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House of Commons Hansard #147 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provinces.

Topics

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, as people used to say when I was young, the truth hurts. It is the job of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance to sit down and negotiate. What is he waiting for? He must act now.

Why does he not act? We all know the answer here. It is because the future prime minister does not want this to be negotiated now. He wants to wait until after the election. He probably has some surprises in store for us, with cuts once again. This is probably what is awaiting us. This is why today the government is presenting us with a bill at the last minute to draw things out and to look good during the election campaign.

Do not tell us that we cannot read bills. This is not true. In the Bloc Quebecois, we are doing our job conscientiously. I can tell you one thing, this is a Trojan horse, as we say. It is very dangerous to present us now with a bill such as this, and then, when the future prime minister wins the election, he will make major cuts in equalization payments once again.

We do not want this bill. We want a calculation that is equitable, fair and that responds to people's needs. This is our goal and we will fight to the end to ensure that this happens.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, does my colleague, the member for Laurentides, not agree that negotiating with the provinces is the responsibility of the present Minister of Finance and his parliamentary secretary? Why do they not do it? Precisely because they will no longer be the finance minister and the parliamentary secretary. That is the cold hard reality.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. There is also the fact that we, as parliamentarians, have work to do. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance has work to do. He is not doing it these days. The Minister of Finance is not doing his job either. This creates a situation where we become suspicious.

We suspect that there will be some radical changes after the next election. It is normal that we would think that way. They do not want to negotiate now because they want to look good during the electoral campaign. However, I can guarantee that members of the Bloc Quebecois will expose them during the campaign. I can guarantee that they will not get away with this.

We will vote against the bill and we will make sure that Quebeckers and Canadians are made aware of what they are trying to do in this House.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleagues on their excellent speeches. I will continue in the same vein as my colleague from Laurentides.

This is a short bill. It covers two situations. The first one, about which we have talked a lot and which explains why this bill has been introduced, is the fact that there is a deep division within the government. Actually, the next prime minister will review everything that is done. Therefore, they will not negotiate.

It could also happen that the negotiations will be postponed, since the purpose of this bill is to extend until March 31, 2005 some arrangements that were to end on March 31, 2004. The provinces might wonder, and rightly so, whether the government is trying to give the former finance minister and future prime minister, the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard, the opportunity to negotiate after an election.

The truth of the matter is that those who take their responsibilities seriously are saying that this bill is not needed right now. Or negotiations are underway, and that is fine. Since we are supposed to sit until December 15, and resume in February, there is no reason to rush. If the government is ramming this through, it is because it knows we will not be sitting during this period of time.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

An hon. member

That is nonsense.

Mr. Speaker, let me translate what I am hearing from the other side. Somebody said that it was nonsense. This whole bill is nonsense. Maybe it was not planned that way, but when we look at it—and it is our duty to do so—we see that it would only postpone and delay the negotiations.

That is what it would do. I was a negotiator for 15 years. I learned to read documents and not rely only on what my counterparts would tell me. I found out that I was right to do so. Spoken words fly away, written words remain.

What does it mean for the people watching us? Why are we against this bill? If there were no problems with the current equalization legislation, if the provinces were pleased with it, we would not be here considering this bill.

The truth is we need to negotiate this. The provinces have met. Thanks to the leadership of Quebec, they have agreed on a number of demands. On October 10, as the hon. member for Joliette pointed out, the provincial finance ministers and their federal counterpart said that they would negotiate in good faith in the hope of reaching an agreement before March 31.

That was on October 10 and today is October 30. What has happened since then? Why? If the government did not want to draw attention to this issue, why did they do this? It does not make any sense.

Either no one is steering the ship or the ship will not come back to the House of Commons before the next election. There are not a million explanations for this. Or it is a rather strange way of governing.

For those who may be listening to us, equalization is important for the provinces. It is a way of bringing some fairness to the ability of each province to provide services. However, right now, this system is flawed.

What the provinces are asking is that the revenues of all provinces, instead of just five, be taken into account. This would increase by $3 billion the amount of money to be distributed, except that $3 billion is nothing compared to the wealth generated in Canada. It is a drop in the bucket. It is between 1% and 1.3%.

The provinces want this because it would take into account their ability to pay and that of the federal government, which keeps increasing at the expense of the provinces, the unemployed and low-wage earners. I will digress here and say that the employment insurance plan is supposed to be a plan for which contributions are taken out of our pay cheques for a specific reason. And yet, that money is used to increase the federal government's surplus, which is now somewhere around $48 billion.

The provinces have been forced into a difficult position with regard to the delivery of health care services. We heard much about it. We did not hear as much about services in education. As for social services, we heard even less about that. Why do we want to renegotiate the equalization formula? To bring some fairness to the distribution of what is called the tax base, which means the ability to collect taxes.

The federal government has the ability to collect a lot of money in taxes, but it does not have the needs. The provinces do not have the same ability to collect because there is not enough tax room left by the federal government. However, they are the ones who have to provide services to the public. This is why we need to negotiate.

What the provinces are asking first is that the government consider the revenues of all the provinces, not only the five provinces with average revenues. Alberta, Ontario and the poorest provinces are excluded.

Second, they ask that negotiation be more transparent. At this time, 3,000 elements are taken into account. Those in the know say there are really very few experts in this sector. Transparency is absolutely essential and this is what the provinces want.

The provinces also want the cap on equalization removed. Indeed, they have increasing needs in all the sectors that we have listed.

Why do we find ourselves in this somewhat aberrant situation where the provinces, on October 10, said they were waiting for negotiations and wanted to renew all this, and on October 30, a bill says that this is postponed until March 30, 2005?

