Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak against Bill S-203, and to do so very strongly.
Before I begin my comments as to why our party is opposing this bill, I want to pick up on a couple of points that have been stated in debate and, I hope, provide a responsible refutation of those points.
For my Conservative friend from Winnipeg who said that the amendments brought forward by my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh are not plausible or reasonable, I would just confirm for him that they were done with very direct intent. It was to delete the bill simply because the bill is wrong. He put the amendment forward because this a bill that does not deserve to be passed.
My friend from Winnipeg should know that the member for Windsor—Tecumseh did not fall off the turnip wagon. He knew exactly what he was doing. He was ensuring that this bill would not go further.
It is strange that, at the same as the Liberals have one of their members putting forward a progressive piece of legislation that is a private member's initiative, they would even think of supporting Bill S-203. Why would the Liberals settle for half measures?
I have a comment for my friends from the Bloc. The point that has been made time and again is that this is not good enough. In fact, the Bloc knows that when my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh brought forward amendments at committee to replace this bill with what is progressive legislation, which was actually Bill C-50, that was the time for us to change the bill. However, sadly, that did not get the support of all the members of the committee.
What is wrong with the bill? I guess I will start with the people who, day in and day out, advocate for more responsible animal welfare. These people are not extremists. These people are responsible citizens. They are looking at the proposition that was brought forward by one of the members of the Liberal Party, which we support, as being the way to go. They believe that Bill S-203 will only take us half way. What is the problem with that? The problem is that this issue has been languishing since the 1800s. It puts Canada at the bottom of the list in terms of progress on animal welfare globally in progressive circles.
In fact, if we adopt Bill S-203, it says that it is as good as we could get. Every member who has spoken today has said that it is okay because it is the best we can do for now.
That is not good enough. It is not good enough for this House because this House, before, passed progressive legislation that was much better than this, which is a cut and paste, so to speak, from the member from Pickering's bill, and that was Bill C-50.
What happened to Bill C-50? It went to that other place and got done in, which is part of our problem with the other place. It has decent people there but the institution has absolutely no right to take a bill that has been passed by consensus here and gone through committee and then let it sit there. It is wrong, and most Canadians feel that way about it.
In fact, I was honoured to join people this past weekend in my riding of Ottawa Centre just down the street from here. I joined in with everyday people who asked all members of Parliament to vote against Bill S-203 because it is the wrong way to go. They say that very deliberately, with conviction and with great intelligence.
In fact, Simone Powell and Beth Greenhorn from my riding, who helped organize a rally this past weekend, said just that. They wanted to know why members of Parliament were going to pass a bill that is inferior when we have progressive legislation right in front. I told them I had no idea why.
We have a party that says that this bill is the best that can be done at this point. We took the content from Bill C-373, which was Bill C-50, and put it into committee as amendments so this bill might have a chance of working but members from the other parties did not want to do that. They did not want to be responsible for animal welfare.
I will explain some of the problems with the bill. We are taking laws from the 1800s and basically moving a nanosecond in terms of progress. We do not understand that it is wrong to have this kind of protection in property rights. It reminds me of the time in Canadian history when women were not considered persons. We now have animals considered as properties. The problem with the law is that it is wrong.
For anyone to suggest that we just torque up some of the fines and pass a law that will suggest that judges have a little more in their toolkits to extend the sentences is troubling and strange, particularly for the Conservative Party, which is saying that we need to be very deliberate with judges and tell them exactly how it is.
My friends in the Liberal Party should know that in making laws in legislation we must be deliberate. We must categorize them. Nomenclature is extremely important. If we are not able to properly define animals, animal welfare and understand where it belongs in terms of the law, then we should not bother trying to fix something that is not fixable because that is the problem with Bill S-203.
The bill says to Canadians that we can only do a little bit, that we cannot actually do the right thing. We can only do a little bit and we will eventually get to it and fix it down the road, maybe with Bill C-373, if it comes on the order paper later, or if it is a matter of having others put proposals forward.
Why is it that with each proposal that has been put forward since 1999, all of them have died on the order paper? Why do they die when they go to the other place? Canadians want to know that. People who work for the protection of animals want to know why that is.
This is something that has been pointed out to those who are looking to have more progressive legislation and are 100% against Bill S-203. They have said the following:
It is shameful that, in 2008, our parliament is considering entrenching animal cruelty offences from the Victorian days.
Further to that, they say:
This bill is simply 19th century legislation adjusted for inflation and we must put a stop to it.
I could not agree more. If we do not address the loopholes that exist in Bill S-203, we are admitting that we cannot fix the problem. It means that either we do not understand the problem or we do not care to fix the problem.
Again, why is it that when this place, through consensus in committee back three parliaments, passes a bill and sends it to the other place, the other place decides that it is not good enough? With all due respect, the Senate does not represent my constituents. The Senate should be saying that this is what the House has given to it and it needs to ensure it gets through and that it is responsible. Its decision to kill the bill was not only reprehensible but it was anti-democratic.
At the end, our party will stand with those who want better legislation, progressive legislation, which is why we will vote against Bill S-203 and, in doing so, will vote to protect animal welfare and not go backward.