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House of Commons Hansard #48 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senate.

Topics

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his excellent presentation this morning. I am hopeful that the Senate can expedite Bill C-2 through the Senate as soon as possible.

As my colleague mentioned, I do not think there is an issue that resonates more through constituencies across the country, through all 308 ridings, than reforming our justice system. We had a forum in our riding on Friday and yesterday we had a mother calling us. We need to toughen up the legislation and give the tools to our RCMP and police services across the country.

We have a catch and release program with our justice system and I want to help our enforcement agencies. As mentioned, I want to give some help to those who are victims, and also to people who have done wrong, by giving them the ability to have some training within the penal system.

Could the minister briefly update the House on drug impaired driving? How will this change from the present legislation?

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I would advise the hon. minister that he should be brief. He has 20 seconds.

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

My heavens, Mr. Speaker. I will tell you what--

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Unanimous consent.

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Unanimous consent. We could certainly try that, Mr. Speaker. I would certainly be pleased to continue to talk about this.

I indicated that we will set up a framework for a drug recognition expert program. This is a program that has been involved with a number of the jurisdictions for about the last 25 years.

In the end, do not take my word for it. Take the word of--

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this morning's debate. Throughout 2007, I was the justice critic for the official opposition. And throughout 2006, I served as deputy House leader of the official opposition, which is also my current role.

Thus, since the Conservative government's Speech from the Throne in 2006, I have been listening to the Conservative rhetoric, which I have weighed against the actions put forward by this government.

The motion we are debating today is:

That, given the government has declared the passage of Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, as a matter of confidence, and, that the bill has already been at the Senate longer than all stages took in the House of Commons, and that all aspects of this bill have already been the subject of extensive committee hearings in Parliament, and that in the opinion of this House the Senate majority is not providing appropriate priority to the passage of Bill C-2, a message be sent to the Senate calling on the Senate to pass Bill C-2, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, by March 1, 2008.

The Minister of Justice and Attorney General is applauding. Well, I wonder. The Minister of Justice made a big point about how in the 2006 throne speech the Conservative government made tackling crime a priority. It is one of five priorities of the government. Let us look at the record of the government prior to when it prorogued the session that began in the winter of 2006 after the 2006 election. Let us look at that record.

The Liberal record is that we supported the vast majority of the Conservative government's justice bills. The fact is that the Conservative government has needlessly delayed its own legislation. The fact is there has been no opposition obstruction, not from the official opposition, not from the Bloc Québécois and not from the NDP. The only obstruction has been from the government. Let me give an example.

The government talks about the age of consent legislation. In the previous session, the age of consent legislation was Bill C-22 . It is now found in this new tackling crime bill, Bill C-2.

Bill C-22, the age of consent legislation, was originally tabled by the government on June 22, 2006, some four and a half months after the government came to this House and opened Parliament with a throne speech. The House adjourned for the summer months one or two days later. I do not have the exact date with me but at the most, it was two days later. We came back on the third Monday in September 2006.

Did the government then move second reading of the age of consent bill? That is the bill that would raise the legal age of consent from 14 to 16 years. The government had an opportunity, its very first opportunity to move second reading. For Canadians who are listening, no one but the government can move government legislation from one stage to another.

The government tables its bill under parliamentary rules, House of Commons rules. It moves first reading and the motion is automatically deemed to have been adopted. The bill then goes on to the order paper and it stays there until the government moves second reading. We waited through the month of September 2006 and into the month of October 2006. The government did not move second reading.

That is the same government with a Minister of Justice and Attorney General who says that he is concerned, who says that victims, particularly our children who are victims of sexual predators, are among the Conservatives' first and main priority, and the government did not move second reading on the age of consent bill in 2006.

What did the Liberals do? Because that was a bill that we supported unconditionally, our House leader, who speaks on behalf of the official opposition, offered to fast track it.

Again, for those who do not understand the rules of procedure of the House of Commons, and possibly some of the government members who may not understand the rules of procedure of the House of Commons, the Standing Orders, when there is a majority in the House of Commons, whether it be the government only, or the government and another party, the government can fast track a bill.

We offered to fast track the age of consent legislation in October 2006. The government did not take us up on the offer. It ignored our offer. It did not even deign to officially respond to our offer. However, what this did was bring pressure to the government and several days later the government finally moved debate at second reading on the age of consent bill.

For a government, a Prime Minister, a Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, his parliamentary secretary and every single Conservative sitting on the government benches in this House of Commons to say that children, our children, are a priority and then to refuse to fast track the age of consent bill is unconscionable.