We must ask the question and we are asking it. What answer will we be given? We will be told that the government is forward thinking. I heard the member opposite say quite loudly, “You do not understand anything; if at the expiry date there is no legislation, there will be no money”. What is he saying? You understood perfectly well; it is easy to understand. He is saying that, on October 30, the House has one week left and we must pass this bill. Then, we will say goodbye, and we will see each other again at election time.

I am sorry, but that is the message the government is sending. Do they think we will agree with such a message, when that would mean saying that the government is no longer able to assume its duties, that it does not want to put itself in a position of having to assume them before the next election? The provinces are waiting to negotiate and they need to negotiate with someone who is able to do so.

Earlier, I said I had lengthy experience in negotiation. If there is one thing we learn in negotiating, it is that you are not really negotiating until you have the person who makes the decisions at the table with you.

When people who are negotiating do not have a mandate, the negotiations do not happen. It may be that the messages being put forth by the member for LaSalle—Émard, saying that he will reassess all decisions made by the government, has bothered the equalization negotiators so much that they are saying they had better pay attention.

It is hard to think of it any other way, and that is serious, because it confirms once again that this government is paralyzed. Instead of facing up to it and making the necessary decisions, this week we have been treated to a kind of farce—I say what I think—when, the same day we read in the newspapers that the member for LaSalle—Émard says he will reassess all the decisions, he comes in to vote in the House against the Bloc's motion, applauding the Prime Minister and urging him to stay as long as he wants.

What does that have to do with the business of Parliament? What does that say about government responsibility? It means—and I will be polite—that at the very least, there is an extraordinary lack of respect for the House. It means that we can sit here in this House and tell ourselves that what we do may serve no purpose. The work we do here in committee and in the House may be wiped out and we will begin again at zero, since the government is no longer governing and there will be a new prime minister. However, he will not be able to take up his duties as he should have.

On that topic, I heard the Prime Minister give an answer to some questions we have been asking ourselves here on this side of the House. He said that he had lived through a similar situation when there was a change in government after the Conservatives.

I agree, but currently, it is the same party and that makes it very strange. We are in that situation and it is surprising. We did not expect to be in such a situation.

Since we are confronted with this situation day in and day out and since it is deteriorating, this bill is confirming all our fears. No one can deny that this bill could mean either that an agreement will not be negotiated or that it will not be negotiated within the timeframe, but possibly after the election.

This is frustrating for parliamentarians. Above all, it is insulting to be told we do not understand anything. What the government is trying to do is to anticipate the consequences of its inability to govern.

We cannot support or accept that. We will continue to oppose it vigorously, because it is nonsense. We will not allow that to happen. We will use every means at our disposal.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2003 / 5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

We will show them.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

These are all phrases we can use. This is sad. As individuals involved in politics, as representatives elected by the people, we would normally expect to come and do some serious work in this House and not to be stuck here for months, watching time go by until a new government can take over. That is nonsense.

Some people somewhere in government have to consider Canada's image. I am the foreign affairs critic. Canada, which boasts about its reputation, is doing itself serious harm. It is being observed. It is putting itself on the map, so people are watching. The current situation in no way demonstrates good governance or transparency. Not at all. This is serious.

That is why we want this bill to be defeated. However, we still have one hope, and that hope has just been introduced. We are telling the House how we feel. If, in response to our amendments, the government responds to our fears, we might change our minds. However, if things remain unchanged, including the text of the bill, we can only be angry at what is before us.

Bill C-54 bears a number with a past. This was the number of the so-called Internet transaction bill, which infringed on Quebec's jurisdiction. This was long debated. As things currently stand, if Bill C-54 is not amended, we will strongly oppose it.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Oak Ridges Ontario

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I realize that the Bloc is trying to demonstrate in its view why this federation does not work and its attempt to try and delay this legislation is a good example.

I really believe the member, who I thought would be much more thoughtful in her comments for someone who has negotiated for 15 years, has demonstrated a lack of understanding. The legislation is an insurance policy but that party over there does not believe that. I cannot believe the hypocrisy of that party. If on April 16 we do not, for whatever reason, have an agreement and the moneys do not flow, those members will be complaining bitterly. They will be raising the roof in here.

The member is right on one point. On April 10 the Minister of Finance had very useful and productive meetings with his counterparts, and the negotiations are going on.

I want the Bloc members to get one thing straight because I am tired of listening to them say that this has suddenly appeared. The fact is that negotiations are going on and they are going well. Nobody said there were no negotiations. What we are saying is that in the unlikely event we have an insurance policy.

This is not sinister. I realize that they think everything we do here is sinister but this is something that the provinces need. They want it and they expect it. There are no surprises. This is like the Holiday Inn. There are no surprises.

We assume, because the provinces are supportive and we are having good negotiations, that this is just an insurance policy. However the Bloc members, because that is their nature, think this is some sinister plot, and they bring all sorts of other things into this which are not germane to this debate.

If there is no agreement in place after March 31 and the first payments do not arrive in Quebec on April 16, I defy the member to stand up and say that it is okay because it was her party that opposed the legislation to have insurance.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, if anyone has been responsible in terms of Quebec and the provinces, it is the Bloc Quebecois. I challenge the hon. member to admit that he is only introducing this bill because he thinks he will not get another opportunity to do so. That is the truth and that is why we are opposed to it.

Obviously, we are responsible. We want there to be money on March 30 or April 1, 2004. We also want there to be negotiations. The member cannot respond to what I said about the contents of this bill. The only thing that he is answering is that we were ready to let the time expire and that we are not considering the enormous harm this would cause the provinces.

