Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take the floor on Bill C-65 to amend the Criminal Code regarding street racing.
I would like to offer a summary, for this is important for the young men and women who are listening to us. Young people often let themselves be tempted by speed. This is too often the case. Young people always tend to say that the politicians prevent them from doing what they want; in this particular case, what we want is to prevent them from engaging in excessive speeding.
Often the only way to curb excesses in the population is to impose laws and standards. It will of course be clear that street racing is a scourge. Some will say that if those who engage in racing do themselves harm, it is their own fault. However, while street racing endangers those who are driving, it also endangers the lives of the other citizens on the road who are the victims of accidents because of this racing.
Bill C-65 amends the Criminal Code by defining street racing and by specifically identifying involvement in street racing as an aggravating factor during sentencing for offences of criminal negligence and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle. The bill also provides for a mandatory driving prohibition order for a minimum of one year for persons convicted of such offences committed while street racing.
The bill defines street racing as “operating a motor vehicle in a race with another motor vehicle on a street, road, highway or other public place.”
The message we want to send to our young men and women is that there are places to engage in racing. That is what race tracks are for. So we do not want to discourage them or deny them the full enjoyment of their vehicles. Many young people put time and money into fine vehicles which are often very powerful. This is very much the fashion, and we do not want to discourage them from it.
What we are saying to them is that, when they do this, there are places for running their automobile trials. It is quite obvious that, for a young person who has spent a lot of money, it is always important to determine in the field whether the goods have been delivered. The message that we want to send our young people is that the only way to do this is on the race track and in those places where this type of racing is permitted.
All other uses of vehicles and all other speed trial activities are now considered indictable offences. I will repeat the definition that is defended by the Bloc Québécois and that we want to see in the Criminal Code. Street racing means “operating a motor vehicle in a race with another motor vehicle on a street, road, highway or other public place”.
The bill provides that in imposing a sentence for the offences cited in sections 220, criminal negligence causing death, 221, criminal negligence causing bodily harm, and 249, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, the court must consider as an aggravating circumstance the fact that the offender was street racing at the time of committing the offence.
This means that when a person is accused of an accident causing death or bodily harm or of dangerous driving, the fact that he or she was involved in street racing is an aggravating circumstance. The sentence will therefore be stiffer.
Our purpose as legislators, as I was saying, as members of the Bloc Québécois and as men and women who work hard to defend the interests of both Quebeckers and Canadians, is not to pass legislation for the fun of it. We are dealing with situations that result in the loss of human life or major accidents that leave very serious injuries. People are left permanently scarred by accidents caused by individuals who were street racing. They are men and women, and not just young people. I must say in their defence that it is not just young people who take part in street racing.
We did it in our day, but we tried to do it in places where it was allowed. The people of my generation were familiar with muscle cars, as they were called. There were places in Quebec for people who liked that, such as the Sanair track. I liked it myself back in those days. But it was always done in places where it was allowed. That is where we went.
So there are locations like this. There are speedways. There are all kinds of activities for people who want to try out their cars. That is allowed in these places. We are not trying to discourage that. Quite the opposite, what we want to discourage are the people who engage in street racing. We want to get them to do it in locations where it is allowed. That is why we support this legislation and will vote in favour of Bill C-65.
We need to understand that it is getting more and more common to have powerful engines. We fight here in this House—we the members of the Bloc Québécois—to ensure that gasoline taxes and prices are fair. We never want to see oil companies taking advantage of their virtual monopoly position—as they did in September—to make astronomical refining profits and try to pocket them.
When gas prices are low, there is another problem. Then we see use of the more powerful vehicles, the gas guzzlers. Some environmentalists will tell us that the answer is to increase the gasoline tax as well as the price of gasoline. And indeed, that would discourage people from owning the more high-performance gas guzzlers. But we do not think that this is the answer, although it is part of the answer.
One thing is certain, however. The industry has to be disciplined. That is why the Bloc Québécois has asked for changes in this House so that a gas price monitoring agency can be created, to ensure that the oil companies never again employ their quasi-monopoly to make indecent profits. We may be faced with some situations on account of the hurricane that is now forming in the Atlantic. Every time there is a threat, we see the prices go up at the pump.
All that we want is to ensure that, when the price of crude goes up, the increase in the gas price is strictly limited to the increase in the costs of acquiring petroleum or purchasing crude, and is not used for three or four days to take advantage of this virtually international situation.
When we are faced with a hurricane, the whole planet is affected. The hurricane is the universal focus of attention. The oil companies must not use this situation to raise their refining prices, to make profit for four or five days on the petroleum they already have in their tanks and suddenly hike the prices so they can fill their pockets, as they have too often done in recent months.
So we want to ensure that the prices paid by the users, the citizens, are always fair. That is what the Bloc Québécois is working on.
On the other hand, with this situation of a reasonable gasoline price we will often see the use of more powerful, more high-performance vehicles. That is what our young people are doing. That, in a way, is the message we are sending. We do not want to discourage those of our young people who invest time and money. They work hard. We know that often they go to school and have a job at the same time, for they are obliged to do both in order to finance their education. They treat themselves to a little luxury. They try to have a car and to invest something in it.
It is phenomenal. If one has the opportunity to go to various shows, it is clear how much money is spent on cars. One aspect this money is spent on is the power of the engine. This leads to the phenomenon of street racing. An individual gets a powerful car and wants to try it out, so competitions are arranged.
The real message from the men and women representing the Bloc Québécois in this House is to tell our young people that there are places for this. We are not trying to discourage you. You have nice cars that are beautiful, high-performance toys. Nonetheless, when you want to use them to go fast, there are places such as speedways and competition race tracks throughout Quebec that are available. Look into it. You could engage in your activities quite safely at these locations. Through this bill, we hope you will no longer race on the streets.
I will close by repeating, once again, the definition of street racing.
The bill provides that street racing means operating a motor vehicle in a race with another motor vehicle on a street, road, highway or other public place.
Please, ladies and gentlemen listening, do not race in public places, or on streets or roads any more. It is for your own safety and the safety of all Quebeckers, who can end up in an accident that is not their fault because you were not paying attention. That is why we support this bill in this House.