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House of Commons Hansard #117 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain paymentsGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

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.

The House resumed from March 8, 2005, consideration of the motion that Bill C-275, an act to amend the Criminal Code (failure to stop at scene of accident), be now read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 16th, 2005 / 5:30 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is another private member's bill aimed, once again, at increasing sentences by setting very high minimums. It aims to increase the minimum sentences for offences that are certainly serious. Basically, it concerns the offence of leaving the scene of an accident that might have caused physical injury or death. They hope once again to solve a problem, which has not grown especially worse in Canada over the last few years, by imposing minimum sentences of seven years.

What kind of a model is being used? I would remind the House again that experience proves that high minimum sentences are not effective. Every time I raise this matter, though, I have the feeling that I am talking to a blank wall, except when I talk about it informally with members of my own party. Sentences of this kind are of no use. The only possible result is longer trials.

Nevertheless, we have a striking example here in Canada of the uselessness of minimum sentences. When I was young, I had never heard of marijuana. In fact, I never heard of it until I took my bar exams in 1966 and was starting to work in the crown attorney's office. It was around then that people started to use marijuana. The marijuana that could be found growing wild in Canada did not have any hallucinogenic effect. So all the marijuana that people consumed came from abroad. Do you know what the minimum sentence was for importing marijuana? Seven years. That should have dissuaded people. But instead, we had flower power and marijuana consumption steadily increased.

In 1982, I think, the Supreme Court decided that a minimum of seven years for importing marijuana was so severe that it was unconstitutional. So the minimum sentence disappeared. There was no particular increase in marijuana use at that time, though. It just continued.

First, people do not know what the minimums are. Then, they want minimum sentences, because they think everyone is like us and generally obeys the law. Most of the prison population, however, is totally different. When I was minister of public security, I asked that sociological studies of the type of clientele we had be redone. We could talk about a lot of things. I do not want to arouse sympathy needlessly, but these people can be described for the most part as social misfits.

In addition, I ask the hon. members whether they know what the minimums are. Do they know what they are for failure to register a firearm? Even we the legislators do not know what the minimum sentences are. How can they have an effect on the people in our prisons, who are for the most part unaware of these things and likely to commit such crimes.

A minimum sentence in any case would have an impact on a hit and run. Most people who lose it after hitting someone—because it is pretty traumatic—and flee the scene, later turn themselves in to the police. However, when they realize the minimum sentence is seven years for this kind of offence, I am not so sure they will do that.

The other example we have in Canada is the death penalty. Since we abolished it, the homicide rate has gradually declined. This shows clearly that other factors affect criminal behaviour.

There is another success in Canada. Not a total success, but still a success. It is the rate of drunk driving offences. There are far fewer today than there were 20 years ago. Nothing has been done about minimum sentences for this sort of offence. But roadblocks have been set up. The Supreme Court has determined that the Constitution permits it.

So roadblocks began to appear. These, of course, made it possible to test a goodly number of drivers. I remember, when the roadblocks first started, sometimes 10% or 12% of drivers were nabbed for impaired driving. Now thousands are stopped at roadblocks, but I recall two recent ones in Montreal where only four impaired drivers were detected.

People's attitudes have changed. For instance, when my children go out partying with friends, there is a designated driver. I never heard of such a thing when I was young. Attitudes have been changed through education.

I am focussing particularly on roadblocks because these stop people before they commit crimes. Again, most of the time people are far more concerned with being stopped than with the sentence they might end up with. Most of the time they do not expect to get caught.

I found a striking historical example in the case law of the British Columbia Appeal Court. The judge referred to the time when pickpockets were hanged in England. Their fellow pickpockets were at their busiest during the hanging. What a deterrent that was, don't you think? People may be deterred by fear of punishment, but are far more likely to be deterred by the likelihood of getting caught than by the imposition of a minimum sentence.

So the only effects this has are to fill up our jails and force judges to impose minimum sentences. I do not get the point, frankly. The people who propose these sentences seem to totally mistrust judges. They feel Canadian judges are the worst and are liable to give criminals who appear before them nothing but a slap on the wrist. They are absolutely determined to force minimum sentences on the judges in order to get them to take action.

This is not the case. It does force judges to impose sentences they feel are unfair, because they are locked in and must impose the minimum sentence.

Before imposing minimum sentences, further reflection is needed. This tendency to impose minimum sentences is very popular in the United States. Does anyone here think that the crime rate is much higher in Canada than it is in the United States? The more minimum sentences are imposed, the more the crime rate increases. Just check the statistics. The crime rate in Canada is comparable to that in the United States, except for homicide. The homicide rate is three times higher in the United States than it is in Canada. For the rest, the statistics are quite similar. Do you know how many people are in jail in the United States compared to Canada? Roughly seven times more people are imprisoned in the United States than in Canada.

The most recent statistics I found that are available internationally date back to 2001. From memory, the incarceration rate in the United States is 686 per 100,000 population, compared to 101 per 100,000 population in Canada. Do you want other global comparisons? For the European Union it is 89 per 100,000 population and in Japan, 50. In fact, the incarceration rate per 100,000 population in most civilized countries, except the United States, is around 100. If I recall correctly, it is slightly higher in England and Portugal. In some cases, the rate is as low as 50. Yet these countries have similar crime rates.

I understand that it is an easy way to gain popularity, and lord knows the United States overdoes it, which is what gives that country an incarceration rate similar to Russia's or some other such country that we would never want to live in. Minimum sentences have absolutely no effect on the crime rate in these countries.

It is obvious—perhaps because it is easy for me to convince my colleagues—that we will not support such a bill which, once again, is unnecessary and will create injustices and will certainly not resolve the problem it claims to address.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Art Hanger Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-275, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding failure to stop at scene of accident. This bill is commonly known as Carley's law and proposes stiffer sentences for those convicted of hit and run crimes. I would like to commend the members for Cariboo--Prince George and Abbotsford for bringing this bill forward.

I am sure many of us in the House know of someone who has been injured or killed by a hit and run driver. I know that we have seen many headlines. It does not matter what area of the country we are from, we have seen headlines, much like those that I am going to read here, especially for my colleague who just spoke from the Bloc. I think he misunderstood the purpose behind this bill.

These are the headlines: “Student killed in hit and run”, “Teen dies after hit and run accident”, “Hit and run driver still sought”, “Fatal hit and run driver gets slap on the wrist” and “House arrest for fatal hit and run”. Those are some of the headlines across the country dealing with hit and run accidents. Many of them, of course, have been fatal.

For the benefit of my friend in the Bloc, and I listened to his presentation carefully, the incident that brought this bill into being dealt with an offender in British Columbia that had 11 driving prohibitions and citations since 1997. In other words, he had been charged numerous times with impaired driving. He did not learn a lesson. It did not matter how many times he was charged, how many times he was convicted, he did not learn from any of those incidences. That is what brought this about.

The crowning matter was when he ran over and killed a young girl by the name of Carley Regan, a 13-year old girl. She lost her life unnecessarily at the hands of this driver. I can tell the House and the member from the Bloc who thinks this is an absurd bill that this story is being repeated and repeated across the country in just about every city. I am sure that the member of the Bloc can attest to similar types of situations that have occurred in his own province.

That is what concerns us here. It is not the fact that there are these occurrences taking place, it is the fact that they are not being addressed adequately for the seriousness of the crime, and that is the taking of someone else's life or the serious injury of another person. This bill hits those two particular points right on the head. It is a seven year minimum for loss of life and four years for severe damage or personal injury. This is what is happening here.

I will mention one other incident dealing with a Calgary situation. A young father had just come into my office last week. His daughter was killed by a hit and run driver on March 17 of this year. That hit and run driver, in spite of the low penalties associated with this crime, decided to make a run for it and he got out of town because he knew the law was on his heels. He made it all the way to Toronto and he climbed aboard a plane after dispensing some of his personal belongings. He was heading to England when the police walked on to that plane and slapped the cuffs on him. There is no question, when it comes to extradition for a charge such as this, that he would have gotten away scot free. That is how close it was. As it turns out, he is now before the courts in this country.

This family of which I speak is totally devastated by the loss of their daughter at his hands. I know from speaking with the father that he has serious concerns, as do many of us, vis-à-vis the penalties meted out to those who kill someone in a hit and run accident.

This family shares the view of a growing number of constituents and taxpayers in this country that these offenders are getting off far too lightly. The number of families is growing across this land. They are watching issues such as this come forward. They want to see parliamentarians address the matter. They know that there is a political answer to this particular problem. It is all in the legislation.

These people would like to see their concerns addressed in this House. I commend my colleagues, the members for Cariboo—Prince George and Abbotsford for bringing this matter forward. These members took some action. We are encouraging members in other parties in this House to support this particular action. It is not frivolous and not unreasonable.

If we think of it in our own situation, it may be one or our sons or daughters. I have been there. I have had fathers crying in my office over issues such as this. There was one particular case where a father's son was run over. The culprit got out of his car. The child had been eating an ice cream cone and the ice cream cone was splattered on the windshield of the car that hit him. The driver got out; he was drunk. He looked at the young boy on the pavement. He then got back in his car and ran over him again.

Tell me, is that a reasonable course of action? If the answer is no, and it should be no, then the person that is responsible should pay a price and not, as we have seen in the headlines in this country, receive a slap on the wrist or house arrest. There must be a minimum sentence brought into this picture. It has been far too long that we have not addressed this matter in the House including many other cases of drunk driving.

I beg to differ with the comments of my colleague from the Bloc that drunk driving numbers are down. If the statistics are recorded as being down, I will tell the House why they are down. It is because police departments across this country do not have the resources to put these programs forward.

The challenges in the courts for entrapment and all other charter arguments are outrageous. They are causing police departments to withdraw. It takes a great deal of effort and resource to reconstruct a hit and run accident. Bill C-275 also deals with the issue of plea bargaining on hit and run charges and it seeks to eliminate it.

We could not ask for a better bill to deal with all of the backroom negotiations that take place in a courtroom. I ask my colleagues on both sides of this House to support this bill. We owe it to Canadians to do everything possible to ensure that those who flee the scene of an accident will receive just punishment.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

Gerry Byrne LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that everyone in this House will agree that leaving the scene of an accident where there is death or bodily harm is truly and utterly despicable. In fact, that is precisely why Parliament, in 1999, created a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for leaving the scene of an accident knowing there is death and a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment for leaving the scene of an accident knowing there is bodily harm.

These penalties are indeed severe and, quite logically, they parallel the maximum penalties for manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death or bodily harm, and impaired driving causing death or bodily harm. These are all of course very serious offences.

Even if one were to agree with the minimum penalties proposed in Bill C-275, it would be inconsistent to propose minimum penalties for these offences of leaving the scene of an accident without proposing minimum penalties for the other offences that I mentioned. We cannot make seven year and four year minimum penalties for certain serious offences without ensuring that all other similarly serious offences have the same penalties. This bill fails in that regard.

I want to make it very clear to members who have spoken in favour of Bill C-275 that the opposition which they are hearing toward this bill from all other parties in the House has nothing to do with partisan politics. The opposition to Bill C-275 has everything to do, however, with the extremely serious matters of principle and of constitutional law.

In the first hour of the debate, some speakers noted that leaving the scene of an accident was unacceptable behaviour and it must remain a crime. No one condones it. However, speakers from all parties, except speakers from the Conservative Party, appear to agree with the proposals in Bill C-275 that these principles fail the principles of fundamental justice which are part of the Canadian Constitution, like it or not. These are important principles. They are not minor details or troublesome technicalities that could be legislated out of existence with the blink of an eye.

Frankly, the Supreme Court of Canada simply could not uphold in good conscience the validity of this bill. In my view, voting in favour of Bill C-275 would, or could, become a cynical or thinly veiled effort to manufacture a circumstance where it could then be said that the Supreme Court of Canada was thwarting the will of Parliament.

The proponents of Bill C-275 would have us believe that eliminating the requirement of a guilty mind, or mens rea is an easy matter. However, the reality is that when creating a criminal offence there must be an act that is accompanied by a guilty mind. Unlike a regulatory offence where the act in itself is a sufficient trigger, with a criminal offence there must be a mental element that accompanies the prohibitive behaviour. This is a bedrock principle of criminal law and fundamental justice. Bill C-275 proposes to eradicate this fundamental principle when it comes to the offences of leaving the scene of an accident knowing there is death or bodily harm.

There seems to be an underlying theme in some of the speeches supporting Bill C-275 that if we suspect but cannot prove impaired driving causing death or bodily harm by a driver who has left the scene of an accident, we should make it harder on the suspect by throwing out the requirement for the prosecution to prove the mental element of the offence of leaving the scene and get the driver on that issue instead. The prosecution would only need to prove the act of leaving the scene of the accident and the driver would be guilty regardless why he or she left the scene. This is exactly what the bill says as it is drafted.

However suspicious a court might be, our present Constitution tells us that unless the prosecution proves an offence beyond a reasonable doubt, there would be no conviction and no punishment.

The bill appears to be an attempt to punish without having to prove a guilty mind. In cases where the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt, the offence of impaired driving causing death or bodily harm against a driver who left the scene of an accident appears.

Certain members wish to eliminate the fundamental principles of justice in criminal cases, such as proof beyond a reasonable doubt and the guilty mind requirement. If that is their option, the only true option to seek is an amendment to Canada's constitution. Until there is a constitutional amendment, they will not succeed.

When it comes to sentencing an offender for leaving the scene of an accident, knowing that there was death or bodily harm, the judge has the task of setting the penalty from within the range of penalties that Parliament has enacted. The judge must weigh all circumstances of the offence and the offender. All aggravating and mitigating circumstances must be taken into account and if the defence or the prosecution is not satisfied that the sentence is fit and proper, then either may appeal the sentence.

In cases of leaving the scene knowing there is death or bodily harm, the accused has a right to choose to be tried by a judge sitting alone or by a judge and jury.

Back in the era of capital punishment, there was often a suspicion that juries sometimes would look beyond the evidence in proof of a crime to the penalty that would apply upon conviction and sometimes they might refuse to convict.

There is nothing to suggest that judges are incapable of examining the evidence and registering a conviction, regardless of any personal view they may hold about a particular penalty range set by Parliament. I have every confidence that if the minimum penalties proposed in Bill C-275 were enacted and found to be constitutional, then judges would convict where there would be proof beyond a reasonable doubt and they would not hold the prosecution to an impossible standard of proof as a way to avoid imposing the minimum penalty.

I would not speculate on what juries might do. However, I can say that it is their duty to apply the same test of proof beyond reasonable doubt to the evidence, regardless of the penalty that would flow.

I do want to express my opinion that the minimum penalties proposed in Bill C-275 are somewhat troublesome. If the courts were confronted with these proposed minimum penalties, coupled with the elimination of a mental element for the offence, they would have no choice but to find that the provisions could not withstand constitutional scrutiny.

Let me be very frank. Even if I agreed that the proposed minimum penalties were justified and I were voting for them, I would not be so optimistic as to believe they would significantly reduce the incidence of leaving the scene of an accident. People leave the scene of an accident not because they carefully evaluate the penalties at that moment, but because they think they can completely avoid detection and prosecution or they are gambling that they can avoid detection and prosecution.

In closing, I have two things to say. First, I would ask the rhetorical question. Is leaving the scene of an accident, knowing that there is a death or an injury, deplorable behaviour? Of course it is. Second, does Bill C-275 respect existing constitutional principles that apply to criminal legislation? It does not, and I will be voting against it.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak to Bill C-275, and acknowledge the wonderful hard work that we have seen from the members for Abbotsford and for Cariboo—Prince George.

Every driver's worst fear is to accidentally hit a child who runs between parked cars and chases a ball out into the road or on a dark rainy night hitting someone who darts across the road instead of crossing at a crosswalk. These scenarios could happen to anyone. No one would like to go to jail after experiencing such a horrific event. These drivers are not the ones that Carley's law is targeting.

Carley's law targets the driver who hits someone and then makes a conscious decision to leave, possibly leaving the victim to die. Carley's law would protect Canadians from the driver who makes a choice to flee in the hopes that no one saw the licence plate. Carley's law would protect Canadians from the driver who has an accident and also had a few drinks that day and is more afraid of the penalties of the drunk driving conviction than they are for a hit and run and they choose to flee the scene. Carley's law would protect us from the dangerous drivers who already have a number of convictions and they are afraid of one more and they choose to run. That is who Carley's law will target.

On January 6, 2003, Carley Regan, a 13 year old Langley girl, lost her life when she was struck from behind by a hit and run driver. Carley was rollerblading. Her sister and her friend were bicycling right beside her when all three were hit. The two younger girls were knocked into the ditch, but thankfully were not injured. Carley died on the road.

At the time of the fatal hit and run, driver Paul Wettlaufer was under a driving suspension. On the night of the accident, Wettlaufer maintains he was not drinking or speeding and did not see anyone on the rural road. He said he did not realize what he had struck. When he did realize what had happened, he panicked and fled, leaving the dying girl on the road. Despite him leaving the scene and removing the licence plates from his vehicle, Wettlaufer said he was not trying to cover up the incident. Wettlaufer had 11 previous driving prohibitions and citations in six years.

Carley's law is close to my heart. Carley Regan lived and died in my riding of Langley, B.C. January 6, 2003, is a day that I, too will never forget. Before I was elected as a member of Parliament for Langley, I was the road safety loss prevention coordinator for the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. I wrote the report on all Langley traffic fatalities. All fatalities are tragic, but I remember this one vividly because it involved such a young life, such a beautiful girl and a cowardly act.

As anyone who became involved in this case, I became emotionally involved and grieved the loss of that young life.

I had been to the roadside memorial in Carley's honour. In fact, after the accident, I drove that road regularly for a month at different times during the day and evening trying to figure out what had happened. Carley's death was a tragedy that affected many people, and it should not have happened.

To keep our sanity, police officers, health workers and others like myself who work on cases like, we try to keep an emotional detachment. With Carley Regan it was impossible to detach oneself. I would think about what if it was my child, what if it was one of my loved ones? The tragedy was that she lost her life. The tragedy was that the driver should not have been on the road that night. The tragedy was that Paul Wettlaufer had a choice to stop but he did not. He left Carley there dying.

Bill C-275, Carley's law would require a minimum of seven years to life for a hit and run causing death; a punishment less than murder sentences but greater than manslaughter. It would also equate hit and run causing bodily harm with attempted murder, a punishment of four years to life. Carley's law would prohibit plea bargaining cases of hit and run.

Wettlaufer was committed to trial to face charges of dangerous driving causing death. Crown counsel however plea bargained the case with Wettlaufer subsequently pleading guilty to three counts of hit and run and one count of driving while prohibited. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison, three years of probation and 10 years driving suspension. He served 12 months in prison and was released.

Carley's law, if passed, will prevent for the first time in Canada crown counsel from plea bargaining the charge of hit and run so that those who hit and run must face the charge. A message needs to be sent that it is unacceptable to evade responsibility by fleeing the accident site.

Bill C-275 is name for Carley Regan, but she is by far not the only victim. We have heard of others from members who previously spoke. In my riding of Langley right after Carley's death there was another Langley hit and run.

