Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on issues of justice. I do not think anything strikes a more resonant chord with Canadians than a justice system that works, that protects those who need protection and that correctly identifies and punishes those who need to have punishment.
I suppose a lot of people do not realize the different parts of this bill but I am going to talk about one that, as far as I know, no one has mentioned yet in the House. It was drawn to my attention by a letter I received yesterday. Because I am not a justice critic I was not aware of this. I am much more interested in the justice of financial things these days since I am one of the finance critics for our party.
However, the topic I want to discuss is the transfer of money. As an aside, it is perhaps illustrative to know that included in this bill are provisions that it is not legal to copy Canadian money unless the size of the reproduction is either 50% larger than the original or at least 50% smaller or thereabouts.
Being in the finance portfolio now, Canadians would probably best represent Canada's dollar by reducing it rather than expanding it because of its value on the international market.
It is against the law to reproduce Canadian money or to make facsimiles thereof or to transmit it by computer or whatever.
I want to talk about another area proposed here, gambling. There are some amendments proposed that are hidden in with all the other amendments, many of which are very important and which my colleagues have already addressed in this reading, the previous reading of the bill and in committee.
I draw attention to the fact that we are, by the amendments that are being put into this bill, big time drawn in to the wave of public ideas of gambling being an acceptable way of transferring money from one person to another.
Of course we have this argument that surely people should have the choice. If I choose to put a dollar on the table and let someone else take it, I should have that choice. Indeed, I support that view. If I see someone on the street who has not eaten yet today, I want to have the choice to say to that person “You come with me to the restaurant and we will eat together”. I should have the freedom to spend my hard earned money in whatever way I wish.
The fact of the matter is that as a society we are buying, in much too large a way, into the whole idea of lotteries. This bill, among other things, expands legal gambling to include games of dice, which have not been included before. We need to be aware of this as members of the House, and we need to be aware of this as members of Canadian society.
I simply contend that having our population spend hours huddled over gambling tables is a tremendous waste of human energy, effort and time. We should start putting regulations into place to make that more difficult, not easier.
The bill says that lotteries will no longer be illegal if they are conducted on international cruise ships within our boundaries. That is incredible.
I will give a little history. Probably about 30 years ago I met a friend. He was not the kind of friend that I hang around with on Wednesday nights, but he was friend. He met me in the hall of a building and he looked both ways. He looked to the left, he looked to the right and then he reached into his pocket and said “Do you want to buy a lottery ticket?” What he had was an Irish sweepstake ticket, which at that time was illegal. Had he sold it to me and had I purchased it, then we could have both been sent to jail. I am sure it is incredible for you to contemplate, Mr. Speaker, that I should have even considered doing something that would have sent me to jail. As a matter of fact, I did not consider it. I said “No, thank you. I am not interested”.
We could talk about the mathematical aspect of gambling. When I was teaching math or statistics I used as an example one of Canada's favourite lottery games, Lotto 649. I had the students compute the probabilities. If a person spends $5 on every draw of Lotto 649, 104 times a year, twice a week, their mathematical expectation of winning the big prize would be once in about 26,000 years.
Statistics show that it is often poor people who engage in gambling because it is their only hope. They are in despair because of all of the taxes the Minister of Finance loads on them or the tremendous burden of being unemployed, particularly young people who are unemployed. A lot of people buy a lottery ticket, as one person said to me, because it is their one little glimmer of hope. Their dollar is gone, but maybe it will give them the big break. They might wait for 26,000 years, on average, if they spend $5 each time.
I guess I would simply say that if that is not dishonest I do not really know how to describe it. All of these schemes indicate that there is a reasonable expectation of winning. Otherwise people would not put their money down.
Of course, what we are talking about in this bill is gambling and lotteries on cruise ships. There probably will not be too many poor people on them.
I guess the reason I am bringing this up is because it is part of the justice system. There are an awful lot of people who are living in despair who consider gambling as their chance, their hope, but what it does is clean them out entirely. No matter what the gambling scheme is, it is designed to return less money than is put in. It is just indefensible in our society.
There is an amendment in Bill C-51 which says that if a person is on a cruise ship they can participate in a lottery scheme. Then there are these absurd conditions. First of all, all of the people participating in this lottery must be on the ship. In other words, they cannot participate in the lottery by phone from shore, by cellphone or whatever. They must be on the ship. The scheme cannot be linked in any way to a scheme that is not on the ship. As well, the ship must be at least five nautical miles from a port.
We have been cutting RCMP in the west. We do not have money for it. Now what are we going to do? People are going to be hired, presumably by the federal government, to ensure, I suppose with a GPS, that these guys do not come within five nautical miles of a port.
Furthermore, they cannot board this ship at a Canadian port and go back to a Canadian port without having stopped, at least once, at a non-Canadian port. If they do not meet that condition, then they cannot have this lottery on board. They have to leave the country for a while. I suppose that here again we are talking about the Minister of Finance who thinks it is great to take some money out of the country and not keep it all in Canada.
This law says that a cruise ship which both leaves a Canadian port and comes back to a Canadian port cannot have a lottery unless it also goes to a foreign port. That is the height of absurdity in my humble and unbiased opinion.
The ship must be registered in Canada and its entire voyage is to be scheduled outside Canada. I shake my head and wonder how the Dickens we are going to enforce this.
I suppose we will have to buy a cruise ticket on every one of these ships for one of our trusty RCMP people. I am sure the solicitor general will be eager to do this with his resources. He will say that from now on all of those RCMP who should be fighting crime, robberies, rapes, murders, drug smuggling and all of these things will be put on a cruise ship so they can monitor this to make sure the law is being enforced.
I shake my head in wonderment at the government sometimes. This bill is designed to improve the justice system in Canada and it has utter absurdities in it which are fundamentally wrong in terms of what we are trying to do for people. Why should we be encouraging and permitting lotteries? It is wrong. This proposal is utterly and totally unenforceable, unless a whole bunch of money is put into it.
There is no doubt in my mind that if we were to ask 100 Canadians, 100 of them would say that is not where they want their money to be spent. The system is supposed to be designed to protect them in terms of their justice system.
I could speak on other things, but this was the one item that I wanted to get on the record and I appreciate the opportunity.