We want there to be negotiations. We do not want to give the government the means to slow down this process and use that as a pressure tactic. The government is capable of giving us guarantees. In committee, the Bloc will make amendments. That is what we want.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague, the member for Mercier. I did not know she could get mad, but she has just proved it today.

I have a question or a comment for her. The Prime Minister—and I am not talking about the member for LaSalle—Émard but rather about the little guy from Shawinigan—announced a few months ago that if the Canadian government accumulated a surplus in the current fiscal year, $2 billion would be returned to the provinces for health care.

About three weeks ago, on a Wednesday afternoon, the current Minister of Finance proudly announced that the government would have a $7 billion surplus. A few minutes later, in a press conference, some journalists asked him if he would hand over to the provinces the $2 billion promised by the Prime Minister. He answered that he would not, that it would be premature. He said that he had to study the situation and that he would give an answer later on.

What does she think about the reaction of the current Minister of Finance?

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, everybody knows how badly the provinces need that $2 billion. But we were just told that it was not certain that they would get it. I thank my colleague for his question, because this is a very serious issue.

The facts that keep accumulating explain why we are so suspicious of such a proposal. This is why we are trying to get all possible guarantees to make sure that the money is there, that the negotiations turn out well and that the new proposed amounts take effect on April 1, 2004, as planned.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

I will try to ask my question as quickly as I can so that my colleague will have time to answer.

First, it is insulting to be told that we cannot read a bill. Several of us have been parliamentarians for 10 years, so I think we are quite capable of reading a bill. They are angry, precisely because we read the bill and discovered that its main purpose is to accommodate the future prime minister. Let us not kid ourselves; that is the fact of the matter.

I held a press conference in my riding on Monday and journalists from my region asked me, “What is going on in Ottawa? Everything has come to a halt, there is total inertia over there. What are you doing now? What will happen? You cannot work, everything has stopped, there are two prime ministers. What is going on?”

I would like to ask my colleague if she hears the same comments from journalists and constituents in her riding, to the effect that Parliament is paralyzed. Could she comment on that?

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for this excellent question.

It is true people are worried and they wonder what is going on or not going on here. If a debate like this one can give us the opportunity to express the concerns of the people about the federal government's incapacity to govern the country, at least it will have served a purpose.

I cannot help but deeply regret this situation, because I do not think it is beneficial for democracy.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak about Bill C-54. I congratulate all my colleagues who spoke before me.

Where is democracy heading in Canada? That is a question I would like to ask every member in this House, and all those who are listening to us or watching us on TV. More and more, we wonder where democracy is heading in Canada.

The current Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance has been asking ambiguous questions since the beginning of our exchanges on Bill C-54. The Bloc Quebecois is against the principle of Bill C-54 and its position did not come out of a magician's hat. We will try to have the bill amended so that, should there be an agreement between the provinces and the federal government on a new formula by March 31, 2004, such an agreement would take precedence with regard to payments to the provinces.

The Bloc Quebecois' position is based on the consensus of the provinces. I did not come up with that consensus since I am not here representing provincial governments. The provinces do not want to have an equalization formula, one that no longer reflects the current realities of their citizens, rammed down their throats

The provinces agreed to sing from the same songbook as the Government of Quebec to present their demands to this government. As you know, there was a general election in Quebec and the nasty separatists are no longer in power. A Liberal government is now at the helm in Quebec. Will the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance understand that? They are his people.

The Liberal MNAs are opposed to the approach of this government, their federal big brother. We have always been told that the Bloc was a branch of the Parti Quebecois. Now the government's provincial brothers are opposed to what it is doing on the issue of equalization.

The Bloc takes as a basis the fact that the provinces are demanding that the formula be modified to take into account the fiscal capacity of all 10 provinces of Canada. I do not know whether the parliamentary secretary knows what fiscal capacity means. I am not talking about Quebec only, I am talking about a consensus among the provinces on the formula proposed by Quebec. The provinces want this to be factored in.

Such a measure would cost the federal government $3 billion more a year. The federal government is opposed to it, because it does not have the money.

A few days ago, and all the members of his party applauded, the Minister of Finance told us there was a surplus of $7 billion, yet when he tabled his estimates, he talked about a $3 billion surplus.

We are not talking about a few coins in his piggy bank. I doubt you have a piggy bank large enough to contain $7 billion, Mr. Speaker. If so, you would be an exception to the rule.

The Minister of Finance said there was a $7 billion surplus. The current equalization formula needs to be reviewed and adjusted to the current reality.

This is done for the next five years and has to be adjusted to the reality in the provinces.

My colleague from Laurentides talked about how her area had been hard hit when the Boisbriand plant closed. My are has been suffering from the softwood lumber crisis. The Sherbrooke area has other problems. In my riding, Alcan has just become the top aluminum producer in the world, but we have the highest unemployment rate in Canada. Why? What do we do with our raw materials? We ship them off elsewhere; we do not process anything.

The same scenario is found in all the regions in Quebec. That said, the provinces are saying, “Enough is enough. You base your statistics on the rich provinces, but we are no longer rich. We want to renegotiate with you and come to the table. We have the time”.

March 31, 2004 is five months away, after all. I do not know what the member for LaSalle—Émard is up to behind the curtain of the House of Commons or behind his desk with his friends, the big contributors to his campaign fund.

If thre is good will, everyone can sit down in five months, particularly since there is consensus among the provinces. They will not arrive with the intention of squabbling. No, they have informed the government of their conditions.

