House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was firearms.

Topics

Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

It being 5.30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-14.

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe if you were to seek unanimous consent of the House, that the House would give its consent to pass Bill C-14, the Manitoba claim settlements implementation act, at third reading, on division.

Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the House give its consent?

Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Reform

Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

moved that Bill C-409, an act to provide for the expiry of gun control legislation that is not proven effective within five years of coming into force, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it has been a year and a half since we debated this bill and it seems the only way I can get three hours of debate on this common sense piece of legislation is by doing it one hour at a time.

I must once again deplore the fact that all private members' bills selected in the draw are not automatically declared votable items in this House. I have been working on this bill, the firearms law sunset act, since 1994. I first introduced a sunset clause as an amendment to Bill C-68 during the debate in the spring of 1995. This bill was first introduced in the House as Bill C-351 on September 28, 1995, then Bill C-357 on December 2, 1996 and again as Bill C-278 on December 7, 1997.

It is most disappointing to put so much effort into a piece of legislation to have it die again and again after just one hour of debate and no vote. This is a situation that must be rectified if we are ever going to have a chance of our constituents' legislative initiatives being given their rightful consideration in this House.

Every time there is a shooting, either here or in the United States, there is a clamour from the Liberal anti-gun crowd for more gun control laws. This despite the auditor general's warnings in his 1993 report that there was no statistical evidence to prove the previous set of gun control laws implemented by the Progressive Conservative government was working.

What we need, what the people really want and what the Canadian Alliance Party promises to deliver is effective gun control laws. As we have seen with Bill C-68, the Firearms Act, tougher does not equal effective because it is only tougher on law-abiding responsible gun owners and totally ineffective at controlling the criminal use of guns.

Bill C-409 would rectify the government oversight by implementing a process that would ensure that only gun law provisions that were proven to be effective by the auditor general would remain the law of the land. People arguing against this bill will have to argue that they support gun control laws even if they do not work, no matter how much they cost and no matter that other measures might work better.

I am not arguing that gun control laws are unnecessary, only that police time and resources should be spent on measures that get the best bang for our tax dollars. That is exactly what Bill C-409 is designed to do.

The bill provides a five year sunset provision on all gun control measures, which means the measure would be automatically repealed unless the auditor general reported that it had been a successful and cost-effective measure to increase public safety and reduce violent crime involving the use of firearms.

The auditor general's report would have to be considered by a committee representing broad interests in the firearms community and the committee report would be presented to and concurred in by the House or the sunset provision would take effective automatically at the end of five years.

The bill also provides safeguards to allow parliament the time necessary to make amendments to allow ineffective gun control measures to expire without affecting parts of the legislation that are effective at fighting firearms crimes.

The bill is the total opposite of the ill-conceived Bill C-68, the Firearms Act, passed into law on December 5, 1995 and prematurely brought into force on December 1, 1998.

Let us look at what the auditor general would have uncovered if he had been conducting operational and financial audits of Bill C-68 since it was brought into force. The auditor general would chastise the government for ignoring his 1993 recommendations by proceeding with the implementation of even more costly and complex gun control laws without first evaluating whether previous gun law control laws were working effectively.

The auditor general would report that the justice department's polls on public support for the gun registry were biased because they failed to reveal to respondents the estimated cost and impact the legislation would have.

The auditor general would have found that despite spending half a billion dollars on gun registry, biker gangs, bank robbers, homicidal and suicidal maniacs are still having no trouble getting their hands on firearms through the black market.

The auditor general would have found that despite spending half a billion on the gun registry there has been no reduction in the number of firearms being smuggled into the country.

The auditor general would have also reported that the gun registry has had no effect whatsoever in reducing criminal use of firearms. The number of armed robberies, the number of homicides or the number of suicides are not being reduced by this.

The auditor general would have found that despite the fact that 1,700 bureaucrats are working on the gun registry, there are fewer police on our streets today than were on our streets 30 years ago when measured by the number of criminal incidents per officer. Statistics Canada put it very simply. In 1962 there were 20 criminal incidents per police officer. In 1997 there were 46 criminal incidents per police officer.

The auditor general would have found out that the Department of Justice's multimillion dollar television ads are grossly misleading because the ads say the only consequence for unlicensed gun owners will be that they will not be able to buy ammunition. The truth is that unlicensed gun owners will become instant made in Ottawa criminals at the end of December and could be put into jail for up to five years. We must think about that. That is very misleading.

The auditor general would have found out that as of September 2, 2000 the Department of Justice had only issued 286,000 firearms licences in the last 21 months, that is 13,630 per month, and that there was a backlog of 339,000 licence applications. He would have also noted that it would take the Department of Justice more than 25 months to get rid of this backlog and 12 more years to process the licences from the remaining 2 million gun owners, which is the government's estimate. They have not even applied yet.

