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House of Commons Hansard #100 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ndp.

Topics

Budget Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about some of the measures contained in budget 2005.

As the Minister of Finance pointed out in his speech introducing the budget, Canada will record its eighth consecutive surplus in 2004-05, a record unmatched since Confederation. Indeed, Canada will be the only G-7 country to post a total government surplus in that year. Canada's much improved fiscal situation has allowed the government to make significant investments in our country's future.

In this year's budget, we committed substantial new funding for health care, seniors, child care, our cities and communities, the environment, while at the same time providing tax reductions and laying the groundwork for future progress.

I will focus my remarks today on the initiatives in the budget that build on our social foundations, especially the importance of the arts and culture in our society, because this sector is one which allows our country to define us as Canadians.

It should also be noted that the arts and culture form part of the government cities and communities agenda. In fact, the arts and culture are the essence of our cities and communities and they are integral to the safety, vitality and economic prosperity of our cities and communities.

I represent the riding of Parkdale—High Park in Toronto which is home to many of Canada's artists and creators. Indeed, the city of Toronto bears testament for my thesis of the role played by the arts in our cities.

In February of this year, thanks to the advocacy of the greater Toronto area Liberal caucus in supporting the city of Toronto's application, Toronto was named one of the culture capitals of Canada. The culture capital announcement specifically recognized Toronto's ongoing and long term commitment to the arts and cultural sector.

Toronto is a cultural city that truly reflects culture and creativity and showcases the work of professional and local artists of all ages from diverse backgrounds and cultures to successfully blend traditional art forms with the newest technologies.

The influence of the arts is integral to the health and vitality of our cities. Let us not forget that when the Prime Minister became leader the first thing he announced was that the cities agenda would be the government's top priority. He reconfirmed this in the Speech from the Throne where we provided for a GST rebate to municipalities. He went further than that and kept another of his promises to ensure that cities and communities would start sharing part of the gas tax.

Budget 2005 also confirmed the government's commitment for art and culture by stabilizing funding for arts and cultural programs in the amount of $860 million over the next five years. It is the single most important investment by the Government of Canada in arts and culture ever. This investment will ensure that more Canadian artists and creators are able to display their work to audiences at home and abroad.

Specifically, for those people who may have forgotten what is in the budget, budget 2005 committed the following: $5 million per year over five years to enhance the multiculturalism program; $10 million per year over five years to the celebrate the Canada program for community based events and activities that offer Canadians the opportunity to share their pride in our country; $56 million over the next five years for the implementation of a Canada for all Canadians action plan against racism; $25 million over the next three years for commemorative and educational initiatives to highlight the contribution that ethnocultural groups have made to Canadian society and to help build a better understanding among all Canadians; and one of my favourites, $60 million to CBC Radio-Canada in 2005-06 to help ensure high quality programming; $5 million for the aboriginal languages initiative; and $45 million in 2005-06 for the centre for research and information on Canada.

I want to underline that the CBC will receive $60 million for 2005-06 for Canadian programming. I can assure members that we will continue to press for additional funding for the nation's public broadcaster so that it can continue to provide quality programs in all parts of the country.

I am also delighted to announce that the CBC's budget will not be reduced as a result of the government-wide expenditure review allocation exercise.

At this time I would like to remind Canadians that when we started this Parliament the Prime Minister announced that he wanted all departments to look for ways to become more effective and to look at what we could do to reduce expenditures.

Well, we looked and we found a $12 billion saving, which was headed by the Minister of Revenue, to ensure we were more efficient and more accountable to Canadians. I am also pleased to say that in light of this government's commitment to the arts and culture and how integral it is to our communities, not one heritage portfolio was subject to expenditure review. That is a testament to this government's commitment to the arts and culture and to our communities.

One of the biggest programs, as I said, is the renewal of Tomorrow Starts Today, a renewal advocated by arts organizations across Canada and with a new ally I might add, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, because it, too, understands the important role that the arts and culture play in our communities and cities.

Let me just go through what those initiatives under Tomorrow Starts Today are and what would be lost if this budget does not pass.

First, we have the cultural capitals of Canada program that recognizes the excellence of municipal work in supporting special activities that celebrate arts and culture and their integration into community planning.

We also have the cultural spaces Canada program. I will bet there is not one member in this House whose community has not benefited from this. This is a program that helps to improve the physical conditions that enable artistic creativity and innovation and helps ensure greater access to the arts and heritage by all Canadians.

The arts presentation Canada program is comprised of five components that aim to strengthen organizational effectiveness and to build capacity in arts and heritage organizations so that funding our arts is no longer seen as a black hole. We are ensuring their sustainability because they are important to our society and our economy.

The Canadian arts and heritage sustainability program is comprised of five components that aim to strengthen organizational effectiveness and to build capacity in arts and heritage organizations.

The national arts training contribution program supports Canadian organizations specializing in professional artistic training, such as the National Theatre School in Montreal and, one of my favourites, the National Ballet School of Canada in Toronto.

An increase in parliamentary appropriations has allowed the Canada Council for the Arts to support new areas, to enhance grants and improve the international presence and national profile of Canadian artists. In 2007, the Canada Council for the Arts will be celebrating its 50th anniversary.

A new initiative and a very innovative one called the Canadian cultural online initiative provides funding for programs that focus on making Canadian content, in both official languages, readily available on the Internet, contributing to a better understanding of Canada and its rich diversity. It has five sub-initiatives, which include the virtual Museum of Canada, the Canadian Cultural Observatory and the Aboriginal Canada Portal.

I would like to share with members that last Thursday night when I went back to my riding I attended the 10th anniversary of the Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art which received funding under this program. The Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art, through its Canadian art database, offers the opportunity to view the works of close to 500 Canadian artists. It is a great program and it is a great success.

Another initiative concerns the music industry which I think is very important because it is one of our greatest successes. We define ourselves through our artists.

We also have the renewal of the Canadian music fund, which FACTOR is part of. FACTOR is the Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Records, which is a private non-profit organization dedicated to providing assistance to the growth and development of Canadian independent recording industries.

When this funding was threatened, FACTOR initiated the save Canadian music lobby. It was successful in the fact that it was renewed in the budget. At the Junos, Heather Ostertag, the president of FACTOR, stood and thanked the minister and the government for their acknowledgement of the importance that our Canadian musicians and songwriters play. I hope Heather's thanks were not in vain.

In an increasingly integrated North American and a global environment, artists, creators and cultural industries help Canadians make their voices heard and assert their perspectives on the world in which we live. I am glad to have been part of this government that will continue to ensure that our artists and creators are heard, not only in Canada but around the world.

Budget Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I can appreciate the member's passion for the arts. Being an old educator for many years, I understand the importance of arts and education.

One thing I think the member should likewise understand is that a number of people, particularly in rural areas, cannot afford to take in certain events any more because they are destitute and are going broke due to poor agricultural policies and no assistance.

However I want to get away from all of that. I am still looking for a Liberal to give me an answer on this. Think of these names: Gleichen, Standard, Hussar, Beiseker, Acme, Kathryn, Linden, Thornton, Caroline, Bowden, Westward Ho, Water Valley and a bunch more. These are all communities with populations under 1,000, many under 500 and most of them between 100 and 300. This is the area where I live. In addition to that there are thousands of farms. In these populations there are thousands of kids. People love families and love raising children.