I congratulate them, because they always describe federal-provincial discussions as constantly having one participant who is not in agreement. But this time they all reached agreement in advance and have told the feds, “It is your turn now to listen to us”.

We are part of that consensus, and we are telling the federal government, “Sit down and negotiate instead of having the pipe dream that everything is fine, that this is the greatest place in the world”.

No, there are regional and provincial inequities. This applies regardless of what is concerned, poverty for instance. Let them stop pretending otherwise: we have the highest percentage of children living in poverty, according to UN statistics. When I heard that, I thought of our present prime minster boasting about how we were the richest country in the OECD.

This then is the consensus, and we will support it. The parliamentary secretary, the present PM, the member for LaSalle—Émard and future PM behind the curtain, the present Minister of Finance, all want to shove something down our throats that we will not swallow. We are going to oppose it, because doing so makes sense.

During the election campaign, we do not want to hear them talking about “the Bloc Quebecois members who were against it”. They did that in 2000, claiming we were opposed to the infrastructure program. This is not true. What we said was that it was not big enough.

That is the situation. Let them negotiate. Afterward, if things go well, we will vote in favour.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I wish to inform the hon. member for Jonquière that she will have approximately 12 minutes remaining when the matter is next brought before the House.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from October 24 consideration of the motion that Bill C-338, an act to amend the Criminal Code (street racing), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Canadian Alliance Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to speak to a very worthwhile bill presented by my colleague from Surrey North, Bill C-338.

As we heard in the House last week, the bill proposes to amend the Criminal Code so that street racing would be considered an aggravating circumstance for the purpose of sentencing a person convicted of an offence committed by means of a motor vehicle under the following sections: section 220, criminal negligence causing death; section 221, criminal negligence causing bodily harm; subsection 249(3), dangerous operation causing bodily harm; and subsection 249(4), dangerous operation causing death.

The bill also provides for mandatory nationwide driving prohibitions ranging from one year to life in duration depending on whether the incident is a first, second, third or more offence to be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed. For example, on a first offence a judge must suspend driving privileges nationwide for a period of one to three years. For a second offence the prohibition must be between two and five years. Any subsequent convictions will net a three year to lifetime licence removal. In addition, if a death resulted from the first or second offence, a lifetime prohibition would be imposed on the second conviction.

Making mandatory driving prohibitions effective nationwide prevents a street racer who has lost his or her licence in one province from bypassing the problem by simply obtaining a licence in a different province.

Those are the legalities of the bill. The reality is that this bill if passed will make our streets safer. It will prevent individuals who have killed or seriously injured someone as a result of street racing from simply serving a short sentence and then immediately returning to the driver's seat.

It will provide a measure of justice for the families of street racing victims. This is important because justice is often missing under the current laws and typically inconsequential sentences are attached to street racing offences. It may provide enough of a deterrent to stop some people from taking part in street racing activities.

It would be naive of us to expect any legislation to completely halt street racing. There are other factors that come into this, youth, alcohol, drugs, immaturity and inexperience among them. We cannot legislate personal responsibility or good judgment, but if we can at least make someone think about the potential consequences of his or her actions and have those consequences be severe enough to evoke an unfavourable response, I believe it is possible to provide a deterrent to dangerous behaviour.

That is what the bill does. By including nationwide driving prohibitions and treating street racing as an aggravating circumstance for sentencing purposes, Bill C-338 sends a message that there will be serious consequences for the four offences I mentioned earlier.

When discussing criminal sentencing, the government often claims to oppose minimum sentencing. We have heard that time and time again. In this case however, I believe the concept of a tough minimum penalty is exactly what is needed to serve as a deterrent. Fear of getting a speeding ticket just is not doing the job.

Street racing is not a new problem. It has been around for decades and decades. Its longevity however does not make it okay for individuals to abuse their driving privileges. It does not make it acceptable for them to disregard the safety and welfare of others for the simple thrill of an adrenalin rush for control, speed, power and prestige for status.

I believe it was the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel who said it is important for young people, and this holds true for everyone, to realize that no matter how fine or how responsive a car is, treating it as a plaything can turn it into a deadly weapon. This is an excellent point and a message that must be more clearly transmitted to the driving public.

I believe it is the responsibility of Parliament to do what it can to protect the public from unnecessary danger. The bill helps achieve this purpose. There is no reason any family should have to deal with death or injury of a loved one due to street racing. Each and every one of these incidents is preventable and should not happen. Unfortunately they do happen and with disturbing regularity.

When I heard about the bill, I had my office contact the Canada Safety Council. The gentleman I was in contact with suggested that street racing in his opinion is actually in decline compared to decades ago. That may or may not be the case as it is difficult to obtain comprehensive statistics on the subject, but there is no denying the carnage that has marked our roads and highways in recent years strictly as a result of street racing.

A quick survey of news reports shows many deaths have been attributed to street racing, at least four in Saskatchewan alone since 1999. The sad part is that innocent bystanders often pay the fatal consequences of a racing driver's bad decision, passengers along for the ride, people walking along the street or on the sidewalk, even an RCMP constable who was killed when a street racer collided with his vehicle.

My colleagues have listed the names of some of those who have died as a result of street racing and also those names of street racers who have paid for these tragedies with the most minor of sentences. I will not repeat those today.

Some might argue that street racing is a matter that should fall to the jurisdiction of the provinces. Each province has its own laws regarding motor vehicles and traffic laws. Tougher measures to reduce activities such as street racing have been enacted in recent years. The modifications include changes to graduated licensing programs and impounding vehicles used in street racing, but realistically, the provinces are limited on what they can do beyond impounding vehicles and manipulating drivers' access to vehicles through licence suspensions.

