House of Commons Hansard #86 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pumps.


Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime ActGovernment Orders

October 25th, 2010 / 12:40 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. The answer is in the explanations I gave in my speech on the motives that compel someone to commit this crime. In the province the member referred to, these offences are not associated with a specific illegal act or organized crime group, but rather with delinquency. The provinces have certain obligations when it comes to health services and social services.

As I mentioned earlier, in Quebec, this activity and offence is not related to joyriding, in other words, young people deciding to steal a vehicle for a day or an evening simply for fun. In Montreal, motor vehicle theft is directly related to organized crime. Thus, the federal government is responsible through the Criminal Code. Young people going through a delinquent phase must not be subject to the Criminal Code, quite simply because they are not planning to sell stolen car parts outside the country, in the Middle East or Africa, for example.

I believe it is important to distinguish between the two offences. One of them is often committed by young people for various reasons, and the other is usually committed by an organized network of criminals. In the first instance, the provinces have an important obligation in terms of supervision and reducing juvenile delinquency, particularly in cities like Winnipeg.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to raise two concerns with the member. The first one is probably more a commentary than a question.

The government sitting across the way continually tells the House that it is tough on crime and that it is getting down to serious work, yet if we look at the history of this bill, the first time we saw it was in 2006. We saw it again in 2008. Then we had prorogation and we had to start all over again.

People in my community of Hamilton Mountain were upset about the prorogation for a whole host of reasons, but one of them was that we keep repeating the same work, over and over again, instead of finding the time to deal with the real economic issues that are so hurting our communities. We should be talking about job creation. We should be talking about how to stop foreign takeovers. Yet what are we doing? We are debating the same bill for the third time.

Let me get to the question that I want to pose to the member.

I find the provisions in this bill with respect to mandatory minimum sentences troubling, and in particular, the fact that they would not kick in until after the third offence. I think we can think of a number of scenarios. When a person has been convicted for the third time, six months might be the mandatory minimum sentence. That is a ridiculously low sentence, especially if it involves individuals who are involved in organized crime and the theft of autos.

I wonder if the member could elaborate on his views both with respect to mandatory minimums in this bill and mandatory minimums in general.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, we reject outright the principle of minimum sentences. However, in the bill, a minimum sentence of six months' imprisonment applies in the case of a third offence. A minimum sentence applies for a third offence because there are two reasons for committing such an offence. It may be committed by an organized crime ring for the purpose of selling parts abroad. Or a car may be stolen by 18- or 19-year-olds who want to go joyriding one evening.

The penalty and the sentence must fit the crime. The same six-month sentence cannot be handed down for an 18-year-old who decides to steal a car and for someone found guilty of trafficking cars. The sentences must be fair. The Bloc Québécois has always opposed the principle of minimum sentences because it wants judges to assess the situation of the accused who is brought to trial and sentenced.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was listening closely to the member from Hamilton Mountain and I would like some clarification, although I am sure she might give some later on. She must have been telling the Minister of Justice and Attorney General that she was advocating the three strikes and you are out policy. If that is the case, then I am wondering why her party has not supported the crime and justice legislation in the past like we have. When we are trying to make amendments, make things tighter and respond to the call of Canadians on various issue, all of a sudden I hear this and it kind of shocks me.

I will now move on to speak to Bill S-9. I listened earlier to my Liberal colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine and her perspective on this legislation. I also listened very carefully to what the Bloc Québécois member from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie had to say. Some of the comments I heard from the Liberal speaker and the Bloc speaker were very constructive. However, some of the comments from the NDP puzzled and shocked me as to where it was coming from.

Bill S-9, an act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime), is important. I agree with the comments that were made earlier that this type of initiative was before the House back in 2006. Why it took so long is beyond us, but, of course, we did have prorogation and we did have elections that the Prime Minsiter called prematurely.

I and I know my constituents would have thought that one of the first pieces of legislation, along with so many other important pieces of legislation, would have been this type of legislation, seeing what the numbers are out there. We heard some of the numbers earlier today. When we discuss these numbers, it is very difficult to talk about where the numbers in auto theft are higher. I think every member who sits in this honourable House has great respect, whether it is in the provinces of Manitoba, Quebec, P.E.I., Ontario, or in my lovely city of Toronto, but at the same time we need to talk about these statistics, where they come from and where they are accumulated so that the resources could be attached to them as legislation will be applied.

For example, the member from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie gave us some statistics about the recovery percentages in Ontario as opposed to Quebec and how they were much higher in Ontario. Also, auto theft as a whole in Ontario is quite less than most other provinces. That just goes to take away the notion that Toronto has high crime rates. That is not the case in auto theft crimes and I want to put that on record.

Nevertheless, as we talk about crime in general, one crime is one too many, which is why, as my Liberal colleague said earlier, we want to support this legislation. I, for one, on behalf of my constituents in Scarborough Centre, in the city of Toronto and in the province, want to support this legislation. We want to see it go to committee because we believe some good work and good suggestions could be made in committee to fine-tune this bill so that we can finally get a bill out there to do the work that Canadians have asked us to do, which is to tighten up the Criminal Code.

I would like to point out what I think are faults with some of the suggestions in this bill.

The bill would make it a crime to alter, destroy or remove a VIN, vehicle identification number. The member spoke earlier of the significance of it, the role that it plays and how important it is. It would also make it a crime to knowingly sell, give, transfer, transport, send or deliver goods that have been acquired criminally.

We heard earlier today from other speakers about how people steal a car, take it apart and sell different parts or put a car in a crate and ship it abroad. They also can change the vehicle identification number with what was described as a makeover. The member talked about three specific areas: chopping, exporting and the makeover. The bill addresses those specific areas.

