Mr. Speaker, the NDP intends to support this bill. As we have heard throughout this debate, it makes provisions for a common problem that a number of urban centres have been experiencing.
Oftentimes we hear individual stories with some great tragedy of innocent bystanders being severely injured or in many cases killed. My party has a particular concern with that. The wife of the former premier of Ontario lost both her parents as a result of an incident like that back in the early nineties. Therefore, we are particularly sensitive to the consequences of this type of criminal behaviour.
We also acknowledge the work of one of our former members, Mr. Cadman from Surrey North, who brought this issue to the House by way of a private member's bill, Bill C-230, and publicized the need for additional criminal legislation to deal with this criminal behaviour.
The bill is fairly straightforward in terms of dealing with the sentencing consequences of someone convicted of street racing. It is a measured response to the problem. We have the ongoing debate in this chamber, certainly in the justice committee, over the use of mandatory sentences. I have no hesitation in saying that in the vast majority of cases, I am convinced that mandatory sentences are unconstitutional, offensive to the charter and quite frankly useless for the purpose for which they are intended, which is to deter crime.
However, there are exceptions to that. We saw that most tellingly in the use we made of minimum mandatory sentences with regard to impaired driving. We have to be careful of overemphasizing the effectiveness of that tool. It is my belief and conviction, from everything I have read and studied, that in this case public education, the work of groups like MADD and the work of our police forces to educate the public of the scourge of impaired driving and its impact on families and communities, is most telling in getting the rates down.
It is also interesting to look at that. There was a blip in 2003-04 where incidents of impaired driving edged back up. The law did not change. The penalties were still as severe, but it began to edge back up a little. I think there was a reduction in the amount of educational work, such as ads in the paper and public meetings. As a result, there was a slight increase.
Similarly with this bill, the introduction of mandatory one year suspensions, which then go progressively higher for repeat offences, can be part of the tools we need to reduce and try to eliminate this criminal behaviour. However, it will not be successful by itself. I suggest that it will be a small part of it. We need to take on a strong campaign of public education to reach those individuals who would consider involving themselves in what they oftentimes see at the beginning as fairly harmless conduct, hijinks of youthfulness. We know better. We know the potential consequences.
In that regard, one thing we have to do is talk to automotive companies. A recent documentary on the amount of money spent on promoting the sale of vehicles indicated that in some markets as much as 80% was used to promote the use of automobiles that is clearly illegal. That is conduct in operating a vehicle that would be at the minimum speeding, but oftentimes would amount to careless if not reckless driving and those charges under our provincial and federal statutes. We need the kind of campaign that would say to automotive companies that they have to change the way they promote the sale of their cars. It is no longer acceptable in this society because of the permissiveness it gives to young people in particular to think it is natural to drive in urban settings in a reckless, dangerous manner. They think it is acceptable. They think it is sexy.
We recognize the need for the amendments to the Criminal Code, and we will support them. I look forward to the bill going to the justice committee where it will hear additional evidence as to whether there are any additional steps we can take by way of amendment to strengthen the bill. As of now we will be supporting it.