That bill could have been law by December 2006. We would have now had 13 months of better protection for our children and that government refused. This is what the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada is not telling the Canadian people. That bill could have been law.

Let us look at another bill that we find in Bill C-2. Let us look at the bill about which the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada attempted to eloquently dis the official opposition. That bill used to be Bill C-35, regarding reverse onus on bail for firearm related offences.

That bill received first reading on November 23, 2006. Guess what? It sat. The government did not move second reading debate through the end of November 2006, the entire month of December 2006 and the entire month of January 2007. That government did not move second reading of the bail reform bill until February 13.

Is it not a coincidence, that is a bill which we offered to fast track. That is a bill that could have been law. It could have been law for over a year now, and that government did not take us up on it.

That is a government that sends ten percenters into ridings of my colleagues in Manitoba, in Ontario, in British Columbia, claiming that the Liberals are obstructing the government's justice agenda. The government obstructed its own agenda.

I have to ask myself the following question: is this simple incompetence on the part of the government or is this government being wilfully incompetent?

Is that pure incompetence on the part of the government or is it wilful incompetence in delaying its own legislation?

Those are just two things that we find in Bill C-2 which could have been the law for over a year now had the Conservative government actually been truthful to its claim about victims being its main priority. Had that been the truth, the government would have taken the Liberals up on our offer to fast-track the bill and the age of consent would have been 16 years old December 2006 and reverse onus on bail for firearm related offences would have been the law over a year ago.

However, it gets even better. The government says that the Senate has now had Bill C-2 longer than all stages in the House. The government is counting on the fact that most Canadians will not know the parliamentary agenda and calendar. Bill C-2 was sent to the Senate on December 12, 2007. Parliament adjourned December 14, 2007. Parliament did not resume until Monday, January 28, 2008. The government tabled this motion claiming that the Senate was wilfully obstructing the government's tackling crime agenda.

Had the government been so concerned with Bill C-2 and so concerned about victims and about getting the legislation that it claims is the cornerstone of its priority and agenda, why did it not table a motion last fall for a message to be sent to the Senate informing the Senate that when it receives Bill C-2, we expect it to be reported back to us by x date? The government had all the authority and power to do that last fall but it did not.

Again I must ask whether it was mere incompetence. Is it because the government after two years still does not understand the Standing Orders, which is what we call the rules of this House? Is it wilful incompetence? The government understands full well the authority and powers it has under the House of Commons rules but chooses not to use them in the hopes that most Canadians will not know that it is the government that is actually obstructing its own agenda.

Let us talk about another obstruction. I mentioned how most of the bills, except for Bill C-27, which is the dangerous offender piece of Bill C-2, had already moved through the House and had been referred to the Senate late May, early June, late June of 2007. The Senate only had a couple of days, according to the parliamentary calendar, before Parliament adjourned for the summer. We were scheduled to come back the third Monday of September 2007 but the Prime Minister, in his wisdom, or in his incompetence or in his wilful incompetence decided to prorogue Parliament.

What does that mean? Under the rules and procedures and Standing Orders, it means that every piece of legislation in front of the House of Commons or in front of the Senate automatically dies. The government killed its own age of consent bill, its reverse onus on bail bill and its impaired driving bill, which is interesting because that is the bill we supported wholeheartedly.

I wonder if MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, understands that if the impaired driving bill is not the law today it has absolutely nothing to do with the official opposition or with the Liberal senators, but has everything to do with the government's own decision to obstruct its own legislation, not to move its own legislation through the House of Commons in a timely fashion and then to prorogue and kill its own legislation. That legislation could have been the law for almost a year now had the government not wilfully obstructed its own legislation.

Let us take the dangerous offenders bill. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada talked about how that legislation would ensure that Canadians who commit violent, egregious crimes will not be free on the streets because of the changes that it brought to the dangerous offender system.

One of the things that the government is not telling Canadians is that the way the system worked before the government brought in Bill C-27, the crown prosecutor had full discretion as to whether he or she would apply for a dangerous offender hearing. The government has done absolutely nothing to change that with its tackling crime legislation. The crown will still decide. It does not matter if it is someone who has committed heinous crimes one time, been sent to prison, served the sentence, comes out, does it again, is found guilty and serves another sentence, the crown can still decide whether it will apply for a dangerous offender hearing.

What was the Liberal response to that? The Liberal response was that there should automatically--

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Pierre Poilievre

Yes, right.

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

--be a hearing. I personally proposed that to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to his parliamentary secretary.

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Pierre Poilievre

Oh, God.