On the streets police are also doing what they can to crack down on street racing. For example, in Regina, the capital city of my home province, street racing has become a target during traffic blitzes and awareness campaigns. The Saskatoon police have implemented a street legal racing program to help educate young people and the general public about the problems of illegal drug and alcohol use, the realities of alcohol or drug impaired driving and the dangers of illegal street and drag racing as opposed to racing on a designated track.

The program also helps promote a better understanding between the police and the communities they serve. Considering that the peak age for street racing is between the ages of 18 and 21, educational programs such as street legal are key tools in fighting street racing and other driving related problems such as aggressiveness, excessive speed, lack of respect for safety and traffic laws.

Despite the measures being undertaken by other levels of government, street racing is still a very real and very dangerous problem. That is why it is necessary for the federal government to implement legislation such as Bill C-338. It complements provincial and law enforcement efforts to combat street racing.

The costs of street racing are very high and I do not mean only in the sense of dollar values, although that certainly is an issue in terms of health care costs, insurance and damaged property. I am talking about the cost of the lives of our young people, the loss of potential and the cost of knowing our streets and highways are not as safe as they could or should be.

Canadians are concerned about this unnecessary menace and they want the government to take action. I call on each member of the House to do just that by supporting this bill before another innocent person falls victim to street racing.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak on Bill C-338, which was introduced by the hon. member for Surrey North.

I want to congratulate my colleague from the Canadian Alliance and the hon. member from his party who just made an excellent speech. I think she really raised all the questions we must ask ourselves concerning this excellent bill.

You know, we are wives, mothers and sometimes even grandmothers. We care about our young, and we care about providing a quiet and peaceful environment for the young and for the old. This bill, introduced by the hon. member from the Canadian Alliance, will provide security. At the same time, it will help us show respect to our young people. We have all been young and, as young people, we have all had access to a car. We have all done some speeding, even though it was not allowed.

Today, with these luxury machines with no speed limit, it seems to be exponential. These are toys. They should not be driven, except on race tracks. The competition is fierce between dealerships, automobile manufacturers and suppliers. The cars' performance is never good enough. Most of the time, these cars are driven by young people who speed. Speed is exhilarating. Limits are necessary on public roadways.

If there had been no abuse, we would not be discussing such a bill in this place. Unfortunately, there has been abuse. To protect the driving public, speed limits must be set. We live in a civilized society. We cannot let anyone jeopardize the lives of other users of public roads because they are racing on those roads.

Our freedom stops where that of others begins. This bill does not concern only young people. I know of men their forties who love their fast cars and who race.

As my hon. colleague from the Canadian Alliance said, there have been terrible accidents and people have been killed. This cannot continue. One person dead is one too many. This is a timely bill, since it comes before the situation worsens and our highways become closed circuits, like the Gilles Villeneuve circuit.

We can agree. This bill makes a great deal of sense. I hope that the government side will pay attention to this. No doubt, there have been similar events or accidents caused by peoples racing in the streets in the ridings of the members opposite.

Street racing is not an offence under the Criminal Code, because it has not been around long. I saw it once on television, and it was kind of scary. The race took place at night in the Quebec City area. Young people lined up their cars and then took off. It was frightening. It was shown on TV. And this is an example for younger kids to follow? This has to stop.

We belong to a society. I do not know of any civilized society that permits anarchy. By allowing young people to do whatever they want on public roads, they endanger the lives of others. This sends the wrong message to the uninitiated, who turn those young people into idols.

These days, our kids grow up with idols. Enough is enough. Legislation is needed. This bill will serve our purpose. It will also help prevent accidents.

We all drive and, when we use the roads or highways, there is already a great deal of traffic. There is always someone who wants to pass and who never wants to drive behind anyone else. Other people feel the same way but they respect the speed limit. During street races, there is no speed limit. The drivers put the pedal to the floor and go. This has to stop.

I congratulate my hon. colleague. The Bloc Quebecois is able to congratulate its colleagues in the Canadian Alliance. This is a good bill. In the future, I would like to see more common sense legislation so we can resolve the problems affecting us all.

I hope that all the members of the House will support our hon. colleague from the Canadian Alliance, as the Bloc Quebecois commits to doing today.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rex Barnes Progressive Conservative Gander—Grand Falls, NL

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to be in the House tonight to speak on street racing. I will echo what the member just said about the excellent speech before hers, and her speech was also excellent. I do not know how anyone else could make such a great speech to try to convince government that something has to be done.

All I know is when I was younger, I could not afford a big car or a souped up car. Either the parents are doing something right or they are doing something wrong. I do not know how 18 and 19 year olds can have these cars unless they have lots of money. We as parents have to take some of responsibility and with responsibility comes different things in society. They are still children at 18. Although they may be outside the realm of parental guidance, as far as I am concerned we are still, as parents, responsible for their actions.

The first thing young people say is that it will not happen to them. I could tell stories. When I was younger, the big thing to find out was if a Ford could outdo a Chev or a Chev outdo a Dodge. We were young and we did not think we would have an accident or create a tragedy. We did it for fun.

The thing is when we drive a motor vehicle of any type, we always find out the unexpected usually will happen when we do not expect it. As soon as we lose control, who will be on the other end? Will we cause someone to die? I do not know if the young people realize that. Young people think that it will not happen to them, that they will not die. They think they are invincible.

Street racing does kill and it causes major injuries to many innocent people, besides those in the vehicles.

