Mr. Speaker, we are here today in regard to the other place splitting the bill dealing with cruelty to animals and with the Firearms Act, which we passed here in the House of Commons.
The question of the operation of this place has already been dealt with by the Chair, so I will not go into that in too great a depth other than to say it seems that the other place is having a greater influence on the House of Commons than it should. Of course the problem with this is that the members of the other place do not have to go back to their constituents in the provinces, have a vote and in fact get a reaffirmation that the positions they are taking are right.
On the issue of this firearms legislation, what needs to be made clear right off the bat is that before Bill C-68 was put forward in 1995, Canada had very good firearms legislation. It had good control over firearms and the people who used firearms. There was good protection for society in general, both in the cities and in the country.
Members might ask how I can make this statement. They might ask if the gun legislation that came through in 1995 is not the best legislation, probably, and if it did not fill a big vacuum.
The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, you know me, as you are all-knowing about members of Parliament. I was in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for 30 years. I am darn proud of my service there.
I dealt with a lot of the social ills in this country, including abuse and assaults between individual people, some on a social basis in unfortunate family situations and some in a criminal context. Before this billion dollar boondoggle of Bill C-68, how did police manage to handle the use of firearms if crimes were being committed? How did they check out somebody who wanted to have a firearm, or somebody who not only wanted but needed to have a firearm, as in the case of farmers and ranchers in particular, or trappers and people working in the resource industry in remote areas of the country where there are wild animals that actually will attack and kill humans? We did not need the new law. We needed to retain those we had.
Here is what we had before. We had a firearms acquisition certificate. Anybody who wanted to acquire firearms had to have a FAC, as it was called. People got that by going down to the local police station where local officers would do the computer checks through the Canadian Police Information Centre. They would do checks on people's background and character. They would know whether or not people were recorded as having any mental illness and/or criminal record. That was already in place. We did not have registration of every rifle and shotgun, but we did have the registering of handguns. That had been done since the 1930s. There was control of the handguns for the simple reason that handguns are easy to conceal inside a jacket or under a coat. That is legitimate firearms control and that is what we had.
Let us say that a firearm owner had his or her gun stolen. The RCMP would get the firearm owner to give us the serial number of his or her firearm and we would enter that into a computer. If that firearm had ever been used in a crime or if it was recovered, we would be able to immediately find it. However, that did not cost $1 billion. It probably cost a few million dollars to keep that system going. Those FACs are renewed every five years.
What about the situation where someone believes that maybe a person will use a firearm for an unlawful purpose or to hurt himself or herself or someone else? I know from practical experience that police can go to a court of law to obtain an order to seize those firearms and/or to remove the person who might commit the crime against his or her family or whomever.
We had good laws that worked, that were economical and that prevented those crimes which could be prevented. The problem with this legislation is that the Canadian public is given the impression that by registering every rifle and shotgun crime will be cut down. That is not the truth. Criminals cut down rifles and shotguns which make them illegal firearms, according to the Criminal Code. They become concealable weapons with which criminals commit the crimes.
Handguns are already registered. If the registration system is so good and prevents crime, why does the City of Toronto have gangs and criminals shooting each other and innocent bystanders on a regular weekly basis? The registration system cannot and will not prevent criminal activities or criminals from acquiring firearms.
What should we do? Do we take this $1 billion and fight crime or do we take the $1 billion, like the government has, and spend it on a registration system and harass law-abiding citizens? I and the Canadian Alliance say quite clearly that if we had given that $1 billion to the RCMP back in 1995, it would have improved its computers and it would have had an excellent system with regard to handguns. It would have used a lot of that $1 billion to go after real criminals. The money should have gone there.
The report of the Auditor General was recently presented to the House recently. It needs to be stated again in the House that is a scathing report. The Auditor General has used words to the effect that never in the history of Canada has there been such a large cost overrun on a program, a cost overrun that even the Auditor General could not establish from the books.
The Auditor General originally took the position of the government at the time that this would be a $2 million system. As she worked through it, she realized that the cost was around $1 billion and expected that it was likely much higher. However the records of the government were so bad that she could not determine how much money had been wasted on the system. There had been no accountability.
That brings us to the simple conclusion that throwing more money at this will not help. The system is still the way it is. It is still broken. It is still run down. It still cannot be made to work. I think the arguments of the backbench members of the government seem to have finally reached the frontbench and that is, further money should not be spent on the system.
The other day the Minister of Justice asked that $72 million be taken out of the supplementary estimates for the gun registry. The members have not said it, but I think they realize that throwing good money after bad will not do the job.
What would be wrong with not passing the motion and not sending it back to the other place? Let us keep this firearm legislation here. Let us make legislation that is effective in controlling crime, that makes wise use of resources and that is based on common sense and not some phoney Liberal value. That is what we need.
I have described the sensible legislation which the Canadian Alliance would put in place. We would still make fully automatic firearms prohibited. People would not be allowed to carry around handguns willy-nilly. However people could take their handguns to the local shooting range. If people did not want to use them at the shooting range for a whole year, for instance, that would be fine. They are their personal property.