Then I see this multi-billion dollar universal day care program. I am waiting for some Liberal to explain to me how these people who live in these areas, away from the big populations, other than paying out of their pockets through taxes for this multi-billion dollar program, are going to benefit in regard to raising their children, where they have to rely on family members, friends and churches. There is no funding to them for their assistance. Instead the Liberals are going to take money out of their pockets to fund all of these big programs in the major populated areas.

Could the member explain to me what the benefit will be of this program for the farmers in my area other than that the government will collect taxes to put into other programs? Why do they not leave the money in the pockets of families so they can do some things with their children?

Budget Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am the mother of three children so I know how important child care is. I was a working mom and I wish I would have had the benefit of a lot of the things the government has committed to providing under the national child care program.

The member is in error when he thinks this will only help large communities. We are trying to help families by providing quality, universality, accessibility and development for our children. I know that across Canada, each province will be able to negotiate their agreement with the federal government. There is not one solution that fits all but this is a beginning. It will provide for those families who are not able to afford nannies or professional day care or have the ability to have someone look after their children. This tries to put people on an equal footing.

I am so proud of this women's caucus and their input into this day care program because we have ensured that we are not going to have large American corporations come here and deliver child care the American way. We are going to ensure that child care is delivered by community organizations and that is where communities will have a say.

I applaud the government and all of my colleagues in the women's caucus who have worked long on this file, well before I came here in 1997, to finally make a national child care program a reality.

Budget Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Simard Bloc Beauport, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bills C-43 and C-48, in short on the implementation of the budget.

A budget is a government's most important political statement. Beyond rhetoric and hollow speeches, choices are made. In its budget, this government illustrates all of its duplicity. It is a government we cannot support. We cannot place any confidence in its main political statement, born of torment, in the context of a party that gave rise to this government and that, to fund itself, resorted to vile methods. Certain members and ministers, former and current, have been involved to varying degrees in this scandal.

Here, it is a question of ethics. This budget, like the government and party that created it, is not ethical. People need to believe in values and integrity. How can anyone believe in this government?

On February 23, the government presented Bill C-43, a rather conservative budget, with a view to pleasing the Conservatives so they would stay in their seats and pass it. So, an investment of $13 billion will be made in national defence, but no provision was made for social housing, there was nothing for Quebec, nothing to resolve the fiscal imbalance, nothing for employment insurance. If they are dividing the opposition in order to rule, they are succeeding.

But that is not enough. What are they doing? They change strategy to shift slightly left. They promise bits and pieces to the left and others to the right. The government has lost its bearings, its will, its vision and its principles. It is motivated solely by the desire to remain in power and spend money as it likes. These two budgets are the stuff of future scandals and inquiries.

In fact, we cannot expect results in response to essential needs. Furthermore, it is impossible to know what this government values. Does it value the military exclusively and has it adopted almost identical values to those held by the United States, as the February 23 budget shows, or is this a mishmash of social values, like the measures the NDP threatened and begged for before offering its support to a government it has called corrupt?

This attempt, through Bill C-48, to please the NDP and purchase a kind of political virginity, to make people forget about the scandals staining this government, is evidence of its true face, its wastefulness and its lack of both rigour and will to meet the public's essential needs. Instead, it is trying to hold onto power by any means.

Even this morning's upset, when the government announced that it was changing the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development for the third time, shows just how much this government really wants to help human resources and resolve the problems with EI. In less than one year, three different ministers have headed that department. What will the new minister, know for her leftish leanings, do at Human Resources? Once again, this government has no direction or principles.

Recently, we learned of the government's interest in Darfur. Once again, it is an attempt to buy an independent member, without consulting the Organization of African Unity or even the new Senator Roméo Dallaire, who is himself criticizing the government's position on this.

So this budget comes from an immoral government of cheaters. This budget is unethical, it lacks direction and tries to please everyone. It is not a respectable budget and it will not get any respect. Already, there is no respect for the agreement reached with the NDP, since the tax cuts are going ahead despite promises to the NDP.

What will happen with social housing tomorrow morning, when things calm down? The government had a $3.4 billion surplus at CMHC that will increase to $7 billion by 2008, if nothing changes. It has not done anything in the past 12 months. Now, it is promising to act, but it is resorting to blackmail. It is telling people that if they do not vote in favour of the budget on Thursday, they will get nothing.

Where is this government's heart? Where are its convictions? It is travelling around the Rockies, in the east and west, and threatening people that they will get nothing if they do not vote for the Liberal Party and the budget.

This is a government of petty shakedown artists. Do people want to stick with that, and to vote to keep them in office? One Montreal area MP has even said “Hold your noses but vote for us anyway, despite the bad smell, despite our disgusting politics”.

Even in connection with the Kyoto protocol, there is an announcement of $10 billion for the next 8 years. This is just one more scandal. They do not want to change the orientation of Canadian industry. They do not want to decrease our dependence on non-renewable energy sources.

All they want to do with this budget is to look as if they are doing so. This government is very big on empty show. This government looks pretty foolish with its two budgets heading in two different directions,desperately scrambling to hold on to power. They are like pallid vampires trying to find a vein. This is disgraceful behaviour.

The people watching us are entitled to ask questions. They need to know what is going on. Can anyone trust a government that changes its policy statements—the most important of these being the budget—as often as it changes its shirt? Can anyone trust a government that promises to do something about climate change but does nothing whatsoever to force the oil and gas industry to make changes, or to reorient any sector of our economy?

People feel that climate change is important. Yet the Kyoto protocol is not about $10 billion of baloney, of voluntary measures and the like. It is not a matter of encouraging polluters, not polluter-paid. People need to believe in values and actions, and not in announcements made just to buy some time, or in budgets created just to hold on to power, come what may.

As for this budget, and this approach to international aid, even Bono, the Prime Minister's singer friend, is ashamed to see a country as rich as ours unable to set a goal of investing 0.7% of GDP in international aid. These are also values. If there are three or four votes to be bought before Thursday, perhaps they will throw in that 0.7%, or maybe they will cut down the figure. If they want to win the vote of some ultra-rightist Conservative MP, maybe they will cut international aid.

Just how far are they prepared to go? How far are they prepared to go with concealment and corruption?

It is a government without the morality to govern or to manage public funds appropriately. It is unbelievable. It is rolling in surpluses. By giving $1.6 billion for housing without resolving the fiscal imbalance, it is creating poverty.

It does not have money to invest in the provinces, like Quebec, for education. Nor does it have money for the health care system either. It has no money to address poverty effectively and it says it will invest a little in social housing. In addition, it has not resolved anything when it comes to employment insurance.

Contradictory measures still exist. These are measures we cannot rely on and for which there is no timeframe. It is still a petty shakedown. If we read Bill C-48 carefully, we see that something might be done provided there is an adequate surplus—at most. However, tomorrow morning, they could change their minds. It all depends on what direction the wind is blowing for this party.

I predict this party will fall apart, since it no longer has morality or ethics. We cannot trust any of its policies. It does not know how to manage public funds, it is swimming in billions of dollars, it finances its friends and abandons individuals in the provinces and Quebec. It is vengeful, does not settle anything and does not even understand the concept of the fiscal imbalance.

It is a government without governance. It is a government without direction. It is a government that is headed straight for a loss. We will be able to say the government earned that loss, that it did not steal it—which may be the only thing this government will not have stolen at the end of the day.

Budget Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Valley Liberal Kenora, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak in support of the 2005 budget implementation act. The theme of the bill is delivering on commitments. That is what the budget would do as we try to pass it.

These commitments have been designed not only to face the challenges within our nation's borders, but to meet global pressures and to support the ever increasing ambition of our nation and our people.

As the only G-7 country to post total surpluses in each of the past three years and the only nation expected to continue to be in surplus again in 2005-06, the government's sound fiscal management model offers a rock solid basis upon which these future commitments can be delivered.

Canadians expect nothing less, so we have decided to respond to such high expectations with an ambitious program promoting a marked increase in our overall quality of life based on five mutually reinforcing commitments: healthy fiscal management; promoting a productive and growing economy; reinforcing Canada's social foundations; enhancing the sustainability of the environment in our communities; and reinforcing Canada's role abroad.

The proposals contained in the bill will take major steps to deliver on all these commitments. What my opposition colleagues miss, however, is that the budget is an interrelated road map for sustained improvements to the quality of life for Canadians and not some à la carte menu with no relationship between one item or another.

The days when fiscal, social and foreign challenges facing Canada could be addressed by our government in isolation are over. The approach underlying the budget reflects this new reality. Unfortunately, our friends across from us, as they have on so many occasions, are clearly stuck in the past. I will give a few examples.

During the election last summer, barely nine months ago, the government committed to implementing the new deal for Canada's cities and communities. Canadians elected us so we could fulfill that promise, among others.

In particular, mayors and municipal councillors from across the country held forth in the hope that the government would be capable of providing them with two equally important benefits that no other government had been capable of finding of a way to provide for them before.

First, there is long term, stable and predictable financing. I spent nine years in municipal government. Always one of the complaints we had was the need for stable and predictable financing. This is something we will achieve.

Second is development of new working relationships between federal, provincial and municipal governments with a view to developing better long term strategies with a view to improving the economic, environmental, social and cultural sustainability of the places Canadians live.

How do I know this? When the Prime Minister first created the infrastructure and communities portfolio, what were we hearing from our municipal friends from across the country? We were hearing that there was an infrastructure gap rapidly reaching an unsustainable level, that our cities, the face of Canada to the world, did not have enough institutional fora to express their views to the federal government, that fresh thinking was needed on how best to ensure our rural communities could remain viable and strong and that new partnerships were needed among all three levels of government to begin to think about how best to move forward together.

While no order of government can be responsible for meeting these challenges alone, what has the government been able to deliver in response in less than 18 months?

In budget 2004 a GST rebate went to every municipality in the country. It was worth a total of $7 billion over 10 years. This source of funding will grow with the economy and can be used by each municipality for any priority it may wish. It is stable, long term and predictable financing. This is one of the issues back in my own riding. We constantly have to remember that this is new money for the municipalities. It is something on which they can count. It is something with which they can plan. It is something that is helping them to move some of their budget issues forward and take some of the burden off the local taxpayer.

Budget 2005 was a fulfillment of our pledge made during the last election, to provide 5¢ of gas tax revenue over five years with $600 million coming as part of this bill, rising to a running rate of $2 billion a year in year five and every year thereafter. It is targeted toward environmentally sustainable municipal infrastructure such as public transit, water, waste water treatment and community energy systems.

We also committed to renewing existing infrastructure programs as necessary, programs which have combined to flow over $12 billion to municipalities over the past 12 years and have leveraged more than $30 billion in total investments by all partners. Moreover, we more than doubled our contribution to the green municipal funds administered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to a total of $300 million for projects designed to deliver cleaner air, water, soil and climate protection.

All of this means that the government has crafted a strategy for helping municipalities gain stable, predictable, long term funding, to the tune of $22 billion over 10 years.

However, it is not just about the money. The funding must be accompanied by new partnerships and long term vision, enabling the transformation of these financial resources into a concrete reality that Canadians want and need. It is a matter of respect. That is why the Prime Minister met with mayors from some of Canada's largest cities at 24 Sussex last fall and gave them a literal seat at the national table.

In my own riding we had the convention of the Northern Ontario Municipal Association, or NOMA, with mayors from across the great north of Ontario. They had the opportunity to have a lengthy discussion with the Prime Minister on some of their needs and concerns. This organization has been in existence for 59 years and had never had that opportunity. The Prime Minister came to the city of Kenora, took the time to listen to their concerns and made sure that the municipal mayors and councillors were heard.

That is why the finance minister met with another group of mayors from across Canada in formal prebudget consultations. That is why provincial and territorial ministerial counterparts came together in November. That is why we will continue to meet with elected and other municipal stakeholders from communities across Canada, large and small, as they advocate for a place at the cabinet table, all this of course being entirely respectful of provincial jurisdictions.

If some politically motivated marriage of convenience between opposition parties would choose to prevent the fulfillment of these commitments by seeking to modify or defeat this bill, let me remind everyone of some of the reactions shortly after the budget was delivered. They will surely pay a price for changing their minds and rescinding their support.

The president of the FCM said, “We have been waiting for this. The new deal is now a real deal. It is a good deal for our communities and for Canadians and also a commitment to a long term partnership”.

The mayor of Toronto said, “Groundbreaking: the federal government has delivered respect and has been listening”.

The mayor of London, Ontario, said, “Fantastic for municipalities”.

The mayor of Saguenay considered it “a real godsend”.

It is clear that mayors from across the country, of cities and towns large and small, respect this agreement and look forward to the budget being implemented and getting value for the taxpayers and their citizens.

However, perhaps the denial of stable long term funding, and certainly intellectual focus, should not be too surprising coming from our Conservative colleagues. After all, their party ran in the last election on a platform that was almost the opposite of what municipal leaders and Canadians in every province and territory were crying out for.

Their commitments were as follows: shut down Infrastructure Canada, the focal point for thinking on municipal issues in government and the open door municipalities need for getting their voices heard in Ottawa; cancel all infrastructure programs but one, programs designed to meet the specific needs of both large and small municipalities; and flow less gas tax without any thought given to the longer term partnerships needed between all three levels of government.

In fact, who knows what they could come out with next, whether it is a further commitment to reducing the fiscal tools and productive relationships or a flip-flop.

Finally, I encourage all forward thinking MPs in the House to support this bill and support the mayors and councillors and places where Canadians live.

Budget Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 17th, 2005 / 5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

moved that Bill C-293, an act to amend the Criminal Code (theft of a motor vehicle), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it is an exciting day for me in being able to have this debate on Bill C-293. I would like to thank my colleague from Wild Rose, Alberta, a good friend and a good Canadian. What we want to do is provide protection for Canadians. That is what this bill would do. The purpose of the bill is to provide direction to the courts regarding sentencing for the offence of theft of a motor vehicle.

Bill C-293 would amend the Criminal Code to provide for minimum sentencing and for fines and/or imprisonment for every person convicted of theft of a motor vehicle a first, second and subsequent time.

The bill provides for minimum sentencing whether the offence is prosecuted by indictment or punishable by summary conviction. The sentence for a first conviction would be three months of incarceration or a $1,000 fine or both. The sentence for a second conviction would be a minimum sentence of six months' incarceration or a $5,000 fine or both. All subsequent convictions would have a minimum sentence of one year of incarceration or a fine of $10,000 or both.

Auto crime is a big problem in Canada and in fact in North America. This year, like last, approximately 200,000 vehicles will be stolen, at a cost of $1 billion to Canadians. That is unacceptable.

A study that came out a year ago, and which was consistent with previous studies, indicated that the typical auto thief is not somebody out joyriding. Rather, he is a 27 year old male, addicted to drugs, who has 10 prior criminal convictions, not charges but convictions, and is stealing a vehicle to commit another crime.