The auditor general would include in his report the justice minister's 1995 promise to parliament that the firearms registry would cost only $85 million to implement and run a deficit of only $2.2 million over five years. The auditor general would then report that the actual cost over the five years was $325 million and the deficit was not $2.2 million but $310 million. That is almost 150 times as much.

The auditor general would go on to report that his sources in the justice department have provided documents that show the firearms registry budget for this fiscal year alone has already exceeded $260 million and will top $300 million before the end of March 2001, this year alone.

The auditor general would remind parliament that the justice minister promised user fees would cover the entire cost of the program, but as of August 11, 2000 the government had collected only $17,139,000 in user fees and owed refunds of approximately $1,234,000.

The auditor general would discount the Department of Justice statistics about the number of firearms licences refused and revoked and the legal gun sales blocked. He would write that these results have been achieved because of better background checks and information management and had absolutely nothing to do with the registration of guns.

He would also confirm earlier findings by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada that a large percentage of the blocked sales were as a result of incorrect information on 3.5 million Canadians in the RCMP infamous FIP, firearms interest police databank. That is serious and is a violation of our rights as individual Canadians.

The auditor general's report would make the following key points with respect to blocked gun sales. That is one of the government's claims for success.

First, the government has had the means to achieve these kinds of results for the past 20 years with the old FAC, firearms acquisition certificate program.

Second, there would be no need to create a half billion dollar gun registry for rifles and shotguns to achieve these results.

Third, the auditor general would point out that all these hundreds of millions have blocked only the legal sale of firearms. Absolutely nothing has been done to stop anyone from buying firearms on the black market. That is where the real problem is.

The auditor general would report that the gun registry is riddled with errors and is absolutely no help to the police in fighting against real criminals.

Obviously this bill needs more time to be fully explained and debated by the members of the House. At this point I would like to seek the unanimous consent of the House to have another hour of debate on this bill at future time.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to have another hour of debate at some future time?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Reform

Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am really disappointed in that. We have a common sense piece of legislation that asks the government to review the laws that it put in place way back in 1995 to see if they are effective. What I hear the Liberal members saying is that they do not want to review their laws. They do not want to check to see whether they are effective. They are willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on something that will produce no cost effective measurable benefits.

That is what we are talking about here. I pointed out all of the things that the auditor general would have reviewed and would have found in his study on it. What Liberal members are saying in effect is that they will put through laws whether they are effective or not. They will not use those resources to put more police on the street. They will spend it putting a piece of paper beside every gun in the country whether it makes sense or not. That is what I hear them saying. I hope all Canadians will take note that the Liberal government is willing to take money away from other areas where it could be used very effectively and plough it into this. It will not review it.

We have 60,000 people a year who die as a result of cancer. We spend about $16 million a year on research in that area. We have spent close to $300 million this year alone on a gun registry that has no measurable benefit, will not save lives or do anything that will help Canadians. If we were to put that money into cancer research, just think what that would accomplish.

That is the choice the government has made. It is not willing to let the auditor general review the legislation to see if it is effective. It is not willing to see whether that money would be more effective in health care or in putting more police on the street than in a very bureaucratic, useless gun registry that by the way and in conclusion is one huge boondoggle. The mess that is in Miramichi right now, the backlogs and the problems that are being faced by gun owners are horrific.

If members could read my e-mails for just one or two days, they too would realize that we have to review this and we should allow the auditor general to do that.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Erie—Lincoln Ontario

Liberal

John Maloney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-409 proposes that we repeal the Firearms Act and indeed all gun control legislation in Canada without giving it a reasonable time to work.

The hon. member for Yorkton—Melville would propose sunsetting a complex piece of legislation and an important public safety initiative just one year after it is fully implemented. In this scheme it would be impossible to accurately measure the comprehensive benefits of the firearms program. For this reason the Minister of Justice is firmly opposed to Bill C-409.

The Department of Justice already has a plan to evaluate the program's success in achieving its objectives. Bill C-409 ignores the public safety accomplishments that have already been achieved by the Firearms Act even before implementation is complete.

Canadians can already see the positive impact of Bill C-68 and continue to strongly support the government's position. The hon. member knows that more than 80% of Canadians support gun control and that the Supreme Court of Canada has unanimously found the Firearms Act to be both constitutional and directed to enhancing public safety. It is perplexing that the member for Yorkton—Melville chooses to ignore the foregoing.

I would like to talk about what the Firearms Act has already done for public safety. The Minister of Justice is confident that within a reasonable time after the new firearms law has been fully implemented its effectiveness will be even more demonstrable. However, the short timeframe proposed in Bill C-409 is simply unworkable.

For the first time ever the new law requires instant background checks before any firearms transfer can proceed. As of the beginning of September of this year, over 4,352 potentially dangerous gun sales were sent to further investigations. These cases included people with past or recent histories of violence, break and enter, theft, drug involvement, or people who were trying to acquire guns they were not licensed to purchase. Background checks are an important step in ensuring that potentially dangerous individuals do not have access to firearms.

