Thank you. I will take my time. I will ask my hon. colleagues to pay attention because we are talking about a very serious matter.
These constituents of mine lost $140,000. The province of B.C. gave back the PST they had paid. If we do the math, that is 7% of $140,000, which is about $10,000. That is a lot of money. They got back the PST from the province of British Columbia and they asked the federal government to give back the GST.
Unfortunately, the government is refusing to give back the GST to this wonderful couple in the latter years of their life. The province did the right thing, but the federal government loves to overtax Canadians.
My constituents are victims of auto theft. It is a huge problem. Vehicles are broken up for parts or sent overseas or the VIN will be changed deliberately.
As I said, there is an obvious VIN. It is usually on the front left-hand corner of a vehicle, right where the windshield meets. It is out of the way. It cannot be seen from inside. A person must look at it from the outside. There is also a hidden VIN on each vehicle. Sometimes there are a number of them, but primarily there is one on each vehicle. The police can find out from the VIN on a suspicious vehicle if it has been changed.
It is very important to check. It is very important to me. In my former life as a city councillor and working for ICBC as a loss prevention officer, I had to tackle problems, whether they were crashes or crime. We always looked at the three Es: education, engineering and enforcement.
For education, we would tell people that auto crime is a problem in the Vancouver area. We would teach them how to protect themselves from being victims of auto crime. Vehicle owners should not leave their registration in their vehicles. They should leave it at home or keep it on their person, because if somebody breaks into their vehicle and steals their registration, they can actually sell that vehicle without the vehicle owner even knowing it because they have the VIN. They can make a fake VIN and put it on another stolen vehicle. The vehicle owners would not realize that their vehicle has been stolen. It is still in their possession, but thieves have stolen their VIN.
We told people to use a steering lock on their steering wheel. We told people that if they did not have an immobilizer, they should get one. We told them that if they did have one, they should make sure it was a good one that was approved and that worked. A lot of new vehicles have an immobilizer that does not work. People must have a good one.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia have information pages to educate people on what works and what does not work in protecting their vehicle. We told people not to leave valuables in their vehicle because that can attract thieves. We did everything we could through education. In engineering, we had those steering locks and immobilizers. We also had the bait car program through engineering, to try to go after auto thieves.
The very frustrating part was enforcement. The police would try to catch these people, but the courts kept letting them go. I asked the parliamentary secretary what the sentencing was and he said this legislation will be used to combat auto crime.
What is the track record? This is going to be added to other forms of legislation. Bill C-64 is supposed to help combat auto crime. What is the typical sentence?
Right now if someone steals a car and gets caught that person typically says he did not realize the vehicle was stolen. People will claim it was given to them by a friend. That is the excuse they have. In court it is tough to prove that they knew the vehicle was stolen and it is tough to prove that they stole it.
If they are convicted, they get the typical sentence, which is probation. If they get caught again, they receive probation for breaching their probation. These people are repeat offenders. It is a small group of people who are stealing these vehicles. These are high risk people. The typical person stealing vehicles is addicted to drugs and is a high risk individual. Yet these people keep on getting probation for breaching their probation.
There is a sense of frustration within our communities across Canada with the fact that sentencing is not being done appropriately, that the courts are not taking this problem seriously. We are asking for mandatory minimum sentences.
My private member's bill asked for mandatory minimum sentences. I did research. I consulted with my colleagues. I found that the average cost in terms of damage to a stolen vehicle is $4,600. There should be a minimum fine of at least $1,000 if the average cost is $4,600. That seems very conservative to me. The other option was to have the individual serve three months in jail, or both, but of course the Liberals do not support sentencing with consequences. They would prefer to have these people released back into the community with probation.
Chuck wanted to see some consequences. He wanted to see some good legislation and he provided good legislation. His bill would have made it an offence for anyone “who, wholly or partially, alters, removes or obliterates a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse”. That would be a good piece of legislation. Right now it is not illegal to do that. It should be. Chuck knew that. As Conservatives we know that and we would support that.
What did the Liberals do? They added this clause: “and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle”. That puts the onus on the Crown to prove the intent of the offender. Why did the person do it? Did the person do it to conceal the identity of the vehicle?
I believe that taking the VIN off a vehicle should be an offence unless there is a lawful excuse. A lawful excuse would be if the vehicle had been damaged severely or was totalled, and if, for example, the front half was going to be taken off another vehicle and those two vehicles put together. That would be a lawful excuse to change the VIN to match the hidden VIN. That can be done.
However, thieves also now have the technology to create a false VIN. If the VIN is taken off because the car is stolen, that is not a lawful excuse. That should be an offence. It seems too obvious. I am not certain why the Liberals do not agree with that. Taking the VIN off without a lawful excuse should be an offence. If someone changes those numbers, or if those numbers are removed or obliterated, that is an offence unless there is a lawful excuse.
I support Chuck's intent. To add that extra watered down onus on the Crown to prove that the offender had the intent to conceal makes it very difficult. I ask the House to support Chuck Cadman's bill, not this one.
This is a watered down version of Chuck's bill. Dona Cadman and Dane Minor are both asking the House not to support this bill because it is using Chuck's name and we should not do that.
We should honour Chuck. If we are going to pass Chuck's bill, let us pass Chuck's bill as written, not a Liberal bill.