These people are dangerous. There are tragic stories that go along with this and they are not about just the theft of a vehicle. As I said, the people stealing these vehicles are dangerous. Thirty-five people will die this year due to auto thieves driving stolen vehicles. I have some sad stories to share with the House to give us some examples of what is happening out there.

A couple of months ago in Maple Ridge, a driver who dragged a gas station attendant seven kilometres to his death under a stolen vehicle confessed to a friend that he had killed the man. Said a friend, “Somebody jumped in front of him and he kept going, he ran over him...he could hear the guy screaming under the car”. A 16 year old Maple Ridge youth and a 15 year old Pitt Meadows youth were arrested regarding this.

Grant DePatie died on the graveyard shift trying to prevent this auto thief from leaving without paying for gas worth $12.30. That young man stole the vehicle, then went to a gas station and stole some gas. The story goes on: “A trail of blood and flesh led from near the Maple Ridge gas station to the spot where DePatie's body was found”.

What kind of person could do that? He must have had absolutely no conscience. Whoever did that needs to be put away. That happened just a couple of months ago in Maple Ridge.

I have another tragic story, this one about a youth pastor who was killed by an auto thief in Richmond, British Columbia. The driver of the stolen SUV involved in the fatal accident in Richmond had an extensive criminal record, according to court records. Joseph Chan, a 32 year old Coquitlam man, was killed. He was a musician, a gifted pianist, and a pastor to young people.

Auto theft is a serious problem. The police, insurance companies and governments have been working on solutions. Different organizations and task forces look at the three Es, enforcement, education and engineering, to try to solve problems like this.

On education, the insurance companies have been trying to educate people on how to protect their vehicles and keep them from being stolen. They work with the police. They have town hall meetings. Through community policing offices across the country, they hand out brochures. Insurance offices hand out brochures when people renew their insurance policies. The brochures tell people how to protect themselves from auto theft.

One way we can protect ourselves is through engineering. The companies encourage people to use an immobilizer, an electronic device that makes it very difficult to steal a vehicle. It can be installed after market if the vehicle does not have it, but about 65% of the new vehicles come with an immobilizer as standard equipment. As of 2007, it will be standard equipment. That is good news.

We have looked at education and engineering. Now let us look at the enforcement aspect. We need to have enforcement to solve the problem. We are finding that people are trying to protect themselves from auto theft. They do not want to have their vehicle stolen. When they go out to get their car in the morning to go to a doctor's appointment or take their kids to school or go to work, that car should be there. It is their car and they have locked it up, but someone has stolen that vehicle and is using it for another crime, putting our communities at risk.

We have all kinds of groups and programs trying to stop this. Another program I forgot to mention until now is the bait car program. The police set up specially equipped cars in areas where they know a lot of cars are being stolen, mostly in urban areas. When people go to sleep at night they expect their car to be there in the morning, so the police are putting out these bait cars. The police are doing what they can to stop this, including, as I mentioned, education and engineering.

The enforcement component is that the police are trying to catch them and a lot of them are being caught, but the frustrating part is that when they are caught, taken to jail and found guilty, they commonly get probation. They are told to keep the peace and not to steal any more cars.

If they get caught a second time, it is breach of probation. What are they going to get for breach of probation? They are going to get probation. These people are released back into the community to steal another car. They get caught again. They get probation for breach of probation and now this is the third time. Let us say that this time they were involved in a crash and may have killed or seriously injured someone. What do they get? They get probation for breaching their probation.

This is unacceptable. People are dying. People are being injured. There is a criminal element, a small group of people, creating the problem.

What do we need? We need to have direction from the House to the courts that this is a serious problem, not just a property offence. It is a very serious offence that is taking valuable and wonderful Canadian lives, leaving in its wake people who are hurting and lives that are destroyed. As a Parliament, we need to take on our responsibility and give direction to the courts.

How do we do that? We need deterrents. The courts also need direction. As for probation for stealing cars time after time, people charged with the theft of a motor vehicle have gone to court, come out and got into a car, which the police then check. Sure enough, they have come to court in a stolen vehicle. This is very common. They laugh at us.

We need to get tough. We need to give direction to the courts that this is a serious matter. Canadians need to be protected. We need to have minimum sentencing. I do acknowledge that we have to honour and respect the courts, but they need direction and they need to be informed about how serious this problem is.

A year ago, Justice Wally Opal was one of the panellists at an auto crime forum. He shared with us that these people had drug addictions and he had no place to send them. He could not send them to detox and rehab because those facilities were not available. He could not send them to jail because the federal government had instructed the courts not to send these types of people to jail. He had no other choice but to release them back into the community. That needs to change. We need to give the direction to the courts, not Liberal soft on crime direction but strong direction to support the safety of our communities that there has to be a consequence.

I want to give the courts the discretion for minimizing sentencing. Minimum sentencing is a fine or a jail sentence or both on the first offence. We need to look at detox and rehab. I support that. If people have drug addictions which fuels auto crime and break and enters into homes, then they need to deal with their addiction. Those types of facilities and options have to be available to the courts. If people continue living the lifestyle of stealing from people's homes, seriously injuring them and baiting police officers into high speed chases, there has to be a consequence. A second offence has more severe consequences.

Canadians are counting on the government to protect them. They are doing everything they can to protect their vehicles. They lock them in safe areas, they remove valuables from their vehicles and they even have immobilizers. If their vehicles are stolen, we need to provide direction to the courts.

I am flexible. I have met with many of the members to get input. A good compromise and a good step in the right direction is that there will be a consequence and it is progressive. The more times a person steals a car, the more serious the offence. Canadians want that. For a first offence, the sentence would be three months, or a $1,000 fine or both. For a second offence, it would be six months, or a $5,000 fine or both. All subsequent convictions would be a minimum of one year, or a $10,000 fine or both.

When I have made presentations in the community, I ask people if they have been victims of auto theft. At least half the people have had it happen either to them personally or to one of their family members. It is all too common. We need to provide a deterrent and I believe Bill C-293 will provide that direction and deterrent.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Northumberland—Quinte West Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I do not think there is any doubt everyone agrees that car theft is a problem that needs to be addressed.

The hon. member talks about messaging and I think it is very important that messaging exist. Right now theft over $5,000 carries a maximum penalty of 10 years. What sort of messaging is being sent when his conviction by indictment would have a maximum penalty of five years, in other words, cutting the maximum penalty in half?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Madam Speaker, when people steal cars, they do not look at the value of the car. They do not steal a car because they think it is nice and it has shiny wheels. They look through neighbourhoods or shopping centres for cars that are easy to steal. They do not look at the value of the vehicle. We need to take this seriously. We need to protect Canadians.

The member asked about whether minimum sentencing was adequate and what was the messaging. The messaging we need to have is it will not be tolerated any more. We have a reputation of being soft on crime. Whether it is drugs, auto theft, breaking into homes or rape, we have a reputation of being soft on crime and we need to provide minimum sentencing.

The hon. member I think has interpreted what I have said as meaning this is what the sentence should be. That is not what I said. I am saying that probation is not an adequate minimum. It is not protecting Canadians. A repeat offender needs to be locked up for the protection of our communities. The message needs to be that there will be a price to pay for breaking into somebody's home, or stealing a car or causing havoc in our communities. Minimum sentencing means it could be more.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, I must say it will be my pleasure to speak later this evening in support of this private member's bill. I just want to say one thing and I will add to it when I make my presentation later on.

I come from Saskatchewan. My home town is Regina Beach. I used to live in Regina. Regina is currently, and has been for several years, the stolen car capital of Canada. The per capita car theft in Regina is higher than any other major centre in Canada, so I am very familiar with the destruction and the problems with which car theft is associated in the community.

I applaud the member for bringing forward the bill. One thing we have seen, and it has been demonstrated quite clearly in Saskatchewan, is that when possible, the Saskatchewan government insurance is able to add a deterrent on to the driver's licence of any car thieves. In some cases and some cases only, the provincial government insurance is able to put the cost of the victim's deductible on to the driver's licence of the perpetrator. It has been demonstrated that we have driven down car thefts in Regina by that very small deterrent. The member is talking about a far larger deterrent and I am here to illustrate that in Saskatchewan, deterrents work.

I would applaud the member for bringing the bill forward. I do not really have a question, it is a comment that I think this is the right approach. Does the member want to respond to that?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Madam Speaker, I believe deterrents work.

My son had his car broken into. The person was caught, but there was no consequence other than for him to keep the peace. The person got probation, which is a typical sentencing. However, my son had to pay $100 deductible. He was in his twenties at the time and did not have a lot of money. He was going to college, but he had to pay the $100. Why did the auto thief who broke into his car and stole his stuff not have to pay the deductible?

I agree there has to be a consequence, and right now there is not.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Northumberland—Quinte West Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak today to Bill C-293, an act to amend the Criminal Code, theft of a motor vehicle, introduced by the hon. member for Langley.

In summary, Bill C-293 would amend the Criminal Code to provide that everyone who commits theft of a motor vehicle is liable to a mandatory minimum penalty on the first offence of $1,000, or imprisonment for three months or both. On the second offence the minimum penalties would be raised to $5,000 as a fine, or imprisonment for six months or both. On subsequent offences, the offender would be liable to a minimum punishment of a $10,000 fine, or imprisonment of one year or both.

Bill C-293 would also provide that where the offence is prosecuted by way of indictment, there would be a five year maximum term of imprisonment and where the offence is prosecuted by way of summary conviction, there would be a two year maximum term of imprisonment.

I would agree with my hon. colleague that auto theft is a serious issue for all Canadians. Having said that, I am not convinced that the manner in which it is addressed in Bill C-293 is the best way to deal with the problem. I therefore cannot support the bill in its present form.

To begin with, there are numerous offences in the Criminal Code to address theft of a motor vehicle. These offences include the general theft and fraud provisions carrying a maximum jail term of 10 and 14 years respectively on indictment. Furthermore, offenders who commit what is commonly known as joyriding may be charged with the offence of taking a motor vehicle without consent. This offence carries a maximum term of six months imprisonment, or a fine of $2,000 or both.

Additionally, a person in possession of a stolen motor vehicle may be charged with possession of stolen property as a crime. Where the value of the motor vehicle exceeds $5,000, the maximum offence, as I just mentioned earlier in a question, is a penalty of 10 years' imprisonment.

All too often, some offenders take it upon themselves to flee from law enforcement in stolen vehicles, often at very high rates of speed. If this occurs and no one is injured, the offender may be charged with the offence of flight from a peace officer and this offence carries a maximum term of five years of imprisonment. Where flight results in a death, then the offender is criminally liable to a term of life imprisonment for this terrible crime. This type of behaviour cannot be tolerated and I believe that the available sentence for this crime delivers a strong message.

In some motor vehicle thefts, the offender may cause significant danger to the public through the manner in which they drive the stolen vehicle. In this regard, if dangerous operation of a motor vehicle occurs, the Criminal Code provides that where a person is injured, the offender is liable to 10 years' imprisonment. Further, if this dangerous operation results in a death, then the offender would be liable to a maximum jail term of 14 years.

Similarly, if the circumstances surrounding the theft result in criminal negligence causing death, those convicted are subject to a penalty of life imprisonment, the most serious sentence in the Criminal Code.

We must also recognize that the theft of automobiles is sometimes undertaken in a systematic manner by organized crime. In this regard the Criminal Code provides a number of additional tools that can apply when auto theft is committed for the benefit of, at the direction of or in association with a criminal organization. These additional tools provide for the possibility of consecutive sentencing and reduced parole eligibility.

Therefore, it is clear there are numerous offences covering the range of behaviour, each carrying significant penalties including life imprisonment, which can be used to tackle the incidents of motor vehicle theft in Canada.

I would now like to outline the policy deficiencies which, in my view, are present in Bill C-293. This private member's bill provides for mandatory minimum sentences for first, second and subsequent offences.

As we are well aware, Canada uses mandatory minimum sentences with restraint, preferring an individualized sentencing approach that gives the court the discretion to fashion a sentence that is proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the conduct of the offender, considering also any aggravating or mitigating factors.

Therefore, the use of mandatory minimum sentences, as found in Bill C-293, could be contrary to the established Canadian sentencing principles, such as proportionality and restraint in the use of imprisonment. In addition to mandatory minimum penalties, Bill C-293 would provide for a maximum term of imprisonment of two years when the offence is prosecuted by way of summary conviction.

Currently, the highest maximum penalty for a summary conviction offence under the Criminal Code is 18 months imprisonment, which is usually for offences involving sexual assault and the infliction of bodily harm.

Therefore, a two year maximum for the theft of a motor vehicle would provide this offence with the highest summary conviction penalty in the Criminal Code and would represent a stark departure from the current sentencing regime in Canadian criminal law. Furthermore, Bill C-293 would also reduce the maximum punishment available for someone who commits motor vehicle theft.

The most frequent charge in vehicle theft cases is theft over $5,000. The punishment for this offence is up to 10 years imprisonment on indictment. Under Bill C-293, a person committing a theft of a motor vehicle would only be liable to a maximum of five years imprisonment.

In other words, there is a serious inconsistency here in saying that auto theft is such a serious offence that it requires the use of mandatory minimum penalties but, at the same time, Bill C-293 would cut the maximum term of imprisonment for its commission in half.

As I have indicated at the outset of my remarks, I would agree with the hon. member for Langley that theft of vehicles is a serious issue. Auto theft appears, at first blush, to be single faceted, although further analysis would show that the problem is quite complex. It comprises a multitude of crimes and underlying motives, including the involvement of members of criminal organizations.

To this end, it is important that we ensure our laws are being used to their fullest potential in addressing the criminal behaviour and whether in fact there are gaps in existing legislation which need to be filled.

In this regard, in January, at the meeting of the federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for justice, ministers discussed motor vehicle theft and the need to ensure that appropriate penalties are in place to target those who steal vehicles and recklessly threaten the lives of others.

As a result of this meeting, all ministers agreed to have their officials collectively study motor vehicle theft to determine whether a separate indictable offence is needed and whether increased penalties would be appropriate to reflect the seriousness of the crime.

Provincial involvement in the assessment and crafting the tools to tackle this form of crime is very important. We should ensure that this federal, provincial and territorial process is allowed sufficient opportunity to properly consider the underlying issue.

Finally, education, community programming and crime prevention should also play an essential role in combating the incidence of motor vehicle theft. These tools are an important element in fully responding to the criminal behaviour in Canada.

We agree with the hon. member that this is a very important matter that needs to be debated and discussed. Hopefully, through the federal, provincial and territorial ministers, and debate in this House, we will find what is necessary to better assist us in dealing with this problem of motor vehicle theft. However, today I believe that the hon. member's bill, although well-intentioned, does not meet that threshold.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, rather like the speaker before me, the member for Northumberland—Quinte West, I have a hard time linking the aim of this bill and the methods it employs. I do not know the member for Langley's experience in criminal law, but he made a number of surprising statements.

