Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to address the issue before us. Clearly we have to look at the purpose of the process we are going through and the goals we are trying to achieve.
Bill C-10A contains administrative amendments to the Canadian firearms program. The goal is to streamline the program and reduce the costs while improving client service and continuing to meet our public safety objectives.
This program approaches gun safety in a practical and common sense manner. It already is helping to keep firearms away from people who should not have them. It is encouraging safe and responsible gun use by legitimate owners.
There is no doubt that the Canadian firearms program is an outstanding example of a preventative approach to public safety. Just last week, the Canadian Police Association appeared before the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in the other place to reiterate its support for this program. In the Canadian Police Association's view, licensing and registration are important measures to reduce misuse and the illegal trade in firearms.
Over the past decade, poll after poll has shown that an overwhelming majority of Canadians support gun control and support the important public safety framework of the Firearms Act. Thanks to the implementation of a number of initiatives to simplify the administration and make the program more user friendly for firearms owners, Canadians are complying with the law. The licensing phase of the program has achieved over 90% compliance, and over 70% of the firearms owners have registered their firearms.
The program is already achieving higher levels of public safety for all Canadians. Since December 1, 1998, over 7,000 licences have been refused or revoked by the public safety authorities. The number of revocations is over 50 times higher than the total in the last five years under the previous program.
The amendments to the firearms act included in Bill C-10A will help to ensure that key public safety goals of the Firearms Act are met. At the same time, they will ensure that the administration of the program is more efficient, effective and client friendly. These administrative changes will simplify processes and requirements for firearms owners by producing a more streamlined system. For example, they will simplify the firearms licence renewals and registration process. They will also make the border process more efficient by introducing pre-processing for visitors bringing guns into Canada.
Much has been made about the costs of the program, but we have to put things in perspective. This is a sound investment in the long term safety of Canadians. We now have the opportunity to adopt amendments that will go a long way to achieving a more efficient and cost effective program.
One of these measures is the proposal to stagger firearms licence renewals, which is intended to help avoid a surge of applications in five year cycles. Evening out the workload in such a manner would result in more efficient processing and significant cost savings.
Streamlining the transfer process of non-restricted firearms would also allow CFOs to focus their efforts and resources on their many other public safety functions. Moreover, consolidating the administrative authority for all operations under the Canadian firearms commissioner would ensure more direct accountability to the justice minister, who would remain responsible to Parliament for the program. This in turn would enhance financial accountability.
We should keep in mind that this is not the time for delay. It will cost more to operate the system the longer we delay. This bill is needed to move forward with the cost savings measures that will lead to a more efficient program for Canadians.
This is a public safety program that is supported by a vast majority of Canadians and the policing community. It is a program that is already achieving concrete results in terms of public safety.
The bill presents an opportunity to build on the achievements in a way that is even more responsive to the firearms community and will reduce costs.
I urge the House to accept the bill that has been put before us and to go forward with this legislation forthwith.