Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-51 that has some merit.
It is interesting that there are sections in the bill which the government has addressed that should have been addressed many years ago. I do not raise this point simply to bring out the fact that the changes the government finally got around to doing are overdue. There is another point.
A number of amendments were raised at committee. Some of them were presented by the Reform Party of Canada. They were clearly thought out. We had discussed them not only among our own colleagues and law enforcement people but among other members of parliament from other parties. These amendments were not controversial and should have found very wide support.
Let me discuss a couple of the amendments we wanted to bring forth. The legislation dealt with such things as people who live off the avails of prostitution, specifically of minors or children. It includes maximum penalties. It is an approach that says we need to get a little tougher on certain types of offenders in society.
We in the Reform Party support that kind of approach. We thought perhaps the government had overlooked that it was all well and good to have a maximum sentence and say that under circumstances the judge can sentence the person up to a certain amount of time, but what about a minimum sentence?
We see far too often in our courts and in society people walking away scot-free from offences that offend the sensibilities of Canadian citizens. It is a shame that this happens.
This was our opportunity to do something about it. The government in its wisdom saw fit to include maximum sentences. We go along with that. We support them. There should be some capping based on the severity of this crime.
We should also put in more parameters for judges. Many people in my riding, and I suspect in the ridings of Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, Bloc and my colleagues, complain that judges seem to have far too much leeway in what they do.
The range of sentencing is astronomical. In many cases this causes defence lawyers to go shopping for judges. They know that certain judges are soft on certain types of crime and if they could get their client before a certain judge, even if the client is found guilty, the penalty would not be very severe and in many cases they would walk away. We have heard some horrendous cases of people walking away completely scot-free from very serious crime.
We wanted to bring in a minimum sentence for people who live off prostitution of a minor. We have sentences for dealing with those living off the avails of prostitution but this is a special section. It is much more serious. For adults who chose to enter a life of prostitution we can pass all kinds of judgments or we can ignore those judgments. However, it is pretty serious when someone lives off the avails of prostitution of a child.
It is all well and good to have a maximum sentence but we have no minimum. We wanted to bring in an amendment that would provide the minimum of a one year sentence for someone living off the avails of child prostitution.
We have talked to many people including Liberals across the way and people involved in the legislation. They agreed that it made a great deal of sense. However, what happened when we brought the amendment before the committee and said we thought it was something that would make the bill better?
We would like to support government legislation. We are not here to oppose for the sake of opposing. We are here to point out any shortcomings, where perhaps the government has erred and not done as complete a job as it should have done.
The general response from the Liberal members of the committee just before they defeated the amendment was that it was under study. There are provisions in the bill that have been outdated decades ago. The Liberals have had more than ample opportunity to fix these things and have not done so. Why are they taking something as straightforward and basic and saying they have to study it more and cannot possibly pass it at this time, even though they have already spent all this time on it?
The message the Liberal government is sending out to people in society who live off the income from prostitution of a child is that they still have no minimum sentence. They can walk away scot-free if they find a lenient judge, and we know they are out there.
We had another amendment to bring in. Another clause of the bill deals with drugs, various crimes and sentencing provisions for people living off income from selling illicit drugs on the streets. We know the kind of problems that creates.
The conditional release program allows prisoners to get out after serving only a small part of their sentence, one-sixth. A tremendous number of Canadians watch parliament, look at the laws we create and bring into the House. They wonder what on earth we have in mind when we say that a certain criminal act results in so many years in jail but if the prisoner is good he will be let out after serving only one-sixth of the sentence.
When someone is sentenced to six years, the victims of the particular crime might say that is okay or that he or she should have had a longer sentence. We have to be careful now that we include women. They like equality, so we want to make sure that when we talk of crime that we include everyone.
It is fine for six years, but now we are saying that they could be out in 12 months. There is a caveat that says that certain people will not be eligible. People who commit violent offences will not be eligible and will have to serve a whopping third of their sentence before they are considered for release.
We think that in itself needs to be addressed. Personally I do not think that anyone who commits a violent offence against someone else should be allowed out early at all. They are sentenced for a number of years and they should serve those years. That debate will go on at another time when we talk of serious offences like murder because Liberal legislation or the lack thereof allows convicted murderers and rapists, the Clifford Olsons and the Paul Bernardos of the country, after being sentenced to life in prison to put their victims through the trauma of a hearing after 15 years. We went through that before and because the government failed to act we will have to go through it again.
There is another type of crime that by definition does not come under the violent offender category which we believe should be considered in this legislation. I am referring to the people involved in the trafficking of drugs and the importation of illicit drugs into the country and the pain, suffering and expense to our justice system and our health care system. People involved in importation and/or trafficking of illicit drugs should be included in the exclusion from the early release program after serving one-sixth of their sentence.
This is strongly supported by people who work in the criminal justice system and by the police officers who are the ones on the frontline dealing with these people and all the problems they create. It is absolutely shocking that anyone would consider someone who is trafficking in narcotics and is causing problems in society should be released after serving only one-sixth of their sentence.
What was the response of government members in this regard? They said there was some merit in what we were saying but that they had to study it. That is how we got into the mess in terms of half the things that are already in the bill. They said they had to study, to wait, to consider every ramification and to consider whether they would get any political brownie points. If they bring it in at all, if they bring it in now or if they bring it in later, will it cause them any problems with voters or some special interest group?
I would like to know what special interest group government members are afraid of in bringing in a sentence that cracks down on the traffickers and importers of illicit drugs, or even for that matter those who live off the avails of child prostitution. I would like to know what they are afraid, what they feel is the downside of bringing in something like that.
In many areas the government claims it is doing the right thing, but when they are held up to the cold light of day they just do not make a lot of sense.