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is a member on the government side, I believe from the Ottawa area, who seems to be very active in my discussion and my speech. I suggest that if he knows so much about the issues we are talking about, he might want to explain to his constituents why he approved his own government's obstruction of its own legislation. He should go back to his riding and explain why 14 and 15 year olds are still vulnerable to predators for over a year now. Why? it is because he and his government wilfully obstructed their own legislation.

I suggest that he might want to address that in his own riding rather than attempt to destabilize the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. He has been here long enough and he should know that I am able to drown out and block out nonsense.

Bill C-27 had one improvement to the dangerous offenders system that we find again in the dangerous offender section of Bill C-2. What was that? It was that somebody who has already been deemed a long term offender and who commits a breach of the conditions ordered by a judge or who commits another serious crime will automatically go before a judge as a dangerous offender. That was an amendment by the Liberals.

Is it simply that the government is so incompetent that it did not understand how the dangerous offender system and long term offender system actually operated? By the way, the long term offender system was actually brought in by a Liberal government n the late 1990s.

Is the government simply incompetent or is it wilfully incompetent?

I repeat, is this government simply incompetent or is it wilfully incompetent?

I talked about the prorogation of Parliament. In proroguing Parliament, the government killed the age of consent bill, the bail reform bill, its mandatory minimums bill, the impaired driving bill and the dangerous offender bill. Then when the government brought Parliament back with the new throne speech, it announced to great trumpeting and chest beating that tackling crime would be a major plank in its policy, its agenda and action plan. What did it do?

The government could have reinstated those bills where they were, which was in the Senate. If the government were so concerned about the Senate possibly taking too long to deal with it, it could have brought in a motion, as it did last Friday, giving a deadline to the Senate for dealing with the age of consent bill, the impaired driving bill, the dangerous offender bill, the mandatory minimums bill and the bail reform bill. It did not do that.

Therefore, one again has to ask if it is shear incompetence on the part of the government or wilful incompetence.

My parents raised me, and I am sure many people in the House, if not all were raised the same, to give people the benefit of the doubt. However, my grandmother also used to say, “The first time is a mistake. The second time is a bad habit”.

The first time the government did not take up the Liberal offer in October 2006 to fast track the age of consent bill, to raise it from 14 to 16 years old, one could say that was a mistake. However, when it again refused to take it up in March 2007, that was no longer a mistake. That was a bad habit.

When the government decided to kill the age of consent bill by proroguing Parliament in the summer of 2007, that was not a mistake. I have come to the conclusion that the government's incompetence is not shear incompetence, but it is wilful incompetence.

Then that begs the question. What would be the reason, the justification, for a government to be wilfully incompetent? I am not at a point where I can answer that. While I developed the—

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Pierre Poilievre

Sit down.

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer) Conservative Royal Galipeau

Order, please. I apologize to the hon. member. I want to remind the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board that there will be a question and comment period after the member's speech. If he has anything to ask or anything to say, could he hold off until the end of the speech by the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, let us look at what some of the witnesses had to say at committee. They came before the committee on Bill C-22, age of consent. They came back for the impaired driving bill, Bill C-32. They came back for the reverse onus on bail hearings for firearm related offences bill. They came back for the dangerous offender bill. They came back for the mandatory minimums bill.

Let us hear what a representative from one of these associations had to said. This was on November 14, 2007, on Bill C-2, in front of the House of Commons legislative committee. It was the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. The representative said that quick fixes and band-aids were no longer sufficient, that a comprehensive national but locally focused strategy was required to really tackle crime and that the legislative priority for the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police were guns and gangs, child predators, as two example.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police said that because of its legislative priorities, it had asked and pleaded with the Conservative government for modernization of investigative techniques. The association said that the Modernization of Investigative Techniques Act, also called MITA, under the previous Liberal government, died as a result of the election. The association pleaded with the Conservative government to bring it back. It waited all through 2006. The government did not act. It waited again all through 2007. The government did not act.

It is now February 11, and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is still waiting for the government to bring in the legislation for which it has been begging and pleading, that it says it needs in order to deal effectively with violent crime, gun crime, gang crime, sexual predators and child sexual predators. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has asked the government to bring in legislation modernizing investigative techniques for over two years now. What has the government done? What has the government's response been to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Police Association?

First, the response has been not to bring in any legislation on that. Second, the government has refused to fast track my private member's bill that would do exactly this. I offered the government to take it over if it wanted the credit for it. It is more important to get it into the law and to give our law enforcement officers the investigative tools they need in the 21st century when they try to fight crime committed through our cyberspace. The government again, as it did with the Liberal offer to fast track the age of consent and the bail reform bills, as it did with virtually every attempt on the part of the official opposition to make Parliament be effective and efficient and put Canadians and their safety and security of Canadians first, turned its head and ignored the opposition. The government acted as though it heard nothing.

The government, through this motion, is trying to put the blame on the Senate. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada continues to say “the Liberal dominated Senate”. What he does not say is Bill C-2 only went before the Senate on December 12, 2007. Two days later the House adjourned and only came back on Monday, January 28.

Had the government been serious that Bill C-2 and its elements were of such importance to the government, that it was a matter of confidence and that the government was ready to go to an election because Canadians safety and security was of the utmost importance to the government, then why did it not put forth this kind of motion when it sent Bill C-2 to the Senate? The same power and authority and the same rule that allowed the government to put this motion, which it tabled on February 7, before the House to have it debated and then voted on could have been done last fall.

Again, I have to ask if it is sheer incompetence or wilful incompetence on the part of the Conservative government, the Conservative Prime Minister, the Conservative Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Conservative Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and all parliamentary secretaries who sit on the government side.

The Senate received Bill C-2 on December 12, 2007. The government tabled this motion on February 7. This means the Senate had the bill for two days in 2007, December 13 and 14, and then on January 28, January 29, January 30, January 31, February 1, February 4, February 5, February 6, and February 7, for a total of eight days. On the ninth day the government tabled its motion saying that the Senate majority was not providing appropriate priority to the passage of Bill C-2, when the government in fact was obstructing its own legislation.

All of the bills in Bill C-2 would have been law over a year ago and one of them would have been law for close to two years had the government not obstructed its own legislation either through sheer incompetence or through wilful incompetence.

Let me see how good I am at math. One year is 365 days. Two years would be 730 days, not counting the 31 days in January, 2008. If I go to February 7, when the motion was tabled by the government, that is 31 days plus 7, which is 38 days. The Senate has had the bill for literally eight sitting days. The government obstructed its own legislation for 730 days.

Who did not give appropriate priority to the age of consent legislation? It was Conservative members. Who did not give appropriate priority to the impaired driving bill? It was Conservative members. Who did not give appropriate priority to the dangerous offender bill? It was Conservative members.

Who did not give appropriate priority to the bill concerning conditional releases? It was the Conservative government. It was not the opposition. It was not the Bloc Québécois. It was not the NDP. It was not the official opposition. It was not the Liberals or Liberal senators in the upper house. It was the government itself. Imagine that.

Canadians must ask themselves the same question that I have been asking myself for the past two years: Is this Conservative government simply incompetent or wilfully incompetent? When one looks closely at the facts concerning all these justice related bills, when one looks closely at the actions and decisions that this Conservative government has taken, or has failed to take, one can only conclude that it is either simply incompetent or wilfully incompetent.

In closing, I would like to thank the members of this House for their attention. I would be happy to answer any questions they may have. If I do not have the answer, I will be frank. I will say so and try to address the issue with that member outside the House.

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, the entire foundation of the Liberal member's remarks is that she and her party would have been delighted to pass this legislation a long time ago. The Liberals claim that they wanted to fast track it.

Let us put aside for a second that such a method of fast tracking is procedurally impossible. Let us just assume that she were telling the truth on that particular point. If they were willing to fast track this legislation then, why are they not willing to pass it now? It is a very simple question.

The legislation has been languishing in the Senate because the senators decided to take all of January off, even though they knew this legislation was itching to be passed. They could have come back at any time in January--they have full authority to do that--to pass the legislation, but the Liberals there refused to do that.

However, it should not matter. The member said that they have had only eight days, but eight days should be too long if we apply her own logic. She claims the Liberals supported this bill for fast tracking months ago, years ago even. We know at the bottom and at the root that is not true.

The Liberals have never supported these tough measures because they were in power for 13 years and did nothing to advance them. They were against raising the age of sexual consent while in government and able to do something about it, and they are still against raising the age of sexual consent.

Let me cite Senator Carstairs, who was on Mike Duffy Live on February 6. She said in her comments that raising the age of sexual consent “might put a chill on family life education programs” and “might prevent young women and young men from reporting sexually transmitted diseases”. If that is the position of the Liberal Party, then why does her colleague in the House of Commons claim the contrary? The reality is the Liberals do not support our bills and they are trying to mask it and cover it up so that they cannot be held accountable for their soft on crime stance.

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is not a claim that the official opposition on two occasions made formal offers to fast track some of the bills that are found in Bill C-2. That is not a claim; that is a fact. That is the first thing.

