic Canada. When a prisoner comes into the system the first place they go is Springhill. Springhill determines whether they should go to a maximum, medium or minimum security facility and then they are transferred from there. Every prisoner comes to Springhill, so it is an ideal spot for this correctional training centre as proposed by the solicitor general.

It will obviously save a lot of taxpayer dollars if it is established in Springhill just because the facilities are there, the training is there, the people are there and the expertise is there. I certainly endorse the solicitor general's proposal for a new training centre. I strongly recommend that it go to the Springhill community.

There is a third area where I run into justice issues even though I am not the justice critic. It is just as a member of parliament. One of the most frustrating and confusing issues that I have run into is the murder of James Mills. This murder took place on July 24, 1991.

I was involved with it as a member of parliament at that time. But the family has been dragged through a terrible ordeal for seven years, seven years of pain and frustration because there has never been justice for this murder. There has never been anyone held accountable for it. The justice department has never provided any information to satisfy the Mills family as to why its son was murdered while in a correctional facility in Renous, New Brunswick. He was in the care, custody and control of Correctional Service Canada. He was murdered and there has never been any penalty. There has never been a charged laid in this case. In this case I am certainly involved with justice issues.

James Mills was murdered in custody on July 24, 1991. This certainly indicates a breakdown in the system between Correctional Service Canada and the RCMP through the investigation and the evolution of the whole case. It has been closed several times and swept under the carpet. We have been able to drag it out several times. Time after time we have met with Correctional Service Canada people. We have met with the RCMP at all levels, senior, junior, everywhere. We have met with the commissioner of Correctional Service Canada. We have met with the minister over and over again and still we are not one step closer that we know of to a resolution to this problem.

The Mills family has never had closure. It has never been able to say somebody is being held accountable for the murder.

We have probably been through a half dozen solicitors general through this period of time since this murder and there still has not been a resolution.

The current solicitor general has certainly been the subject of a lot of attention lately because he talked about some things on an airplane he should not have talked about. The solicitor general has really been helpful in this case to try to secure a resolution to the James Mills case. To me he has gone above and beyond the call of duty because he has compassion for James Mills' family. I appreciate what he has done, although we still are not one step closer to closure.

I ask the solicitor general to continue the pressure to try to get this brought to justice and to ensure that the RCMP complete the investigation and the file is turned over the attorney general of New Brunswick. If the attorney general deems charges should be laid I hope he will lay them forthwith. If not, I hope and I demand that the Government of Canada apologize to the Mills family.

The first choice is that charges be laid, justice be done and penalties be given to the appropriate people.

This brings us back to Bill C-251 which is why we are here. Bill C-251 makes imminent sense to me and, as I said, it makes imminent sense to other people who support me in my riding. It basically says that in the case of sexual offences they be treated differently than other offences.

It says that if there are other offences that occur at the same time that sexual offences occur, the sexual offence penalty be paid completely, that the sentence be served completely and not be done concurrently so that the person who commits a sexual offence cannot get off earlier because of concurrent sentences. I think it makes imminent sense and I certainly support that.

The second part of the bill says the same thing for murderers. In a case like James Mills, perhaps the person who murdered James Mills was in prison already for another murder. If he is convicted under present rules, there is no deterrent to stop that person from committing another murder, another murder, another murder.

Under this bill, if the person is brought to justice, if he does pay the penalty, if he is convicted, then it will be consecutive and not concurrent with the time he is already serving.

A prisoner in Renous murdered another prisoner. If he is convicted under the prison rules, he serves no more time. There is no deterrent. There is no reason for him not to do it. Under Bill C-251, the sentences will be consecutive and it will be a deterrent to that person from committing further crimes.

This bill emphasizes how completely out of touch with the Canadian people the present government is. The people in my riding want tougher sentences, not weaker sentences. They want criminals who commit violent crimes of a sexual nature or a homicide to stay in prison for their sentences. They do not want concurrent sentences. They want consecutive sentences and that is what this bill does. I certainly support it. My constituents support it totally, I am sure.

It seems the present policy now is for prisoners to be allowed out of prison at the earliest possible convenience to them, at the earliest possible time.

I do not disagree with that on non-violent offences if the prisoners indicate some rehabilitation, some desire to do better, some desire to improve their lives and play a role in our communities.

For violent offences I do not believe there should be exceptions. I do not believe there should be concurrent sentences. They should be consecutive sentences. I endorse this bill 100%.

The government should be focusing on just what this bill does, not things like registering shotguns and rifles. This makes no sense at all for people in my riding in northern Nova Scotia. What people want is for people who commit crimes of a violent nature to serve their time.

We want to focus on that part of justice. We do not want to focus on registration of shotguns and rifles in my riding. I want to add my support to Bill C-251 and I want to compliment the member for Mississauga East for bringing it forth.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill in support of my colleague, the member for Mississauga East. She has worked very hard for quite some time to ensure that her proposal does not fall by the wayside.

