Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River for allowing me to share his time.
He mentioned “out there in the real world”. It made me think of my case. I was first elected in 1988. I am the longest serving member of Parliament in my province, and I have seen a dramatic change in the last five or six years in the way law enforcement is handled.
When I first became a member of Parliament, there virtually were no law enforcement issues. Now it has become one of the major issues I deal with and one of the most complicated simply because the government shortchanges the RCMP. It does not have the tools, or the funds or the police officers to do the minimum level of law enforcement and it makes everybody's life very difficult. I think it reflects on everyone's attitude on law enforcement and the justice system, as does this bill.
We really area proud that at least Chuck Cadman's initiative is recognized. However, we are not happy with the way it has been recognized. Chuck's initiative was to establish a law that would make it illegal to remove, obliterate or change serial numbers of vehicles. It was a clear and simple law. It would be up to the person to explain why the VIN was obliterated.
However, the Liberals have take the onus off the owner. It is up to the police now to prove the owner did it for wrongful purposes. It takes away the whole purpose of the bill. That is why the Conservatives will not support it.
What is wrong with asking owners to explain why they are driving around in cars with VINs that have obviously been scratched out or changed? It is their responsibility. They should be charged and held responsible to prove that it was for legitimate reasons. Why the government would not do that? If it did, I would support the bill. However, it reflects its whole attitude on crime.
When the last speaker talked about the real world, I was in the real world a couple of weeks ago. I went to a meeting of scared citizens in Stewiacke, Nova Scotia. This is a community where people do not usually lock their doors. They leave their keys in their cars. It is a very safe community and it has been that way for decades. Now all of a sudden they are faced with property damage and thefts, a scary atmosphere for them to live in and raise their kids. What impressed me the most was that speaker after speaker got up and said that they were scared for the well-being and security.
There were two big issues. One is the RCMP is not available like it used to be. There was a detachment in Stewiacke, Nova Scotia. The building became unusable because of mould. The RCMP has not replaced it because it does not have the funds. Stewiacke has lost its RCMP presence, the only police presence in the community.
The other issue is the Youth Criminal Justice Act is simply not working for the people in Stewiacke. It is causing them a great deal of grief.
Last week a person from the community of Debert came to see me. This is another traditional small community in Nova Scotia where people did not lock their doors and they would leave their keys in their cars. They cannot do it any more because of inadequate police protection. People have had their cottages burned and windows smashed. They have had things stolen from their garages and yards. The RCMP has said that it has done the best it can, but it does not have enough manpower. It also does not have the proper equipment. If the RCMP had the equipment and the manpower, it could do it.
I have spoken to RCMP officers at every detachment. They have said that if someone is on maternity leave, or on sick leave or is seconded on a murder investigation somewhere else, there is no replacement. An RCMP detachment, which supposedly has six people on record on the job, may have as little as three or none. There is no allowance for replacement officers. We have to deal with that.
In February I raised the question with the minister of public security. It came up because there was a rumour that the northeast drug section would be disbanded, one of the most successful drug enforcement offices in eastern Canada. The reason was the RCMP did not have the resources and the manpower to run this important drug enforcement agency. A moratorium has been put on the closure, but still the drug section is not there the way it was. The RCMP says it is back again, but the officers have been seconded and, again, we do not have the people we need.
The most senior RCMP officers in the province have told me they simply do not have the money to hire the RCMP officers to provide a minimum level of law enforcement in Nova Scotia.
I asked the minister on February 3 to ensure that it had the resources. I brought up the business about filling the vacancies. She said:
However, let me reassure the hon. member that we have provided additional resources not only to the RCMP, but to other of our programming as it relates to a national drug strategy. The RCMP resources have been augmented nationally...
It certainly does not show. The RCMP tell me not only has it not been augmented, but it has been reduced, plus its workload has dramatically increased. With the advent of 911 and all the other cutbacks in government services, the front line for many people on whatever the issue is the RCMP, and it simply cannot handle it. The RCMP needs more resources.
As I did in February, I call upon the government to enhance the resources, to improve and increase them. The RCMP is trying to stretch its meagre resources now to cover our part of Nova Scotia. I read every day in the newspapers that there are other parts of the province suffering the same problems.
I have experienced them myself. In the case of Stewiacke, the RCMP has put a used mobile home in front of the former RCMP station, which is a temporary facility, and I am pleased it has done that. Since it is used, it will be converted. The Minister of Public Works has agreed to upgrade it as quickly as possible to ensure it is available. However, it is just a mobile home. It is not good enough for the long term, but at least we will have a police presence again.
I know this is not all due to the RCMP or to one single thing, but we have to address the RCMP. It needs the tools, the resources, the money and the manpower to do the job. We need a more aggressive approach to law enforcement and the justice system.
In my view it is an amazing development. When I first started in Parliament, I had no justice or policing issues. Now it is one of my biggest problems and it is difficult to solve because the Liberals will not provide the resources to supply a minimum level of law enforcement.