The second thing is that the member talked about the Liberals being soft on crime. No, the Liberals are not soft on crime. We attempt to develop, when we were in government and now as the official opposition, Liberal justice policies that are effective on crime, that will actually reduce crime, that are smart on crime. Let me give one very concrete example of that. No, let me give two.

One is the issue of minimum mandatory penalties for gun crimes. Guess which government brought in the first minimum mandatory penalties? It was a Liberal government.

Let us look at the long term offender system. A Liberal government brought that in. People might ask what the difference is between a dangerous offender and a long term offender. As I have to cut my answer short, I would encourage any Canadian who would like to know how the dangerous offender system and the long term offender system work to communicate with my office. The telephone number is 613-995-2251 and the email address is jennim@parl.gc.ca.

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, because I was so intrigued, I want the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine to finish what she was about to say. Would she be so kind, for the benefit of my constituents, to finish what she was about to say?

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, the dangerous offender designation has been in existence for several decades. Basically, when the Liberals came back to power in 1993 the way the system operated was that the Crown in its discretion was not obliged, there was nothing in the law that required the Crown to apply for a dangerous offender hearing once someone had been found guilty of a series of serious egregious violent crimes. However, if the Crown did apply for it, the judge could then send the offender, before sentencing the person, for an expert psychological evaluation. Corrections Canada would also examine the person and produce expert reports. The judge would then decide if the person was so dangerous that he or she should be sent to prison for an indefinite period. The problem was that the judge was reluctant to do so, so the Liberal government brought in the long term offender. That is someone who has already been deemed to have been a dangerous offender.

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with some interest to my hon. colleague's comments. The claim about the eight days that the bill has been in front of the Senate is simply a fallacy.

If we take a look at the precursor bills to Bill C-2 in the previous Parliament, those being: Bill C-10; Bill C-22, age of protection; Bill C-27, dangerous offenders; Bill C-32, impaired driving; and Bill C-35, reverse onus on bail for gun offences; four of those five bills had already passed through the House and had spent a significant amount of time in the Senate. The only one that had not was Bill C-27, which had been to committee and had been amended.

We were a very accommodating government, I thought. We basically bundled all of that legislation as it appeared in the previous session of Parliament, with the amendments, put it back in a bill, put it before the House and now it is sitting in the Senate.

We are not asking for anything that is extremely onerous.

My colleague also brought up the fact that she wanted to get her numbers right on something. Well, it is very clear from the information that I see, whether it is on TV or through various polls, that 70% of Canadians support tougher legislation against crime.

Is it sheer incompetence of her leader and her party, or wilful incompetence of her leader and her party, that they cannot get the Senate to pass the legislation?

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

February 11th, 2008 / 1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, let us look at some of the facts concerning these bills. The age of consent bill, Bill C-22 in the last Parliament, was introduced by the government on June 22, 2006. The government moved second reading on October 30, 2006, and only sent it to committee on March 21, 2007. That bill, which we offered to fast track in October 2006 and which could have been the law in December 2006, only was adopted at third reading in the House on May 4, 2007. The Senate only received that bill on May 8, 2007.

When the member says that all of the bills had gone through the House and were sitting in the Senate, he is being wilfully incompetent or he is being sheerly incompetent by not giving the actual dates. It is the same thing for Bill C-32, Bill C-35, Bill C-10 and C-27.

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I encourage all Canadians who did not have the opportunity to watch the member's speech to take the time to read it because this was a terrific explanation of what the Conservative agenda is all about.

The Conservative Party claims to be tough on crime, yet the Conservatives have yet to fulfill the promise of putting 2,500 police officers on the ground. Also, the Auditor General told us that under the Conservative government's watch, 20% of those who are identified as dangerous individuals are still crossing the borders without being checked. The Conservative government is doing nothing about it. The Conservative government is not listening to police officers about the gun registry. The Conservatives have yet to explain why they are talking about eight days, but there was a delay of a month caused by the government because of prorogation.

Is this not just another game the Conservatives are playing because they have run out of items for Canadians, to serve as--

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There are only 30 seconds left for the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, my view is that the government no longer has anything in its cupboard. Its cupboard is bare and it is seeking desperately to bring itself down so that it call an election. It is looking for any subterfuge in order to go to an election.

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will not say that I am pleased to take part in this debate because I believe that this is a debate that we could very well have done without.