This is the kind of situation the new system was designed to control. Every member of the House should share the goal of keeping firearms out of the hands of potentially dangerous individuals.

Almost one million Canadians have complied with the licensing requirements. To date more than 898 licence applications have been refused for public safety concerns. Additionally, 1,217 licences have been revoked for individuals deemed no longer eligible to hold a licence.

As a result of the new system's capacity to more effectively check police and court records, the number of licence revocations is close to 20 times higher than the total of the previous five years. In light of such information, even the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville cannot deny the value of the gun control provisions. It is through results such as this that the Canadian public knows the new gun control program will make their homes and their communities as a whole much safer.

The choices laid out today are clear. If Bill C-409 were to become law and all Canadian gun laws were sunsetted, Canada would be left with no licensing, no registration, nothing. The adoption of Bill C-409 would put lives at risk, and that is unacceptable.

At a time when the rest of the world, in search of a better way to control firearms, turns to Canada as a world leader, the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville wants Canada to revoke the gun control legislation.

The government, unlike members opposite, is committed to promoting a culture of safety and making Canada safer. We have listened to the Canadian public. Again and again Canadians tell us they support our firearms program. Indeed a majority of Canadians surveyed in a poll released by the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville on the day of the tragic events at Columbine high school felt that, if I may quote, “ensuring that all rifles and shotguns are registered” is a priority.

Let us talk about specific parts of the bill. The hon. member would have the auditor general and his office evaluate a complex piece of legislation and a major public safety program. To meet the bill's timelines an evaluation would have to end before all the benefits of our program could be measured.

However I agree with the need to evaluate laws. We heard months of testimony on gun control. We listened to what Canadians told us. We made sure the law would be effective. We built in an assessment program. We continue to streamline and improve the program and will continue to ensure the program meets the public safety objectives Canadians expect.

The fact remains, however, that when any new law comes into force we need to allow a certain amount of time before we can assess its impact and effectiveness. Individuals need to adjust to new requirements. Law enforcement agencies need to adjust to new responsibilities. The judiciary needs time to consider the law's meaning and intent as cases are presented. It takes more time than the hon. member's proposal would allow.

The Firearms Act is no different. To assess its effect on public safety, on the incidence of violent crime, and on cost effectiveness, we have to allow time for the act to be fully implemented.

The hon. member should know that when the former Minister of Justice appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs he spoke about the evaluation process. He stated that the Department of Justice would be monitoring experience with registration, licensing to determine what improvements could be made and making that information available to parliament and to the public.

The evaluation plan calls for assessments of the extent to which the operational elements of the Firearms Act, part III of the criminal code, and their associate programs have been implemented and whether their objectives are being achieved.

Let me repeat again. Bill C-409 is not realistic in its timeframes, and the Minister of Justice is opposed to it.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate. I commend the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville for bringing the bill forward and for his tireless pursuit of this issue. I know he has put a great deal of effort and passion into bringing the bill before the Canadian people and getting some of the facts on the record, which are extremely important.

Let us be clear. Bill C-68 and the gun registry are not about effective gun control. They are an ineffective, discriminatory, expensive attempt to sell the public on something they do not achieve, and that is public safety.

I was very dismayed to hear the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice misstate the Supreme Court of Canada's interpretation of the gun challenge. At no time did it endorse the particular legislation as having anything to do with public safety. What it said is the government has the right to legislate in that area. That is a subtle but extremely important difference.

Bill C-409 speaks about bringing some degree of accountability to the venture the government has undertaken. What it calls for is an expiry or a sunset clause that would negate the legislation after five years if it was not cost effective. That is all the hon. member is trying to do. He is trying to bring about some element of accountability and cost effective examination or measure to increase public safety vis-à-vis a connection between legislation and a reduction in violence.

The legislation was first brought forward in the heat and passion of and in the fallout from a terrible incident in Montreal. The massacre at l'École Polytechnique is a black mark on Canadian history and will always be there, to the horror of Canadians. However the legislative response that was drafted in the wake of that tragedy is not proportionate. It does not respond to that type of incident. That horrible crime was perpetrated by a mentally ill person who used a gun that was illegal in the first place. The legislation has nothing to do with that. It would have had no bearing on and would not have prevented such a tragedy.

The Conservative Party has always supported sensible gun control measures. The legislation is not about gun control. It is about bureaucratic red tape. It is an intrusive piece of legislation. I apologize for using the word target, but it targets the wrong people. Criminals are not participating and never will participate in this type of registry. It targets duck hunters, target shooters, Olympic shooters, farmers, fishermen, and average Canadians who use a rifle for pest control or leisure.

The legislation is not about public safety. It is about criminalizing individuals who were participating in, enjoying and getting some degree of security out of a legitimate and rightful pursuit in their communities. All of a sudden, if they refuse to participate, they will be criminalized.