A Langley father of two, David Slack, was left to die on the shoulder of the Fraser highway. The person who hit him left him to die. He should have stopped. Right after that in Vancouver there was an elderly gentleman hit and left to die on the side of the road. This happens all too often and they flee with the plan that they will get away and not be caught, and often they are not.

Carley's law would make Canadians aware that if a person hits someone with his or her vehicle, the person must stay at the scene. Carley's law will save lives.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving are asking us for sentencing reform. MADD says that current practices are making a mockery of the Canadian judicial system. MADD Canada wants conditional sentences eliminated for the crimes of impaired driving causing death and impaired driving causing bodily harm. Canadian courts have been frequently handing out conditional sentences for violent crimes, which were never intended by Parliament.

In an impaired driving crash where a person has been killed or seriously injured, there needs to be appropriate sentences handed down that reflect both the seriousness of the crime and our value of life.

Every driver in Canada is aware of the punishment drunk driving. As we have heard, fear of a drunk driving conviction can be an impetus for a person to commit a hit and run, which is just as serious a crime, if not more so. Therefore, if we establish penalties for one crime, we must keep them in line with others. We need Carley's law to keep drunk drivers from simply leaving the scene of an accident to avoid an impaired driving conviction.

MADD Canada wants an active commitment from all members of Parliament to initiate a comprehensive plan that will answer for the loss of lives and the social cost of these crimes.

I am one MP who will do that very thing. I believe legislation like Carley's law needs to be part of a plan. For a justice system to promote public safety and generate public safety confidence, it must place a premium on truth.

Canada's current sentencing system does not promote truth in sentencing. In section 245 of the Criminal Code, 25 years can mean only 15 years and 15 years does not really mean 15 years when we consider parole eligibility: clock running from the point of arrest, not the point of sentencing.

Federal law now permits conditional sentencing, intermittent sentencing, suspended sentencing, merged sentencing and sentence administration. Truth in sentencing means when a judge issues a sentence that is what one will serve.

Carley's law shows the need for complete sentencing reform in Canada. Carley's law highlights the need for truth in sentencing.

The official opposition has been calling for a complete overhaul of our sentencing legislation for many years. Opponents of mandatory minimum sentencing say that it gives unwanted direction to judges who, some fear, have too much flexibility in sentencing. In reality judges are so hemmed in by the current restrictions on sentencing that they have no room to impose the higher sentences that the public demands. We never see maximum sentencing.

Canadians want sentencing reform. We need to bring forward sentencing reform. We need to follow guidelines and principles of minimum sentencing. We can start that right now with Carley's law. We have heard the tragic stories. It is not adequate. My riding of Langley demands better and Canadians demand better. It is our responsibility, each of us in the House, to provide that.

Let us allow Carley's law, Bill C-275, to proceed to committee. If amendments have to be made, the drafters of the bill are open to that, but it will be a good start to providing accountability and eliminating the ability of people to flee from their responsibilities.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wajid Khan Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-275 aims to toughen the penalties for leaving the scene of an accident where there is death or injury. It also aims to make it a whole lot easier for the prosecution to obtain a conviction in death or injury situations. I am certainly not in favour of persons leaving the scene of an accident and escaping liability. However I am also not in favour of Bill C-275. I take note that the Minister of Justice is also not in favour of Bill C-275.

The bill would keep the maximum penalty at life imprisonment for a driver who leaves the scene of an accident where there is a death. It will also jack up the maximum penalty from 10 years to life imprisonment for a driver who leaves the scene of an accident where there is an injury.

I want to note that the maximum penalty for criminal negligence and impaired driving causing death is life imprisonment, just as it is for leaving the scene of an accident that results in a death. However the maximum penalty for criminal negligence and impaired driving causing injury is 10 years. Why is it then that Bill C-275 proposes life imprisonment as a maximum penalty for leaving the scene of an accident where there is injury? I find this part of the bill inexplicable.

Bill C-275 also proposes to toughen sentencing by creating a minimum penalty in death and injury. There would be a minimum penalty of seven years imprisonment for death and four years imprisonment for injury. Here again it is important to look at the fact that for manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death, dangerous driving during a police chase causing death, impaired driving causing death and impaired driving causing bodily harm there is no minimum penalty.

Why is it that the death and injury cases of leaving the scene would have a minimum penalty of seven years and four years respectively, while the other offences of similar gravity have no minimum penalty?

The proposal in Bill C-275 appears to be widely disproportionate compared to the penalties for similar offences. I can think of no rational explanation for this.

I see that Bill C-275 aims to make the task of the prosecution easier. This also sounds very noble until one realizes that the bill proposes to eliminate the mental element of the criminal offence of leaving the scene of an accident in death and injury cases.

Upon careful reflection, we appreciate that the requirement to have a mental element within the definition of each criminal offence is a very fundamental aspect of our criminal law. The purpose of such a requirement is to ensure that purely accidental acts will not be criminalized. I find it of more than passing interest that people who are so ready to rail against the charter as shielding offenders are likely to be quite happy to stand upon these same charter rights if one day they are facing criminal charges or need other charter protection.

The truth is that although most of us will never be charged with a criminal offence, the charter is there to ensure that we can sleep well at night and assure us that we will not be deprived of our liberty without respecting principles of fundamental justice. In Canada we take our freedom for such treatment as this for granted. It is only because the courts so carefully protect these fragile freedoms that we take so much for granted.

Often enough, the prosecution cannot prove all elements of a criminal case, including the mental element, beyond a reasonable doubt and the court must find the defendant not guilty as charged, however suspicious the court may be. Most of us will agree that this is the price that we must pay in order to have a system that awards unfairness and wrongful conviction.

Bill C-275 does not share this view. It would throw caution and fundamental principles of justice to the wind and would say that if drivers commit the act of leaving the scene, they are guilty, regardless of whether the prosecution can prove that there was an intention to escape liability and regardless of whether the prosecution can prove that there was knowledge of death or injury. The mental element would no longer matter.

Even if this did not violate the charter, which I believe it does, surely our sense of basic fairness would tell us that we should not be criminalizing every person who leaves an accident scene in which there was death or injury. Given the wide range of reasons that might exist for leaving, surely the existing mental elements within the definition of the offence serve the purpose of ensuring such fairness.

To jump upon the bandwagon of Bill C-275 would be like saying that we should eliminate the mental element of an intention to kill for the crime of murder and charge even cases of accidentally causing a death as a criminal offence of murder because it would make it so much easier for the prosecutor to get a conviction.

