Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to make some comments with regard to this bill. There is no question that the animal cruelty legislation needs to be updated. We certainly tried in the past to do this with different pieces of legislation, but unfortunately, the Conservatives opposed those updates. There is no question that Canadians want more effective animal cruelty legislation. The legislation has not been updated since 1892.
The question becomes the value of this particular private member's legislation. This legislation does not go far enough in addressing some of the concerns that members of Parliament hear from Canadians. It will not make it easier to convict perpetrators of such crimes. One of the things we continually hear about is the need to be tougher on the perpetrators. We have heard some horrific stories. Some have been mentioned in this debate and in previous debates. Tougher penalties are needed.
We need to remember when punishing people that they are not being punished for mistreating a piece of furniture, but for mistreating a live animal. The penalty has to reflect that mistreatment. We have to make it easier to deal with people who neglect animals.
On the weekend, we heard of a very tragic case in Alberta with regard to the neglect of horses. Unfortunately, many of them had died and others were very badly malnourished. When people see those things they ask why are we not bringing in tougher animal cruelty legislation.
We need greater protection for wild animals and domestic animals as well. We need to be clearer. Unfortunately, this bill does not go far enough. My colleague from Ajax—Pickering has a private member's bill. It replicates much of the legislation that had been in this House in past Parliaments, such as Bill C-15. My colleague's bill reflects much more of the mainstream concerns of Canadians.
I would also point out that this legislation does not address the situation where animals are trained to fight one another. It does not make that a crime. We have seen in the media some specific examples of that situation, such as cockfighting in Vancouver and the case of Mr. Vick in the United States regarding fighting of animals. Those are the kinds of things that need to be addressed.
If we are going to update legislation which has not been updated in over 100 years, we need to be effective in terms of these issues. We need to address those issues effectively for Canadians. When members get calls on this people are asking why we have taken so long. A lot of it has to do with the fact that we have confused protection of animals with hunting and other issues which some members on the other side have argued we have to be a little more vague on.
In fact, Canadians want to be very specific in terms of addressing the issues. Not only is greater protection needed, but greater clarity in the language is needed as well. Currently the language is very vague, which means that unfortunately, there have not been the kind of convictions that are needed. The courts have said that they can only work with the laws they have before them. They want to see tougher legislation. Canadians want to see tougher legislation.
As parliamentarians, we clearly have an obligation to deal with this type of legislation, and I hope that we do not use a piecemeal approach. The legislation of my colleague from Ajax—Pickering deals with some of the specifics I and others have mentioned in this debate.
We need to look at a couple of other factors. We need to deal effectively with individuals who neglect animals, not just those who do those horrific things we have heard about in terms of microwaves and so on, which acts are intolerable. We need to deal with those who neglect animals, those who have an animal and are not able to care for it. We must ensure that when people are convicted of a crime, they are not allowed to own animals in the future because of their wanton recklessness in terms of their treatment of animals.
The bill only deals with the status quo. It does not move it along to the degree to which we need. After 100 and some years, one would think, given all the examples and issues that exist, that it would have been much more effective. It is too bad the government had not proposed legislation on this. It is too bad we have to have it through a private member's legislation, as good as that may be, particularly by my colleague on this side of the House. However, the reality is attempts to move this forward by previous governments were stalled, either here or elsewhere. That is reprehensible. We need to have legislation that protects the public good.
We have waited a long time for this. The power to introduce this type of legislation has to be comprehensive. It has to deal with all aspects of the debate. I am hopeful the legislation will move forward.
The question I would have is this. Why has the government failed to take a proactive stance on this? In the past, government legislation was moved forward at different reading stages. It is too bad we did not see a proactive approach from the current government on this. It speaks to the very nature of the government in not caring about animal welfare in particular. It is unfortunate. Had it been proactive, we would not have had to go through other vehicles, including private members' legislation.
I am hopeful the legislation will move forward. Again, however, the bill before us today does not address some of the fundamental issues, unlike what my friend from Ajax—Pickering has suggested. I look forward to that legislation when it is brought before the House.