Mr. Speaker, I compliment my colleague from Surrey North for putting Bill C-250 forward. Ever since he arrived here in 1997, the he has repeatedly put forth eloquent and constructive suggestions to the government on a wide variety of issues, in particular the Young Offenders Act. I hope the government has seen the wisdom of what he has been saying and implements many of the suggestions that he has put forth.
Today's bill, Bill C-250, strikes a balance and deals with the issue of theft of cars in a very reasonable way. The scope of the problem cannot be under estimated. More than $1 billion worth of cars are stolen every single year.
In addition about a quarter of a billion dollars worth of damage is done to those cars. It costs taxpayers about a half a billion dollars per year. The rate of increase in car theft is extraordinary. Between 1982 and 1994 the rate doubled and there is no end in sight.
We heard about the various motivations for stealing cars, which I will not reiterate. One of the major reasons is linked to organized crime. The government has put forth a bill that we will support. It is a good start in dealing with organized crime, but there is much more that can and should be done.
RICO like amendments, which were brought in the United States, should be implemented in Canada. That will enable our police forces and courts, in particular, to go after the proceeds from crime. Police forces say that to deal with organized crime we have to go after its money. The courts must go after their money, then we might have a chance to decrease the number of organized crime gangs in Canada. It also involves pushing the limits of our charter. I will encourage the government to do just that.
We have to fight fire with fire. A lot of these organized crime groups hide behind the law when it is convenient for them and abuse it when is convenient for them.
The extent of the problem, and it is perhaps related to the degree of organized crime, can be seen in the numbers and the demographics of theft. My province of British Columbia, as well as Manitoba, have the highest rates of car theft. Many of these cars are going to chop shops where they are pulled apart. The parts are then sold illegally or sent to other countries.
A way to deal with this, which is quite innovative and used in the United States, is to attach transmitters to the cars. The transmitters cost about $600. The United States found that the rate at which cars with transmitters were stolen was 25% less than the risk to other cars. The savings were massive.
We know the cost to us as individuals is huge. Also the cost to insurance companies is large. I believe in Canada in 1996, which is the last year for which I found statistics, it cost insurance companies $600 million in insurance costs. That is huge. We need to somehow decrease those costs because they are ultimately passed on to the consumer.
If we had transmitters on cars then the rate of theft would go down and the cost to insurance companies would go down. We would then a net saving to both the consumer and the insurance company.
Perhaps the insurance companies could decrease the comprehensive insurance costs for car owners who attached transmitters to their cars. This is something that is imminently doable and should be implemented as quickly as possible. I would encourage the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia to do that.
We should also look at the issue of drug abuse. Many thefts that take place in our society are attached to drug abuse. Addicts yearning for that next hit have to find the money. Some turn to prostitution but some also turn to theft. To get their fix, the drug abuser will steal something they can sell.
We have to look at a more comprehensive way of dealing with the illicit drug trade. We know if we try to block it off at source, for example Colombia in the case of cocaine and heroin, that it does not work. We have to is take a new approach to drug abuse and deal with it on the demand side. We have to decrease demand. If there is no demand there is no production.
Let us flip the equation around and deal with the demand side. I was in Colombia in February and met with President Pastrana. I was very encouraged to see that he was very much in agreement with North America taking a greater role to decrease demand. At the same time Senator McCain was as were a number of other congressmen and senators from the U.S. For the first time the Americans were saying that they had to get their own house in order. As a nation we also have to do the same. How do we do it?
Thankfully, new medical evidence shows how the brain works with respect to addictions. There are some very exciting programs in Europe that have a 60% one year success rate for hard core narcotics abusers. These programs take a different approach. Not only do they deal with the issues of treatment and counselling, they also involve work and training skills. These programs also get people out of their drug environments for an extended period of time. As we know, that is critically important, because an individual who has a substance abuse problem and is living in an environment where drug abuse is taking place has a very difficult time breaking the habit. These models in Europe, while a bit expensive at the front end, work very well in the long term for decreasing the incidence of drug abuse in society.
Prevention works too and Canada has some exciting models. The Minister of Labour has been a champion of prevention through her head start program in Moncton. There are head start programs around the world that also work very well.
By working with the provinces and using the best of all the models available we will be able to develop a national program for early intervention. We could do this by using existing resources.
However, prevention has to start early, particularly at the prenatal stage because at that time parents can learn how to be good parents. The issue of fetal alcohol syndrome can also be addressed. As members know, fetal alcohol syndrome has been devastating in our society.
By taking the best models from around the world and focusing on strengthening the parent-child bond using existing resources, that kind of head start model would have a dramatic impact on drug use. There is a profound decrease in drug use among children, youth and adults who go through an appropriate head start program.
As I have done in the past, I encourage the Minister of Justice to work with her counterpart, the Minister of Health, and work with the provinces. I urge them to call together the first ministers to implement a head start program using existing resources. This program should not be some huge, dramatic, expensive, bureaucratically bound national program but one that works at the basics of strengthening the parent-child bond.
I want to thank my colleague from Surrey North for putting this bill forward. It focuses on mandatory sentencing and separates auto theft from other thefts. His bill gets to the heart of a significant theft problem in Canada. This bill also implements tough solutions to deal with those individuals who have repeatedly and wilfully demonstrated an abuse of public trust and an abuse of other Canadians. I hope that the government will see fit to implement Bill C-250 as soon as possible.