I begin by quoting from one of her speeches on a similar bill in a previous parliament: “I have sadly been visited by too many victims of crime who have now come to realize that they also are victims of parliament. Some had lost children. Some had lost parents. Some had lost spouses but all had lost faith in the courts, lost faith in the parole boards and, most of all, lost faith in parliament”. I believe that parliament can make a difference. To lose faith in parliament would, I think, be disappointing to say the least. All of us in the House believe that parliament can make a difference or else we would not be here.

My colleague has worked on her bill for two parliaments. Surely now is the time to re-establish her faith in parliament. Now is the time to look at this bill and to give it the respect and study it deserves.

My riding of Oak Ridges is evolving. From being a fairly rural and small-town atmosphere where everyone knew everyone else, it has grown to be an urban centre. The problems associated with urban crime and justice are now raising their ugly head.

The chief of police in my area has informed me that the number of first and second degree murders is increasing, as is the number of sexual assaults. These are horrific crimes, domestic homicide involving husbands strangling wives, and beatings and stabbings. I will give some examples.

On September 9, 1995 there was a domestic homicide. A husband strangled his wife. He pleaded not guilty. Upon conviction of manslaughter he served five years in jail.

On December 17, 1995 in my riding there was a domestic homicide. A son-in-law beat his father-in-law to death and attempted to murder another in-law in the same manner. He pleaded not guilty. Upon conviction of second degree murder, he was sentenced to 16 years in jail.

On January 23, 1997 there was a domestic homicide. A young offender stabbed his mother to death. He pleaded guilty and upon conviction of manslaughter was sentenced to six months of secured custody and four months of open custody.

Another problem in my riding is home invasions where people are stalked then attacked in their own homes. There was even a case of two offenders who invaded a home to rob the owners and then slashed the victim who bled to death. That occurred on February 18, 1997. They pleaded guilty. Upon conviction of manslaughter, the young offender was sentenced as an adult to six and a half years in jail; the adult offender was sentenced to seven and a half years in jail.

I want to make the point that one of the bill's objectives is to reduce our inhumanity to the families of victims. Who among us does not remember the horror suffered by the victims of Clifford Olson and their families, the victims of Paul Bernardo and their families, the victims of Denis Lortie and their families.

Half of all those convicted of second degree murder in this country and who are sentenced to life are released after less than 12 years. Denis Lortie machine gunned three people to death and was released after only serving 11 years.

I cannot even imagine what those families have gone through. They deserve our compassion and they deserve truth in sentencing. There should be no discounts in sentencing.

Convicted repeat offenders of these crimes should not serve penalties all at the same time and then be released. If the person has done the crime, he or she should do the time. That means serving the full sentence for each penalty, a full sentence for each specific crime.

I have no difficulty in supporting cumulative sentencing for convicted serial rapists and serial killers. I believe in stiff sentences and I believe in serving all the time on the sentence and not serving it all at the same time. If a person is given three sentences, add them up and serve the cumulative time.

I believe this is a way to restore the public's faith in the court system, faith in sentencing, and faith in parliament. We should be proud to send the justice system a clear message. We should be clear and concise. Canadians want criminals treated in a clear way.

According to Sentencing in Canada: “Previous research suggests that, for some offences at least, unwarranted variation in sentencing trends is a reality in Canada. Researchers found for example that the same set of case facts generated sentences that ranged in severity from a suspended sentence to 13 years in prison”. This is not right. We should provide the justice system with clear and unequivocal direction.

A sentence should apply for each specific crime and for each victim. Full time should be served for each sentence.

By supporting this bill, we will establish faith in parliament for all Canadians, and certainly for my colleague for Mississauga East.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Reform

Gurmant Grewal Reform Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the people of Surrey Central to address the contents of Bill C-251.

The bill calls for the imposition of consecutive sentences where a person commits sexual assault and another offence arising out of the same event or where the person is already serving another sentence at the time.

Also, the bill provides that a person sentenced to life imprisonment for first or second degree murder is not eligible for parole until that person has served in addition to the portion of the sentence that the person must serve for murder, one-third or a maximum of seven years of any other sentence imposed on the person in respect of an offence arising out of the same events, or a sentence that the person is already serving. The mandatory portion of each life sentence imposed on a person convicted of a second murder must be served consecutively before that person is eligible for parole.

My constituents and I cannot believe that there is anyone in the House who could disagree with the spirit and intention of the bill. In fact one of my motions in the House as a new member of parliament was along the same lines as Bill C-251. My Motion M-23 calls for the House to provide that in cases where an accused person is convicted of multiple criminal offences, that person should receive consecutive sentences. My motion was even broader than the scope of Bill C-251.