This legislation would treat street racing as an aggravated circumstance when sentencing anyone convicted of killing or seriously injuring someone with a motor vehicle if it is established that street racing was a factor at the time of the incident. Sometimes the law is not there to do what it should do. Sometimes laws should set an example to people who do things without realizing the consequences of their actions.

Just look at the young offenders act. I had a lady call me recently. She was so upset that someone had stolen her vehicle. After they caught the young person, the only thing that happened to him was a slap on the wrist. Our court system has to take things more seriously. Our court system has to ensure that the law is there for anyone who is involved with street racing, especially if someone is killed. The law should be there to ensure that the courts set an example, that they send a message to street racers that this is unacceptable.

Sometimes we have to blame the lawmakers, and the lawmaker in our country is the House of Commons. It is us, as the elected people. We are the ones who will have to try to make the difference. We are the ones who will have to ensure that we save innocent lives and the lives of the young people who street race.

Street racing has become a very popular pastime for many young people. The statistics vary from region to region. For example, in Toronto in a period of one year, 17 people were killed as a result of street racing, 17 unnecessary deaths for no reason at all. The grief caused by that is shameful. I am sure the families of the ones who have passed on because of these incidents are asking themselves why that happened to them.

These incidents are preventable. If we, as the lawmakers, are not going to do what is right by banning it, then we must accept it. If that is the case, we have to go one step further by providing a spot where people can race. Let us develop a spot for it. However, I do not think that is the answer. The answer is what we are discussing today.

More than lives of racers are at risk. Passengers and pedestrians may be killed or injured as a result of street racing. This is the unfortunate consequence of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. If a person drives a vehicle at speeds of 160 to 170 miles an hour and gets a blowout at that speed, I can tell members that it is not a pretty picture. As a result of this, people are unnecessarily being put at high risk.

In my former profession I was a paramedic. I was always on what we called the tail end of the result of total carelessness, when we went to a scene of an accident where there had been a motor vehicle accident because people had been driving at high speeds. There was no explanation, but the answer was always “I did not think it was going to happen to me”.

Unfortunately, when people think that way, guaranteed it will come up and kick them in the behind. All of a sudden it does happen to them and as a result they realize they are in big trouble. When someone dies as a result of negligence, people pay a dear price, and that lives with them for many years down the road.

As I said, many things can go wrong, but usually accidents are caused by the inexperience of drivers, excessive speeds and the conditions of the road.

Street racing takes a number of forms. Some are very organized and involve many people. Some are based on nothing more than just two willing motorists in traffic. Sometimes common sense has to play into it. However, I spoke to some of the members. They told me some horror stories of drag racing on the main streets, with lots of traffic and lots of people. It is really frightening.

I know it does not happen in my part of the region very often. We do not have that problem as much as the bigger centres. As I said earlier in the first part of my speech, our key was to see if a Dodge could outrun a Chev or a Chev could outrun a Ford. Then there are people with souped up vehicles, which goes back to why parents would allow the young people under their control to have such vehicles. They got them for one reason and that is for high speeds for drag racing. If they want to drag race, set the perimeters for them so they can go out in the countryside where there are open areas. If they flip their vehicle, then the only ones they will hurt will be themselves and not innocent bystanders.

Penalties for street racing are at the discretion of the judge and range from a suspended sentence to life in prison. This is where it goes back to the courts having a lot of flexibility. If the courts do not send a message to people who are involved with such activities of street racing which causes death or major injury because of that, then nothing will ever change. We need to send a clear message and the courts need to send a clear message that this is unacceptable.

My son is 23 years old, and I will probably say that it will not happen to me. As soon as it happens to a person, it is a different story. Let us put ourselves in the place of someone who has been severely injured by street racing or a person who has had someone killed because of that. Then we would find out what it is all about. I am sure we can talk about all kinds of stories with the attitude that will not happen to us, but it will happen if we do not take a stand and do what is right.

It is difficult for police to catch the racers, as racers can easily outdistance police cars. Usually drivers are caught by violating regulations dealing with the vehicle and not the speed. Cars are often modified to provide the maximum amount of speed.

I will tell a quick story. When I was younger, a good friend of mine wanted to see how fast he could drive his car. He got up to 160 to 180 miles an hour. The joke was that the police car could not catch him, but the thing is nobody was killed. If somebody had been killed, it would have been a different story.

Many countries, such as the United States, New Zealand and Britain, have put provisions in place for street racing and I believe Canada should do the same.

On behalf of the PC Party I thank the member for his bill. We definitely look forward to supporting it.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I too would like to congratulate my colleague for a bill that goes in the right direction.

I am inclined to think that perhaps my colleague is a little bit too soft when we look at what the provisions of this bill give. For example, under his bill if a person were to actually kill someone because of street racing, the bill does not provide the imposition of a lifetime ban from driving until a second offence. I guess that is how our legal system works. The book is thrown at the person for that first offence and then hope, if the person has killed someone, that he or she will have learned a lesson. I guess that is an element that we need to have.

The reaction is that if a person actually kills someone while driving a vehicle recklessly, and certainly speeding on the highway is reckless driving, then perhaps on the day people are issued their first driver's licence they should be informed that if they kill someone through recklessness their privilege of driving will be revoked and not given back. Maybe that would be more significant.

I appreciate what my colleague is trying to do. He has that wonderful, good, compassionate side of him. That is great. I have that too. I guess we have to try to balance that off as well as we can.

I have no experience at all with racing. When I was a kid growing up on the farm in Saskatchewan we did not go racing with the old International one tonne. It just did not cut it. We had better vehicles later on but by then I was so sensible that I never recall ever being in a race with someone. I was in a race on a bicycle. When I was at university, believe it or not I was in a 50-mile bicycle race. I have been in a race but not one of the wild vehicle races.