However, it will give me an opportunity to highlight some elements, including what we expect to see in the budget. In recent days and weeks, we have had the impression that the Conservative government and the Prime Minister have been attempting to blow all issues out of proportion and, if not for the purpose of triggering elections, at least in an attempt to apply pressure on the opposition parties perhaps as an attempt to show in an artificial way, some kind of leadership.

In this regard, I believe that the Bloc Québécois has the responsibility to denounce these manoeuvres that hide the real problems by focusing attention on the motion before us early this afternoon. For those listening, I will repeat the motion:

That, given the government has declared the passage of Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, as a matter of confidence, and, that the bill has already been at the Senate longer than all stages took in the House of Commons, and that all aspects of this bill have already been the subject of extensive committee hearings in Parliament, and that in the opinion of this House the Senate majority is not providing appropriate priority to the passage of Bill C-2, a message be sent to the Senate calling on the Senate to pass Bill C-2, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, by March 1, 2008.

I will start by saying that we will support this motion even though, once again, I believe it is merely a diversionary tactic. The Bloc Québécois was in favour of Bill C-2 when it was voted on in this House. I would remind the House that Bill C-2 was an omnibus bill of sorts, since it consisted of five bills from the previous session. We were in favour of four of the five bills, and since the House had already voted and we had lost the vote, we thought the debate was over and the vote in the House was legitimate. Thus, from the beginning, we had expressed our agreement with four of the five bills, even before the government talked about making this a confidence vote.

We were, and still are, uncomfortable with one aspect of the fifth bill, that is, the notion of reverse onus for some repeat offenders. That said, after weighing the advantages and disadvantages, our caucus decided that it would be better to vote in favour of the bill, since it contained more aspects that we were completely comfortable with and that we supported. Bill C-2 does not pose a problem for us.

As everyone knows, the Bloc Québécois considers any institution associated with the British monarchy to be completely obsolete. In our view, the Senate, as one such mechanism left over from a time when Canada was a British colony, is completely outdated. Clearly, we kept up this British parliamentary tradition—and many among us are attached to it—but, that said, some vestiges need to be abolished. And the Bloc Québécois makes no secret of the fact that, although it is not a priority for us, the abolition of the Senate would not bother us, I can assure this House.

Since it is an institution made up of unelected parliamentarians, we would have no problem with that, since we do not see any legitimacy in that branch of the Parliament of Canada. As I said, given that we do not see any legitimate reason for the institution and that we would like to see it abolished, clearly, for us, voting on it in the House should be the end of the debate, instead of referring the bill, having it passed by a majority of the members of the House of Commons and sending it to an unelected Senate.

I will point out that there is an unelected minister, Mr. Fortier, who, I repeat, promised to run in an election at the first opportunity that came up. But since then, there have been at least three byelections in Quebec, and we would have been very happy to see him step up to the plate in order to truly have democratic legitimacy and to be in a position to make decisions affecting the day-to-day lives of Canadians and Quebeckers.

We feel that the Senate has no legitimacy and should be abolished. So we have no problem with the motion. But once again, we find it a bit childish that this is being debated in this House.

The Bloc Québécois will not prolong this debate, nor do we expect the Senate to follow up on this message by March 1, since it is a relatively short deadline. As I said, we are not about to give credibility to this institution inherited from the past.

However, I think there is something more fundamental behind this motion, and that is the government's, the Prime Minister's desire to create a diversion. I would even say that we have the exact same elements in the motion concerning Afghanistan. I do not want to say that the future of Canada's mission in Afghanistan is not important, far from it, but I, and a number of observers—including all members of the Bloc and several opposition members, since I seem to recall hearing the Liberals' national defence critic mention that it should not be a confidence issue—believe that the debate on this issue should be as non-partisan as possible.

By making this a confidence motion, the government, the Prime Minister, has decided to use this debate to create a political crisis and to trigger, perhaps indirectly, an election. In any event, it is a tactic to divert attention from the real problems Canadians and Quebeckers are currently experiencing.

Among those problems, there is one that the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Industry are being particularly silent about. I am talking about the ongoing situation in the manufacturing and forestry industries. That is what we should be debating today, not some message to the Senate on a bill we all agree on.

To me there seems to be something somewhat unhealthy about the Conservative government and the Prime Minister wanting to dramatize or show us who is boss, even though they are a minority government. They have never understood that and it is not something we should forget. In my opinion, today's debate should have been about improving the aid plan, the first small step announced by the Prime Minister. He tried to use exactly the same tactics there that he is using today and with Afghanistan.

First he tried to make the aid plan, the creation of the community development trust of $1 billion over three years—which is not very much—conditional on passing the budget, thereby blackmailing the opposition parties. We do not know what will be in the budget. It may contain other completely unacceptable items. I would not be surprised to see such items in the next budget. Making this conditional on the budget puts pressure on the opposition members. But worse yet, the people who are in need of assistance in the regions affected by this crisis in the manufacturing and forestry industries, were also being held hostage by this government.

Fortunately, because of pressure from Quebec, and the consensus among Premier Charest of Quebec and all the opposition parties in the National Assembly, namely the Parti québécois and the Action démocratique du Québec, the unions, who unanimously condemned the tactic, the business community—particularly those currently under pressure in these industries in crisis—editorial writers, a number of observers and the opposition parties here in this House, the Bloc Québécois in particular, the Prime Minister saw the light.

Last Monday, as we all know, we had the opportunity to vote on the first part of this inadequate aid plan. I want to be very clear that this means Quebec will get $216 million over three years, even though most of the jobs lost in the manufacturing sector in 2007 were lost in Quebec.

Nobody has taken a close look at the specific job loss numbers in some sectors in the Quebec regions. I believe that is true for Ontario too, and for some regions in the Atlantic provinces. It is clear that the Prime Minister's blackmail tactics were reprehensible and that the figures announced were just not enough.

We were hoping that the Prime Minister would take advantage of his meeting this weekend—not with Bonhomme Carnaval, but with the Premier of Quebec, Jean Charest—to announce improvements to the plan. We were hoping that we would be here today to talk about a bill that would fix things. However, that is not what we are talking about. We are talking about Motion No. 3, and I have already said enough about that.

Nevertheless, I would like to point out that the problem with the $1 billion over three years is that it is to be distributed per capita, not on the basis of need or jobs lost. Furthermore, there is an additional basic $10 million envelope per province, regardless of whether that province is Prince Edward Island, Ontario or Quebec, which is just bizarre. I will come back to that in more detail and give some numbers. In the meantime, in case I run out of time, I want to point out that Prince Edward Island will get about $100 per resident thanks to this Conservative government initiative, while Quebec and Ontario will receive just over $25 per resident, even though 75% of the manufacturing sector is concentrated in Ontario and Quebec.

Therefore, what the government announced was not an aid package but a very broad-based economic revitalization plan. As we know, Alberta will receive its share. I do not think that anyone in the House seriously believes that Alberta, at this juncture, needs a little boost to reinvigorate its economy. Its problem is an overheated economy, which the government has encouraged. In particular, there were the tax cuts in last November's economic statement. For the time being, they are benefiting very few in the manufacturing sector but many in the oil and gas sector.

I will show just how inadequate this Conservative government's first step is and that it needs to be improved. I will simply mention a few articles that I collected here and there during the past week.

For example, last Monday, the Premier of Quebec, Mr. Charest, said:

More needs to be done, among other things, with respect to taxation,...research and development as well as assistance for older workers.

He was speaking specifically of the assistance plan that needed to be bolstered.

Mr. Benoît Pelletier, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, added that Ottawa is awash in surpluses and that the aid given to Quebec, almost $200 million, represents only 10% of amounts advanced by Quebec.

That is what is written but we know that it amounts to $216 million.

The Government of Quebec invested almost $2 billion to help the forestry and manufacturing sectors. I know that this is being debated in Quebec because some feel it is not enough. We are talking about 10% of this aid, approximately $216 million. Obviously, the financial situation of the Government of Quebec and the federal government are in no way alike. For the Government of Quebec, it is clearly not enough and there has to be more.

The following day, it was the CSN's turn to make its views known. I will read an excerpt from its press release entitled “The Prime Minister must act now and abandon his partisan interests”:

—the time for action is now. As it is, the support announced by the Prime Minister reflects neither the seriousness of the situation nor the means at his disposal. In the past four years, more than 15,000 jobs have been lost in the paper and forestry industry, and some 130 sawmills and pulp and paper plants are currently inactive, depriving 31 of 250 municipalities of their main economic activity. Thousands of families in Quebec are in crisis.

The CSN represents 300,000 workers. It is an extremely important labour congress in Quebec and is very well established in the regions. I know a thing or two about the CSN, because I served as its general secretary for eight years.

I am also very fond of my friends in the FTQ, who weighed in on February 6 in the form of a press release from FTQ president Michel Arsenault, a former head of the steelworkers' union for Canada.

Mr. Arsenault had this to say:

The fact that this government, which is literally awash in our money, with a surplus worth billions of dollars, has given up on tying its measure to the adoption of its next budget does not make the measure any more acceptable.