I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Mississauga East for bringing her bill forward. This bill would bring some measure of truth to sentencing.

We on this side of the House have been calling for truth in sentencing for many years. Without truth in sentencing we lose confidence in our criminal justice system.

Last summer we heard the justice minister admit in the House that Canadians have no confidence in our criminal justice system. That is what she said. We on this side of the House have been saying that for many years because we listen to what Canadians say to us.

Bernardo brutally killed two people. We feel that he should serve two sentences consecutively. Clifford Olson committed multiple murders. We feel that he should serve multiple consecutive sentences. Justice must be done and seen to be done. That is what we need for Canadians to have their faith in our criminal justice system restored.

What has the Liberal justice minister been doing to restore faith in our criminal justice system? Absolutely nothing. Where are the Young Offenders Act changes? It has been months since the minister last spoke about that.

Today with the passage of this bill, criminals would know that when they commit crimes they will serve the time.

We must hold criminals accountable and punish them for all the crimes they commit. That is what the bill proposes.

In Surrey, B.C. where I come from we have to help our RCMP detachment. The Liberals are allowing their funding to dry up. In my riding the RCMP is rationing the gasoline used in the police cruisers. We cannot believe this. It is like living under the War Measures Act. During times of war we ration gasoline.

Former Prime Minister Trudeau was the last Liberal to invoke the War Measures Act, but he declared it publicly. Our current Prime Minister is doing such a bad job running our country that we are living under War Measures Act rules, except the Prime Minister is not admitting it.

The solicitor general tells us that the RCMP can give us the same service today as it did 125 years ago. That is what he said in question period this week. The RCMP has not been rationing gas for 125 years. Never in 125 years has our RCMP been unable to conduct an investigation because of the lack of personnel and funding.

We can help by preventing the RCMP from having to deal with repeat criminals or their customers. We can ensure that multiple crimes receive multiple consecutive sentences. We have no apology for keeping repeat criminals off the streets. We need tough sentencing. We do not need five star Liberal jails.

The Liberals should be concerned about the criminal committing further crimes. Instead the government is concentrating on aspects of how early can a person convicted of a crime be released. Again the Liberals are not getting tough on crime. This government should be ashamed.

It was this government that two weeks ago denied our law enforcement agencies the full use of DNA identification technology. Our police were pleading for the use of technology, but the Liberals said no. That is why the bogus refugees on our streets are selling drugs to our children today.

The hon. member for Mississauga East is concerned about the victims of crime. The bill she has introduced provides for consecutive sentencing. We should all support this bill. We should be looking through the lens of the issues and not through the lens of political stripes. We should support any member of the House when he or she is doing the right thing. On this side of the House we are allowed to do that and we expect the same courtesy from the government side as well.

We are supporting Bill C-251 submitted by a Liberal member of parliament because this is the right thing to do. This bill will contribute to bringing safety back to our streets. It will restore a measure of public safety. It will remove criminals from our streets for longer periods of time and it will protect innocent citizens. It will protect the most vulnerable members of our society, women, children and seniors. Yet the Liberals are not taking concrete measures to protect Canadians, make our homes and streets safe and reduce crime through deterrence measures.

The people of Surrey Central want our federal government to exercise a leadership role in terms of getting tough on crime, so we will support this bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Assad Liberal Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-251, introduced by our colleague from Mississauga East, is the result of a lot of hard work on her part to prove the need to amend the Criminal Code.

She proved, through statistics and studies, that people feel let down by parliament's unwillingness to rectify this rather serious flaw. Our colleague had three goals in moving this bill, the first one being to introduce a human element.

Through he work, she had the opportunity to meet the families of victims of the most abominable crimes you can imagine. They talked about the moral anguish suffered by family members and friends alike. This shows the law is flawed. Some of these crimes are so horrible that they have had a tremendous impact on the victims' families. Of course, the victims are dead now, but their families are still suffering.

I believe this human point of view is extremely important and not negligible. Often these people feel that the members of their families who were victims of such horrendous crimes have been forgotten. When a sentence is handed down, it is a concurrent sentence. This means that if a criminal is sentenced to life in prison, it does not go any further; of course we know that legally they can ask for parole. After 15 years, they have the opportunity to recover their freedom.

Of course, this is horrible for the victims' families.

Statistics, and our colleague's study, show that in seven out of ten cases the victims fell prey to criminals who had already served prison terms for such horrible crimes as murder, and had reoffended upon being released after 15 years. Very often the victims were children or women.

When we hear such figures, seven out of ten victims due to the fact that these criminals reoffended, we have every right to be concerned and say that the law should be amended. We cannot afford to let people loose when we know that they are very likely to commit the same kind of crimes.

I believe the least we can do is amend the law so that in the case of such horrible crimes and when there are several victims, we do not take any chances and do not release them. These crimes are often beyond our imagination.

