Mr. Speaker, I wish to compliment my hon. colleague, the member for Surrey North, for his work on this non-partisan bill and for his presentation to us today. The bill is meant to add to the protection of Canadians.
As individuals, certain things that come under special categories are perhaps more personal to us than other things. If I were to start down the list, my family would be number one in importance, my home would be next and my car would follow. I am only one of many individuals who would say that we do love our cars.
I remember the first car I bought after joining the workforce and being able to spend more than a couple of hundred dollars on it. One day I came out of my house and noticed that my car had been smashed by a hit and run driver. I was thankful that it was not stolen. It was not a car in the category of cars we are talking about today, but I will never forget the agonizing feeling I had in the pit of my stomach when I saw what had happened to my car. We need to recognize that a car may be in a special category.
I realize minimum sentences are something that we have been reluctant to put into Canadian law in many cases. However there are quite a number of cases where there are minimum sentences. I do not think this is something that would be put forward only by hardliners or those who would be considered extremists in one way or another.
Canadians want protection from crime and from risk of injury, especially protection from fear associated with the different crimes committed in Canadian cities. Canadians expect and desire this from their government. Therefore, many of my constituents seem to be quite prepared to be a little more tough on crime, if that is what this would be, especially on theft.
There are a number of instances where minimum sentencing is used, for instance in the firearms, bookmaking, living on the avails of a person, wounding with intent and some impaired driving conditions.
I also want to again reiterate that the Canadian Police Association has listed car theft as one of the main avails of organized crime. I also read the comments of the RCMP member from Calgary. He stated that that place was perhaps a hub for organized crime and car theft. He agreed that many other police groups across the country would see this as a very important problem which needs to be addressed.
The costs associated with auto theft are staggering and rising. It is a waste of our personal resources. We have a major problem that is simply not going to go away, as just business as usual. Without penalties that would increase enough to exceed the benefits of crime, it is hard for us to think about deterring it.
My city of Regina is notorious for auto theft and vandalism. This again is a little different category. Just this week my executive assistant was shot at in Regina. We are becoming famous for shootings in Regina. A couple of weeks ago several vehicles were shot at. We were lucky that my assistant's car was not hit with a real bullet. It was a paint gun.
The problem illustrated here is the fact that there is such little respect for personal property belonging to others. This causes fear, loss of work, police costs associated with this, the removal of the paint from the car and all the effort and energy that went into dealing with this sort of misdemeanour.
This kind of disrespect springs out of the lack of accountability in so many areas of those who would be involved in the life of crime. Auto theft in Canada is in the hundreds of millions of dollars and is rising. I would ask at what point would we as parliamentarians be prepared to act.
Province-wide, Saskatchewan shows that the number of claims have moved from 2,700 in 1999, at a cost of $8.7 million to 2,944 in the year 2000, at a cost of $9.3 million. By March 1 we had 563 claims at a cost of $1.9 million. Breaking that down to the city of Regina, in 1999 there were 1,437 claims costing $3.9 million. In the year 2000 there were 1,574 claims costing $4.4 million. This year's bill to March 1 is already up to $900,000.
It is important to note that these costs do not even include the articles taken from vehicles. They do not include the damage to vehicles that were eventually recovered and then repaired at cost less than the $700 or so deductible that we have in our insurance plan in the province of Saskatchewan.
Police costs also must figure into the cost of car thefts. One of our goals should be to curb auto theft to the point that perhaps we could divert some of those police funds and associated costs to crime prevention of other types.
Cost of courts is also an ingredient. Auto thefts place a burden on our court system and they will be a demand for more judges and court officials to deal with an ever increasing crime load in this area, if something is not done.
Then of course there are always rehabilitation and detention costs for those who have offended and those who are apprehended.
Canadians are tired of having to pay for all of this over and over. They expect that we would be sensitive enough to adjust the penalties imposed in order to be a little stronger deterrent to crime, especially as it relates to organized crime.
Insurance costs to individuals are something that we need to really remember. Insurance rates rise. When we consider the $600 million that auto theft costs the country each year, it costs us as individuals even more than that because our rates rise. We also have to pay the deductibles and those kinds of things. It becomes very important economically. It is the inconvenience of it as well.
In Saskatchewan, if we do not lock our cars when we are out, even if we hop out for a moment for a cup of coffee at Robin's, then there is a question as to whether or not the insurance will even cover that. There are all kinds of minor inconveniences from security at home to security when we are on the road or whatever that must be taken into account simply because we do not get serious enough with those who would steal our vehicles.
The council also reported that there were 165,000 vehicles stolen across Canada in 1999. It is unacceptable to have 450 vehicles stolen each day in Canada.
The bill is targeted at organized crime and does not increase the punishment for a young offender who steals the vehicle for a joyride. That is another important issue which needs to be dealt with. I am glad the hon. parliamentary secretary pointed out that the bill does not address the crimes committed, the joy rides, by young offenders. May I add, unfortunately neither does the new young offenders bill. The new youth criminal justice act also fails to address this problem. I am glad the parliamentary secretary noted that. It would be wonderful if we could make some changes in the young offenders bill perhaps to address that.
However this bill targets a certain level of car theft, that which would be carried out by organized crime, so we need not cross the two.
The bill seeks to increase the penalties and drive back organized crime related to auto thefts to make it more of an infraction, to give a little encouragement to the courts to be stronger when these offences are repeated and repeated. There is no issue respecting judicial discretion, but parliament must determine the penalties and the judiciary must honour and respect the wishes of parliament. If not, who speaks for Canadians?