Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak to Bill C-65 which is an act to amend the Criminal Code. It is very important to get the bill through second reading and into committee where we can discuss changes and amendments. It is important to look at all amendments to the bill because it is an incremental step forward that is very important, not only in terms of setting a standard for the criminal activity around auto theft and the consequences that affect those individuals, but also for the police forces, emergency response forces and ordinary citizens who get sucked into this vortex of pain and suffering related to the crimes that individuals commit.
It is also important to note that the bill would have a mandatory sentence which is an important step for this particular crime. It suits the crime very well and I think many Canadians will support the bill, and especially some enhancements to it.
I want to note, from my particular constituency of Windsor West, some of the great work that has been done in the past by Ken Koekstat from Crime Stoppers and Glenn Stannard, our chief of police, related to crime, youth activities, as well as the general population, and the fact that auto theft and the consequences have been rising at different times. They have been looking at proactive strategies to deal with this, as well as the consequences once the activity has taken place.
I can tell members that my former background as a municipal councillor, having lived under the Conservative regime of Mike Harris, the incredible downloading and the consequences of that were profound for municipal tax ratepayers across the province of Ontario because it put incredible pressures on keeping one's police force up to snuff.
Frankly, the corporate tax cuts that were enjoyed came at the expense of many municipalities having pitched battles about whether or not to invest in fire and rescue, emergency services and/or police departments. I know that I had many citizens who wrestled with the fact that their property taxes would need to be raised and subsequently were raised for many years because the provincial government had downloaded a series of services and responsibilities. What was despicable about the Harris regime was the fact that it also included different standards and reporting for the police department and the fire department but did not pass any appropriate funding to deal with that.
We agreed with the additional training and the additional supports that were going to be there for officers but at the same time there was nothing provided to them to actually do that without having to go into the municipal taxpayer base. Having property tax as a funding source for policing is certainly not adequate for a modern industrial society and is certainly not adequate when a provincial government makes other choices. I can tell members that it had a profound impact as well.
Right now in our constituency we do know that many of these thefts are actually related to joy rides. Also, it was described recently by police officials on our radio as a way of some people using it as transit, where they would steal a car in one neighbourhood on the east side of Windsor and use that to joyride around or provide friends rides for the day and dispose of it later. Different types of cars were easily targeted and the youth who were doing this knew that and would provide it as a way of public transit for themselves. It is a terrible crime and it is a reality that the police have had to deal with. They have incorporated Crime Stoppers to get to those individuals but there has to be an investment to provide opportunities so that is not going to be the first thing that people think or is acceptable.
I think of balance, a balance of having strict penalties for this type of serious crime and the consequences that it has brought to people's life is very important. I agree with that. At the same time, there has to be a balance. The municipal governments need to get support from the senior levels of government to be able to increase their police forces to do the types of services that are necessary to prevent the crime and to be on the streets and to be a presence on the street so there will be accountability on the spot. From my days on municipal council, that certainly had a profound impact in terms of Ontario usurping those powers from municipal police forces because of the downloading.
In fact, even when the province promised that we would actually have revenues increase when the provincial offences acts were transferred to municipal governments, we were supposed to get an increase that we could then put back into our policing and put more officers on the streets.
What ended up happening was that they gave us the worst cases, the most difficult and the most expensive to prosecute, which ended up causing a greater liability for the municipality. It was great for the Harris Conservative regime. It was wonderful for that treasury, but it was not good for local municipal governments that lost another revenue source for putting officers on the street who could prevent tragic circumstances like those that come about from auto theft.