That, as this House supported the reduction of funds for the firearms program in the Supplementary Estimates on December 5, 2002, this House should continue to support the reduction of funds for the firearms program in this supply period and subsequent supply periods until the government can provide a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis for the program and provide an accurate total of expenditures to date and a realistic estimate of future costs of implementing the Firearms Act including the total cost:
(a) to fully enforce the Firearms Act;
(b) to verify the 5 million unverified firearms in the registry;
(c) to verify and correct the information in the 4 million records in the Firearms Interest Police database and to bring it into full compliance with the Privacy Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
(d) to register the ten million unregistered guns in Canada;
(e) to licence the half million unlicensed gun owners in Canada; and
(f) to the economy and jobs.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time, as will all Alliance members today.
No program has been a bigger failure or a bigger embarrassment for the government than this seven year old billion dollar firearms fiasco.
The Auditor General said that Parliament was misled. We need to go back to the drawing board because that is true.
Today Parliament can decided to stop the misleading. Today is the day the process to uncover truth about the gun registry can begin. Today Parliament can do the job we were sent here to do; to start taking control over the waste of money on useless government programs. Now is the time to do what is right and that is the purpose of our debate today.
The Auditor General made it clear that the cost of the gun registry would be more than the billion dollars that she reported. The President of the Treasury Board admitted that she still did not know the total cost of the gun registry to date when she appeared before committee last week.
Before the Prime Minister whips his MPs into tears and forces them to vote for another $59 million tonight, should he not tell them how much the gun registry has cost so far and how much it will cost to fully implement? None of that has been told here. If the members opposite would listen to the debate today they might learn something.
Today we are asking the government to stop pouring good money after bad. We are asking the government to stop registering guns until a cost benefit analysis has been completed or at least cabinet releases the one that has already been done. How can we support a program if we do not know what this cost benefit analysis is?
In March 1994 the justice minister was clearly told in a briefing note from his own officials, which we obtained through access to information:
Accurate information about costs and benefits must be obtained before any firm commitment can be made....
That was in reference to the gun registry. That was never done.
Why should we approve more money when we do not have that information? The sad fact is that the cost benefit analysis was done. It just has never been released by cabinet.
Last week the new CEO of the Canadian Firearms Centre admitted, in a briefing for opposition MPs and senators, that cabinet has refused to release the cost benefit analysis. All Canadians must wonder why it would want to hide this information. All Canadians must wonder what the Liberal government is hiding, not just why.
Given the reality of violent crime in Canada, taxpayers would have to wonder why the government has chosen to go down the gun registry trail of wasted loonies. Why not spend the money in the most cost effective manner: target the root causes of violence and of crime in our society?
Some past justice ministers have claimed that the gun registry is saving lives, but every year Statistics Canada data proves the opposite. In 2001 only 31% of homicides were committed with a firearm and almost two-thirds of these were with handguns. The RCMP has been registering handguns since 1934 but 74% of the handguns recovered from firearms homicides were not registered. Therefore it is obviously not working. Surely 69 years of registering legally owned handguns is long enough to prove the registry is a failed policy option.
In December, Toronto police chief, Julian Fantino, confirmed this when he said “A law registering firearms has neither deterred these crimes nor helped solve any of them”.
In 2001, 65% of the persons accused of homicide had a Canadian criminal record and 58% of these had previously been convicted of violent crimes. Over half of their victims also had a criminal record. Known criminals are the problem, not millions of responsible firearms owners.
The justice minister even trots out a police chief every once in a while to say that the billion dollar registry is worth it even if it saves one life. This is precisely why we need a cost benefit analysis. Without that cost benefit analysis we cannot make a proper judgment.
On March 17 the newspapers reported that there were an estimated 10,000 deaths in Canada each year because of medical mistakes. How many of these lives could the million dollars a year wasted on the gun registry have saved if the money had been spent to mitigate these mistakes?
Finally, here are the main reasons that the justice department's future cost estimates are so wrong. I will focus on this for the next few minutes.
First, there are more than five million firearms registered in the system that still have to be verified by the RCMP. What will it cost to go back and fix that? We have never been told.
Second, up to four million records in the RCMP's Firearms Interest Police database, called FIP, have to be corrected in order to comply with the Privacy Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There are four million Canadians on that list. What will it cost to go back and fix it?
Third, 78% of the registration certificates have entries that were either left blank or left unknown and they still have to be corrected. What will it cost to go back and do that?
Fourth, there are more than 540,000 gun owners who still do not have a firearms licence and they cannot register their firearms without a licence. What will it cost to go back and fix that?
Fifth, more than 300,000 owners of registered handguns do not have a firearms licence authorizing them to own one and they cannot re-register their guns without a licence. What will it cost to go back and fix that? The government has never told us.
Sixth, up to 10 million guns still have to be registered or re-registered in the system. What will that cost to complete?
Seventh, the registry attempts to track two million completely honest citizens but fails to track the addresses of those persons who have already been proven to be most dangerous to society. This includes 131,000 persons prohibited from owning firearms by the courts; 35,000 people under court restraining orders; and more than 9,000 persons who have had their firearms licences refused or revoked. The government does not track them but if people are gun owners and they do not notify of a change of address in one month, they could get a criminal record.
I will not have time to list all these but I will just go to my tenth point. The Department of Justice has never released its calculations on the cost to the economy and jobs.
On August 16, 1999, the department denied Parliament and the public the entire 115 page report on the economic impact of the gun registry. It was declared a cabinet secret. This is a 115 page report on the economic impact of that registry, which the House is not allowed to see. What is the government hiding? This is a Liberal ram it down their throats federal-provincial relations plan. No national program can ever work without the co-operation and full support of the provinces.
The justice minister claims that the gun registry has refused and revoked more than 9,000 firearms licences but he refuses to admit that it did not even need a gun registry to do this. He gives the impression to the public that this is somehow part of the benefits of this whole program but he does not tell us that they never follow up to see if these people do not have a firearm. We do not have enough police resources to go after the criminals in our society today. Instead we waste it on a paper pushing exercise.
We need a better administered firearms licensing system. Administer that, ensure it is working and scrap the registry.
The justice minister also keeps Parliament in the dark by refusing to acknowledge that the statistics from his own department show that the firearms licence and refusal rate was twice as good under the old RCMP firearms acquisition certificate program, FAC, than it is now. The government gives the impression that somehow it is doing a better job with the billion dollars it is spending now. If we look at the facts, it is actually worse.
Finally, the gun registry is a joke, an expensive joke, perpetrated on taxpayers and a cruel joke perpetrated on law-abiding firearms owners. It is time to put an end to this. It is time to scrap the gun registry. By the time this debate is done today I want to see the cost benefit analysis. I want to see the government produce the study that shows this is worth the $1 billion, $2 billion, $3 billion which will be spent on that in the next few years.
I put out a report yesterday issued by the Library of Parliament. It clearly indicates that in the next few years $1 billion will be spent on enforcement alone. If only one-tenth of the gun owners in Canada, who now have not complied with the law, are charged, we will spend on average $1 billion more.
Before we do that, we should be saying no to the $59 million for which the government is asking. That is what the vote is about today. I hope that there are enough people on the other side of the House who will stand up on their hind legs and start to make democracy work.