One of the intangible results of the government's pursuit of the legislation will be felt in the criminal justice system in the frustration that will be felt by average citizens when called upon to do jury duty. They will sit in the jury box and look with cynicism and antagonism toward the crown and the police who are prosecuting people for a reasonable and lawful pursuit. This is one of those intangible factors that is again lost on the government and is obviously lost on the Minister of Justice.

I will not recount the statistics and the figures with respect to the money and the number of bureaucrats and government employees who have been caught up in the pursuit of the giant propaganda effort that is taking place on the part of the government, but they are staggering.

This now infamous Bill C-68, better known as the Firearms Act, has been implemented by the government and sold to the public on a false premise. The public has been sold a bill of goods literally that this would somehow impact on violent crime and that it would somehow save lives and prevent violence. Where is any evidence that this will somehow protect or save lives? It does not exist. This legislative response is completely off base, off target. It was arrogantly, ineffectively and wastefully put in place to distract from the real issues.

Police across the country are desperately in need of resources. They are desperately in need of support from the government, from the solicitor general and from the Department of Justice, and they are not getting it. They tell us that resources are scarce and that they are using priority choices to decide where the money goes, yet they are pumping millions of dollars into the legislation while there is not enough money for overtime, for equipment or for training.

Police officers are being forced to do without. They are being forced to deal with the ever complicated and ever increasing presence of organized crime and high tech crime. There is no question that, on a rational basis and looking at this in terms of priorities, the money would be better spent elsewhere.

I would like to put on record some of the recent statistics from Australia and Great Britain where they have pursued this type of registry in advance of the Canadian example. Great Britain and Australia have both had disastrous results as a fallout from gun registry. In Australia the gun ban that took place in 1996 resulted in armed robberies increasing by 70% between 1996 and 1998. Unarmed robberies went up by 20% and attempted murders by 300%. Unlawful entry with intent to break and enter involving property rose by 30,000 cases in Australia.

A study from the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the armed criminal, a survey of incarcerated felons, included in its results that 91% of those surveyed agreed that smart criminals would try to find out if a potential victim were armed before they decided to act. Of those surveyed, 82% agreed that the gun laws only affect law-abiding citizens and therefore would enable criminals to know that most likely those they would prey on would be unarmed.

Gun registration has already failed terribly in the United Kingdom, as its overall violent crime rate increased 2.2%, with a 19% overall increase in muggings since 1998.

A recent policy conference of the Progressive Conservative Party in Quebec City reaffirmed its opposition to this specific part of the gun registry. We have to be clear on this. This pertains to the registry of long guns. The opposition has clearly stated its position.

We will always hear the government drone on about the opposition being opposed to gun control. That is not the case. We have had gun control in the country since the 1950s with respect to pistols, certain rifles and shotguns that were already deemed of an unlawful nature. That is not the subject of this debate. We are talking about shotguns and rifles that have been in use and have been in the possession of Canadians for hundreds of years, since the country began.

In 1993 the Liberals proceeded with legislation on the unproven premise that a mandatory firearm registry would lead to a reduction in firearm related crime. One of the false premises was to inflate the statistics. For example, if a weapon was found at the scene of a crime or alleged crime, just present, not used or involved in the particular allegation of criminal activity, it would somehow be included as a firearms related crime. It was completely duplicitous and misleading.

In the first instance, long guns are rarely the weapon of choice, I would suggest, in premeditated criminal activity. The Liberal government has aimed this law at a segment of the population that already acts responsibly and complies with reasonable, previously existing gun control measures. So again, there is a false premise.

Gun registration will not prevent or even reduce most forms of violent crime. It creates a false impression that having a little sticker or laser imprint on a gun will somehow prevent it from being used in a dangerous or unlawful fashion. It is a completely false premise. That little imprint or sticker will no more prevent that gun from firing than putting a bullet in the chamber; it is ridiculous to suggest otherwise. The government has failed to provide any proof whatsoever that gun related crime will be reduced as a result of this legislation.

As mentioned earlier, Australia and Great Britain have already proven that this type of legislation actually leads to an increase in violent crime. The promises made by the former minister of justice that it would cost only $85 million have already been disproved. We now know, as the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville quoted extensively, the costs that relate to this. We are now nearing the half billion dollar mark with respect to the implementation of this legislation.

The reality is that this legislation has already cost Canadians over $134 million and not a single gun has been registered to the extent that it is in a system that is up and operating. The system has yet to be in effect. I would suggest that the infrastructure in place at present could be used to enhance CPIC, to enhance the DNA data bank registry, to incorporate a system of registering sex offenders in the country. That is the type of registry that we need, registering the criminals and not the guns. This is where the effort should be and where the legislation should be pointed, not at registering an inanimate object and indicating to the public that somehow this will affect crime and somehow protect Canadians. It is a false premise.