First, the fine to be imposed for an initial offence is $1,000 or three months in prison, but not both. In the case of a second offence, the fine is $5,000 and for a third, it is $10,000. Is it really such a good idea to tell the judge the matter is to be resolved by fines?

I do not know who prepared that composite sketch of a car thief. I have had 27 years in the practice of criminal law, and I can say that the individuals involved in car theft vary considerably. They can be organized groups that get hold of cars, dismantle them and sell the parts. Then there is a real problem that must be dealt with in Montreal, Vancouver and near the major ports, where individuals slip luxury cars quickly into containers and sell them outside the country. The problem is many-faceted. There are also many young people who steal cars, young men, in particular. Men and women are equal, but young men are more attracted or fascinated by cars and are keen to drive them. That is another motivation.

What message is sent with the establishment of minimum fines and the reduction of the maximum sentence? That is what the bill does. Today, there are few cars costing less than $5,000. The maximum sentence for stealing a car worth over $5,000 is 10 years.

Must we explain to the hon. member the reasoning used by the appeal courts on the severity of crimes? Appeal courts have always held that this was the legislator's responsibility and the legislator's decision is based on the maximum sentence allocated to a specific type of crime. The hon. member says this is a serious crime, but wants to decrease the maximum sentence. So he sends the message to the legislator that it is only half as serious. I am absolutely certain that is not his intent, but that is objectively what he is doing within the current sentencing philosophy in Canada.

He then seems to move on to some magical thinking. He says that we are very soft in Canada. How can he say such a thing? What would give him an idea of the severity with which we impose sentences in Canada? If I were to give the number of people imprisoned in Canada, compared to our total population, and compared that to the ratio in other countries, would that give a good idea of how harsh our country is compared to others?

I would like you to know that, according to the most recent statistics, Canada is not one of the harshest countries in the world. We have 101 people in prison per 100,000 population. That is higher than the figure for the EU, which is 87, and France, 77. Do we really feel less safe if we are in France? There is one other possible question: do we really feel safer in the U.S. than in Canada? Their figure is 689 per 100,000 population. They have even managed to beat out Russia, where there are 673 people in prison per 100,000 population.

Canadians feel less secure in the United States. They are mistaken, except on one point. The fact is that the rate of homicides in the United States is significantly higher than it is in Canada. In my opinion, it is due much more to arms control—which we had already in part and now have completely—than to incarceration.

In addition, one of the countries where people are safer and where fewer cars are stolen is Japan. There, 50 people per 100,000 inhabitants are in jail, therefore, half of Canada's figure.

I think these are false impressions, but I understand them. Over the years, I have worked in criminal law as a crown prosecutor and defence counsel. I know full well that, fundamentally, the public is very badly informed about crime. For example, we all have the impression that crime is on the rise, generally. According to the statistics, however, it is decreasing.

I wanted to speak of another criterion, that of the minimum sentence which will reduce offences. Here again, if I mentioned a minimum of seven years' imprisonment, would you not consider this a significant minimum with the potential to discourage people from doing the illegal act it sanctions? Consider that, when I first started practising law, I had never heard of marijuana. It was not mentioned. That gives you an idea of my age. I was called to the bar in 1966. I learned about marijuana in the course of my duties as a lawyer. By the end of the 1960s, beginning of the 1970s, marijuana had spread in Canada. Still, no plant grown in Canada was fit to be consumed. So everything came from outside the country. The minimum sentence for importing marijuana was seven years.

First, people are not aware there are minimum sentences. Even I, a criminal lawyer, would have trouble naming the 30-odd minimum sentences in the Criminal Code. So, people are not aware of them. Crimes are committed for completely different motives. Reasonable people are discouraged by harsh legislation, but they are rarely if ever the ones committing crimes. People would commit such crimes if there were no laws at all. Reasonable people are not the ones committing crimes. Crimes are impulsive actions committed by certain segments of the population.

One of these days, I will tell the House about the inquiries I conducted as the Quebec minister of public safety and responsible for Quebec prisons. These inquiries focussed on the kind of people in prison. Their past is a major factor. So, it is a fantasy to believe that minimum sentences work.

The other example that should convince the House is the death penalty. This is the most radical sentence there is, right? It was the penalty for murder. Since Canada abolished the death penalty, has the homicide rate increased? No, it has decreased. So there are other factors involved.

My final example is appropriate, because it goes in the other direction. There are mandatory minimum sentences for repeat drinking-and-driving offences. These minimum sentences have not changed in 15 years. The legislation has not been tightened. Yet, in 15 years, we have made remarkable progress in lowering the number of drinking-and-driving offences. How? Through increased enforcement, in particular, and education.

Teenagers are a good example. When they have a party, they are responsible enough to choose a designated driver. When I was a teenager, this was unheard of. So education and other means have reduced the number of offences.

The member raised an important issue. Auto theft is not important solely when it is a crime committed by young people, but also when it is also committed by organized crime. However, as the member for Northumberland—Quinte West explained so clearly, there are numerous sentences prescribed for the terrible and very serious cases he described involving fatal hit-and-runs.

This is a good bill, but these are terrible ways to attack the problem.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, I can only repeat what the Bloc member said, but I will do so in my own words.

I was quite impressed with his speech. I must admit I think he stole almost all of the points I wanted to make. Perhaps what I will do is make them in the other official language.

I want to recognize the spirit behind the legislation that has come from the member for Langley. I do not agree with the results he is attempting to achieve because I do not think they are going to be successful. He certainly is well motivated in trying to deal with the issue of auto theft in the country. As we heard from the parliamentary secretary, and I think as we all recognize, it is a serious issue and one that needs additional attention which obviously is to some degree under way by the attention the attorneys general from the provinces and the federal government are giving it.

As a standard position, the NDP is not in favour of minimum sentences. I want to make a few comments on that before I get to the specifics of the bill. The essential reason we are opposed to minimum sentences is that they do not work. My colleague from the Bloc pointed out a number of instances. Perhaps I am a bit more sensitive to this coming from Windsor. We can compare the crime rate in Windsor to that in Detroit, a major metropolitan centre in the United States, in terms of the sentencing principles and practices to deal with criminal offences in Windsor, and Ontario and the country more generally, and the practices in Michigan.

Our crime rate is dramatically lower than the crime rate in the United States. Again we see it even more so when we compare Windsor as a mid-size city to a major metropolitan area. Michigan's criminal statutes have a number of minimum sentencing provisions. It has clearly not deterred the crime rate there. It has really had no impact.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Dewdney—Alouette, BC

No, it may be higher.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, I am hearing from the opposition Conservative Party that it would be higher.

The reality is that they have gone to a number of provisions and the crime rate has remained steady. The three strikes law was supposed to be a deterrent. The crime rate in California has not declined and in a number of cases where the three strikes law was applicable, the crime rate actually went up. That cannot be argued.

If we look to the European experience in particular, more progressive approaches have been taken to deal with criminal behaviour. The Europeans have been able to drive their crime rate down as we have in this country.

It was interesting to listen to the member for Langley because he kept emphasizing that we have a serious crime problem. No one will deny that we have crime in this country but the absolute reality by any measure is that our crime rates are going down in every single area in the country. Whatever the crime, the statistics show that over the last two decades our crime rates have declined in every single area, whether it be violent crime or property crime. Every single rate has gone down.