However, with this legislation, the government is saying to people that if they have not used their firearms for year, because they have not signed in and out of the shooting club, then they no longer need them and they will be taken away. That is explicitly what it is saying it will do.
That is what is wrong with this legislation. It is a deception that the government and the Department of Justice have used right from the start to achieve its real goal, which cannot be crime prevention because obviously it does not prevent crime. Its real goal is to harass Canadians who have firearms either because they need them or for plain recreational purposes. The government wants to remove as many firearms as is possible.
The ideal goal as put forward by the lobby group, which is a very small number of people who want the federal government to put this legislation in, is that no Canadians have a firearms. The government understands that free society is not made up that way. A free society is made up of honest, decent citizens making a better country. Just because people own guns does not mean that they are not decent, normal citizen.
The government planned that the registry system would protect Canadians. Who is paying for that? The gun owners. Every blasted penny is being paid by people who own firearms. That further goes to show that the goal of the system is to harass gun owners and take away their firearms through the use of onerous laws made up of a whole bunch of little rules. The costs for that are borne by firearm owners.
The governments plan went a little bit awry when it tried to unload the costs onto the provinces. At that time the provinces said that the system would not work. They said that it was the most foolish plan they had ever seen and that would not participate or help the federal government.
Then we saw the initial court cases in Edmonton, Alberta. I recall very clearly the statistics the Department of Justice used. Because it did not have a good argument as to why the gun registry would help fight crime, it misstated and misused the figures, supplied by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, in court. Subsequently, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said publicly that the statistics were not correct and that they had been misrepresented in court. As a result, that deception continued.
Then the Auditor General found another deception. The Parliament of Canada was not being properly informed of the costs of the registry. That is highly suspect. The ministers are even saying to this day things that I think are questionable. That is the best way that I can put it.
The Minister of Justice said that the province of Ontario, at the time Premier Harris, and the province of Alberta, Premier Klein, were against effective gun control. I hate to quote from newspapers but that is what the minister said. That is patently untrue. It is as untrue as the statistics in the court case. The premiers of the provinces want effective gun control and wise use of resources, as I described at the start of my speech. I laid out how effective the system was before Bill C-68 and that is the system that I still purport we should use today.
That is why I would vote against the motion to send the bill back to the Senate for approval. The creation of a bureaucracy with a new commissioner of firearms reporting to the Minister of Justice instead of the RCMP will be a mammoth cost also and it will do absolutely nothing other than to drive the costs up. The minister will not answer our questions as to how much it will cost to finish registering of firearms and how much the system will cost every year thereafter.
I know that Canadians, both gun owners and non-gun owners, have not given up the battle to have this legislation repealed.
The former justice minister who brought this legislation forward quite clearly stated that the war had been lost by the Canadian Alliance in 1995 and as result it should be ended. The Canadian Alliance is not the only one fighting this. All provinces, firearm owners and people who are angry about the waste of their tax dollars are fighting it. This battle is not over by a long shot; it will continue.
I have a motion that I wish to put before the House, but before I do that I wish to speak to the other part of the motion which concerns the cruelty to animals legislation.
With regard to the cruelty to animals legislation, I only hope that, if the government sends it back to the Senate, that the Senate will retain the harsh penalties for cruelty to animals. I and my party are in favour that anybody who is cruel to animals should be hit with hard penalties. Animals are relatively defenceless when they are dealing with humans and as a result need that protection.
The stated goal here again is different than what the animal rights movement really wants. It does not want animals to be used either for food consumption or in any way other than their natural environment. I guess it would not even let us ride horses if it had its way because that is not totally natural to the animal.
I was talking about opposition to legislation. The Canadian Cattlemen's Association, every farmer lobby group association and the university medical research people are against the legislation. Millions of Canadians are against the legislation because parts of the bill do not protect farmers in the legitimate use of animals.
Once again, why would we not keep the bill in the House and fix it here, rather than send it back to the other place? I guess that is to be dealt with by the House as a whole and I suspect it will go back. Hopefully the Senate will do what we did not have the backbone to do in the House and that is make the cruelty to animal the best possible legislation. I wish the other place well in that regard.
I have made my points that both legislations are drastically flawed and that the opportunity to do the right thing in the House is available to us once again.
If the government sends bills back to the other place to be dealt with, it is abdicating its responsibility to do what is in the interest of all Canadians by the government and that is a sorry state of affairs. I wish to make an amendment in regard to this motion. I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
“in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act, this House does not concur with the Senate's division of the Bill into two parts, namely, Bill C-10A, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (firearms) and the Firearms Act, and Bill C-10B, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals), since it is the view of this House that such alteration to Bill C-10 by the Senate is an infringement of the rights and privileges of the House of Commons;” and
That this House asks the Senate to consider C-10 in an undivided form; and
That a Message be sent to the Senate to acquaint Their Honours therewith.