House of Commons Hansard #30 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sentence.


Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Welland.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.


John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-9 this evening.

Conditional sentencing allows for sentences of imprisonment to be served in the community, rather than in a correctional facility. It falls at a point between imprisonment and sanctions such as probation or fines. The conditional sentence was not introduced in isolation, but as part of a review of the sentencing provisions in the Criminal Code.

These provisions included the fundamental purpose and the principles of sentencing, namely, that a sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. The principles apply to conditional sentences as well.

The primary goal of conditional sentencing is to reduce the reliance upon incarceration by providing an alternative sentencing mechanism to the courts. In addition, the conditional sentence provides an opportunity to further incorporate restorative justice concepts into the sentencing process by encouraging those who have caused harm to acknowledge this fact and to make reparation. Achieving these objectives is beneficial to society.

At the time of their introduction, conditional sentences were generally seen as an appropriate mechanism to divert minor offences and offenders away from the prison system. Overuse of incarceration was recognized by many as problematic while restorative justice concepts were seen as beneficial. In practice, however, conditional sentences are sometimes viewed in a negative light when they are used in cases of very serious crimes.

Concern has been raised that some offenders are receiving conditional sentences of imprisonment for crimes of serious violence, sexual assault and related offences, driving offences involving death or serious bodily harm, and theft committed in the context of a breach of trust.

While most people would agree that allowing persons not dangerous to the community, who would otherwise be incarcerated and who have not committed a serious or violent crime, to serve their sentence in the community is beneficial, some consider that in certain cases the very nature of the offence and the offender require actual incarceration.

The fear is that to refuse to incarcerate an offender can bring the entire conditional sentence regime and hence the criminal justice system into disrepute. In other words, it is not the existence of conditional sentences that is problematic, but rather their use in cases that seem clearly to call for incarceration.

Often it is an inciting headline and media reports that raise calls of outrage. However, had one sat through the criminal trial, heard submissions on sentence and the reasons for judgment, it is not unusual that a reasonable individual would support the decision.

The provisions of governing conditional sentences are set out in sections 742 to 742.7 of the Criminal Code. They set out four criteria that must be met before a conditional sentence can be considered by the sentencing judge. First, the offence for which the person has been convicted must not be punishable by a minimum term of imprisonment. Second, the sentencing judge must have determined that the offence should be subject to a term of imprisonment of less than two years. Third, the sentencing judge must be satisfied that serving the sentence in the community would not endanger the safety of the community. Fourth, the sentencing judge must be satisfied that the conditional sentence would be consistent with the fundamental purpose and principles of sentencing as set out in section 718 of the Criminal Code.

Insofar as the fourth criterion is concerned, among the objectives of sentencing are the denunciation of unlawful conduct, the deterrence of the offender and others from committing offences, the separation of the offender from the community when necessary, the rehabilitation of the offender, the provision of reparation to victims or the community, and the promotion of a sense of responsibility in the offender.

The foregoing criteria were designed to ensure that the most severe cases would not be dealt with by a conditional sentence. In addition to meeting the criteria set out, conditional sentences involve a number of compulsory conditions as set out in section 742 of the Criminal Code.

These conditions compel the offender to keep the peace and be of good behaviour, appear before the court when required to do so, report to a supervisor when required, remain within the jurisdiction of the court unless written permission to go outside the jurisdiction is obtained from the court, and notifying the court and a supervisor in advance of any change of name or address and promptly notify the court or the supervisor of any change in employment or occupation.

Optional conditions are designed to respond to the circumstances of the individual offender. Such conditions may include an order that the offender abstain from the consumption of alcohol or drugs, abstain from owning, possessing or carrying a weapon, perform up to 240 hours of community service, or any other reasonable condition that the court considers desirable for securing the good conduct of the offender and for preventing a repetition by the offender of the same offence or the commission of another offence.

As an alternative to the possibility of imposing a conditional sentence, a court may suspend sentence and impose a probation order. Section 731 of the Criminal Code indicates that, where a person is convicted of an offence, a court may, having regard to the age and character of the offender, the nature of the offence, and the circumstances surrounding its commission, suspend the passing of sentence and direct that the offender be released on the conditions prescribed in a probation order.

This possibility is open to the court only if no minimum punishment is prescribed by law. In many cases, conditional sentences are preferential alternatives to a suspended sentence or probation order, as I have just elaborated.

In a Queen's University study that concentrated upon the victims of crime and their attitudes toward conditional sentencing, the following benefits of conditional sentencing were cited and I find these most interesting: most rehabilitation programs can be more effectively implemented when the offender is in the community rather than in custody; prison is no more effective a deterrent than more severe intermediate punishments, such as enhanced probation or home confinement; keeping offenders in custody is significantly more expensive than supervising them in the community; the public has become more supportive of community-based sentencing, except for serious crimes of violence; widespread interest in restorative justice has sparked interest in community-based sanctions. Restorative justice initiatives seek to promote the interests of the victim at all stages of the criminal justice process, but particularly at the sentencing stage; and the virtues of community-based sanctions include the saving of valuable correctional resources and the ability of the offender to continue or seek employment and maintain ties with his or her family.

The most important case to consider conditional sentencing is the decision of the Supreme Court in Regina v. Proulx. Here, the Supreme Court examined the issue of conditional sentences in a case that concerned a charge of dangerous driving causing death and bodily harm. Prior to this decision, judges had little guidance on when it was appropriate to impose a conditional sentence, outside of the criteria set out in the Criminal Code. The Supreme Court made it clear that a number of changes needed to be made to the way in which the sanction was used. But the judgment also consists of a strong endorsement of conditional sentencing.

The key result of the Proulx decision was that there is no presumption against the use of a conditional sentence if the crime does not have a mandatory period of incarceration.

Objections have been raised to the use of conditional sentences for certain crimes. One example is that of impaired driving. The organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving, MADD, Canada has circulated a petition asking Parliament to eliminate the availability of conditional sentences for those convicted of impaired driving causing death or impaired driving causing bodily harm.

MADD believes that for violent crimes in which persons have been killed and/or injured, a conditional sentence does not adequately address the severity of the crime. There is a perception that the justice system is tilted towards concern for the offender and not enough is said about the value of the human life that has been taken away. These are positions that must be considered as well.