In various parts of the country, and in particular in my province of British Columbia, there is a criminal justice crisis right now. The government states that it wants to make homes and streets safer. I would like to know, especially arising out of the problems with the bill, why the government has cut back on funding for the RCMP.
My province has a huge coastline. The RCMP has tied up all its coastal patrol boats at the dock. The bill talks about drugs, trafficking and the importing of drugs, yet the RCMP has had to tie up all its patrol boats.
British Columbia is a big province as is the province of Ontario. British Columbia is a very big, rugged province. It is necessary for the RCMP to spend a lot of time patrolling, travelling and conducting surveillance from the air, but it has grounded its airplanes, except of course for the commissioner who can fly out for a party. That is the exception that is allowed. Of course he is not really, in my opinion, part of the RCMP. He is part of the government. He is no longer the top cop of this country, he is the top bureaucrat associated with the RCMP.
In my riding the government has made major cutbacks in funding for patrols for these various small communities. In one small community there was a break-in at one of their public buildings, which was then vandalized. It occurred and they reported it on Monday. The RCMP got to it on Thursday. That is not acceptable.
We have another small town which has a breathalyser so they can apprehend people who would put other people in danger by drinking and driving. The breathalyser is not functioning properly and there is no funding in the budget to fix it.
This is the result of $8.5 million worth of cutbacks to the RCMP in my province of British Columbia. This same government has brought in, is enforcing and is now trying to implement Bill C-68, which is the legislation to force law-abiding citizens to register their hunting rifles and their sporting shotguns used for trapping and skeeting and maybe some bird hunting. The government said when it brought the legislation in that it was going to cost $89 million to implement. It is up now to approximately $200 million by the time it will be fully implemented and that is assuming it does not have to do what the Canadian Police Association says it will have to do, which is to upgrade the national computer system at a cost of anything up to another $200 million.
The justice department has said it is going to cost $50 million or $60 million a year to maintain it once they get it running, if in fact they do. It will cost $60 million a year so that I and other people who are shooting enthusiasts can trap and skeet. Does that make a lot of sense, particularly in the light of the problem we have in British Columbia where $8.5 million would truly bring justice and prevent crimes in our province, as well as in other parts of the country?
The government says that it needs time to study whether or not there should be a minimum sentence for someone who lives off a child prostitute. When I hear this and look at all the other things this government has done, I have a hard time believing that the government is serious with respect to getting tough on crime.
What is getting tough on crime? Is it forcing the law-abiding citizens of this country to registry a shotgun or a hunting rifle? Or is it taking a small portion of that money and funding the RCMP so it can properly patrol the communities of this country and catch the traffickers and the importers of drugs that are referred to in this bill? These are the same importers and traffickers for which this government, for some reason, is reluctant to take away the right of early release after serving only one-sixth of their sentence.
I am not suggesting or implying anything, but I think there are going to be people in the country who are wondering why a Liberal government would be so reluctant to bring in a condition that says traffickers and importers of drugs cannot be a part of this early release program after serving only one-sixth of their sentence. They are looking at this and saying that this is the same government which, in spite of the fact it is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a useless firearms registration program, is cutting back $8.5 million in the RCMP in British Columbia. The impact will be that they will be stopped from patrolling their coastline where a lot of the drugs come in. They will be stopped from flying their aircraft over our province to find people hiding out in different areas, and to do certain types of surveillance including border surveillance. We have a long common border with the United States. Drugs certainly come in from that area as well. They are also smuggled into our country through other ways and then channelled into the United States.
When this government says that it is tough on crime, I would like to know what kind of crime it is. It is not prostitution. It certainly is not people who would live off the avails of child prostitution. The government had an opportunity to make a small change that would have sent that message a lot better in this legislation, but it did not do it.
It is not drug traffickers and importers of drugs because not only has the government refused to add them into that section of people exempted from this early release after serving one-sixth of their sentence, it has cut back on the RCMP where one of the biggest impacts will be on the fight against organized crime and, in particular, people who smuggle things into our country, the number one concern being illicit drugs.
I am a member of this parliament. It is very awkward sometimes when people ask me who I am, what I do and where I am from. What can I say? I am a member of parliament. What is a member of parliament? Do I belong to the government? No, I am not a member of the government. They are the government. I do not want to be tied that way. I am a member of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, which is sometimes a little difficult to explain. Am I a government representative? No, I am not. I am not even a Reform Party representative. I am a representative of the constituents of my riding. The Reform Party is the vehicle I use.
Those constituents need representation in this House is because this government does things that are purely against their interests. It does it in terms of its cutbacks to the RCMP. This asinine firearms registration that the government says is getting tough on crime has nothing to do with crime.
My constituents need representation because there are changes that should have been made in Bill C-51 which have not been made.
I would like to mention a witness who was brought before the committee immediately preceding the clause by clause examination of the bill to bring it back to this House. The witness was a representative of the Canadian Police Association, the organization that represents the frontline police officers of this country who certainly have a strong interest in this bill.
This association brought in a couple of recommendations for changes to this bill which were ignored out of hand. They were ignored for what seems on the surface a plausible reason, because there was not sufficient time to study and consider the recommendations. I thought they were very appropriate recommendations.
What is interesting is the scheduling. If that is how the government is going to react to recommendations from the Canadian Police Association, then why did that committee, controlled by the government, choose to have those people appear in the 30 minutes immediately preceding the time it was moving to consideration of this bill and amendments thereto?
I do not think I can take this Liberal government seriously when it says it is getting tough on crime. I do not think Canadians can take this government seriously.
I hope that all Canadians will take note of what could have been in this bill versus what is in it and make sure that when they talk to their member of parliament, be it Liberal or otherwise, they make it clear that they want this government to get tough on crime in a serious way, not in a phony or a two-faced sort of way.