I would imagine that people who do flee the scene of an accident with the requisite mental intent do so because they fear that if they remain they will be liable. Therefore they take a chance that they can escape any liability and they leave the scene. The thought process would remain the same, even with the harsher penalty of Bill C-275. The drivers who would leave the scene fear liability and they choose to flee the scene in the belief that they can avoid liability. The question that they are asking themselves is whether they will get caught, not whether the maximum or minimum penalties have been increased.

I will be voting against Bill C-275. It just goes too far because it proposes penalties that do not logically fit with the penalties for similarly serious Criminal Code offences. It goes too far because it proposes to eliminate the mental element for the most serious situations of leaving the scene of an accident, namely, death and injury situations.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I must be one of the luckiest fellows who ever walked the face of the Earth that I have to get up and speak behind the nonsense that I just heard coming out of the mouth of the member across the way. Just in case he does not think about it, Carley's family, the survivors of this victim, will be suffering for life.

In those types of accidents, whether it is through negligence or whatever, we do not know if the individual would have survived if the hit and run driver had stopped to lend a helping hand. However, what we do know is that when an accident like that happens we have a responsibility to stop and do everything we can to attend to the situation confronting us.

Most of these events are usually caused by someone who is impaired. We heard that several times in the justice committee. Drunk driving is common in a hit and run. There is no way in the world there should ever be any excuse for anybody to leave the scene of an accident. If we want to use alcohol impairment as a state of confusion or that the poor guy did not realize what he had done, we are really doubling the injustice that happens in this country. There is no excuse first of all for an individual to even be behind the wheel when he is in that condition.

Apparently, the individual in the case of Carley, as I understand it, was a suspended driver. He was not even allowed to drive. His licence was gone. I think the only reason that an individual like that would leave the scene is for his own sake. He was not respecting anything about the victims he may have created because of his decision to do what he did.

This morning I was a little surprised to find out that many of the people responsible for, not only hit and run accidents but accidents that cause death or injury, do not even do any jail time. House arrest, community service and probation have become far too much of a common practice under the Liberal government. It has become worse in the last 12 years than I have ever seen it in the past.

If we continue to sit back idly and say, in these particular cases, such as the case with this young Carley, that we do not need to do something about it, that it is too scary or whatever the last speaker was trying to say, that it is too hard on the perpetrators, the law-breaking individuals, that is just getting to be so commonplace in the country and I am really getting tired of it , as are most Canadians. They are absolutely sick and tired of the fact that we do not take some of these things a lot more seriously. The only way that we can really show that is to enforce the laws by making certain that the penalties reflect the crime.

This was a little girl who lost her life through someone's total negligence and ignorance, or whatever we want to add to it. She and her family received a life sentence, while her perpetrator, from what I understand, served only about eight months of the intended four or five year sentence. He was out on parole in a short time and living a good life.

What kind of message does that send? Should we not be very concerned about protecting society? Is not one of our most elemental duties as members of Parliament to come to this place and make laws that concentrate on protecting the honest, law-abiding people of our land, instead of listening to that cry towel baby over there talking about the poor perpetrator and asking what will happen to him and to future ones if we get too tough on these guys.

By the way, it might not meet the charter test. That is what they will say. I do not think the charter was invented to protect those kinds of guys to that extent. That is not the purpose of the charter. That is another excuse and another lawyer's haven to have some kind of an opportunity to defend someone and make more money.

When are we going to get serious in this place? I have been here for 12 years. I have been waiting for some things to happen in here that will make it safer for society out there. We have to make people realize that if they are not going to be responsible for their actions, they will wish they had been. We have to give people cause to think before they do such activities.

There are so many of these cases now. This is not a one time event. We need only listen to the news and we will hear of people all across the country who are being injured or killed, with the individual responsible being a hit and run driver. Sooner or later we have to wake up to the fact that if we do not get serious about correcting the situation by making laws that reflect our intent, it will never happen.

I could probably stay here until midnight, and I will, I imagine, wondering why in the world an individual would get up and make a speech like that, but then maybe I should not be too hard on the individual because I know that most Liberals who come in here to make a speech on any bill usually have a canned speech that some bureaucrat wrote. They go and pick it up. It is their chance to give a little talk, whether they know what they are talking about or not.

There was no compassion in that speech at all, except compassion for the criminal, the person who caused the crime. That is what I heard throughout the speech. I heard that we cannot be so tough on these guys who do these things. I heard no compassion for the victims.

A victim testified recently at the justice committee. He asked the justice committee if we would please reflect a little more on the victims of these crimes when we make laws. This person was referring to an accident that happened to him. He was struck by a drunk driver. He has been forced to live with an artificial leg ever since that particular tragedy. It has changed his lifestyle completely.

The focus was never on this person and his accident. The focus was always on the perpetrator, who was able to walk away and live happily ever after. Meanwhile, this guy is living in torture and misery because he wears an artificial leg. I see members of the justice committee in the House tonight. They will remember him. He simply asked that when we make laws if would we please reflect a little more on the victims and quit reflecting so adamantly on the rights of the person who committed the crime.

Carley's family is suffering for life. They have a life sentence. They have no choice as to whether they can serve it or not. They do not have a parole hearing to go to some time in the future to ease them of their pain and misery.

However, we could help future families. We can take on these kinds of cases and remember that no family should ever feel that justice has never been served as a result of a tragedy that happened to their loved one.

One day we will have someone sitting on that side of the House who will have the courage to invoke these kinds of things that will bring a little more sanity to this justice system and which will concentrate a little more on the victims and their rights and not so heavily on those who continually break the law. I understand that the perpetrator in Carley's law had broken the law and was convicted several times. That is why his licence was suspended.

We just keep allowing this to happen until one day the event that happens is so tragic we wonder why it has happened. Leniency is one thing; stupidity is another. I think we have almost reached the point of stupidity when we make the decisions that we make in this place with regard to the rights of the victim compared to the rights of the criminals and those who break the law and put our society at great risk.

I encourage people to start thinking about that in this place and to stop thinking about what some liberal bureaucrat wrote on some piece of paper for some fellow over there to give a speech on when he probably does not even know what he is talking about. I encourage people to start thinking about it seriously, from the heart, and to support these kinds of initiatives and start making society a little safer.

Perhaps one day we will wipe the grins off the faces of those Liberals who like to come in here and say, “There is that Wild Rose man on the rampage again”. Let me say that this Wild Rose man will be in the defence of victims forever before I will ever give in to criminals.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

It being 6:30 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired. Accordingly, the question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Pursuant to Standing Order 93 the division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 22, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-48, An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments, as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise to speak on Bill C-48, a budget bill that was introduced by the Liberal government.

What is important about Bill C-48 is the backroom deal that was made by the NDP and Liberals for the government to stay in power. Originally, Bill C-43, the budget bill, had a lot of sense to it, but when the Liberal government felt threatened it suddenly made a deal with the NDP in Bill C-48, which committed $4.6 billion extra as demanded by the NDP.

Without thinking, without consultation and without any kind of plan, the deal with struck. Now we have a bill before the House that has an additional $4.6 billion for expenditures. It is causing concern across the country because we do not know how the money is going to be spent.

Of course there are vague ideas such as housing, foreign aid and things like that, but there is absolutely no concrete plan because this was struck very quickly. Neither did the NDP members ever have an idea about what they wanted to spend the money on, but because there was an opportunity presented to them they signed a deal and said they wanted $4.6 billion to be spent on certain areas, which they identified.

Now Canadians are stuck with it. Today we are debating the bill. It is not possible under any circumstances for any person who is fiscally responsible to support the bill, because this bill, in its generalities, is just about spending money.

Of course one of the areas that has been targeted is foreign aid, which the NDP keeps thinking is its domain. I have been in Parliament for almost eight years and have constantly heard from the NDP that it wants to increase the foreign aid budget to 0.07%, because this was a figure that was pulled out of the air and now the United Nations is committed to it. I think that is a substantial sum of money.

But the dynamics have changed. I come from the continent of Africa, which has been a recipient of the largest amount foreign aid for years and years and I have seen the effects when foreign aid is given without a plan and how it becomes a completely ineffective tool of development. Today, Africa and Latin America have not--and I repeat, have not--borne any fruit from the money that has been poured into these countries with good intentions. Today Africa has the highest levels of HIV and poverty. It has an education system and a health care system that are collapsing. So does Latin America.

People have the idea that if we throw money at this, which is what this budget is all about and what the NDP came up with, for some reason or somehow the extra money will solve the problem and we do not need to have a plan.

Even this week Mr. Lewis was crying that there needs to be 0.07%. What I do not understand about the 0.07% issue is how the money is going to be spent for these people. As a former critic of international development, I have gone round the world. I have been to Europe and I have seen the foreign aid budget for Ireland and for the Netherlands and the foreign aid budgets for all these countries that are pouring in more and more money, but for what and how are we going to use it?

Let me give a small example. When the tsunami disaster took place, the world responded with generosity. Suddenly there was all that money coming in, but there was no plan for how to spend it. The money was there, but how would we spend this money? That today is the issue of foreign aid.

The finance ministers at the G-8 have just wiped out the debts of all these poor countries. I do not see anything wrong with that because those countries were being burdened by their debts. They could not spend money on education and social services that were required in their countries because they were paying this heavy debt. There was no tangible economic benefit received for the money that had been borrowed because nobody was interested in seeing how development took place in these countries.

Now we have the same scenario. We have cleaned up the debt. Fine, but what have we really done? We have changed the fundamentals. Let me explain. Yesterday, even the World Bank president admitted there was a serious flaw. Unless we correct the fundamental flaws that cause poverty in these countries, we can throw as much money as we want at them but nothing much will happen. Let us talk about these fundamental flaws that are causing concern around the world.

Trade barriers to these countries are the largest impediments to development. Farmers in these countries cannot sell their products to us at all because we put artificial barriers on them. The subsidies that we give out, the thousands and thousands of dollars to agriculture, are hurting all those farmers in those countries. If they cannot sell their products, they will remain beggars. We come along and throw a couple of dollars at them and call it foreign aid, but it does not work. That is a fundamental flaw. We need to change that. The WTO is saying that change is required if we want to take Africa and Latin America out of poverty. That is one of the critical factors.

Another factor is good governance, responsible governance. NEPAD has come into place in Africa to provide good governance to Africans. That is fine. One can understand that we would support NEPAD. If Africans can police themselves well and bring in good governance, we would be happy with that, but the case of Zimbabwe shows that NEPAD has a serious flaw. No one is holding Mr. Mugabe accountable for the simple reason that Mr. Mugabe fought for independence in that country when it was under white rule. Out of courtesy to him and out of courtesy for that war that he fought in the bush, nobody is willing to hold him accountable despite the fact that every factor indicates that Zimbabwe is going down.

How could we expect that these kinds of people will be brought to justice? Mr. Mugabe did his job but it was time for him to move on and he did not. These examples keep going on and on. It does not take long for countries that are not sound to fall down. We need to stand behind the African countries and tell them they have to have those institutions. We need to support those institutions.

Only recently, CIDA narrowed its focus to 25 countries. Prior to that we were in 106 countries giving a few dollars and doing what? I do not understand what we were doing. Today my colleague questioned the Minister of International Cooperation as to why we give aid to China. China itself is giving foreign aid to other countries and Canada gives foreign aid to China. Somebody needs to knock their heads here. In answer to our questions we hear, “No, we do not give aid to China. We give it to the other institutions to help them”. They have the money for their institutions to move forward. WTO negotiator John Weekes is working to help China in the WTO.

I could go on and on about foreign aid. It is difficult to support this budget because there is no plan. There is no plan on how we want to spend this thing out here. Hopefully, somebody will hold the government accountable because these are Canadian taxpayers' dollars that we are talking about.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I salute my colleague on his comments about foreign aid and good governance. I have to say that there is almost a sense of irony. I am a rookie here. I am just finishing up my first year as a member of Parliament. We hear about the government of the day and the political party, the Liberal Party of Canada, passing around envelopes and suitcases full of cash. It is a government steeped in corruption. Two properly framed motions of non-confidence in the government passed in the House and the government said, “We will pencil you in for what we think is a confidence vote, sometime after the Queen leaves, maybe a week later”. That same government is exporting its concept of good governance around the world.

Does my colleague think that is the kind of governance that countries around the world actually need? Could there be a better government to replace the Liberal government and provide true good governance, not only to Canada, but around the world?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has raised an excellent point. It has become shameful for us in Canada. He is absolutely right. We have been going around talking about good governance and telling other countries how they should handle their affairs when we do not look at how we handle our own affairs.

We only need look at what has come out of the Gomery inquiry, and let us not mince words about it. The way the Liberal Party operated in Quebec on the sponsorship scandal with all this money, one would think one was reading a novel about some dictatorship in a third world country where money was flowing around to buy things. Under no circumstances would one expect something like that in a country like Canada. We would expect that people who are in public service would have honourable intentions and would not take the Canadian taxpayers to the cleaners.

What we have heard is extremely shocking. No wonder Canadians are angry. Let us not even worry about what the foreign aid people in other countries are saying, we Canadians ourselves are angry. When I go out in my riding and talk to my constituents, it is unbelievable the amount of anger that exists.

The Prime Minister of Canada went on national television and stated quite clearly that he was sorry. It is not a question of being sorry. What kind of a message are we giving to our children? What kind of a message are we giving to anybody on what has happened here?

One of the good things about this whole issue is that we do have certain safeguards. One safeguard that brought this issue to light was the Auditor General. I am very happy to say that it was the Auditor General's investigation that brought this issue right out in the open. I have been speaking in Parliament about all the government waste that is going on and nobody listens, but when the Auditor General brought it up, that was the safeguard we had. I am happy to say that part of the Conservative Party's platform is to strength that institution to ensure there is accountability and never again will something like that happen in Canada.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, in his excellent speech, my colleague mentioned that the government has no plan. That is very clear in a number of areas. One of the big issues in my riding right now has to do with safety and security.

We just found out in the last couple of days that five RCMP detachments in the southwest corner of Saskatchewan are going to be closed. These are detachments along the border. We have about 150 miles of border with Montana. The RCMP have decided that they are not going to put resources into that area any more. They are going to pull out.

There will be 100 miles of border that will be basically undefended. There will not be an RCMP officer stationed within 50 miles of the border. Each of the three points have multiple intersections to highways and as people come away from the border, it is a long time before they get to a place where there is an RCMP detachment. I just wanted to point that out.

In terms of no plan, it is kind of interesting as I have called around and brought this up in the House. The Liberal government said, “It is not our fault. We do not have anything to do with this. It is the province's fault”. When I called the provincial justice minister, he told me, “It is not our fault. We work with the RCMP, but it is really their fault. They allocate the resources”. I spoke to the RCMP and they said, “We really don't make those decisions. We kind of leave that up to the local detachment”. I pointed out to them that I was sure that the detachments could make the decisions to reduce staffing but they sure could not make decisions to increase staffing.

A large area of our province is being left completely unprotected along the border. It is interesting that the Liberals seem to have no plan there, but they do have pretty specific plans in other areas.

We heard this afternoon in question period that the industry minister's official agent has been appointed as a director of the Business Development Bank. It seems the Liberals were able to plan that very well. I have been involved in Wheat Board issues. It is interesting that the campaign manager of the minister in charge of the Wheat Board has been appointed as the lobbyist for the Canadian Wheat Board.

I would like the member to comment on why the Liberals seem to be so well organized and so able to plan when it is to their own benefit, but they are so unable to plan when it is to Canadians' benefit.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for pointing out what is going on in our federation. We are blaming each other. The federal government blames the province, and the province blames the federal government. This playing goes on all day.

When I go out in my riding Canadians are saying, “We don't care who you are. Get the job done”. It is as simple as A, B, C. We have provincial agreements and we could easily sit down and talk with each other to find solutions. Our duty is to help Canadians.

This afternoon a colleague asked a question regarding the fiscal imbalance. The federal government keeps taking in money but how much money is it putting back into Canada?

During the election campaign, we saw all the expenditures. The Liberal government says that it is giving money to the cities, but it was the Liberals who starved the cities. The Prime Minister was the finance minister for how many years? Today as we look around, the cities, infrastructure, defence, everything everywhere is crying for money.

My colleague from Saskatchewan has pointed out another example where I am sure that the government decided to take the money out to save the expenditure. Of course, that was not part of the NDP deal and that is why the RCMP does not have the money now. After all, this budget bill is $4.9 billion for the NDP so the Liberal government can survive.

The common sense approach that the member was asking about, I would not expect that from the government side.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

6:50 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-48, which in this corner of the House we refer to as the NDP's better balanced budget bill. I want to stress that we take the balanced part of that short title very seriously.

Nothing in this budget bill, proposed by the NDP, will do anything to further the federal deficit in Canada. In fact, we are very committed to the balanced budget aspect of the legislation. We will not see a deficit resulting out of the investments proposed in the legislation, and that is the NDP way.

We have a strong tradition through our provincial governments and through other municipal governments of maintaining balanced budgets and caring about deficit financing. We do not go that way and that is our history, unlike in the federal House where years of Conservative and Liberal deficits have put us in the debt position we are in today. That is not the NDP legacy in Canada. We are not prepared to go that route with this legislation either.

In my own community of Burnaby, the NDP municipal party, the Burnaby Citizens Association, has been in power for almost two decades. It has maintained that tradition of no deficits in that period as well. In Burnaby we are known for our record of responsible financial leadership. That is what the people of Burnaby have come to expect from New Democrats and that is what they continue to get, even with the legislation before us.

This money will come from surpluses. Last year we saw a predicted surplus of $1.9 billion turn out to be a surplus of $9.1 billion. Given that kind of surplus and given that kind of inaccuracy in prediction of the surplus, I am very confident that the financing in the bill will go ahead without any problems.

Where we make ground on this was to remove from the corporate tax cuts to large corporation that were proposed in the government's original budget bill. No one was expecting those. The Liberals did not campaign on that. No one was promised those in the last federal election. Canadians did not vote for those billions of dollars of corporate tax cuts in the last election. Therefore, that is something easily removed from this budget.

We know as well that corporate profits are away up in Canada in the past year. Even in this current quarter, they are up significantly, 10%, 15% over last year. Last year they did pretty well. Some analysts have said that the large corporations in Canada are awash in cash. Clearly, another large billion dollar corporate tax cut is not necessary in Canada.

We recognize the importance of small and medium business to Canada. That is why those corporations and corporate interests are not affected by this tax cut. We are saying that the large profitable corporations are in good shape and they do not need this extra corporate tax cut.

Where will we spend this extra $4.6 billion in investment? On the issues that the NDP campaigned on in the last election and on which I campaigned in Burnaby—Douglas.

Bill C-48 proposes to invest $1.6 billion toward increasing affordable housing for Canadians, including aboriginal Canadians. That was an area of almost complete deficiency in the original Liberal government budget. When the budget came down from the finance minister, the New Democrats were shocked to see nothing for affordable housing.

In a community such as mine, affordable housing is an absolutely crucial way of addressing issues of poverty. It is a way of addressing issues of health in my community. The fact that there was nothing in the Liberal budget was a huge deficiency.