The previous Liberal government introduced Bill C-70, an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to conditional sentences, to further clarify the appropriate limit to the use of conditional sentences. We took the safety and security of Canadian communities very seriously.

Mr. Speaker, you are indicating to me that my time is over, and I--

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

Maybe we could have unanimous consent for me to continue, Mr. Speaker.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 5:44, the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

moved that Bill C-277, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (luring a child), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in this House today to speak on Bill C-277. This is a bill which would toughen up prison sentences for those who lure children over the Internet for sexual purposes.

As members know, the proliferation of the Internet has opened up a whole new world for Canadians. The Internet has delivered the potential for tremendous good and has created an information explosion. Unfortunately, as with many other good things in life, the Internet also has its seedy side.

Canada is the most Internet-savvy nation in the world. Almost all Canadian children either use the Internet regularly or have easy access to it. Communicating over the Internet has become commonplace to the point where millions of children spend countless hours every day sending e-mails to each other, participating in news groups and message boards, and engaging in public and private discussions in chat rooms.

It is also true that most Canadian parents mistakenly believe that their children are entirely safe when surfing the Internet. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. Many parents have no idea where to place computers in their homes or how to apply parental controls to protect their children.

For all the good the Internet has brought to life on earth, it has also caught the attention of people who sexually exploit children. The Internet allows sexual predators to hide behind false names and false ages as they bring innocent children into their confidence. Their methods are many, but their goal is always the same: to get children to trust them, to slowly but surely engage them in sexual banter, and eventually to encourage them to leave their homes to meet the predator, where it is the predator's intention to sexually exploit and abuse the child.

I cannot imagine a more horrific act than the callous abuse of a vulnerable, unsuspecting child.

Prior to 2002, Canada had no means of prosecuting the sexual predators who were enticing our children to meet them off line. This meant that these criminals, in order to be convicted of an offence, would have to physically meet with the child and engage in a sexual offence as defined by the Criminal Code. Essentially, a child had to be physically victimized before a crime took place.

What was the previous government's response? I want to be fair and give credit where credit is due. In July of 2002, the former Liberal government responded to the ever-increasing threat of children being lured over the Internet. It enacted section 172.1 of the Criminal Code, which makes it a crime to use interactive, online communication to lure a child for the purpose of sexually exploiting him or her. The offence does not require an offender to actually abuse the child. Simply communicating with that child with the intention of luring the child is enough to be convicted of that offence. That was clearly a bold new step.

Since the proclamation of the luring law, there have been numerous convictions under section 172.1, some with prison terms of up to three and a half years. The problem, however, is that when offenders receive sentences of less than two years, the judge has the discretion of imposing a conditional sentence.

In layman's terms, a conditional sentence means that the offender serves the sentence either in the community or often in the comfort of his home. Sadly, there have been a number of cases in which convictions resulted in conditional sentences, where offenders were permitted to serve their sentences at home or otherwise in the community. Let me tell members about one of those cases.

The case involved a 35 year old man who communicated with a person he believed to be under the age of 14. He used a false name. The Internet chat conversations became sexual as the man suggested that this girl engage in sexual acts and meet him at a predetermined location.

He told the girl they could get in trouble for what they were about to do because of her age, a clear indication that he knew what he was doing was against the law. He then drove 22 kilometres to meet the girl and was arrested at the meeting spot. The man received an 18 month sentence. However, that sentence was to be served in the community--house arrest.

To me it is incomprehensible that a sexual predator of this nature would be allowed to serve his sentence in the community, where he could have potentially unrestricted access to the Internet and to children if he desired to break the conditions of his sentence.

There is something else compounding the apparent inconsistency in sentencing. That is the fact that the courts have not yet had to deal with repeat offenders due to the short history of this luring offence. It is highly likely that in the future there will be those who will become repeat offenders for this crime, yet the maximum sentence currently available is only five years.

The weight of scientific and medical literature indicates that many sexual predators, especially pedophiles, are not treatable and represent a lifelong threat to our communities. Allowing these offenders to serve their time in the community, with relatively easy access to computers and children, represents a grave danger to our young children.

That is where Bill C-277 comes into play. This bill changes the law by increasing the maximum prison sentence for a child luring offence from 5 years to 10. On the face of it, it is quite simple. However, that is not the end of the story. As we know, the government has tabled another criminal justice bill, Bill C-9, which would remove the availability of conditional sentences, including house arrest, for serious crimes. Clearly, luring is a serious crime.

Typically, serious crimes have been defined as crimes for which the maximum sentence is 10 years in prison or more. Increasing the maximum sentence for child luring to 10 years will also trigger the provisions of Bill C-9, if enacted. This will ensure that those convicted of luring a child will spend hard time in jail and not have a cushy existence in the comfort of their homes.

Protection of the most vulnerable people in our society, our children, is the objective of Bill C-277. The threat to our children who use the Internet is rising, so much so that the Government of Manitoba has implemented a program called Cybertip, an Internet and telephone tip line for suspected sex offences against children.

This program allows citizens who suspect that children are being targeted by online predators to notify the authorities, either by registering a tip on the Internet or by telephoning Cybertip. It also educates parents in the dos and don'ts of Internet usage by children and on how to protect their children against Internet luring. The program compiles statistics and data to assist governments, criminologists and police authorities in cracking down on the sexual exploitation of children.

During its first two full years of operation, Cybertip received over 1,200 reports of child exploitation, 10% of which involved the sexual luring of children. The program has been such a resounding success that it has now become our national tip line.

A number of different studies reveal some shocking statistics. Fourteen per cent of children surveyed admitted that they had chatted with strangers while online. Parents reported that 4% of their children had had an off-line meeting with someone they had first encountered on the Internet. In fact, in a survey of 300 Canadian youth, one in five admitted meeting face to face with people they had first met on the Internet.

Other nations with high Internet use rates have also found it necessary to enact legislation to deal with child luring over the Internet. The United States, for example, has a federal child luring law that is broader in scope than our own. It criminalizes luring that occurs in any form, not just via a computer system, and it places a mandatory minimum sentence of five years on the offender, with a maximum sentence of 30 years' imprisonment.

The United Kingdom has a luring law which was enacted in 2002 and targets adults who meet a child they have contacted over the Internet for sexual purposes. This law enables police to conduct sting operations and apprehend sex offenders who show intent to meet with an underage child. The maximum penalty for that offence is 14 years in prison.

In Australia, the law against luring is captured by a new “grooming” offence. It makes it an offence for adults to target children over the Internet or through any form of telecommunications and attempts to show that this country is going to become tough on crime. The maximum penalty is 12 years' imprisonment. However, if the child is under the age of 16, the maximum penalty increases to 15 years.

As we can see from these three comparative jurisdictions, Bill C-277, even with a maximum sentence of 10 years, is still the least severe of all of them.

The gravity of this problem of luring cannot be understated. Sexual predators are engaging in grooming techniques where they first gain the child's trust, empathize with their home situation and gradually acclimatize the child to further sexual situations and eventual meetings with the predator. It is widely reported that children with depression, low self-esteem and difficult home lives are especially vulnerable to the attention of adults on the Internet who pretend to care.

This makes the act that much more repulsive.

Sexual predators who seek out and target the most vulnerable children in our society deserve severe sentences in jail, not in the community. Raising the maximum penalty for their crimes to 10 years in prison is fully justified and is necessary in order to deter these offenders and send a clear message that luring a child over the Internet will come with swift and certain justice.

Clearly Canada needs the most effective legislation possible on luring in order to prevent it and condemn it in the strongest terms.

What does the bill achieve? It does three things.

First, by raising the maximum sentence for luring to 10 years in prison, the bill sends a stronger message to our community that we as a society will not tolerate the exploitation of our children.

Second, the bill ensures that those convicted of an indictable offence under the luring section will spend hard time in jail, away from the community and from those who are at risk from the offender.

Third, Bill C-277 brings the penalties for luring in line with most of the other sexual offences listed in part V of the Criminal Code. Most of those provide for maximum sentences of at least 10 years and up to life in prison. I think all of us can agree that the luring of a child for sexual purposes is no less an offence.

Does Bill C-277 completely address the problem of sexual exploitation over the Internet? Of course not. I want to close by challenging parents to take ownership of their children's computer time, to learn about parental control programs on their computers, to place their child's computer in a highly visible area where supervision is readily available and to spend time learning how to make their child's Internet experience a safe one. Above all, they should get to know their children better and share their personal struggles and challenges with them.

When the Liberals enacted section 172.1 of the Criminal Code, it was a good start. Bill C-277 is another step in the right direction. It is my hope that this legislation will be enacted quickly on a multi-partisan basis. Our children truly are worth it.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking our colleague who took the trouble to introduce a bill. Also, as an aside, I want to note how sad I am that private members' business had such a slow start. I hope that the boards of internal economy will look into the matter, because we private members are owed at least 20 hours to make up for lost time.

When I read the bill introduced by our colleague, I realized how important it was. It is true that, on the good side, modern technology allows children to be brighter intellectually and more informed. But it is also true that this comes at a price, and the risks are those described by our colleague.

Still, I am not comfortable with this bill because I get the feeling that we are trying to lump together two debates on matters that would be better addressed separately, each on its own merits. The Criminal Code contains provisions concerning child luring as well as child sexual abuse.

I would like to ask our colleague if there is any indication that these provisions are not being used by the courts. The hon. member uses child luring as a premise for a debate on conditional sentencing.

The Bloc Québécois is not in favour of making piecemeal changes to sentencing. It is not our policy to vote in favour of bills providing for mandatory minimum sentences. But that does not reflect in any way on the seriousness, importance and merit of the bill. The hon. member is right to want to rise in this House to speak on child luring. He even recognized that the previous government legislated on that issue. This is therefore not a partisan issue.

As a member of Parliament, I believe that we ought to refrain from automatically wanting to base the debate regarding sentencing on existing provisions of the Criminal Code.

So, since you seem to be getting impatient, Mr. Speaker, and that this is not really like you, I would like to hear the hon. member on that.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure I fully understood the question. I believe the member is asking why the bill and my comments are trying to address two different issues at the same time. In fact, the bill does not address two issues at the same time. The bill simply doubles the sentence for luring from five years in prison to 10 years in prison. That is a maximum sentence.

We are not dealing with mandatory minimum sentences, and I think the member understands that.

If Bill C-9 passes, and I hope it does, the side benefit will that the luring offence will now have a maximum of 10 years in prison. It also means perpetrators, under that section, will spend hard time in jail as opposed to house arrest or some other form of community sentencing.

I hope that answers the member's question. I know he has given it a lot of thought. I appreciated his earlier comments as he addressed the conditional sentencing reforms that our party has brought forward.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have no hesitation at all in praising my colleague for the intent behind his bill. However, as legislators, we have a responsibility to understand all the circumstances and facts on which we base amendments. That is a particularly onerous task on our part when we deal with the criminal justice system.

I appreciate some of the research he has done, particularly with the comparative jurisdictions in Australia, England and the United States. Has he done any research on what the experience has actually been in Canada? This section is a relatively new section to the code. For instance, are there any cases where judges have said that they would like to impose a more severe penalty than five years, but they cannot do it because of the existing subsection 172.1?

Similarly, what has been the experience in those other three jurisdictions? Have they come anywhere close to imposing sentences, whether it is 10, 12 or 15 years in the examples that he gave? My belief, from the limited research I have done, is that in the vast majority of cases it is the separate section of a summary conviction offence that is laid by the prosecutor and the police and no consideration is given to a sentence longer than two years.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member asked whether I understood all the facts. I think the member will understand that I have done a considerable amount of research on this subject. In fact, I have a list of eight very recent specific cases in 2005 that highlight the problem of luring.

With respect to the member's question as to whether judges have indicated a willingness to sentence for more than five years, that is difficult to say. As the member knows, it is rare. In fact, I cannot think of an example where the courts actually have sentenced someone to a maximum sentence, other than life imprisonment for the most serious of crimes. Typically, when there is a 10 year maximum sentence, the sentence will likely be less than that. That is the way the process works. It is very rare that someone actually gets the maximum sentence imposed.

My response to the member is that we have indication that there is a willingness to sentence for at least three and a half years. Given the fact that we do not have examples of repeat offences being sentenced, I believe there will be incredible pressure in the future to provide for more room in the sentencing structure. I hope that answers his question.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this first debate of a private member's business item in this new Parliament. As my colleague earlier mentioned, it is great to have the private members' business underway. I know the quality and content of debate in the House will improve immeasurably with this new content added to that of the government's orders.

First, I do not feel I can support the member's bill and not because I do not support the objective of protecting children. However, it is not clear to me, and I will try to explain in the few minutes I have. The bill probably will not achieve the objectives.

The member has explained that he wants to bring the punishment within the threshold contained in the bill that would revise the conditional sentence legislation before the House. I understand that part. However, simply doubling the penalty, if that were his objective, with a view to ensuring that the convicted person would do hard time, does not in my view accomplish his objective.

All the sentencing options on convictions still remain within the section with which he is dealing. He has simply increased the indictable provision from five to ten years. He has not addressed the summary conviction provision which allows a judge to convict or a prosecutor to proceed on summary conviction. Summary convictions are punishable by a prison term of up to six months only and a fine of $2,000. By doubling the penalty, does not get the member and his colleagues to where they want to go.

Let me state right off the bat as well that I do not agree to doubling sentences just for the heck of it. We could double the sentence for all kinds of offences and say that we are being tough on crime. Going to the list of all the offences in the Criminal Code and doubling them for the sake of doubling it, is not going to get us anywhere. What about the parent or guardian procuring sexual activity of the child? The maximum penalty there is two years. Maybe we should double it, triple it, quadruple it or maybe have a life sentence. We could do that.

Then there is the householder permitting sexual activity on the premises of that person. That is a two year maximum penalty. What about corrupting children? There is a term not exceeding two years if one is convicted of carrying on activity that corrupts children.

The hon. member, while he is justifiably concerned about the new luring risks on the Internet, has missed a whole lot of other sections, about 100 of them, where the penalties are all in a range within which we have lived for many years. I do not have to go through the whole code. I know the member, if he has done his research as he has said, would have looked for the offences of disorderly conduct, nudity in a public place, causing a disturbance, interfering with a minister from carrying on his or her religious duties, obstructing a minister, trespassing at night and vagrancy. All these things have penalties punishable on summary conviction or penalties of two years to five years.

In addition to that whole piece of what is an appropriate sentence for a particular criminal offence, this provision will not remove the other sentencing options that are available to the court, for example, probation. That option is still available to a sentencing judge. I am not saying that is the sentence he or she is going to give, but it is still there even though the member is trying to get rid of the conditional sentence option.

I would say a conditional sentence is often superior to a probation, but conditions can be attached to both, or a fine. The fine option has not been removed either as a sentencing option.

I was going to talk a little bit about the new government's attempt to make Canadians feel like there is a whole lot more crime than there used to be and that the only way we are going to be secure in our homes and neighbourhoods is if we throw everybody in the slammer and increase all the sentences. However, on listening to the member it appears to me to be fairly clear that was not his intention, that he is really just trying to bring this sentence within a range so that it could be dealt with under the new conditional sentencing provisions.

I will not go into my diatribe on what I would call the neo-con politics of fear. However, if all of these sentencing options are available to judges now, then in order to accomplish his broader objective of deterrence and denunciation, which I believe are part of his objective, then this bill and the provisions that he is urging upon us are going to have to be tweaked two or three different ways.

I suggest to him respectfully that this whole process of trying to use the Criminal Code as a means of reducing crime is a much more complex piece. Simply doubling penalties, creating mandatory minimum penalties across the board and great big wholesale reforms is not a method that I can accept as one that is going to achieve the objective we seek of denunciation and deterrence to crime and dealing with criminals in a way that achieves the various objectives that society has. By the way, all those objectives are set out in the Criminal Code now. Thanks to the sentencing bill that was passed here in the early 1990s, there is a whole regime of sentencing objectives.

The member may wish to urge upon us some new sentencing objectives. That would be quite rational and it may be that we could tweak this. But I know that the sentencing provisions deal with the whole issue of child victims. As far as I can recall when the House dealt with it, nothing was left out of the sentencing prospectus that we urged upon the court.

Please remember that prior to that point in time in the early 1990s, there was no sentencing provision. All the sentencing guidelines had been developed by the courts themselves. That was the first time Parliament in this country said to the courts, “When you sentence, Mr. or Ms. Judge, here are the criteria,” and they were listed in an order. In fact we changed the order as the bill moved through the House and through the Senate.

I accept the member's objective. I and every member of the House want to do what we can to protect children from predators, on the streets, in the schools, on the Internet, wherever they are. I am sure every member in this place wants to do that. This bill has adopted a method which I just do not think is going to get us to where the member would like to be. Therefore, my preference as a private member is not to support the bill but to urge him to continue focusing on this envelope of public policy with a view to improving it. We will probably be doing that into infinity because the Criminal Code always has to be adjusted to adapt to current conditions.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Edmonton Centre.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, before I ask a question I would like to address the neo-liberal fearmongering about--

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

My apologies. There are no questions and comments during private members' business. I can sense the disappointment from all members of the House, but those are the Standing Orders. My apologies for getting mixed up on that. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Hochelaga

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, like my hon. colleague who just spoke, I am very pleased to take part in this first hour of debate on private members' business.

I have often raised this issue in caucus. I am a great believer in private members' business. I hope that the House leaders will study how we can catch up. Parliament met for the first time on April 4, and I think that at least 20 hours of catch-up time should be allotted to members who tabled bills. I am going to pressure my leader, the hon. member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, and I hope that all members will do the same. For it is in private members' business that the real task of the members here in the House of Commons becomes apparent.

I congratulate the member on his bill. Although we usually hold free votes on private members' business, I regret to tell him that I do not think the Bloc caucus intends to support piecemeal changes in the direction of either minimum sentences or maximum sentences. We feel that any approach to sentencing must have a coherent framework. I do not think that the objectives the member is pursuing in regard to the luring of children are better served by a maximum sentence and by doubling it from five to ten years.

Let us start at the beginning. I think we should be happy that the previous government added provisions on the luring of children to the Criminal Code. We are not starting from a situation in which the law needs to be created; there is already a Criminal Code offence. The people taking part in the debate this evening or listening to us at home might appreciate it if I share with them the substance of section 172.1 of the Criminal Code, because that is the provision which the member’s bill aims to amend. It says in subsection 172.1(1):

Every person commits an offence who, by means of a computer system within the meaning of subsection 342.1(2), communicates with:

(a) a person who is, or who the accused believes is, under the age of eighteen years, for the purpose of facilitating the commission of an offence under subsection 153(1), section 155 or 163.1, subsection 212(1) or (4) or section 271, 272 or 273;

These are all Criminal Code provisions that address exploitation, sexual relations with children and so on.

Furthermore, subsection 172.1(2) also stipulates:

(2) Every person who commits an offence under subsection (1) is guilty of:

(a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years; or

(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.

If I understood the member correctly, he repeatedly drew a link with Bill C-9, which we discussed this afternoon. That bill, introduced by the justice minister, proposes to restrict conditional sentences.

In an effort to make this very clear for our fellow citizens, I would mention that the conditional sentence is a measure that was introduced by the former justice minister, Allan Rock. I do not wish to arouse any good or bad memories for members of the House, depending on how we remember Mr. Rock. In any case, he was the Minister of Justice at the time. The minister and the government suggested that there were alternatives to imprisonment. Thus, section 242 of the Criminal Code provided that all sentences under two years in length administered by the courts could be served in the community.

I would remind the House that section 242 also set out specific measures with respect to supervision.

Conditional sentencing was possible for sentences of less than two years and in cases where there was not a mandatory minimum sentence. Conditional sentencing was also possible if the judge was convinced there was no danger to the community. The matter of safety had to be taken into consideration. Of course, the seriousness of the sentence, thus the principles that apply to section 778, and the whole question of restorative justice and the matter of deterrence also had to be taken into account.

This went to the Supreme Court, in the Proulx decision, in 2000. A condition was added to conditional sentencing, namely that of house arrest.

It is very important to understand that conditional sentencing is not the same thing as detention with probation conditions. Conditional sentencing is a punishment, a sentence. The court has even said that there may be circumstances in which it might be harder to serve a sentence in the community than to serve it in a penal institution. Conditional sentencing is closely associated with the notion of restorative justice. This is why conditional sentencing entitles someone to a number of restitution and rehabilitation programs.

Our colleague says that, when someone has been found guilty of luring children on the Internet, they should not be able to serve a sentence of less than ten years and they should not be able to serve their sentence in the community. Perhaps our colleague is right and his premise has its merits.

What he did not tell us, however, in his speech when he introduced his bill, was whether there are indications that this is not already what the courts do. This is a major difference between the Bloc Québécois and the government. There is a trust deficit where the judiciary is concerned.

Let me be clear, we are not saying that luring children is not important. We thank our colleague for taking an interest in the matter. But where does this conviction that the courts of justice and the judiciary are not doing their job properly come from? Where does this conviction that we will achieve our goals by making sentences heavier come from?

This is one of the major distinctions between the Bloc Québécois and the Conservative Party and the former members of the Canadian Alliance, who before that belonged to the Reform Party. Then the Canadian Alliance got together with the Reformists. I watched all this with interest.

Obviously it is acceptable in democratic terms for there to be a right-wing party in Canada, since this is the wish of a segment of the population. I hope that this segment does not become too large, but clearly there is room for a right-wing party in a democracy.

Once again, let me be clear. It is not that the member’s bill concerning the luring of children is not important. In fact, it is so important that we supported it when it was introduced by the previous government. We cannot, however, agree with the idea of increasing the sentence from five years to ten so that people who are found guilty of luring children under the Criminal Code cannot serve their sentence in the community, as if this were a widespread practice.

I think the member is confusing two debates that should be considered separately.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, most members in the House will know that when it is a private member's bill, the NDP does not press anyone to vote other than according to their own beliefs. That of course will apply to this bill should it ever get back here for a final vote.

When I am faced with a bill like this, I always raise this issue because it is really important. The Liberal government would not do it and I do not see any particular inclination by the current Conservative government to do it either.

However, this country badly needs a total revamp of our Criminal Code. We probably needed it for the better part of 20 years. So when I see a bill like this that is dealing with a very minute part of the Criminal Code, I get on my soap box and push for that once again. We badly need to do it.

In the course of doing that this would be one of the sections under consideration, whether the penalty of five years for luring children is adequate and appropriate, whether it is in line with judicial decisions up to this point, and whether the charter is of any concern to increasing it from the 5 to 10 years as proposed.

This is a good example of why we need that omnibus bill because when we are looking at making a decision in this regard of doubling a penalty, as is being proposed in Bill C-277 by the member for Abbotsford, we would have to put that in the context of the entire Criminal Code. Certainly, when our courts look at this and we have heard this from other speakers, they look at proportionality.

The proportionality issue takes into account other offences of a similar nature. If we have a number of other offences where the penalty is still low, in the range of the five years or perhaps even less, then the reality is that the charter will kick in and our courts will have a tendency to strike this down as not being proportional.

Dealing specifically with this section and the crime itself, the justice committee spent a great deal of time dealing with the issue of child pornography in the last Parliament. As part of that, we looked at the crime of luring of young children and some of the evidence that came out was interesting. I want to say to the member for Abbotsford that we took extensive evidence about pedophilia and there is no way of classifying the luring offence other than as a crime of pedophilia.

One of the things that was very clear from the evidence which came from some of the highest trained psychologists and psychiatrists in this country who deal with chronic offenders in this area, and we also heard it from the police and the prosecutors, was the great difficulty of dealing with these individuals and that traditional concepts of deterrence and penalty had no meaning to them.

On one occasion they described an offence where there had been a fairly extensive investigation of three separate individuals at three different addresses. They broke into two of the addresses and apprehended the individuals, but one of them was able to get a warning off to the third one.

In spite of that warning, when they arrived at the third residence which was several hours later, the individual was still on the computer. He was so, as they put it “hard wired” in terms of his needs, if I can put it that way, that he would not shut the computer down. He did not flee. He simply stayed there and was apprehended.

That is the kind of deep psychiatric and psychological mental illness that we are dealing with. If we were to say, as my colleague from Abbotsford said, that we should double the penalty, it would not be a deterrent. The reality is that with this type of criminal there is no deterrent factor. We could make it 50 years or we could make it life, and it would still not make a difference.

What came out of the evidence that we took over that extended period of time, which was several months, was that the only successful way of dealing with this was, of course, through prevention. I know the member made a very good point about the computer program where people are, in effect, monitoring. That was first introduced by the Government of Manitoba. It has now been copied by three other provinces. In fact, Manitoba picked it up from England.

