Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have the privilege of speaking to Bill C-250, the bill sponsored by my colleague from Surrey North.
He began his speech by lamenting that even though he got his bill drawn the “impartial” committee decided that it would not be voted on. I would like to say two things about that.
First, I lament with him that his bill is not a votable item. It is very unfortunate that the rules of the House permit certain members of parliament to bring forward private members' bills that lead nowhere. It is wonderful to be able to debate a bill, but we should also be able to vote on it. That would allow members of parliament to show by their votes where they stand on an issue such as this.
Second, the member has been in the House for one term less than I. I have never been picked to present a private member's bill. He is fortunate in that regard. He is ahead of me on that one.
Bill C-250 has to do with auto theft. I always take a step back when I think of this type of crime. Auto theft in Canada takes place at two levels, I think, and they are almost quantum leaps apart. At one level it is mostly youths who take vehicles for what is called joyriding.
Another one of our colleagues from British Columbia had a private member's bill on that particular offence, whereby young people for some reason have it in their heads that it is not wrong for them to hop into a vehicle that is not theirs, take it for a ride and abandon it somewhere else. Some of the young people are repeat offenders. They just do it for a lark and yet what they are doing is very wrong and should not be tolerated.
There is another level, if we can classify auto theft as being at different levels. Joyriding is a low level classification even though some offenders are guilty of very frequently committing the offence. The other level, of course, is the organized one, whereby people actually make a living by taking someone else's property.
It is absolutely true that when people steal vehicles we all pay for it. In regard to the total cost, I think I heard a total of $600 million being bandied about. That is a tremendous cost because we have only 30 million Canadians and I am sure that we do not have one vehicle for every man, woman and child in the country. The amount of money is just atrocious and we all pay for it through higher premiums on our insurance.
Besides that, it is just the wrong thing to do. I really wonder why in our society we have people who actually feel that somehow they have the right to take property that is not their own. Some of them actually even get into the business of stealing vehicles, altering serial numbers and either chopping down the vehicles or putting them into containers and sending them to different parts of the world where they fetch a very good price.
We really need to do something about it. As I have said in some of my previous speeches on justice issues, it seems to me that we have to make sure we do not forget what the purpose of the law is. We cannot pass a law that will make people good and prevent them from committing crimes because it changes them on the inside. That is another function and that is something we really ought to be working on. We should be working on changing the personal convictions of people in terms of what they deem to be right and wrong. It is a big job and one that I think takes place primarily in strong families.
The second aspect of this is of course that the law must act as a deterrent, so my colleague is proposing that there be rather stiff penalties for people who engage in this over and over. It is significant that he does not say that the first time a kid takes a car for a ride in a joyride situation we would lock him up and throw the keys away, as some would accuse us of saying. We in fact favour methods that will retrieve and reform the young guy who starts that.
However, when it is a repeat offence, and particularly in the crime rings where they make huge amounts of money by literally ripping off Canadians, by stealing their vehicles and of course indirectly then charging the insurance companies and all of us through our premiums, those are the people who we want to stop with a law, because obviously they are not induced to stop it by themselves. The law must act as a deterrent.
It is a very honourable thing the member is proposing. He is proposing that there be a minimum four year sentence on this crime so that judges do not have the option of being lenient with repeat offenders. That is what should happen.
I know a person who has now moved into the city of Edmonton but used to live in my riding. His name is Ken Haywood. I think he would probably appreciate me saying this. For a number of years he owned a car dealership in the city of Edmonton. When he retired he sold his business and, because of this theft problem, he became interested in curbing auto thefts.
He been working with all levels of government, both federal and provincial. I visited with him when he was in Ottawa. He has a newsletter that he puts out and also a website. I do not know the address of the website but if people used a search engine and looked for Ken Haywood I am sure they could find it.
He is looking at technical ways of reducing auto theft. He is working with automobile manufacturers as there have been some technical innovations in the last little while. Many of the newer vehicles now have key coding, but a skilled thief can still easily dismantle the key column and drive the vehicle away. In some cases a thief will drive a truck up to the vehicle they want and drag it onto the truck. There are different technical ways that can be used to prevent someone from driving away with a vehicle, but it is pretty difficult to prevent someone from putting a hook to it and dragging it onto a truck.
Mr. Haywood is searching for different and innovative methods. He is very intrigued and interested in tracking methods, including electronic methods in order to identify vehicles making it more difficult to change serial numbers and other initiatives like that.
I want to go on record as saying that I support my hon. colleague. It makes no sense for me to ask other members to support the bill because they will not have a chance to vote on it. That is one of the changes, Mr. Speaker, that you were very interested in. We need to change that in parliament to allow all private members' business to be votable, so that we can come to a conclusion and do something about the problems, instead of just talking about them.