Mr. Speaker, it is pleasure to speak to Bill C-64, which is being touted as part of Chuck Cadman's legacy. Many on this side of the House would challenge the legitimacy of that claim.
I am relatively new to this place, having been elected just over a year ago. As such, I never really had the opportunity to know Chuck Cadman. Before I became a member of Parliament, I heard of Chuck and his story of the tragedy that mobilized him to get involved and ultimately run as a member of Parliament. While here, he continued to do his own thing. He did not change to suit this place. He had his own agenda and he pursued issues that were important to him.
The bill before us is being promoted by the government as part of the Chuck Cadman legacy. Based on all I have heard from people who knew Chuck much better than I did, and having looked at Chuck's draft legislation in comparison to the bill before us, I suggest the government is callously and quite cynically sullying Chuck's legacy and reputation by bringing this forward as something he wanted to see. It is a pale imitation of what Chuck wanted.
We all know that cars and trucks are made up of lots of different pieces. We also know that cars get stolen either in whole or in part. When a set of used tires is purchased from somebody, there is a chance that those tires might have been stolen. Those types of things are hard to track. The police struggle with this, and it is a problem that will not go away.
Each vehicle has an identification number. It is a long tag that is often located just inside the windshield. That VIN identifies the particular vehicle. It is on that basis that the vehicle is registered and licensed so it can be legally driven. That vehicle identification number is one piece of the puzzle of which the law should be able to keep track.
While it may be possible to inadvertently or mistakenly take some piece off a car and sell it or trade it, it is impossible to imagine a situation where a person would accidentally take the vehicle identification number off one vehicle and place it on another. It is beyond reasonable to come up with any scenario where that would happen as an honest mistake or that someone would buy a vehicle knowing that had happened and not think there was something illegal about it.
The world has changed. Cars are more valuable than they ever have been. Many cars stolen these days are exported out of the country. This has made the job of law enforcement even more difficult. It is more difficult to keep track of where these vehicles have come from or where they have gone.
The law needs to change with the times. When there is an obvious loophole or weakness in a law, it is important that something be brought forward to plug that gap. That was Chuck's intention when he brought forward his private member's bill.
In bringing this legislation forward, the government added some words that do not look harmful on first reading. Where I come from we call them legal weasel words. Those words substantively change the impact of the legislation. The reference is, “and under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the person did it to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle”. The onus is now on the police to prove that the person who switched the vehicle identification number did so with criminal intent.
I go back to my first point. It is impossible to accidentally do this or do this for any reason other than to conceal the identification of a vehicle. If it were done, it was done with criminal intent. There is no other reason or way to switch that number other than to do it deliberately. This phrase greatly weakens the bill.
If this bill is passed, a year or two from now, people will be able to look back and ask if Bill C-64 had any impact or was it one more watered down bill, full of legal weasel words that had no impact on the ground. The fear of my party and many of my colleagues is that Chuck's bill in its pure form would make a real impact. It would reduce the number of car thefts by empowering police officers to prosecute. Whereas Bill C-64, as put forward, will have no such impact.
That begs the question as to why the government has brought this forward at this time. Why is it pushing something forward that even in private I am sure it would admit would not change much?
It takes me back to last spring when the government was threatened. The Prime Minister and his cabinet were fearful that the government may fall and an election might be caused. In a defensive, save one's own bacon move, the Prime Minister went on his deal making tour last spring. He tried to do everything imaginable to stay in power himself and to avoid any sort of democratic process in this place that could threaten his government.
Before a critical vote on the budget last spring, Mr. Cadman, who was quite ill at the time, was in town. We all remember the attention on Chuck on whether he would say yes or no. On the Monday evening, a day or two before the critical vote, it was reported that the Prime Minister went to visit Mr. Cadman. What any of us would have given to be a fly on the wall in that meeting.
We have heard stories about other members who were approached with deals, offered goodies, jobs and cabinet seats if they supported the government. We cannot ask Chuck what he was offered on that day. However, I do not think it is unreasonable to speculate that the Prime Minister may have offered Mr. Cadman his commitment that the government would move forward on at least one or two things about which Mr. Cadman felt very strongly.
We do not know whether that was offered, but it is not beyond the realm of the possible. Knowing why Mr. Cadman ran for Parliament in the first place and knowing why he was here and what he felt so strongly about, such a promise or commitment may have influenced his view on whether the government should continue.
Now we get to the really cynical part that. As Canadians know, Mr. Cadman passed away this summer, so we do not have him here to ask that question. We do not have anyone here to answer the question about what was discussed, what was agreed to, what deal was made and whether the Prime Minister and the government lived up to the terms of what they said they would do.
Again I am going to speculate, but what has been put before the House is the most cynical response to that, which is the government will keep the letter of a commitment it made to somebody but, practically, it will weaken it in such a way so that it will do nothing. I have thought about this over past couple of weeks, about why these things have been brought forward for debate, and I think that is a better explanation of how these things got on the order paper and why they are before us now, in this relatively meaningless context.
The irony is that we on this side of the House feel strongly about these issues. We have spoken about them and fought for them for many years. We are opposing a bill that purports to do what we want. Canadians will be sitting at home thinking that the Conservative Party talks about getting tough on crime all the time, that the Liberals have brought something forward saying it will get tough on crime, yet people in the Conservative Party oppose it. I think it is a little Alice in Wonderland-ish for viewers at home.
I want to go on the record for those people who may be watching this today. The Canadian people are being sold a bill of goods by the government. The bill says that it will do something, but it will not do much. It is the placebo bill. It looks like a remedy and it looks like something that would attack an ailment in society, but it will have no impact. Police officers say that. Members on this side of the House who have tracked this issue for years say that.
In conclusion, this is a sad day for Parliament and it is a sad day for the government. I can only presume it is doing this in a deliberate, calculating and cynical way. It is a particularly sad day that the legacy of a member of this place, who felt very strongly and who fought throughout his political career to try to make real change by improving on issues that he knew affected his constituents, is being sullied in this way by the government.