I indicate clearly that we support the initiative that has been taken by my hon. friend and hope that Canadians will somehow grasp what is taking place in the country and reflect that in their vote in the coming election, because this legislation will not change until the government changes.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Reform

Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-409, an act to provide for the expiry of gun control legislation that is not proven effective within five years of coming into force.

I am pleased to speak about this particularly because it is such an obstacle and a hindrance to the need for using guns in a legitimate way in a rural area such as the one I live in, in Cariboo—Chilcotin.

I am sure that members here and many people in the city do not realize the need for a gun and the cost of not having a gun for some people. I can tell many stories about people who have run into difficulty with wild animals. I can tell the story of a man who was without a gun and was killed and eaten by a bear. I can talk about parents who fear for their children who walk to school because in winter there are cougars patrolling the roads for cats and dogs and whatever else might satisfy their appetites.

As I speak about this I want to have a practical attitude to what I say, but I want to begin by complimenting the author of the bill, the member for Yorkton—Melville. He and his staff have worked tirelessly for over five years to inform Canadians about the bad law and the enormous waste encompassed in Bill C-68. I would like the member to know that his contribution in calling the government to account on this duplicitous legislation is appreciated by so many people in my riding and indeed by all of rural British Columbia.

I note that in the Ottawa Sun , Peter Worthington, editor emeritus, said yesterday of the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville that not much gets by him and that he sends out statistical findings “much as Johnny Appleseed was reputed to throw apple seeds into the wind and hope they would take root”. He says that the member's website is a “treasure trove of facts and arguments” why the federal government's gun controls, started in the mid-70s and refined by the then gauche justice minister in 1995, are “a costly, emotional and pointless boondoggle”. I could go on and on.

It has now been five years since the passage of the infamous Bill C-68. Each week we have seen increasing evidence that the new gun registry is only a white elephant, a large, cumbersome, costly structure that will do nothing to reduce crime. In fact, it will do quite the opposite, as has already been reported by the statistics coming from Australia and Great Britain.

Why? Because hundreds of millions of dollars are misspent as a result of Bill C-68 and when these dollars are misspent they cannot be spent where they need to be spent. Once a dollar is gone, it is not there for use somewhere else.

One might say the same thing about the people involved in this. When I realized that about 400 RCMP officers alone are involved, I realized that when they are registering guns these people cannot be taking part in the activities that we normally expect policemen to be doing. If these hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on new equipment for the RCMP or for hiring additional law enforcement officers, it would make a difference. The taxpayer would get something back for the dollars invested. This costly boondoggle, this gun registry, returns nothing and never will.

We know ministers and government are unwilling to admit their error unless they are apologizing for something someone else did some time earlier. They are particularly unwilling to admit their error when money, hundreds of millions of dollars, has been wasted. Today we have before us the solution, the opportunity for the minister and the government to save face and the opportunity for the opposition to demonstrate the value of intelligence, hard work and perseverance via a private member's bill.

The happy solution is in the bill before us today, Bill C-409. The bill would provide for a five year sunset provision on all gun legislation unless the auditor general finds that the legislation has been a successful and cost effective measure to increase public safety and reduce violent crime. This makes perfect sense to me.

I know something about what the auditor general does because I sit on the public accounts committee and meet regularly with his staff and with other members of that committee looking at government programs and departments. The criteria that the Auditor General of Canada uses are, first, value for money spent, and second, if the money being spent is being used for what it was intended for, if the programs are doing what they were intended to do.

If he were to look at the bill and find that, wonder of wonders, it is money well spent, good value, the program is doing exactly what it was intended to do and crime and accident rates are down, this would be a great bill and it would not be withdrawn.

On the other hand, if he found that it was the tremendous boondoggle that it has been turning out to be, if in fact it was not doing what it was intended to do, the auditor general would be able to submit his report and under the provisions of the bill the sunset clause would kick in and it would be withdrawn. There would be no loss of face because it would be the auditor general who would point out quite clearly that this has not been a bill that has done what it was intended to do.

The attractiveness of sunset legislation is that it forces bureaucracies to work to ensure that the regulations and measures pertaining to the legislation are cost effective. If it is, the legislation can be renewed. If not, the legislation is automatically appealed and everyone is better off.

My view is that the new gun registry will fail in any cost benefit or cost effectiveness test.

If I and other Canadians are correct, the legislation will be repealed eventually and the waste of money will cease. If we are wrong, we will sing the praises of the government for its foresight.

Bill C-409 would be good legislation. I appeal to all members of the House to look at the legislation. At least give it an honest and fair look in a non-partisan way. See its merit and support it.

As I have a couple of minutes left, I would also like to bring to the attention of the House the serious problem that our Liberal justice ministers have created for millions of legitimate gun owners across Canada.

December 31 of this year is the deadline for obtaining the new possession only licence, or the possession and acquisition licence. That is only two months away. Those who do not have a valid possession licence at that time will be in violation of the law despite repeated attempts to comply.

There are people I have asked for support who say they cannot because they are Liberals, but they have come to me as their member of parliament to ask for support. What do they want? They want help to get through the bureaucratic process of getting their firearms registered and their licensing completed.

One person told me that he was sitting at supper one evening when he got a call from a lady. She said “You sent an application in with all those guns you want registered. We need to know the length of the stock. We need to have the numbers verified that are on it. We need to know if the stock has been changed on another gun. We need to know the length of the barrel on this gun. We need to know why there is no model number on this gun”. He looked and he said “In that instance there is no model on the gun”. She said “We know that. We know that gun never did have a model”. When he laughed, she said “Are you laughing at me?” He said “No, I am just laughing at the process we are going through”. She said “I do not think I can talk to you any longer,” and she hung up on him.

This same man has received calls in the evening and on Sundays to get his registrations completed. It is a terrible bureaucratic mess. And he still does not have his guns registered. That is the problem Canadians are facing. I have written to the justice minister and asked her to solve the problem for this man and others but I have had no response. To the best of my knowledge neither have they.

My constituents are reporting long delays in their dealings with the firearms centre in Miramichi, difficulty in getting through on the toll free lines and failure to get answers to their questions. We understand that at the current rate of processing it will take several years to complete the registry and provide some assurance that the information is complete and accurate.

The government should not be placing citizens in a position of breaking the law when compliance is not possible because of bureaucratic complexity and delay. I would ask the minister to come to her senses, extend the deadline for these licences by at least 12 months, and take seriously the provisions of Bill C-409.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Reform

John Duncan Reform Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to talk about Bill C-409 put forward by the member for Yorkton—Melville, which is an act to provide for the expiry of gun control legislation that has not proven effective within five years of coming into force.

I am going to read some policy. We believe there should be severe mandatory penalties for the criminal use of any weapon. We are committed to keeping guns out the hands of violent criminals as a necessary part of making our communities safer. We will replace the current firearms law with a practical firearms control system that is cost effective and respects the rights of Canadians to own and use firearms responsibly. This policy was approved in January at the national convention and was adopted on March 25.

When I became a member of parliament in 1993 firearms regulations were in place from the previous administration which were to come into effect on January 1, 1994. For long guns, that included very specific storage provisions. I took those responsibilities very seriously and, prior to arriving here on January 1, 1994, I had my firearms in safe storage within my residence. I was happy to do that.

There is a prevalent opinion among most firearm owners that there are a lot of acceptable and appropriate ways to regulate but by any objective test the registry that has been put into effect by Bill C-68 is a boondoggle and would not meet any objective test.

Legislation and government operations are held accountable in two ways. The first way is through the provision of information to the public and the other is accountability through such devices as the auditor general. In the federal arena it operates through access to information requests, through the auditor general and through this place, if we can access what we need to access.

In the case of the Canadian Firearms Centre, what we have in this legislation is one individual, the member for Yorkton—Melville, who has his hands full trying, through access to information, to access very necessary information to hold this whole exercise accountable. He is fighting all the resources of the government.

We have a minister who brought this legislation in, the current Minister of Health. We have the current Minister of Justice and all the apparatus of the Liberal government that is more than prepared to use its propaganda, its public relations and its pressure tactics on police organizations and the provinces when it is thought they are getting out of line. We only have to look at the example in New Brunswick. There are 250 jobs at stake at the firearms centre in Miramichi. According to a briefing note from the Department of Justice, pressure has been put on the centre to go along with this registry or employees might be in danger of losing their jobs.

We have had a non-controversial handgun registry in effect since 1934 at a cost of $2.5 million a year and requires only 30 employees. We now have well over 1,000 employees and $300 million in costs this year alone. The system is not cost effective. There is no minister who wants to be in charge when the final accounting for the firearms registry boondoggle comes due.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Reform Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville for his bill, Bill C-409. I am surprised, after having been here for seven years, that he is still sufficiently naive to believe that anybody over there cares or ever will care whether their laws are cost effective or not, but I give him A for trying.

The legislation that we are trying to get a sunset clause, namely Bill C-68, was based, as I recall very clearly, on public hysteria, prejudice, political expediency and on spurious, dare I even say duplicitous cost estimates; $85 million indeed. We said at the time that this was ridiculous. We have been proven right in spades.

The government has already spent more than four times that amount of money and it is nowhere with the program. It has managed to corral I think 800,000, or maybe even by this time a million, gun owners who have come forward to apply for their licences or who have received their licences, either a POL or a PAL, but there are at least, by the government's own estimates, another 2 million owners out there. Many people think there may be as many as 4 million. The government has 1,700 people trying to process paper in Miramichi. It is an impossible situation.

This is the old story of rolling the rock up the mountainside and it keeps rolling back down. They will never get this done in time for the deadline and when that deadline passes we will have at least a couple of million Canadians who will be deemed, under the provisions of Bill C-68, to be instant criminals. This is an absurdity.