I am glad that our leader seized the opportunity to seek some improvements to the Liberal budget to get that included.

There was nothing in the original Liberal budget for post-secondary education except debt forgiveness should a person die. The only way a student could get assistance was to pass away. That is slim comfort I am sure to the students who are in massive debt and who have faced tuition increases of 160% over the last 10 years. We are glad that we have managed to secure $1.5 billion in additional funding for post-secondary education and training to cover that deficiency which existed in the original Liberal budget.

There is also $900 million for the environment, including an extra one cent per litre in the gas tax over the next couple of years. That money will go to public transit and an energy retrofit program for low income housing.

Again, we know that the Liberal commitment on the environment was not what it should have been in the last budget. The Liberal commitment on Kyoto is lacking. This goes toward improving that commitment and improving public transit in our cities. We know that public transit is a significant way of reducing smog. We know it reduces congestion. We have traffic problems in a community like Burnaby. Lots of commuters transit through Burnaby to get to the downtown core of the city of Vancouver. Increased public transit will go a long way to solving those problems.

Also there is about a $500 million increase in foreign aid to help push us toward the target of 0.7% of GDP for foreign aid. We know how crucial it is to help our neighbours and our brothers and sisters around the world with some of the very severe problems of poverty and with development.

That is a commitment the Liberals made. They needed an extra push and we are happy to have provided it.

Housing is a crucial issue in my riding. The high cost of housing on the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and poverty in my community are also an important issues. Almost 27% of people in Burnaby--Douglas, which is a fairly well-to-do, middle class, suburban community, live in poverty. It was a surprise to many of the folks living in Burnaby because it is so well hidden. These folks live in substandard housing and pay far too high a percentage of their income for it. That means they have to cut back on other things like food and other requirements for healthy living.

We need affordable housing in Burnaby--Douglas. We know that Burnaby--Douglas many years ago did very well with the cooperative housing program, which was a significant boon to our community. It set up some very interesting and successful communities where people of mixed incomes lived very well together, communities like the Norman Bethune Co-op. The co-op is almost 30 years old and is in danger of collapse. It cannot get the assistance it needs from the federal government to do the repairs that are necessary to its aging building.

There are problems with the mortgage and there is no help from CMHC which seems more intent on acting like a major financial institution rather than an institution dealing with housing concerns. These people are struggling to maintain their community and a very successful small co-op in my riding. They are getting very little help from the federal government.

I hope some of this money will go to alleviate problems for co-ops, problems like those of the Norman Bethune Co-op. If we could free up and shake loose some of the huge amount of money that CMHC has socked away, we could put it back into solving some of the problems of housing and co-ops, like Norman Bethune.

I have also been contacted by the McLaren Housing Society and JoAnne Fahr, the executive director. She talks about the housing problems that are faced by many people living with HIV in the Lower Mainland. I just want to quote from her note. It says:

Please understand that here in the Lower Mainland I have a wait list of 250 HIV+ men, women and children in critical need of adequate, affordable and safe housing. This wait list has grown by 50% in my three years on the job. Many of these folks are living in deplorable conditions having to share filthy bathrooms and having no kitchen facilities in which to cook nutritious meals, so important to their health. McLaren Housing Society was Canada's first housing program for people coping with HIV and began in 1987. Since then it has grown from one 5 bedroom house to multiple programs which currently has enough funding for 94 clients. Still, 250 people wait. And I have to tell them to continue waiting whilst they impose on friends and family or worse, couch surf, live in a vehicle or in the worst Downtown Eastside hotels you can imagine.

You can assist in this basic determinant of health by recognizing how important social housing is and applying money to this critical shortage. Please put housing first. We should not have a homelessness issue in Canada.

I am happy the NDP has fought hard to see there is something in this year's budget for affordable housing to assist people like the people that Ms. Fahr describes, who are living with HIV and who require decent housing, and to assist them not only in living a happy and productive life but also in living a healthy life.

A recent survey indicated that homelessness had tripled in my riding of Burnaby—Douglas. That is just not acceptable in a society like ours.

I am proud that this budget has increased investments in post-secondary education. Simon Fraser University and the B.C. Institute of Technology are in my riding. and students need that kind of support to pursue the education that will help them be successful and productive in their careers.

I am glad that the NDP negotiated, fought hard and worked hard to seek improvements to the Liberal budget. I look forward to voting in favour of this important bill in the very near future.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Pallister Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member for his comments on this no-tell motel budget that they have concocted.

This budget is an insult to thinking people. It is a disrespectful budget in the sense that it disregards the fundamental principles of money management, but then I do not blame the NDP members for disregarding principles they have never abided by and do not understand. These are rules that are much too complex for the members of that socialist community to understand.

It is evident they have not read the bill. The fact that it is a very expensive bill has escaped their attention, over $2 billion per page. The fact that they have been basically promised very little by the Liberals and sold out for it tells us their price. Also, the member did put some factual inaccuracies on the record that should be cleared up. It reveals his lack of logic and a logic that never seems to enter into NDP money management discussions.

First, he said that the elimination of corporate taxes would pay for the NDP promises. The member probably is not aware that those corporate tax cuts do not occur until 2008 and the promises are starting earlier than that. Therefore, I am not sure how he will do that. Maybe there will be some deficit financing in the interim.

Far be it from me to defend the Liberals, but I have to on this one. He said that the budget proposes to do nothing about housing. I would encourage the member to have a look at the budget book.

There is a good section on aboriginal housing, first nation housing on reserve. On page 96, if the member would like to refer to it, the government provides an investment of $295 million over five years. According to the NDP finance critic, the whole NDP-Liberal budget is a trivial amount at $4.6 billion, so maybe $300 million or so is chicken feed to the NDP. I am not sure.

However, the fact of the matter remains that in spite of the NDP-Liberal pretend commitment to aboriginal people, the sad truth is not one aboriginal person will own those houses. They are just houses, not homes. That is a disappointing thing for aboriginal people and aboriginal people care deeply about the issue. They will walk out tonight, look up at the same sky as us and see the same stars. The problem is on the ground where the on reserve aboriginal people live, they do not have the same rights as the rest of us and that is a shame.

Mouthing little platitudes about caring for aboriginal people and then not voting for the amendments the Conservative Party brought forward to support aboriginal people, shows a bit of a contradiction.

I invite the member to comment on how he feels about the fact that in Canada on reserve aboriginal people are not subject to matrimonial property rules, which means an abused aboriginal woman is supposed to give up everything in our country if she walks away from the home that she does not own. The rules do not protect her. Would the member care to speak to that?