Specifically, it is a monitoring process. We are asking everybody who is on the Internet to, in effect, be part of the prevention system. If people identify a site, they can get it to the police immediately or, which happens rarely, if they can identify the individual children who are being targeted, they can pass that information to the police. It has been extremely successful in England, as it has been in Manitoba. It is just beginning to be effective in some of the other provinces that have implemented it.

I do not in any way want to demean the sincerity with which the member for Abbotsford approaches this problem and I am sure that every member in the House feels the same way. Our absolute first responsibility as members of Parliament and legislators is to protect our citizenry and, in particular, to protect those who are most vulnerable, our children.

If the government is really serious and if the member really wants to maximize the protection that we provide to children from these types of criminals, there is another route we can go. I have raised this a number of times in committee and several times in the House.

We have very sophisticated technology. I am being told that because of some of the work that I do in public security. We have some of the best in the world in terms of tracking people who use the Internet for criminal activities. That technology is being used now by Canada and by a number of its allies in fighting terrorism.

That same technology, which is available in this country and could be deployed in fighting this type of crime, whether it is child pornography or child luring over the Internet, is a great tool that we could be using with our police forces to fight this crime and to prevent it from ever happening.

If we were to talk to victims of crime, whether it be the parents or the children in this type of crime, and give them a choice between the crime never happening or sentencing the perpetrator to an extended period of jail time, they would always take the first one because they do not want to be victims. They do not want to have to live with the psychological scars that come from this type of crime in particular. If we could get the justice minister and the finance minister on side, plus our public security people, there is another methodology and we could be doing much more to intercept.

One of the interesting things we learned is that Bill Gates and his company have donated a substantial amount of money and services to begin to develop these types of tracking programs where in fact we can both intercept and track back to the source this type of communication.

The reality is that our security services have even better developed technology, much more effective technology both in identifying and tracking, so that we could get to the perpetrators before they get to their victims.

I have not decided whether I am going to support this bill or not, but I would urge the member to take into account some of my comments and press his colleagues in cabinet to consider spending money to develop a system for the purposes of fighting child pornography and child luring.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick


Rob Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a few minutes this evening to speak about a blight that is affecting our global society. It is a scourge upon all countries where the widespread use of the Internet is common. It is the online victimization of children. In Canada we know this as Internet luring.

I would like to commend the member for Abbotsford for his efforts and the introduction of this important private member's bill.

The government is committed to protecting our children from the harmful affects of sexual abuse and exploitation. The predation of children for sexual purpose is not a new phenomenon, but the Internet has made it easier for pedophiles to reach potential victims.

New technology, including the Internet, has created new opportunities for Canadians and for the most part they have been extremely positive. However, they have also created new and harmful opportunities for would-be child sex offenders to anonymously and secretly enter into our homes through the Internet with a view to sexually exploiting our children.

In 2002 a new offence was added to the Criminal Code that criminalized such behaviour. Under section 172.1 it is now a criminal offence to use a computer system, such as the Internet, to communicate with a child for the purpose of facilitating a child's sexual exploitation or abduction. In other words, since 2002 it has been an offence to use the Internet to lure or groom a child for the purpose of exploiting that child.

To highlight the seriousness of this offence, I would like to speak briefly about a typical Internet luring case. For those who would doubt the seriousness of these cases, I would urge them to look at some of the recent case law and some of the recent cases. It is extremely disturbing what some people are doing in order to lure children.

Imagine a man who is 42 years old but portrays himself as a 17-year-old youth. Imagine that the victim is a 13-year-old girl. Internet lurers and their victims typically meet online in a topic-based chat room. They form an online relationship and then start to meet in private chat rooms where the talk turns to a more intimate personal and eventually a sexual nature.

This can escalate to telephone calls, video conferencing, and eventually the proposal of an in-person meeting. Hopefully, children become uncomfortable with the development of the relationship and either end it or inform their parents. Unfortunately, all too many times they do not. This example highlights a couple of key points that I want to note.

First, this type of online exploitation of children and youth is more common than we might think. Canada has one of the highest broadband connectivity rates in the world. This means that while our children benefit from all that the Internet has to offer, they are also at risk whenever they go on the Internet.

Second, this example illustrates the insidious nature of Internet luring. It shows how online predators systematically groom and condition children over long periods of time to gain and then betray their trust so that they can sexually exploit them.

Since its enactment in 2002, section 172.1 has served as a useful and effective tool for law enforcement and has resulted in convictions. In a recent Nova Scotia case, Kevin Randall was convicted of Internet luring as a result of engaging in explicit online communications with a person that he believed was a 13-year-old girl, but who was in reality an undercover police officer. This offender, who had a pocketful of condoms, had arranged to meet that 13-year-old girl at a coffee shop. He was apprehended by police.

Clearly, section 172.1 is an important tool for law enforcement. It is being used to successfully secure the conviction of offenders. However, our obligation as parliamentarians must be to ensure that our criminal laws remain effective and responsive.

This is what I understand to be at the core of Bill C-277. It seeks to ensure that existing penalties for Internet luring adequately reflect the serious nature of this type of crime and the serious weight that we as parliamentarians should give these types of crimes.

Last year Parliament enacted Criminal Code reforms that did exactly this. These reforms strengthened the criminal law responses to child sexual exploitation and abuse by increasing maximum penalties for some offences. The effect of these reforms was to underscore the importance of ensuring that sentences in these cases reflect the serious nature of the offences. The practical effect of imposition of a mandatory minimum penalty is also to prevent the use of conditional sentences. There has been much discussion around conditional sentences. It is also known as house arrest.

One of the issues highlighted by these important reforms is that the penalty for the Internet luring offence is less now than what is now available for the contact child sexual abuse offences. In other words, the maximum penalty for Internet luring remains five years' imprisonment, while the maximum penalty for child specific sexual offences as well as for the general sexual assault offences is 10 years' imprisonment on indictment. As well, conditional sentences are no longer available for the child sexual abuse offences that now include mandatory minimum penalties but continue to be available for Internet luring offences.

This bill highlights for me the following questions. Does the existing penalty for Internet luring adequately reflect the serious nature of this offence, particularly in comparison to other contact child sexual offences? Would the proposed new maximum penalty be consistent with the penalty for contact child sexual offences? Would it be consistent with the other measures that are currently before this Parliament, including in Bill C-9, which proposes Criminal Code reforms to prevent the use of conditional sentences for offences that carry a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment or more?

