Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this bill, however brief, as I see the clock is moving quickly toward the end of the day.
Much has been said today about the situation of the high auto theft in the city of Winnipeg. I was pleased to be here in Ottawa to hear the delegation that came from Manitoba in September of 2007. We have heard many references to the mayor of Winnipeg attending but many more were with him. The premier was with him, the leaders of the opposition parties were with him, the leaders of the aboriginal community, the mayor of Brandon and several members of the community who had been affected by auto theft and auto crime.
They came forward and had a whole series of representations to make to those they met and they had several meetings here, but a good deal of it focused on auto theft. They asked, quite specifically, for tougher penalties for those involved in serious crimes, particularly motor theft, and they asked, very specifically, to have auto theft made an indictable offence.
On my return to Winnipeg, I began a series of consultations in the community, meeting frequently with the District 6 Police of the Winnipeg Police Force in my own riding, meeting with community members who were involved with crime prevention and meeting with many of the perpetrators of the crimes in a round table with young people involved in auto theft. I heard various interesting things.
We have heard much today about the numbers in auto theft. I have the most recent ones taken off the website today from the Winnipeg Police Department. The combined actual and attempted auto thefts from the beginning of January until yesterday were 1,522, compared to approximately 2,700 last year. Indeed, the numbers are going down and they are going down, as we have heard earlier, because of initiatives taken by the province, initiatives like the immobilizer prevention programming, intervention programming, suppression programming and consequences for young people, which often includes a lifetime suspension of a driver's licence for repeat offenders.
When that delegation came from Manitoba, they asked the federal government to act. They asked the federal government, as I indicated earlier, to make auto theft an indictable offence and to respond with stiffer penalties.
The government took a very long time in responding. I know you, Mr. Speaker, introduced a bill, which I was pleased to support, at one time. I also was pleased to have the opportunity to introduce a private member's bill. However, because of my place on the order paper, my bill has yet to be brought forward in the House. It is Bill C-526, which I introduced originally in March 2008. My bill asked that a person who commits a motor vehicle theft for a second or subsequent offence be guilty of an indictable offence and liable to a prison term not exceeding 10 years and would require a mandatory minimum sentence of a year.
I am not, for the most part, someone who endorses mandatory minimums. I think that prevention is equally important. However, I saw first-hand, when I met with this group of young people in a round table, what the impact of the prospect of going to jail had on them and the efforts that they were willing to make through remedial action, programming and supports in the community that would ultimately turn their lives around.
I was quite stunned when I heard a young man say that at the height of his car theft activity he and a partner were stealing up to 21 cars a day. I am not quite sure how they physically managed it but that is what he indicated to me. I asked him why he was here, why he was taking the program that he was and what was he doing. He described the program he was taking. He described the job opportunity that he had and described the fact that he now had a son and wanted a better life for his son.
Therefore, coupled with the requirements for the prospect of incarceration, there must be the opportunities for remediation prevention.