I have only been here for seven years. I suppose I am a bit of a greenhorn in this place, but I do not know of any single piece of legislation that has created the degree of public anger, mistrust and pure bloody minded rage at government that this legislation has caused.

It has been on the books now for five years. To this day I cannot walk down the street in the town of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, where I have my office, without somebody accosting me and asking me what we are going to do about this loony legislation. It never dies. This is an area that is suffering from a lot of other real major problems, but this is the burr under the saddle. It is not good for government to have legislation that keeps a very large minority of the population in a constant state of agitation, and, believe me, they are agitated. I would think that anyone who lives in a rural riding, regardless of their party, would be well aware of that fact.

The parliamentary secretary in his analysis mentioned a couple of things which I really must comment on. He says that the background checks have been effective, and that people who should not have had guns have been denied the right to buy them because of these checks. However, what he fails to mention is that there really is not any solid connection between the availability of the checks and the legislation that we are talking about.

We have had background checks in this country for at least 20 years that I am aware of and they did not have to pass this nonsense. They did not have to bring in this bureaucratic monster in order to bring about something that was already there.

The parliamentary secretary also stated that if Bill C-409 were to become law, all Canadian gun laws would be sunsetted and Canada would be left with no licensing and no registration. Well, if that is true, I can only assume that the hon. parliamentary secretary is saying that all of our gun laws are useless because Bill C-409 would only sunset gun control laws that the auditor general proved were not cost effective at achieving their stated objective of saving lives and reducing the criminal use of firearms.

Again I have to ask: Is the parliamentary secretary saying that all our gun laws, going all the way back to 1934, are not cost effective? That is a terribly broad statement to be making.

When the legislation was first debated back in 1994, we believed that the government should at that time have done some really serious studies, some scientific evaluation of what the legislation might entail, what it might result in and whether it would be beneficial, cost effective or not. The government chose not to do that. At the time there were a couple of very important academic studies that had been done, one in Canada in Vancouver and one in the United States in Florida, that strongly—

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member for Cyprus Hills—Grasslands but his colleague, the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville, has a right of reply for five minutes at the end of the hour allocated to private members' business. Since we have reached that point, I am obliged to interrupt the hon. member and allow his colleague to take the floor.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

September 27th, 2000 / 6:25 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Reform Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I was watching the clock but forgot all about my poor colleague.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry to do that, but I am sure he is glad to yield the floor to his colleague, the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville, who now has his five minute right of reply.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Reform

Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I too was so enthralled with what my colleague from Cyprus Hills—Grasslands was saying I had not noticed the clock either. His remarks were probably better than what I will be making here in conclusion.

In my introductory remarks I reported what the auditor general would have found if he had been able to look at Bill C-68, the Firearms Act.

My desire as a member of parliament is for all Canadians to scratch beneath the surface of the issues that face this country, to look at what really makes it tick and to see how things work, especially the legislation that is before the House, then they would understand what is actually happening. This legislation affects all Canadians.

The auditor general would scratch beneath the surface. He would look to see whether this law is effective. That is what I was asking. In fact, should we not be doing this with more laws? It really begs the question. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars, I believe, on things that really bring no material benefit.

One of the most damning things that the auditor general would have found if he had been able to look at this would have been the deplorable fact that the gun registry has undermined community policing programs by treating more than three million law-abiding responsible firearms owners as criminal suspects. This is a key point. The consequences of this law is a breakdown of trust between the police and the average citizen in thousands of municipalities across this land. Everyone ought to take note of that. That is one of the very negative things that is happening.

If we would let the auditor general look at this he would go on for page after page documenting the most colossal political disasters and bureaucratic boondoggles in recent Canadian history. He would conclude by recommending that the gun registry be scrapped and the money go to putting more police on street in the fight against organized crime.

Bill C-68 will guarantee that gun control laws are both costly and ineffective, whereas Bill C-409, which I am proposing, will guarantee that every gun control law has to be both successful and cost effective in saving lives and reducing the criminal use of firearms.

If members of parliament want gun control measures that reduce violent crime, they will support this bill. If members of the House want gun control measures that improve public safety and save lives, they will support this bill. Finally, if MPs want gun control measures that not only reduce violent crime involving firearms but want the most successful and most cost effective methods for achieving these goals, they will support this bill.

Every year the government passes hundreds of new laws but seldom repeal any. That is my point. Maybe every bill passed by parliament should come with a built-in sunset clause which would automatically repeal any measure that is not working or is not cost effectively achieving its stated objective.

Bureaucrats who depend on costly ineffective government programs for their jobs will hate this bill. Ministers who are more intent on building empires and retaining their status at the cabinet table will hate this bill, but taxpayers who are footing the bill and the general public who have to pay through the nose for this bureaucratic bungling and inefficiency will love this bill, the firearms law sunset act.

