Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-2, an Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, the so-called tackling violent crime bill, something which our party has been working on for some time. I am quite proud of the work that we have already done on this very issue. It is critically important that Canada have safe communities and that we do everything possible to ensure that.
Canada has long been and continues to be one of the safest countries in the world. Although firearm homicides decreased between 1975 and 2003, even one death, or one violent episode involving guns, is one too many. When our communities challenge that it is decreasing, I am sure the reason is that statistics do not matter if people feel unsafe in their communities. People in my riding are very concerned about this issue, as are people in other ridings. It is important that we do everything we possibly can to ensure the laws are there to protect Canadians.
The Liberal government implemented a wide variety of measures in order to make our streets safer. We had a very successful crime prevention strategy that involved more than imprisonment. There is much more required than just imprisonment, which is why the former Liberal government took a more proactive role with a wide range of measures to stem gun violence and crack down on organized crime.
Since 2002 our anti-gang legislation has meant new offences and tougher sentences, including life in prison for involvement with criminal organizations. It is currently being used in cities like mine, Toronto, where it has been used numerous times. It is a tool the police are very pleased to have and they use it to its maximum amount.
We also broadened powers to seize the proceeds and property of criminal organizations. As well, we increased funding for the national crime prevention strategy, which is something again, we cared very much about and it was very effective. The decrease in crime clearly is because the Liberal government's crime strategy was effective and it continues to be effective.
Since it was launched in 1998 the national crime prevention strategy has helped numerous communities across Canada by giving them the tools, the knowledge, and the support that they need to deal with the root causes of crime at the local level, which is where it has to start. It has supported more than 5,000 projects nation-wide dealing with serious issues like family violence, school problems, and drug abuse.
These are just some of the measures that my party, while in government, undertook. Our campaign was working, hence, the reason there has been a decrease in crime, especially in violent crime. Whether funding programs to prevent crime or ensuring that violent criminals are brought to justice, the Liberal Party while in government was and now continues to be committed to protecting our communities.
Even though we are now in opposition, we, the Liberals, have been dealing seriously with crime legislation for the past year and a half while the Conservatives have been playing partisan games and doing everything they can to prevent those bills from being passed. We actually put more effort into passing the government's crime bills in the last session than the Conservatives did. So, we will not take any lectures from them on how we should be proceeding. Had they not blocked it, the legislation would have been passed and enacted already.
People will remember that on October 26, 2006 the Liberals made the very first offer to fast track a package of justice bills through this House. In spite of the government saying something different, we made every effort to work with the Conservatives to ensure the passage of anything that would make our country safer. This included Bill C-9, as amended; Bill C-18, on DNA identification; Bill C-19, on street racing; Bill C-22, on the age of consent; Bill C-23, on criminal procedures; and Bill C-26, on payday loans. All were important legislation.
The Conservatives like to claim, as I said earlier, that the Liberals held up their justice bills, but anyone who has been paying any attention knows that simply is not true. We are doing our job as a responsible opposition party. We are certainly not going to play partisan politics with the Criminal Code. I would ask the government to keep that in mind so that we can work together in a positive way to ensure the safety of Canadians and our country.
The Liberal Party, while in government, made great progress on making our communities safer. As I mentioned earlier, we increased funding for the national crime prevention strategy. We took steps to prevent gun violence by cracking down on organized crime in a very concentrated effort across the country. We focused on attacking the root causes of why people get involved in organized crime. We worked together with all of the crime prevention people across the country and with all of the officials in the various policing jurisdictions, because it certainly takes a coordinated effort in order to tackle organized crime.
When we are back in government, and we look forward to and expect to be the government after the next election, we have our own plans.
A new Liberal government would immediately provide additional funds to the provinces so they could hire more police officers. We would give the RCMP money for 400 additional officers to help local police departments deal with guns and gang activity, organized crime and drug trafficking.
We would also ensure that more money was made available to the provinces to hire more crown attorneys, which continues to be a problem and clogs the courts. It is one thing to arrest people but it is another thing to get them through the system.
We would continue to support reverse onus bail hearings for those arrested for gun crimes. We would establish a fund that would help at-risk communities cover the cost of security in their places of worship, which was started by the previous Liberal government, but which unfortunately was abandoned by the Conservatives.
A new Liberal government would make sure that children in vulnerable neighbourhoods got the very best start in life. We hear that all the time. It costs approximately $120,000 a year for each person who is kept in prison. We would reverse that and invest right at the very beginning. We are talking about early learning programs and high risk communities.
I represent a high risk community and I talk to many of the kids and their parents. Those parents are struggling to keep their kids on the straight and narrow. They truly need a variety of programs and help at that point. I realize that the Conservatives understand that as well. It is important to be investing early so that we can keep kids out of the justice system and make sure they know they have options and alternatives in life so that they are not dragged into the drug and gang culture, which is clearly happening now.
Many of the parents I talk to, the single mothers, are frantic with worry. They are looking for other places to live where it will be safer, where their kids will not be drawn into the gang activity that is very prevalent in my own riding.
By ensuring that children get the best possible start in life, we will be encouraging them to become positive contributing members of society and do not fall victims to poverty and crime. From providing resources for young mothers to interact and to learn about nutrition, to supplying early learning opportunities for their precious children, our communities need our support and we must provide it.
We invested in many worthwhile crime prevention initiatives. A few of those programs are the gun violence and gang prevention fund, support for community based youth justice programs and partnerships to promote fair and effective processes, community investments through the youth employment strategy, and the justice department's programming and partnerships to provide hope and opportunities.
We also committed another $2 million to the city of Toronto in support of programming under the Liberal government's youth employment strategy. This was all part of the $122 million that was dedicated to the youth employment strategy programming to help youth across the country.
Conflict Mediation Services of Downsview was a not for profit organization that helped people and families, workplaces, schools and neighbourhoods. Unfortunately, its restorative justice program was not funded because priorities have changed of course with the new government, and that no longer fits into that grouping.
In closing, I would like to say that this legislation is important. We look forward to it getting through the House and being enacted as we all move forward in a joint effort to ensure safety. Our communities will appreciate it.