This bill highlights the importance of doing more to safeguard our children from the dangers that we know to exist on the Internet. As parliamentarians, we are duty bound to do everything we can to protect children from those who would prey on them.

I know that Canada in recent years has taken a multi-pronged, comprehensive approach to countering the perils of the Internet for our children by promoting prevention and national public awareness. We are promoting partnerships among government, law enforcement and the private sector, including Internet service providers. The federal government's national strategy to protect children against sexual exploitation on the Internet, led by the Minister of Public Safety, is doing exactly this, including through the RCMP's National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre and through the January 2005 national expansion of This is Canada's national non-governmental 24-7 tip line for reporting the sexual exploitation of children on the Internet.

The use of the Internet by predators to develop a relationship of trust with a young person and then to shatter that trust is a serious issue. We will have to monitor the decisions of our courts to determine whether further action on the issue of Internet luring is necessary, but it is incumbent upon us as parliamentarians to closely examine Bill C-277 and to consider strongly the value of protecting our young people and the most vulnerable in society from those who would prey on them.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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.

6:40 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House today to pursue the question I asked on April 24, 2006, about the price of gasoline. For a few years now we have seen the price of gasoline increase significantly and this has had a negative impact on the economy not just because of the increases, but because of how quickly and how much the price goes up and down. This has a major impact on the manufacturing industry and contributes to creating a dual economy in Canada. On one hand the economy is doing quite well in terms of the price of energy, but on the other hand the increases in price have a significant negative impact, on manufacturing jobs in particular.

At the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology we recently welcomed the Governor of the Bank of Canada. He told us that the manufacturing industry was suffering a great deal because of this problem. It is important for the federal government to realize that in this industry, laissez-faire is not a path for the future. It is not a matter of regulating the price or of saying there is collusion between the companies. That is not the issue. However, we have to recognize that one sector of the economy is holding the rest of the economy hostage. This has harmful effects on the entire economy and on consumers.

This is especially true for the less fortunate in our society, seniors, people living alone or people who have to travel to work and need a vehicle to get to their work. They do not necessarily earn a big income. When the price of gas increases significantly, this automatically affects someone earning minimum wage and it almost becomes a disadvantage for them to work. Something absolutely needs to be done about this.

That is why I am pleased to question the government today. I will do so tomorrow, an opposition day on the issue of gas prices. We must ensure that the government has a plan of action to deal with the reality. We must examine the situation and stop hiding our heads in the sand like ostriches. We must have an action plan, just like the United States that decided to develop one. The President of the United States, the Senate and the House of Representatives felt that it was an important issue, particularly everything that concerns the refining of oil products. In North America, the refining undercapacity has lead to speculation, in turn driving up the price of gas.

Today I attended an information session given by the Departments of Natural Resources and Industry and the Competition Bureau. Many questions went unanswered.

Tomorrow I hope to have considerable support for the Bloc Québécois position from this House, and I hope that the parliamentary secretary—or the government—will adopt our position, especially with regard to the unchecked increase in profits. We must find a good way of distributing wealth. It is the responsibility of government. Currently, some people are making large profits from oil and it is important for the rest of society to benefit also. Current behaviour is weakening our manufacturing industry.

I hope that the government is aware of this, that it has more than just a short-term vision, that it will listen to our arguments and that it will go ahead with our proposals.

6:45 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario


Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that this question has come up tonight, given that we will be discussing the subject all day tomorrow in the Bloc opposition motion on gas prices, which is also in the name of the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

The federal government does not control the price or distribution of most goods and services sold in Canada. This includes gasoline. Regulation of retail gasoline prices is under provincial jurisdiction. Where prices are not regulated, they are determined simply by market forces.

The issue of gasoline pricing has been studied numerous times. Since 1986, gas prices have been studied over 20 times. Since 1990, the Competition Bureau has conducted six investigations into allegations of collusion in the gasoline industry. It has consistently found no evidence to suggest that periodic price increases resulted from a conspiracy to limit competition in gasoline supply. Instead, it has always found that market forces, such as supply and demand and rising crude oil prices, caused the price spikes. In fact, after each increase, prices fell to normal levels.

The price of crude oil drives the prices of refined petroleum products. Canadians cannot escape the effects of this global market. We enjoy the benefits through our exports and we pay the world price for the energy we use.

As I mentioned, gasoline prices are largely determined by the effects of supply and demand forces on the price of crude oil, which has been rising due to cuts in production by OPEC.

In a free North American market, fluctuating prices at the pump show signs of a healthy competition among retailers. Consumers can and should take advantage of this competition to force retailers to keep their prices as low as possible. Factors like competition and the cost to transport the gasoline from the refining plant to retail centres also make a difference in the prices.

While there is an obvious link between recent retail increases and the record levels we are witnessing with crude oil prices, it is important to clarify the fact that the price of crude is not the only determinant for what Canadians pay at the pumps.

There are four principal components that make up the pump price. The first of these components is crude oil, the raw material from which gasoline is made. It accounts for about 42% of the retail price. Then there are taxes, federal, provincial, and in some cases municipal, which on average account for 32%. Third is the refining margin, the difference between the cost of the crude oil and the wholesale price of gasoline. This margin, which represents roughly 20% of the pump price, covers the cost of refining the crude oil and provides a profit for the refiner. Finally, we have the retail or the marketer margin which, in essence, is the difference between the wholesale price and the retail price of gasoline.

In actuality, the retail margin represents the smallest component, accounting for less than 5% of the pump price. The hon. member may be surprised to learn that the retailers' profit margin has actually been relatively stable at the 5¢ per litre range for the last three years.

A bit of context might be useful at this point. We have established that gasoline prices are driven by the principle of supply and demand. Our current situation is that we have factors impacting both sides of the equation.

Canadians cannot escape the realities of the global market. We enjoy the benefits through our exports and we pay the world price for the energy we use. With market forces at play, both supply and demand and speculation surrounding the 2006 hurricane season, it is realistic to expect that gasoline prices will continue to be volatile throughout the 2006 driving season.

6:50 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, it says a lot that the government claims to have no role to play, not to be there to take its responsibility as a government, but only to repeat that the market forces are at play and that the market will regulate itself.

We are proposing that a surcharge be imposed on profits made by big oil companies. No reasonable person can fail to notice that oil companies are generating excessive profits right now. A portion of these profits ought to benefit the economy one way or the other.

