Madam Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, I am pleased to participate in today's debate regarding this most recent attempt by the government to amend the Criminal Code in respect of cruelty to animals.
Eastern Ontario boasts a vibrant hunting and fishing culture. The settlers who came to Renfrew County survived in the wilderness by logging, farming, hunting and fishing. These were heritage activities that are very much a part of our culture today.
As people most in touch with the land, rural people have the greatest interest in being good stewards of our environment. When the farmers, hunters and fishermen of Renfrew County speak, they do so with the wisdom of being generations on the land. That same wisdom is available to the government, if it would only listen.
It is very clear from the record of the government and the numerous, previous, failed attempts to move forward to protect animals from unnecessary cruelty, that it is not committed to this goal. In every previous attempt, the Liberal Party chose to ignore the concerns of ordinary folk, like the people of Renfrew County, and brought forward flawed legislation that did not take into consideration the rich, outdoor heritage of all Canadians.
The current piece of legislation that is before us today is no exception to the anti-hunting, anti-fishing, and anti-rural Canadian bias that has become the policy of the Liberal Party. I have been contacted by many worried constituents about the impact the current legislation will have on individuals who enjoy the out of doors and the criminalization of heritage activities.
I wish to thank the efforts of constituents like Mr. Alfred Beck from the Pembroke Outdoor Sportsman Club in assuming a leadership role in our community to protect the rights of hunters and fishermen.
There seems to be a conscious effort on the part of certain individuals and anti-hunting organizations to misrepresent traditional farming and fishing practices of rural Canadians. Many of these urban based organizations promote ignorance about rural farming practices in order to evoke sympathy as a fundraising tool. Other organizations promote fear campaigns against rural Canadians based on intolerance. Some animal rights organizations seek to end all uses of animals by people. To them, certain farming practices, hunting and fishing are cruel.
What has to be of concern to reasonable people is that their way of thinking has made it to a Prime Minister desperate to draw attention away from the numerous scandals that infect his party. This could explain why this particular piece of legislation is before us today.
What is clear is that farmers, fishermen and hunters, including recreational fishing and hunting, must be exempted from the frivolous court challenges that threaten their activities and that will result if the government continues to refuse to listen to the many groups that are worried about the legislation.
Organizations that are worried about Bill C-50 have cause. The Animal Alliance of Canada has already stated publicly that it will target hunters and fishermen for court action once the legislation has been passed. Organizations like the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and the Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association have provided the Liberal justice minister with a detailed legal opinion outlining their very real concerns about Bill C-50.
The justice minister would rather see an angler or hunter go through a costly and lengthy process of being charged and brought to trial than seeing justice served if the legislation were passed without amendment.
The people of Renfrew County are well acquainted with frivolous court challenges. The last several years have seen small sawmill owners dragged into court over the question of whether or not sawdust is a hazardous waste. Forget the fact that sawdust is used as mulch on gardens, including the flowerbeds on Parliament Hill, this did not prevent these hardworking sawmill owners from being charged and having to spend thousands of dollars on legal fees defending themselves in court.
Law-abiding hunters have been turned into criminals by a federal government that thinks that going after hunters is somehow going to stop shooting deaths in Toronto. Handguns have had to be registered since 1934 and that demonstrates how grossly incompetent the Liberal gun registry is. The fact that the Liberal Party has spent over $1 billion to register seven million firearms when it only cost $8 million to register 14 million cows is further evidence of the incompetence of this government.
Not content to harass hunters, now the Liberal Party has set its sight on fishermen with Bill C-50. Hunters would prefer to spend their hard earned dollars to preserve wildlife habitat, something Ontario hunters have contributed millions of dollars toward, instead of spending their money on lawyers and courts because some anti-hunting organization has targeted their group as its next fundraising poster campaign.
Many groups are on record as being opposed to Bill C-50. Let us be clear. Contrary to comments made by Liberal members, like the member for Whitby—Ajax, those concerns are real, based on past experience with this government and legislation like the firearms registry. Groups in opposition to this bill support measures to protect animals from unnecessary cruelty. As a constructive alternative, these groups have endorsed an initiative from the other place that is a reasonable alternative to the bill now before us.
It is important to congratulate the many groups that are supporting a constructive preference. As an MP from Ontario, I am pleased to acknowledge the following stakeholders around this province who represent the millions of Canadians for whom the wise use of animals remains a way of life and who provide important socioeconomic benefits, including billions of dollars annually to the Canadian economy.
I wish to acknowledge the Ontario Farm Animal Council, OFAC, on behalf of its founding member organizations: Chicken Farmers of Ontario, Dairy Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Egg Producers, Ontario Cattlemen's Association, Ontario Institute of Agrologists, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Ontario Pork Producers’ Marketing Board, Ontario Turkey Producers' Marketing Board, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, Ontario Fur Managers Federation, Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency and Ontario Veal Association. These organizations are joined by sister organizations from across Canada asking this Parliament to protect heritage activities of rural Canadians.
As has been so completely demonstrated by the sponsorship ad scam scandal, special interest lobbyists dictate to the Liberal Party what they want. Bad legislation, bad policies and bad government are a consequence of the control of special interest lobbyists that get in the way of responsible government.
It is a sad statement that the problem of the democratic deficit, in addition to the massive misappropriation and misuse of public funds that is the legacy of the current Prime Minister, is the inability of the government to listen to ordinary Canadians, particularly when it comes to poorly drafted legislation like Bill C-50.
I would have thought that after all the previous failures by this government to protect animals from unnecessary cruelty starting six years ago, the government would have tried to get this legislation right. Instead, once again, this government refuses to work with individuals who are most affected. Once more we have a half measure that pleases only those special interest groups that it thinks it can trade support with votes.
It is not enough that the federal government has imposed on hunters a $2 billion gun registry scheme that transfers scarce dollars into a bloated bureaucracy that does not work. Those funds would have been better spent on front line policing, giving our police officers the resources to deal with the exploding crime problem in places like the streets of Toronto.
As much as the federal government tries to discourage heritage activity like hunting with its bloated gun registry, hunting is important to our economy and to our society. The hunting and fishing industry has an estimated annual value of over $10 billion to the Canadian economy. While Canadians enjoy the great outdoors, it is the people who support hunting and fishing who pay a disproportionate share for the preservation of wildlife habitat through the many fees, regulations, courses and taxes that only they pay, so that everyone can enjoy our forests and wildlife habitat.