We could pick isolated areas in the country. We could go into the core areas of some of our major cities and say the rates have gone up, and they have, but across the country as a whole in every single area the crime rates have declined. The reason they have declined has absolutely nothing to do with sentencing. I know our judges do not like hearing that but that is the reality. They have gone down because we have dealt with them at a societal level.

We have moved a strong police force in. Any time I have studied anything historically around crime rates, I have come away absolutely convinced that we lower the crime rate when we convince a person who has a criminal intent that he or she is going to get caught.

Since being elected, I have had the opportunity to do some travelling. Recently I was in Sri Lanka and I asked about the crime rate there. I was doing a comparison with the crime rate in Johannesburg with regard to car jacking. I spoke to police officers who had the facts in front of them, as opposed to what we usually get from the Conservative Party with regard to crime rates.

In the capital city of Sri Lanka, which is a large city of several million people, there is minimum car jackings as opposed to in Johannesburg where it is a major problem. When we look at the comparisons, the numbers are phenomenally different, multiples of hundreds of percentage points different. Distinguishing between the two, both cities had come out of some really violent history in terms of civil war and insurrection within both countries and the only answer for the difference is the quality of the police forces in those cities.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Are you criticizing our police?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, if the member would pay some attention to the facts, he might understand my argument.

The Johannesburg police force is just rebuilding itself. In Colombo the police force has remained reasonably intact, reasonably effective, so we do not see any corresponding levels in crime increase between those two. Colombo has it under control; Johannesburg is still trying to build its police force so it can do it.

The key is prevention and getting the message out. If we want to get a message out from government, from authority, it is that if a person commits a crime, he or she will get caught.

It was interesting to listen to the member for Langley cite some of the statistics from the insurance bureau of the stereotypical individual who commits a crime: 27 years of age, usually with some significant addiction, whether it is alcohol or drugs. A minimum fine, a minimum court time means absolutely nothing to that criminal. That person will not give one iota of thought to whether he or she will get a $1,000 fine, as the bill proposes, three months in jail or some other penalty. It will not even cross that person's mind.

If we were really serious about dealing with this issue, we would be funding our police forces so that they had enough officers on the street to deal with this type of crime.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Get rid of the gun registry and they might be able to do it.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, if the hon. member studied the facts with regard to the gun registry, he would realize that a good deal of money is going directly to police forces across the country at the provincial level. Those are facts that the Conservative Party does not wish to address.

The simplistic approach to what is a complex problem will not be resolved by using minimum sentences. It will be resolved by having police forces on our streets to deal with it, to convince that person who is addicted to drugs that he cannot do it because he will get caught. There is a police officer on that corner and if the person attempts to break in and steal that car, he will get caught because there is a police officer there to stop him.

There was not much mention of this from the member for Langley, but we know there are organized crime syndicates. The minimum penalty will not deter those criminals at all.

I have several more points I would like to make, but having to deal with the questions and heckling from the other side, I have not been able to cover all of them in the time allotted to me.

In summary, minimum sentences do not work and they will not work in the particular case set out in the bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, as I mentioned earlier this morning when I was speaking to Bill C-43, I understand this is a very slow news day so I am glad to give that political fix to every Canadian who has not been able to find political news today and who might be tuning in to CPAC to find something of interest. This is it.

I am very pleased to speak to this bill. Quite frankly it is a bill we should be supporting. I certainly will. As I mentioned earlier in one of my questions or comments, I am from Regina, Saskatchewan, which per capita has the highest rate of auto theft in Canada and has had the highest rate for several years. In the last three or four years there have been between 2,500 and 3,000 car thefts per year. It is a serious problem that we need to address.

The problem I have with the current system, as the hon. member for Langley pointed out when he introduced this bill, is that the penalties are ridiculous. Young men and women who steal cars are getting away with nothing but a slap on the wrist. We have seen repeat offenders time and time again when it comes to car theft. Why are they repeating the offence? They are repeating the offence because there are no penalties to deter them from stealing automobiles.

I am an absolute firm believer in deterrents for any crime. I can tell everyone from experience that in Regina the rate of thefts would absolutely go down if we had some serious deterrents which would cause people who are stealing automobiles to think twice before doing it.

My hon. friend from the New Democratic Party said just a few moments ago that crime across Canada is going down. I put forward a private member's bill to include identity theft in the Criminal Code. Identity theft is the fastest rising crime in North America. By way of example, I would point out the contradiction in what my hon. friend from the New Democratic Party was saying.

To suggest that minimum sentences are not a deterrent and that we do nothing to try to address auto theft is absolutely irresponsible. We have an obligation as parliamentarians to address some of these serious crimes. If I understand the hon. member correctly, he was basically saying that minimum sentences do not work, are not a deterrent and we should not do anything.

He said we should increase the level of police officers across Canada. I would love to see that done as well, but thanks to our friends on the government side of the House, we do not have enough funds for municipalities to get more police officers out on the street, whether they be at the RCMP level, the municipal level, the city level. This is a serious problem.

We need to play the cards that we are dealt. Right now we have been dealt a hand that says car thefts are increasing. I can tell everyone from personal experience in talking to the city police in Regina and Saskatoon that in Saskatchewan car thefts are the biggest source of complaints police have to deal with on a daily basis.

The real problem is not that kids are stealing cars and going for joy rides. If it were just that it would be a problem that we would have to address, in my view, by putting deterrents into the Criminal Code to make sure those kids would think twice about it before going for a joy ride. It is not just about young people taking cars for joy rides. Statistics have demonstrated quite clearly that the vast majority of individuals who are stealing cars are doing so to commit another crime.

I went on a ride-along with two city police officers in Regina a couple of weeks ago during the break. They were working in the worst section of Regina, the northwest central section, where 25% of all crimes in the city are committed. Those police officers told me that without question the biggest problem they have is car theft, bar none.

I went out with them on a Friday night, which was particularly bad because there was a full moon and it was payday. We saw a lot of action, but car theft was the number one concern the policemen had. It was not that people were stealing cars just to go on a joy ride and then to dump the car off at an abandoned warehouse or to take it out on the highway and drop it off in a field somewhere. People were stealing cars because they were prepared to commit a crime.

Many of the people who steal cars take them because they are going to a drug buy. They purchase the drugs, discard the car and off they go to sell the drugs on the street. Many people steal cars because they are going to commit a B and E.

The point is that people have a purpose for stealing these cars. It is not just the 1950s Happy Days version of a couple of crazy kids taking a car for a ride, having some fun and then dropping it off in the same condition as they stole it. That is not true. People usually take vehicles to commit another crime. Some are misdemeanours at the very least but in Regina it is a far more serious crime.

We need to set up a series of deterrents that criminals and potential car thefts would have to take a look at. When someone has been caught red-handed steeling a vehicle and then appears before a judge I find it absolutely irresponsible and unconscionable when the judge gives them a slap on the wrist, probation and a warning not to do it again. When that same individual appears back in court, whether it is a week, a month or a year later, having committed the same offence they again get probation.

Anyone who says that deterrents are not effective are dreaming in Technicolor. They are effective. I will give the House one example which I used earlier in a comment or question for one of the other speakers.

The Saskatchewan government insurance, when possible, puts a deterrent on car thieves. If a person is convicted of theft of a vehicle, the insurance company will assign the deductible of the victim to the perpetrator's next purchase of his licence or registration. The insurance company cannot do this every time, but when it can, it will. Since it started the number of car thefts has actually gone down.

We have another community based program in Regina called HEAT, Help Eliminate Auto Theft. This program basically deals with a deterrent based course of action to stop young people, criminals of all kind, from stealing vehicles, and it has also proven to be effective.

