Mr. Speaker, I rise today to offer the comments of the Progressive Conservative Party on Bill C-484. The PC Party believes in consecutive sentences to get tough on criminals. The PC Party also believes in legislation that gets tough on criminals who use firearms in the commission of an offence. The PC Party believes that by getting tough on criminals of all ages while offering and supporting meaningful programs for their rehabilitation, we can create a safe society for all Canadians.
However, we do not believe that Bill C-484 will be able to remedy all the degenerative legislation that has been enacted over the past six years by a Liberal government that is soft on crime. For example, this legislation could be rendered useless due to Liberal initiatives such as conditional sentencing.
This Liberal initiative has already been applied to rapists so why should we not believe that it would not be liberally applied to offenders falling under the auspices of Bill C-484? Conversely, we feel Bill C-484 is disproportionate to the rest of the Criminal Code in terms of the proposed sentences offered to criminals who fall under the bill.
If the government would commit to sensible gun control legislation that did not discriminate against law-abiding gun owners, and if it would follow the lead of its own MPs and commit to consecutive sentencing, the opposition parties would not feel the need to propose amendments to correct such bad legislation.
Since the Liberals came into power in 1993 they have tried to paint themselves as champions of justice and protectors of the public interest. In doing so they have promoted gun control legislation through basic, simplistic terms that played on the fears of a public fearful for its own public safety.
It is obvious now that the Reform Party too is falling victim to this Liberal image doctoring as its proposed amendments are playing right into the hands of Liberal ideals concerning gun control.
Instead of creating more negative firearms publicity through the bill, the Reform Party should be blasting the Liberals for their soft stand on crime. If the Liberals took a harder stance on issues such as youth and organized crime, if they listened to their colleagues and passed legislation on consecutive sentencing, and if they gave our police forces the proper funding needed to enforce the law, there would be no need for constant Criminal Code amendments to correct bad Liberal legislation.
Meaningful legislation would allow people to feel safe in the towns and cities of Canada. They would feel safe enough that the anti-gun lobby would not be forced to create its propaganda that also affects law-abiding gun owners in an adverse manner.
Our party supports the noble basis of Bill C-484, as it is steeped in the ideal of public safety. However, we are tempered by difficulties that this proposed legislation will encounter when confronted with existing, backward Liberal legislation. In noting this inevitable confrontation, we feel that the following problems will ensue.
First and foremost, our party has made it abundantly clear that the Liberal government has and continues to enact firearms legislation that discriminates against law-abiding gun owners. The Liberals are famous for being parochial fence-sitters that manoeuvre in the middle ground so as to avoid committing to anything that may damage their popularity. After all, the Liberals have continually proven that their objective is to support any popular cause as long as it ensures their re-election. The result is a government with no foresight and no platform other than that of doing whatever is necessary to be re-elected.
As I previously mentioned, the issue of gun control is one that was very easy for the Liberals to be seen as the champions of justice for the Canadian people. With violent images of crime being broadcast nightly into the living rooms of Canadians, the Liberals gained widespread support by saying that Canada had to get tougher gun registration laws to cut down on the availability of guns to the public. They quickly translated this tugging of Canadian heart strings into the now infamous Bill C-68, which is as disappointing as the current Bill C-68 debated today.
Neglecting the fact that this bill would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars to implement and that it would take up to 233 years to register all Canadian firearms, the Liberals went ahead with the legislation championing themselves as the protectors of the Canadian public.
It is easy to see the effectiveness of the legislation now that the initial hype has been tempered by harsh reality. For example, the Liberal government that will do anything to avoid controversy has now come face to face with law-abiding gun owners who are protesting Bill C-68 as it discriminates against them with an ineffective, time consuming registration process.
In continuing with the theme of Liberal legislation that led to harsh realty, last week there was the occurrence of an absolute tragedy at the OC Transpo depot in Ottawa. The fact is that the Liberal's Bill C-68 would not have prevented a person like Pierre Lebrun from buying the gun used to facilitate his horrific killing spree.
This is what happens when dealing with a government that has no ideology or focus. It was popular and thus politically safe to implement legislation like Bill C-68. The Liberals must have felt that discriminating against law-abiding groups of gun owners would be a necessary evil but well worth it when compared to the support they would gain through an emotional subject like gun control.
However, in the Liberals' push for popularity they neglected to deal with the real issue at hand. If the Liberals—and in the case of Bill C-484, the Reform Party—would focus their efforts on the root causes of crime, we would not need Bill C-484, which will only bring more negative propaganda against gun owners.
We need to remember that the gun itself does not commit the crime. Therefore, we need to focus on stopping the real causes of crime, such as unemployment, poverty and the lack of protection from non-rehabilitated offenders who are released too soon due to concurrent sentencing and prison release quotas.
However, these problems are not as easily dealt with. Thus, we will not see the Liberals or the Reform Party delve into these issues and risk their popularity.
The second caution which our party would like to make has to do with the idea of amending the Criminal Code. Amending the Criminal Code can be a dangerous practice as it involves some of our society's most fundamental beliefs. Although these beliefs relate specifically to the manner in which our society disciplines itself, they also overlap into other areas, such as the charter of rights and freedoms.
Thus, if society was allowed to make amendments every time the Criminal Code fell afoul of popular opinion, we would make changes in haste that could adversely affect significant portions of society, and because such changes would be made in response to popular public opinion, it would leave minority groups unprotected from the tyranny of the majority.
We need to have faith in our judicial system which allows our judges to interpret the Criminal Code as it relates to an individual case. Although the system is not perfect, it allows for thoughtful, non-partisan decisions to be rendered and it allows for appeals of the process to be heard.