The petroleum monitoring agency would not be established to control gas prices, but to identify how exactly the market works, so that it can then report to the House.

It is necessary to strengthen the Competition Act. The competition commissioner herself testified before us that its current mandate and powers do not allow the competition bureau to conduct market studies in relation to anything other than conspiracy. This is the broader mandate we would like it to have. The government will be presented tomorrow with a motion asking for just that. I hope that it will listen to our arguments and eventually put in place an adjustment plan.

6:50 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is easy for the Bloc to play armchair critic when it has no hope of forming the government. To suggest that the federal government get into the game of price regulation at all is just plain wrong.

The hon. member once suggested that his province was somehow held hostage and a victim of high gas prices. The party opposite really needs to question its role in the chamber. We have to look at the big picture on the supply side.

North American refinery production right now is temporarily limited by routine maintenance, much of which was delayed last year in the wake of hurricane Katrina. We are seeing temporary closures as many refineries install new equipment to meet new sulphur content regulations for diesel. As well, distribution systems are being adapted for the use of two new products this summer. In addition to the introduction of lower sulphur diesel fuel in the U.S. and Canada, the U.S. is also phasing out the use of much of the gasoline additive MTBE from many markets.

In both cases distribution systems have to be drained of the old product before it can be replaced by the new product. It is inevitable that there will be reduced inventory levels and potential supply shortages during this transition.

6:50 p.m.


Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I must convey the disappointment expressed by many of my constituents of Don Valley East, following the release of the first Conservative budget. It is unfair to Ontario because there is not one mention in the budget about honouring the $6.9 billion Canada-Ontario agreement signed last year between the province and the federal government.

Although the Prime Minister promised to fix the fiscal imbalance in the last election, there is absolutely no substance or evidence in terms of the proper financing for the province of Ontario to be found in the budget.

I know we can expect that the member opposite will rise in her seat and mention that the Prime Minister is in Manitoba this week to meet with the premiers in order to reach a deal, but the fact remains that the deal was already signed last year. All we can expect is to see the federal government doing everything it can to make it sound as though Ontario is getting its fair share. Where will the federal government find the money to make it appear as though it has honoured the agreement? As we can guess, it will come directly out of the pockets of taxpayers.

According to the budget of the Conservatives, they will hit low income Canadians the hardest. Effective June 1, those earning the least in the country will face a tax increase from 15% to 15.5%. This will effectively put hundreds of thousands of low income Canadians, many of them seniors and single parents, back on the payrolls that the Liberals removed in the previous budgets.

The Conservatives will also decrease the basic personal amount that Canadians can earn tax free by $400, effective July 1. Again, this tax measure will hit low income Canadians the hardest and even more low income earners will find themselves back on the tax rolls.

Canadians and my constituents are asking, why Conservatives are so meanspirited? Why are targeting the hard-working immigrants, the marginalized and people who are trying to make ends meet? Why have they turned their backs on the first nations? Why have they cancelled the Kelowna accord, an accord that would have started to close the gap between the native peoples and the rest of Canadians?

Why have the Conservatives cancelled the early learning and child care plan that created 14,000 child care spaces in Ontario alone in the first year? Why did the Conservatives insult hard-working parents by promising to give parents $1,200 for children under six and yet tax it back? Why are they so set on this new Conservative ideology to fend for oneself, an ideology that has totally failed in previous experiences?

Why has the government cancelled Canada's commitment to reduce greenhouse gases through the Kyoto agreement? In fact, I would be interested to know just how many vital programs and international agreements of which the federal government plans to back out. Why is the government deliberately going out of its way to embarrass Canada on the world stage?

6:55 p.m.

Calgary Nose Hill Alberta


Diane Ablonczy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I guess the hon. member is still in the fear and smear mode of the Liberal campaign, which thankfully failed. Canadians know that the party opposite was the author of so many of the misfortunes that befell our country under its decade of misrule and misgovernance. There is so little of truth in the allegations that were just cited in the House.

I always find it sad when instead of real debate about real issues, we simply have misrepresentation.

The agreement between the governments of Ontario and Canada will be fully honoured by the government. The Minister of Finance has indicated this many times in the House. The government will fully meet the financial commitments of the May 2005 Canada-Ontario agreement. The Minister of Finance has been clear. Budget 2006 sets aside comprehensive funding for this agreement.

The Minister of Finance communicated this commitment directly to the Ontario minister of finance. There can be no ambiguity about our commitment and no confusion about our intent. We have made it clear time and time again in the House, in speeches outside the House and in communications with the province of Ontario.

We have to wonder what is there about a clear and repeated, yes, that the member opposite does not understand. In fact, not only are we committed to funding the original five year agreement, plus an additional year, which was not agreed to, for a total of $6.9 billion over six years.

The government is delivering on the full financial commitment in an open, fair and principled manner. The Minister of Finance has clearly identified mechanisms for disbursing the first $4 billion of these funds. Therefore, past inequities inherited from the federal Liberals are now being addressed.

Some of the areas in the agreement are Ontario specific. For example, with respect to infrastructure, an incremental top-up will be provided to the Canada strategic infrastructure fund for projects in Ontario to restore the province's per capita share of national funding under existing infrastructure agreements.

Other elements of the agreement, including immigration settlement, labour market training, post-secondary education, public transit and environment initiatives, deal with issues that concern Canadians across the country. Therefore, funding in these areas will be provided to all provinces and territories in a fair and transparent manner.

We strongly support and will continue to strongly support a vibrant and thriving Ontario in a strong Canadian federation. Therefore, in addition to our financial commitment under the Canada-Ontario agreement, the federal government is providing significant ongoing transfers to Ontario for health care, wait times reduction and other social programs such as post-secondary education. In fact, in this year alone we will transfer a total of $11.2 billion in cash for programs and services in these priority areas.

We contributed toward infrastructure such as the construction of a second platform in the Union Subway Station last week. We are contributing toward the revitalization of Toronto's waterfront. Just last week we announced and additional $25 million for Toronto's Harbourfront Centre.

Let there be no doubt or question that the federal government will continue to provide substantial support for Ontario. In the budget, the full $6.9 billion, committed under the Ontario-Canada agreement, has been fully budgeted. We are delivering on our promises to Ontarians.