Mr. Speaker, as the member in our caucus who coordinates private members' business, I have followed this bill very carefully.
It is a bill by Senator John Bryden, who was successful in having the bill move through all stages in the Senate. It has been passed in the Senate and has been referred to the House of Commons and is now being sponsored by the member who tabled the bill here.
It is a very simple bill. It increases penalties, I believe up to 10 years.
Having spent all the time working on private members' business, in my experience private members' bills should not try to do government business, because our rules simply do not provide sufficient debate in Parliament to properly scrutinize any private member's bill.
Private members' bills that come before this place are usually a paragraph long. They are simply trying to make a very specific, focused change.
Under our rules, only two hours of debate are allowed at second reading. That might be 12 speakers. Of the 308 members, only 12 people could even speak.
Then the bill goes to committee. Committees are busy. Private members' business items are a nuisance and they very rarely get a lot of attention there, but let us assume the committee spends a meeting on one. That is another couple of hours. Then the bill is referred back to the House, if it passes at committee, and it gets another two hours at report stage and third reading. In grand total, a private member's bill at all stages in the House may only get six hours of debate. It is ridiculous to think that one could do very much at all stages in just six hours.
Senator Bryden was aware of that. He knew that the only way he could demonstrate the importance of updating animal cruelty legislation was at least to take one step, one step that everybody would understand and that people would be able to take a position on without a lot of debate, because there is not a lot of debate. That is where we are today.
Interestingly enough, there is another private member's bill, Bill C-373, by the member for Ajax—Pickering. That bill was Bill C-50 from a prior Parliament. The justice minister of the day, the member for Mount Royal, had this bill. It was a comprehensive bill but a controversial bill nonetheless. It was quite controversial. There was a lot of debate. There were a lot of issues and a lot of changes were being proposed.
That is going to happen again with a full, comprehensive bill to update this archaic piece of legislation in the manner in which it is needed. We cannot possibly deal with it during private members' business. There just is not enough time to properly consider the bill.
I am speaking in favour of Bill S-203 for the reason that Senator Bryden proposed it, and that is to say, I do not see the government having an appetite to do this. It should be a government bill. It should have the broadest possible and necessary debate within the House to make sure when we correct this that we do the job right, and we cannot do it right in a private member's bill.
The possibility was suggested that maybe we could do this by getting a private member's bill into committee and then making all of the amendments to almost overlay this other bill into the small bill. I have a feeling that probably would not be possible, only because it would be beyond the scope of the bill and it probably would be out of order. There may be some problems.
There also have been some myths about Bill C-373. Many people have written to me saying that I have to vote against Bill S-203 because if that passes, then nobody will have any incentive to make any changes in the future, that it will have been already dealt with.
That is not right. Any piece of legislation can be amended at any time and from time to time. This is one demonstration of the importance of this issue. I hope that the House as a whole would agree that we need to have changes to the animal cruelty legislation.
This bill should in fact be the catalyst to get the government to propose legislation. I encourage and sincerely ask the government to please come forward with legislation which emulates Bill C-50 and any other improvements in there that would make the bill even better. Give that bill to the House and let us work with it. It has to be a government bill. If it is not a government bill, it will never get the proper time for debate and the scrutiny that will be necessary to make a good piece of legislation.That is the real problem.
To suggest that if we passS-203 it is going to stop anything, that is simply not the case. It is incorrect. There will be changes in the future, but unless the House is going to have a piece of legislation in front of it that members can properly address, I do not think it is going to happen.
I can say for sure that if the Liberals form the next government, it will be part of our platform to introduce comprehensive legislation to bring it up to date, into the current realities, on animal cruelty legislation. It is an important piece. We had it the last time we formed government. The then minister of justice, the member for Mount Royal, had Bill C-50 and it will come back.
Bill C-373 is in front of me. It is quite a long bill. These are just the amendments to the existing legislation. There are six pages of amendments. No one is saying that six pages of amendments even in themselves are going to be enough. We need to have comprehensive debate on this legislation when it comes before the House. It needs to go to committee. We need to hear from stakeholders from across the country, those who represent the agricultural industry, farmers, fishermen, anglers, pet owners and those who just understand that we have legislation right now on which it is very difficult to get prosecutions and convictions.
It is a serious problem and Parliament should deal with it. The only way it can deal with it right now is either to have the government table a bill at least covering the items in Bill C-50 from a prior Parliament or at least to pass Bill S-203 to send a signal to Canadians that this is an issue that is important enough to Parliament that we will set the stage for the government to take action. And if it does not, then another party forming government will in fact bring it in. We had it before.
The NDP members are against everything these days. I do not know what it is. I know they have talked about maybe asking the Liberal member to give up his bill, give it to the NDP and one of its members will do it, but it is not going to work.
We all have to understand that with a private member's bill we are not going to get unanimous consent to do the kinds of things we have to do. It is not going to happen in this mix of the House. We need to have a bill that has that full and comprehensive debate, to make sure that all the questions that people have from coast to coast to coast are answered and that the legislation reflects the priorities of Canadians with regard to animal cruelty legislation. We have to hear that and we will not hear that on a private member's bill.
I acknowledge 100% that S-203 takes one small step. It is not that it does not want to do more, but that is all that is possible using a private member's bill.
I am going to support the bill and I am going to continue to fight on behalf of all those who want current, updated and effective animal cruelty legislation.