Before this bill dies, I would like to respectfully request the unanimous consent of the House to send Bill C-409 to the Standing Committee on Justice for further review and consideration.

In making that plea for unanimous consent to send it to the committee, I would like to point out that parliament was deceived when this was originally introduced. The government said that the police supported gun registration. The government should go back and check. I have very close contact with the police association. I know that in my province 91% of the RCMP oppose this bill. I challenge the government to find out whether that is true.

It deceived parliament by saying that Canadian people supported gun registration. Canadian people support effective gun control. They do not support hundreds of millions of dollars being wasted on a bureaucratic boondoggle. We were deceived about the cost. We were told it was only going to be $85 million. The cost overrun will be 10 or 20 times that amount and that is no exaggeration.

We were told that the fees would cover the costs of the registry and that the deficit would be $2.2 million. The deficit is 150 times larger than that amount. That is how parliament was deceived. We were told that it would not take police off the street. The police are calling for more resources and more people to work. The money is not being used.

I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will ask for the unanimous consent of the House to have this bill sent to committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent that the bill be referred to the justice and human rights committee?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. As the motion has not been designated as a votable item, the order is dropped from the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative Charlotte, NB

Mr. Speaker, on May 10 I put a question to the Minister of Health and I was not very impressed by his response. My question had to do with the tainted drug issue in the United States.

In the U.S. a drug called gentamicin sulfate was under question. That drug is used to treat severe infections such as blood poisoning and inflammation of the heart lining. The drug is imported in the United States in bulk and there is contamination in the product. I asked the minister what safeguards were taken in Canada to ensure the same thing did not happen.

Eighty percent of the active ingredients in many of the generic drugs in the U.S. come from third world countries. There is a quality issue involved here. Some of these contaminated products work their way into drugs which are given to citizens of the United States. At least 17 people died as a result of using gentamicin sulfate in the United States.

I was shocked by the casual reply by the minister. The minister said: “The manufacture and sale of pharmaceutical products in Canada is done in accordance with exacting regulatory requirements to ensure the purity of product and safety of consumers”. The minister did not go into the kind of detail that we would expect on an issue that could be serious.

On these generic drugs that are coming into Canada, what safeguards do we have? How much do we know about the companies that are manufacturing them? How many of these drugs come into Canada? Is there any evidence at all, slight as it might be, that some of the products used in these drugs might be contaminated? What kind of regulatory inspections do we use on facilities that manufacture these products in third world countries? In other words, if it happened in the United States, why could it not happen here? I do not think we should have to go to the trouble of putting everything on the Order Paper. I would think that the minister would understand that it could be a problem in this country. We raised the alarm and we have to have some evidence from the government that it is not happening and that some kind of inspection process is being used.

Some of these drugs are too powerful. Some of them are not powerful enough. Some of them are absolutely biologically contaminated because the inspection process in some third world countries is not being carried out to meet U.S. or Canadian standards. Why is the situation in Canada any different from the situation in the United States? If deaths resulted in the United States because of contamination in generic drugs, why could it not happen here?

I do not expect a detailed report tonight from the minister because we have never got a detailed report in reference to any question put on the floor. However, I am putting the ministry on alert that tomorrow I will be putting questions on the Order Paper so we can get a detailed response to what I think could be a problem in this country.

I know the parliamentary secretary will respond tonight and we look forward to it. However, we do not expect to get the kind of answers tonight that we would like.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies Québec

Liberal

Yvon Charbonneau LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am sure our answer will meet the expectations of the opposition member.

This is an opportunity for us to remind members of the House that Health Canada's mandate is to protect the health and safety of Canadians and that the mandate of the therapeutic products program is to ensure that therapeutic products available to Canadians are safe, effective and of good quality, wherever they come from and whatever the origin of some of their components may be.

That program made the commitment, and that commitment still holds, to make the drug review process as efficient as possible. Between 1994 and 1996 the timeframe for drug reviews was reduced by 50%.

Pharmaceutical companies that want to sell their products in Canada, in order to obtain permission to sell a drug, must submit an application, which is reviewed carefully and in a very professional manner by the scientific staff of Health Canada's therapeutic products program.

Right now, it takes an average of 18 months for a new pharmaceutical substance to be approved, which compares very favourably with the timeframes in other countries.

Through strict regulations and high standards, the TPP helps to ensure that Canadians are never put at undue risk by the use of therapeutic products and that Canadians are informed about the benefits and risks of therapeutic products.

The TPP monitors each product through surveillance and inspection programs and in compliance with the regulations, including annual licences for manufacturers, importers and distributors.

In conclusion, all drugs approved by Health Canada must meet the very strict guidelines of the therapeutic products program, which is the national authority responsible for regulating, evaluating and monitoring the effectiveness and quality of therapeutic and diagnostic products available to Canadians.