The bill would make it a crime to possess property known to be obtained through crime for the purpose of trafficking. For example, if people who need a door, a bumper or an auto part goes to an autobody shop to buy a door for x amount of dollars, knowing very well what the market price is, the moment they pay 30% to 50% less their antenna should go up. They should ask themselves why, if they go to the depot and pay so much, this person is charging so little. Those people should immediately step away from that transaction because they will also be subject to a criminal charge if this legislation is passed.

If everyone who engages in that type of exchange avoids it, then hopefully there will be no market for it. In the early nineties, there was a huge underground cigarette economy. Revenue for the country was down because of loss of taxes and there was a free fall for everyone. I say quite proudly that when we took office we lowered the federal taxes on cigarettes and all of a sudden we eliminated that underground economy. How can we eliminate the selling or chopping of parts? We can do it through legislation and the notification to purchasers of said parts. If they know they could be fined and imprisoned, they will avoid buying, which means it would eliminate a market for that area.

The Canada Border Services has a very important role to play. We have seen documentaries where a car is put in a container on a boat and then shipped somewhere across the ocean. We need to be able to provide Canada Border Services with the right type of technology so it can monitor the containers. However, we must remember that not all cars in containers are put there illegally. Some Canadians may decide to get employment outside the country and they put their cars in containers and ship them to wherever their new job is.

However, along the way I think there is technology today that can help Canada Border Services do a better job in pre-screening to ensure that stolen autos leaving the country is addressed as well.

The Liberal Party has always supported legislation to effectively reduce any type of crime. This is one type of crime. My colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine has often talked about what is unacceptable and hurting, if I may say, is that when legislation comes forward on crime and justice issues, sometimes the Conservatives say that we Liberals stand for the criminals. That is not true.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

And they know it.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Of course they know it.

My colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, who spoke earlier today, stood and, over and over again, said that we must punish where punishment is warranted and we must protect when protection is warranted, but that we need to do it in the Canadian way, in a fair way. That is why, with the member's suggestion as the critic, and I agree, the bill must go to committee. I am confident some good ideas will come forward to make some changes.

Our caucus will not play politics with this type of legislation. We will move forward and support it but we will not stand for any slogans. For example, I remember the member for Portage—Lisgar on the gun issue. The other day we heard personal attacks on our colleagues who did not support the gun legislation.

Last night I was watching a documentary on Lee Atwater and some of the tactics that he used during the Bush senior campaign when he talked against Dukakis and about how all criminals vote for Democrats and all good Americans vote for Republicans.

The one thing that hurt me a lot in the most recent debates on the gun legislation was that criminals vote for Liberals and police officers vote for Conservatives. That is just nasty, untrue and uncalled for. When we want to move forward to protect the nation, it is unnecessary.

We sit in committee to do the good work that we know we can do and that we are paid to do and should do for the good of Canadians.

I am glad this has created a separate offence within the Criminal Code. It was long overdue and it is necessary.

What I sometime find unacceptable is the people they use to sell or to participate in car theft, for example, young delinquents, young offenders as we might describe them. I might ask the committee to look into that because criminals could be stealing these cars, chopping them, trying to sell them or export them and the middle person, as he or she is often referred to, could be a young man who may be going through some difficulty in life and all of a sudden a few quick dollars are flashed in front of him and he is told to drive the car or chop off the VIN number and so on. We know very well what the Criminal Code is in reference to young offenders, and I am concerned. I am putting this on the table so that when the bill goes to committee it could possibly look into that as well.

I am pleased that since 2006, when the last data was brought forward, it showed that auto theft was on a decline, as overall crime stats were in a decline.

I remember very well in 1991-92, when I sought the nomination and won in the election of 1993, that one of the key issues was that we needed to address the crime issue and we needed to make our streets safer. I made a commitment to my constituents, and I am pleased to say that I have upheld that promise to this very day, that we would do whatever we could. We did make changes to section 745 of the Criminal Code.

Today, when an impact statement is allowed in the Williams case, that is because Liberal governments brought it forward. When there is an opportunity for a declaration of a dangerous offender, that was a Liberal initiative that brought it forward. Long term offender was also a Liberal initiative.

Do we know everything? I would say no. Does the Conservative Party have a monopoly on crime legislation? No. We all, in our own conscience, want to do the right thing. That is why I said earlier and our critic also said that we will support the bill and send it committee where some good work will be done.

I am pleased that under our tenure, under a Liberal government between 1993 to 2006, the crime stats as a whole were coming down. However, I am sad that in areas such as Manitoba and Montreal the car theft stats are up. However, I want to assure Canadians in Manitoba and in Montreal that we want to work together to address this issue and solve it, as the member from Bloc Québécois said earlier.

The Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers is opposed to the bill as it believes it would limit judicial discretion. Quite frankly, I do not know. That puzzles me in some way. I need more clarification on what it means by that. I am not a lawyer, by education, so I will not pretend to know as much as the lawyers. However, I do know one thing. The average Canadian wants it in a very simple way. Maybe the council could explain, in a simple way, what it means by that so we can address its concerns.

The Canadian Association of Crown Counsel is also opposed to the bill. It believes it would add more work to an already overwrought system, without any mention or apparent intention to add resources to support the legislation. That was brought up earlier.

I also have that concern. Legislation is good. I will point out two things. It is good provided we enforce it and we provide the tools, but then we ask the judiciary, for example, to enforce the legislation. In order to enforce the legislation, we need the resources to do so.

Today, unfortunately, we are strapped with a $56 billion deficit, but as high a record deficit as it is, it will go higher. The economy has not yet really kicked in to try to generate jobs, wealth creation and security. If we have a healthy economy, then people are occupied or preoccupied with work as opposed to committing criminal acts, such as auto theft, for example.

Yes, the deficits are going up. Yes, it is a burden. