Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the report stage of Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (motor vehicle theft), and to express my support for the bill. I congratulate my colleague for putting this bill forward because it is a step in the right direction in addressing a serious issue that so many Canadians face today.
I do want to make a note that while the government claims to be tough on crime, it did not take the initiative to bring this bill forward as a government bill. I wonder if it does not understand the seriousness of motor theft. It claims to support the initiative but it could have brought this forward as a government bill. However, I am happy to see it in the House.
We know that auto theft is a serious threat across the country and, as you well know, Mr. Speaker, it is a matter of great concern for many of the residents of the city of Winnipeg.
According to the Winnipeg Police Service website, every hour in Winnipeg a vehicle is stolen and over 90% of the vehicles are recovered. This shows that most vehicles that are stolen on the streets of Winnipeg are stolen for the mere fact that these thieves simply want to go on a joyride, not considering at all the individuals who are affected.
I have had the opportunity in the last months to meet a number of times with the leadership of the District 6 police in the city of Winnipeg, which is the area encompassing the jurisdiction that I represent. I met with Inspector Roy Smith and Staff Sergeant Keith Walker. They spent a fair bit of time with me, giving me some indication of the seriousness of the challenges in Winnipeg with auto theft and with theft in general. They acknowledged that it was going down. It is going down but it is going down with a huge concerted effort and resources of the police department.
Recently I attended the City of Winnipeg's mayor's State of the City speech that he gave to the Chamber of Commerce. He, too, referenced the fact that auto theft did go down by 27% last year, but he also noted that auto theft attempts had gone up by 8.8%. Unfortunately, the problem is not going away, and we know that the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation has undertaken many initiatives to curtail auto theft crime but it is of great significance.
From January 1 to February 17, according to the Winnipeg Crime Stoppers' website, there have been 595 actual car thefts and 589 attempted car thefts. This is a staggering number that appears to be slowly going down in the city but still alarming enough that the issue must be addressed. That does sort of verify the figure of a theft an hour because it is 24 per a 24-hour period. It is simply not acceptable for that to be happening.
We learned from the police that when certain known car theft perpetrators are apprehended and in custody, the numbers go down.
Last September, like other Manitoba members of Parliament and other members of Parliament in my caucus, I was able to meet with the Manitoba delegation that came to Ottawa to address the government and the opposition. My colleagues and I in the Liberal caucus met with Premier Gary Doer; Justice Minister Chomiak; Mayor Katz; Mayor Burgess of Brandon; provincial opposition leaders; Dr. Jon Gerrard and Mr. Hugh McFayden; Chief Dennis Meeches of the Long Plains First Fation and a variety of citizens who have been affected by crime in Manitoba.
They brought forward a number of proposals dealing with criminal activity and offences. The one that resonated with me, and what I heard from the police in District 6, was that if we did one thing, the one most important thing, would be to make auto theft an indictable offence.
The concerns that the delegation brought to the table were those of auto theft. They expressed the need for tougher penalties and called on the Government of Canada to take action. As I mentioned earlier, I am disappointed that making auto theft an indictable offence was not part of the government's crime initiatives.
The Conservatives claim to be tough on crime, but it is part of the game. The tackling violent crime bill was delayed by the Conservatives themselves. They then tried to force it through the Senate. They play games with the safety of Canadians and only take action when they have a political agenda.
I commend my colleague for raising this important issue which must be addressed.
I heard the delegation loud and clear. Bill C-343 is a step in the right direction. It would make everyone who commits a theft of a motor vehicle guilty of an indictable offence or an offence punishable on summary conviction, but I feel we can go even further.
In the coming days I will be introducing a bill of my own that would build on the bill put forward by my colleague. My bill would make everyone who commits a subsequent offence guilty of an indictable offence. It would not leave them an option. I think it would deter thieves from creating a second offence.
This is important for the safety of the citizens of my community. I am not aware of the prevalence of auto theft elsewhere in the country, but I do know of it in my own community. I am firmly committed in undertaking every effort to address what has become a very serious issue in the city of Winnipeg.