The member for Mississauga East is right to believe that the time has come for parliament and members of this House to take a stand on this issue. We have nothing to lose, but everything to gain, in making sure that in the future the kind of crimes we have seen in recent years do not happen again. There are people who were released who should never have been set free.

There is not much more to be said on this issue. Our colleague did her homework. Many people have voiced their opinion on this matter. It is obvious that an amendment was needed and at long last we will have the opportunity to rectify this serious flaw.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today in this House to support private member's Bill C-251, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. This bill was brought forward with great determination by the member for Mississauga East.

This bill would bring justice to sentencing practices in Canada and would end volume discounts for rapists and murderers. By enacting consecutive sentencing for serial murderers and rapists this bill will give victims and families faith in parliament and the ability to sleep peacefully at night.

The Canadian public understands that the objectives of this bill are to reduce our inhumanity to the families of victims, to restore some truth in sentencing and to stop gambling away lives on the chance that a multiple murderer or serial predator will not attack again.

Disparity in sentencing in this country provides a strong argument for change. Consider this: half of those convicted of second degree murder who are sentenced to life are released after less than 12 years. Denis Lortie, who gunned down three people in the Quebec National Assembly, was released after only 11 years. That is about 3.5 years for each person he murdered.

Life imprisonment in Canada does not mean life. Canadians are misled to believe that once a murderer goes to jail he stays there. That is not always the case and it never was.

Researchers say that the same set of case facts, for some offences at least, generated sentences that ranged from a suspended sentence to 13 years in prison. There is no consistency from one end of the country to the other. This is very disturbing.

A shocking discovery is found in a study entitled “Sentencing in Canada: Recent Statistical Trends” written by two well-respected experts in this field, Julian Roberts of the University of Ottawa and Andy Birkenmayer of Statistics Canada. The report states:

One of the most basic failings of the current sentencing system in Canada is that there is no method for anyone—to know in a systematic, up-to-date, and accessible manner, on a continuing basis, what kinds of sentences are being handed down.

With no consistency and no proper, well-known precedence on sentencing, how can Canadians have confidence in their legal system? Change begins with this bill.

The tragic irony is that we have no problem invoking consecutive penalties for offences like parking tickets or speeding tickets.

As the member for Mississauga East has explained many times, if someone parks illegally 10 times they pay 10 tickets. There is no volume discount. If someone gets three speeding tickets they are going to pay three fines.

This bill seeks the same principle for serious and vicious crimes. One only has to look at the Clifford Olson case to be compelled to vote for Bill C-251. At Olson's disgusting 745 hearing last summer he read out a letter from his lawyer advising him to admit to all of his murders at once. In this way Olson could take full advantage of the concurrent sentencing law.

We should not accept the fact that Olson and other predators can be given concurrent sentences and that our justice system continues to offer bulk rates for brutality.

It has been argued in this House that concurrent sentences counter any need to reduce sentencing dispositions for individual offences in order to achieve an overall and just result. It is never just to reduce a sentence for rape or murder just because the victim was not the only victim of the predator involved.

It is worse yet for the courts to mask the fact that they do discount sentences time and time again through concurrent sentencing. The courts should impose consecutive sentences when the crimes are as devastating as murder and sexual assault.

Is it not more logical and compassionate to keep those predators who have killed or sexually assaulted multiple victims securely away from future victims? If we need more space in prisons, then creative forms of punishment and rehabilitation should be introduced for those guilty of property or commercial offences.

Here is a compelling point. It is often said that the National Parole Board is an independent decision maker dedicated to public safety. However, in the real world an average paroled criminal murders one person a month. How can members of this House live with that statistic? How can we not care about victims who have every reason to fear the release of a predator and who can never escape the endless parole process that threatens to unleash the savagery of their assailants?

Consecutive sentences would help the parole board to distinguish the higher risk associated with rapists and murderers convicted of multiple offences from individuals who may be guilty of a single crime from a single incident.

Currently the lives of individual victims have been erased from the sentencing equation. It shows a justice system that cheapens life, where the courts have little regard for the pain, suffering and death of the second, third or eleventh victim. I find this unacceptable. Constituents in my riding find this unacceptable. Members on both sides of this House find it unacceptable as well.

I would like to believe that we live in a country where government would do everything in its power to protect the victims of predators like Clifford Olson, Paul Bernardo and Denis Lortie. Bill C-251 will do just that. The voice of Canadians who want to see important changes to the Criminal Code is growing and growing. We can all relate to the public's need to feel safe. However, it is time to do more than just relate. It is time to enact change to protect the peace of mind of every Canadian in this country.

I thank the member for Mississauga East for bringing these reasonable and required changes to light and for the strength and hard work she has shown in pushing this issue in the House. Our justice system demands urgent changes. I fully support Bill C-251 and I strongly encourage all members of the House to do the same.