For anyone, whether it be my hon. colleague from the NDP or any other member in this assembly who says that deterrents do not work, I say they are absolutely dreaming in Technicolor.

What is an effective deterrent? Quite frankly, I think the member for Langley has put some very effective deterrents in his private member's bill. For a first time offence an individual would receive either three months incarceration or $1,000 or both, the choice is up to the judge.

Car thieves need to take a look at this. If they are prepared to steal a car and whip down the street to maybe see a buddy, they should be thinking twice about it. Even hardened criminals who are looking to get a ride from one location in the city to the other to commit another crime have to know they will not get away with it if they are caught. They have to know they will not get a slap on the wrist and walk away from a crime with probation because there would be minimum sentences.

I also dispute anyone who says that minimum sentences are wrong because the judge tends to give only the minimum sentence rather than a far more serious sentence. The fact is this is a joke. If there are no minimum sentences, an offender will get nothing but probation. What are we saying to society if we allow car thieves to walk away with no punishment? This is a no-brainer in my view.

We have to put something in place that will act as a deterrent for the segment of our society that feels it is their right to steal cars. They are doing it because they know they can get away with it. If we do not put a series of deterrents in place to try and stop car thieves from committing their crimes, we will only to get into worse situations.

I can absolutely assure members that if we adopt the private member's bill that my hon. friend from Langley is proposing, it will act as a deterrent in Regina, Saskatchewan. It will lower the incidence of car theft and I think and I hope that all members will agree that is a good thing.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, the reason for this adjournment debate is that in annex B of the budget tabled in February, there is a particular measure that concerns correctional officers. The government proposes some changes to the income tax regulations that would make it possible to increase from 2% to 2.33% the maximum pension accrual rate for people in public safety occupations, including correctional officers. In addition, the budget makes this retroactive to January 1, 2005.

Here is my question from April 20, 2005, which brought about this debate. I asked why this promise had been made in the budget and why the president of the Treasury Board was refusing to negotiate with the correctional officers union, because that is what is happening now.

We have said on this side of the House that this is a very bad budget. In addition to doing nothing to correct the fiscal imbalance, in addition to doing nothing, or almost nothing, to improve the employment insurance program, not even an independent employment insurance fund was created. They propose an additional $12 billion for National Defence, although they do not even have a national defence policy. We do not even know what the priorities are, that is to say, how this $12 billion will be spent.

To top it off, there is a measure in Annex 8 that is very incidental, but so very important for the 8,000 correctional officers. It is a new measure that the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers-CSN had not specifically asked for, but was very much appreciated.

However, when correctional officers phone the Treasury Board, when they try to find officials to talk to, to negotiate with, to discuss the matter with, to debate it and see how they could apply this new measure, they get no answer. Their calls are not returned. They are directed elsewhere. They get the message “the number you have reached is not in service”. It makes no sense.

I must say, once again, this way of operating proves the Bloc Québécois right. This attitude does not give us any desire to vote in support of this budget. In any event, no matter what the Liberals say, it will not happen. They are travelling throughout Canada these days telling everyone, “If you do not vote in support of this budget, Canadians will get nothing”. They should also be telling correctional officers, “Even if you vote for this budget, you will get nothing”. That is how it appears to them right now.

It is a mystery to see this measure in Annex 8, but no one to see it through and make it a reality.

I want to uncover this mystery and find out how this measure ended up in the budget if there is no one willing to negotiate it.

Correctional officers work under very special conditions and do very difficult work. Among 2,600 inmates in maximum security, there were 5 murders. That is a murder rate 100 times greater than the Canadian average. Proportionately speaking, the incidence of violence is greater in Canadian prisons than in the general population. We know this, having discussed it at length. My colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin provided some reasons earlier.

Correctional officers have been demanding special measures for a long time now. Their main demand is a pension plan where 25 years of service at age 50 would entitle them to 70% of salary. In addition, the 6,000 correctional officers have been working without an agreement for three years.

I wonder what it would take for this measure to be implemented.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to speak to this issue today.

First of all, the member will be very happy to know that negotiations are ongoing which is the question she asked. At the end of my speech I will respond to some of the comments she made about the budget.

As was stated previously, the collective agreement for the correctional services group expired on May 31, 2002. The 5,500 employees in this bargaining unit are represented by the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers.

The negotiations began in March 2002 when the bargaining agents served notice to bargain. Since then the employer has been working diligently to reach an agreement that is satisfactory to both parties. However, although the parties have been at the table for over 80 days to negotiate a new collective agreement, several major issues are still in dispute.

In light of the difficulties the parties face in reaching a settlement, the employer suggested on several occasions during the negotiation process that the parties could benefit from the help of a conciliation officer to move the process along, but the bargaining agents declined.

On March 3, 2004, after two years of negotiations, the employer asked the Public Service Staff Relations Board to appoint a conciliation officer to help the parties resolve the outstanding issues.

On November 30, 2004 the conciliation officer informed the parties of his decision to terminate the conciliation process due to the number and the scope of the issues still remaining, as well as the limited prospect that this process would lead to a settlement. Following the discussions between officials of the Treasury Board Secretariat and the bargaining agents, two series of meetings are currently scheduled for negotiations.

Let me be clear, the Treasury Board is committed to the collective bargaining process. Treasury Board's ultimate goal is to reach a negotiated settlement that is acceptable to the employer, to our employees and to Canadian taxpayers.

I was disappointed that this is one of the members of the Bloc who may vote against the budget and therefore unfairly represent Quebeckers. The budget has foreign aid and Quebeckers are very generous people. Yet, the Bloc is joining the Conservatives to vote against foreign aid.

There is affordable housing in the budget which Quebeckers support. There is child care in the budget which Quebeckers have shown to lead the country. Yet the Bloc, now representing Quebeckers, is joining the Conservatives to vote against these social initiatives.

There is a huge environmental greenhouse gas reduction in the budget. There are investments in a climate change plan in the budget. Many Quebeckers are very supportive of that, yet the Bloc is voting against that.

There are a number of items for first nations people. I noticed in committee in the old days, before the Bloc joined the Conservatives in the House, that the Bloc was supportive of some first nations issues. Now it is voting against the budget that is moving these issues forward.

There are literacy initiatives in the budget. I cannot believe any party would vote against that, but the Bloc is doing just that. There is money for the cities of Quebec. Those municipalities could sorely use that money and the Bloc is voting against that. There is money for seniors. I know the people of Quebec are a warm and generous people who would want to vote for money for seniors. Yet, the Bloc is voting against that. It is unfair of the Bloc to act so uncharacteristically on behalf of Quebeckers and vote against money for the poor, the disabled and the sick.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, I was very disappointed by the response of the member for Yukon. The response was exactly the same as the one I received on October 27, 2004, from the mouth of another parliamentary secretary, the one for the President of the Treasury Board. The history of negotiations with the union of correctional officers, he provided corresponds exactly to the document she read me on October 27, 2004. It is hugely disappointing.

The second reason for my great disappointment is the fact that the member for Yukon used his Liberal tape in speaking to me about the budget, but he forgot to mention that there is a special provision in annex 8 for correctional officers with respect to their pension plan. He did not answer any of my questions. Furthermore, in his litany of provisions and so-called interesting special measures in this budget, he made no mention of this measure for correctional officers. He never answered my questions about correctional officers.

I find that hugely disappointing. The questions remain unanswered. I would be happy to ask them at another time.