I think it is important to realize that when one goes to excessive speeds physics come into play. It now takes a lot of distance and a lot of time to stop a vehicle. It also depends on the kind of vehicle.

Over the years, while I have driven a motorcycle many times, I have often thought that I should stop when coming to an amber light until I would look at the guy tailgating me at 10 feet and realize that he was not going to stop. I knew if I stopped that I would end up going through the intersection anyway, except that I would be going through it with him dragging me.

People who drive a motorcycle can stop very quickly. A car will stop relatively quickly. A semi-trailer truck, which I have also driven, will undoubtedly take much more time.

I did a calculation based on some of the numbers that are given to students when they first learn to drive. It might be interesting to members in the House to realize what excessive speed does. I will sort of put this little picture, and I am estimating here. Let us say that where the Speaker's chair is, is an intersection and a person is walking through the intersection in a crosswalk. Then we have a person driving a car and approaching that intersection, which is at the other end of the House, which in my estimate is about 30 metres away. If that vehicle were approaching, it would take 2.2 seconds in order to stop and the vehicle would be able to stop by the time it got to the intersection.

That is reasonable. All hon. members can picture that. Most members here have driven vehicles. That distance, at 50 kilometres an hour, a person applies the brakes and comes to a stop, unless it is icy or there are other conditions.

One of the cases my colleague mentioned when he gave his speech was of street racing, where it was estimated that when this car hit this lady the vehicle was going 120 kilometres an hour. Do members know how long it takes for a car doing 120 kilometres an hour to go from that end of the House to this end, which is 30 metres? It takes less than one second. It is so fast that if people were walking and saw the car over there but did not realize it until it was there, they physically, even if they were running, could not get out of the way before they were hit.

I was acquainted with someone many years ago who had a very fast car. He only had it about a month or so. I do not know whether he was racing, but he was easily going double the speed limit when he T-boned a farmer who was coming out of an intersection. The farmer obviously saw the vehicle even though it was at night but thought he had enough time to cross the intersection before the vehicle got there. Lo and behold, he entered the intersection and his vehicle was hit on the side. He was so severely injured that he spent the rest of his life in a paraplegic condition. It was a tragic accident. The young lady who was with my acquaintance was badly mutilated. Her life was changed. It was just because there was excessive speed.

I also find other things appalling. Not long ago I saw a youngster crossing the street at an intersection with a crosswalk but no lights. It was a marked crosswalk that was a couple of blocks from a school. The car in front of me stopped and I pulled up behind. I saw the youngster stop but then I saw in my rear-view mirror a guy driving toward me. He saw we were stopped so he moved into the right lane. It seemed totally apparent to me that he was going to keep on driving. He was annoyed that we were stopped, maybe thinking that the car ahead of me was turning left. I did something, which I found rather difficult. I threw on my signal light as fast as I could and moved over to that lane. I will not say what gesture I got, but I feel I probably saved the youngster's life that day because I forced the other car to stop very quickly in order to avoid a collision. If that driver had schmucked my car, so be it, but no one should take a risk like that driver did just to save a few milliseconds when other people's lives are at risk.

It is very dangerous to go fast. However for some reason young men are more prone to this kind of a contest, the one that shows that they are bigger, better, stronger, et cetera. I think the measures my colleague is proposing in the bill are measures that are absolutely necessary.

What I would like to see in every province is mandatory driver training for people who are beginning their driving careers. I would like to see independent examiners. In many instances the driving schools themselves issue the licence to the driver. I would like to include in that training some graphic videos of the results of driving errors and making bad judgments, including street racing.

I would like to see the measures being proposed by Bill C-338 enacted so that young people and even older people who are learning to drive for the first time will have it drummed into their brains that if they engage in street racing or excessive speed for any reason whatsoever they will have the proverbial book thrown at them. This may deter them from doing it.

The measures in the bill are certainly stronger than the measures we have now. I think it is something that we should strongly consider. Whether a person is killed with a gun or with a vehicle, the family still suffers the loss of a loved one. The individual's life is snuffed out. We are ready to take all sorts of what I call extreme measures against presumed potential deaths by weapons so why not, if a vehicle is used as a weapon, have measures that are just as strong in order to deter a person from committing the crime and taking a person's life.

I urge all members in the House to support Bill C-338 because it is a good bill and a necessary one. It will affect no one who obeys the law, and for those who are prone not to obey the law, hopefully it will be a useful deterrent.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Madam Speaker, I commend my colleague from Surrey North for bringing the bill forward and raising the profile of this issue.

This is an issue that deserves our consideration. Other members have spoken about this in the House both today and previously. We have heard wide support from our colleagues regardless of which party they are from, apart from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, and that is a concern. I will return to that at the end of my comments.

The bill would make street racing a much more serious offence than it is now. Other colleagues have pointed to circumstances and tragic incidences in their communities, not only in British Columbia but around the country, where individuals have lost their lives, and that is a tragedy. If we can stop one person from being harmed or killed by bringing forward this legislation, then we will have done a good thing.

Quite often we want to see what others are doing in other jurisdictions. In his speech last week, my colleague from Surrey North pointed out what others are saying in other jurisdictions, and they have already taken action.

Manitoba has taken action. The Manitoba minister of justice has said that:

Amendments made to our Highway Traffic Act this past session have given our provincial street racing offence the highest maximum fine and the highest demerit point level available for provincial driving offences under that legislation.