The despicable blackmail by the government and the Prime Minister had ended, but the president of the FTQ, which has 500,000 members in Quebec and a strong presence in the paper and forestry sector, added this: “Quebec is not getting its fair share. The sectors that are worst off are not getting their fair share—”. He was speaking in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, and he said, “Abitibi-Témiscamingue is not getting its fair share”. I would add that Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean is not getting its fair share, Mauricie is not getting its fair share, Gaspé is not getting its fair share, the Lower St. Lawrence is not getting its fair share, northern Lanaudière is not getting its fair share and the Outaouais is not getting its fair share. None of the regions of Quebec is getting its fair share. I will prove this in a moment. I am not finished. Unfortunately for us, groups are still having to exert pressure on this insensitive Conservative federal government.

Last Thursday, the Forest Products Association of Canada announced that it had been very affected by the crisis. It said that there were more than 12,000 jobs lost in Canada in 2007 alone, and that more than 100 mills had shut down. The association called on the federal government to intervene and introduce measures, a number of which were proposed by the Bloc Québécois, the Standing Committee on Finance and the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. I will give only one, otherwise I will run out of time, but this particular one calls for a refundable tax credit for research and development. When a business, such as a paper mill, is not generating a profit, it does not benefit from the generosity of the Conservative government, which cut taxes for businesses earning a profit, but there is still research and development to be done. If these companies, Tembec, Domtar, AbitibiBowater or whatever, continue to do research and development, they cannot benefit from refundable tax credits because they are not generating a profit. They cannot benefit from the tax cuts announced by the finance minister in the economic statement because they are not generating a profit. They need help to be able to keep investing in research and development, which is essential to innovation and competitiveness, so that once this crisis is over, they can compete in North America and throughout the world.

We have a consensus—in Quebec anyway—and I am sure that in Ontario it is the same thing. The billion dollars in aid announced by the Conservative government is definitely not enough. A lot more money than that is needed immediately and they could use the existing surplus and they know it. The surplus is not being used to help the industries, the regions and the workers who are dealing with the manufacturing crisis, because it is being put toward the federal debt. Some might think that is a good idea, but I would remind them that the Government of Canada's federal debt is the lowest of the G-7 countries. It has not been this low since 1984. Why would anyone insist on paying off their mortgage when they have just lost their job and their children are starving? That is precisely what is happening. Not only is that not enough money, but the allocation of this money defies logic and is completely unfair. Earlier I gave the example of Prince Edward Island, but I could go on.

Take Alberta for example, which represents 7.8% of manufacturing jobs. It will receive 10.4% of the aid, while Quebec, which represents 27.6% of the jobs in the manufacturing industry, will receive just 21.8%. It is essential that this be corrected and the aid allocated according to need.

I will close by reiterating the measures the Bloc Québécois is proposing. We propose investing at least $500 million in a new Technology Partnerships Canada program, with $1.5 billion as a repayable contribution for new manufacturing equipment, a forestry economy diversification fund that could very well be the $1 million from the community development trust, and $1.5 million for improving employment insurance and the older workers program. To stimulate economic activity in the municipalities—that could be saved for the budget—there could be a $1 billion increase in the excise tax transfer to the municipalities. What we are asking for right now is $3.5 billion from the $10.6 billion surplus projected for March 31. The government can do it and if it does not, it will pay the price in the next election.

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the member did not talk much about the motion today because he said that it was diversionary. Why does the member think the government is embarrassing itself with this sort of silly diversionary, as he calls it, type of motion? Is it because, after being in its greatest economic position, that it cannot handle the fact that we are getting closer to a recession, which is getting worse and worse? Is it because more and more people are getting furious with the government for the loss in manufacturing and forestry jobs, which, as the member says, are very important issues to discuss? Is it because the Conservatives are the biggest spenders in history and getting us closer to a deficit and they do not want to answer the people on that?

Last week the Bloc member was furious that the government was stonewalling a committee so that it would not discuss the investigations by Elections Canada of a number of members on the election. Is that why the Conservatives are using diversionary actions?

Do the Conservatives not have a lot to answer for to their constituents for stalling these crime bills: the mandatory minimum, the impaired driving, the age of consent, the bail reform with reverse onus and dangerous offenders, many of which, as was explained this morning, could have been law already had it not been for the Conservatives stalling?

It was mentioned that one of the bills has been stalled for over two years. The government refused to fast-track the bills as we suggested and refused to bring them forward in a timely manner, as was outlined in great detail this morning. When the Conservatives prorogued Parliament, more time was lost. Finally, the Conservatives brought them all back as one bill at the beginning instead of where they were in the process--