Manitoba has introduced strong new measures to deal with dangerous drivers, and I think that is a good thing.

Motions have been brought forward in British Columbia as well. The attorney general of British Columbia, Geoff Plant, in reference to street racing, said:

The Criminal Code needs to be tightened up in the area of conditional sentencing so that conditional sentences are rarely, if ever, available for a crime of this nature.

As others have mentioned, it is often young people who get involved in street racing, for whatever reason. It might be their sense of invincibility or their sense of adventure and desire to push the limits. If we look at the vehicles available now as compared to the vehicles that were available when I and others here first started to drive, they are powerful machines, capable of reaching very high speeds quickly.

My colleague from Elk Island gave us some calculations about just how dangerous speed can be, and I agree with him on that point. Those kinds of circumstances have led to tragedies around our nation involving street racing.

I had the opportunity many years ago to teach driver training. I did not teach in-car instruction. I taught young people, who were just learning to drive, in a classroom. A police officer was at one of the sessions and he told stories about being on the scenes of accidents involving high speed, including street racing. The stories were simply horrific. Our colleague from the PC Party mentioned that he was a paramedic and was on the scene of serious accidents. If we can help to prevent even one tragedy, we will have done a good thing, which is why the bill is worthy of our support.

As was mentioned by my colleague from the Bloc and others, we need to put legislation in place that will send the right message. We do need to send the right message when we bring forward legislation. If we communicate through our laws that street racing is a serious and a dangerous thing and if individuals choose to participate in that kind of activity they will be held to account. If we send that message through this legislation we hope that will have an effect on people's behaviour.

When given alternatives, such as the opportunity to participate in racing at a race track, young people often will not take that choice because of the thrill of racing on a city street. That is unfortunate. Because of that we need to let young people know that if they street race they will pay the price with some serious consequences.

We need to let young people know that if they street race, they will pay the price with some serious consequences.

There is a raceway in my riding called Mission Raceway. It is a facility for both drag racing and road racing. That would be a great place for young people to race their cars. If there could be a way of building in some alternatives for young people who were engaged in this kind of activity to use the raceway as an opportunity to get that energy out in that way, I think that would be a great thing. Whether or not individuals choose to do that would be up to them. If we could provide an opportunity for that, perhaps they would make that choice.

Ultimately, it comes down to individual responsibility. Young people need to take responsibility for their actions. We have seen what happens when they do not. It not only affects the families of the victims who may be involved in accidents but the drivers themselves. Even if they survive the crash, they have to live with the scars in their own lives of having to live with what they have done in street racing if they have caused some serious damage or if they have killed somebody. If we could help young people to avoid that, we would have done a good thing, as well.

I am surprised by the message sent by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice on this topic. He seems to be the only one who has spoken against this bill at this point. That is somewhat surprising because there is agreement among members of the opposition. I hope there is wide agreement among members of the Liberal Party, backbenchers and others, who will have an opportunity in a free vote to support this motion. There will not be some kind of edict from the justice minister that this a motion that is not worthy of their support, because it is.

If we can send the right message and teach young individuals that they are responsible for their actions, then we will have done a good thing. This is a bill that is worthy of the support of members from all parties.

Again, I wish to congratulate my colleague from Surrey North for his hard work on this issue. I encourage every member to support this bill and make it a reality in our land.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate having the final word on second reading debate of Bill C-338.

As I said previously, all major cities across Canada are experiencing problems with street racing, some with tragic results causing serious injury or even death to innocent victims.

Street racing today is somewhat different from what was experienced decades ago, as was referenced by some of my colleagues. Today, we have smaller cars with more horsepower. We have young people with significant disposable money to spend on enhancing vehicle performance. Beyond that, there seems to be an attitude among some young people that it is their God given right to put others at risk.

Bill C-338 would amend the Criminal Code. Street racing would be considered an aggravating circumstance for the purposes of sentencing a person convicted of criminal negligence causing death or bodily harm or dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death or bodily harm. It would also provide for a mandatory, nationwide driving prohibition to be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed.

In the first hour of debate, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice disappointed many with his arguments against the bill, arguments that can only be described as weak. He implied that we do not need mandatory minimum nationwide driving prohibitions against street racers convicted of killing or seriously injuring people because the courts can use a sentence with a long period of imprisonment.

The problem is that in a majority of cases to date there is no term of imprisonment, not even short, let alone long. The parliamentary secretary spent most of his time talking about the maximum penalties available in the Criminal Code to deal with street racers convicted of killing or seriously injuring. Again, he avoided the fact that the courts are not using maximum sentences or even close to it.

Canadians have expressed outrage over the carnage caused by street racing and the lenient sentences being imposed, including conditional sentences or house arrest. Canadians do not support the use of house arrest as punishment for anyone convicted of being responsible for a street race that either killed or seriously injured someone.

I brought the bill forward to honour the lives of victims of street racing. People like Jerry Kithithee, Irene Thorpe, RCMP Constable Jimmy Ng, Payam Yaghoobi and others lost their lives to the deliberate actions of selfish, irresponsible, and self-centred individuals in hot cars.

I am pleased and grateful to hear members from the opposition parties speak in support of the bill and I thank them. Again, I was disappointed but not terribly surprised by the weak arguments from the government side.

There is much public support for the legislation. In addition, a number of provincial justice ministers, attorneys and solicitors general have indicated their support. I hope that support is reflected in this place.

I would ask all members to support sending Bill C-338 to the justice committee. It is not a partisan issue. It is clearly the right thing to do for victims, their families, and in the name of literally safer streets in our communities.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?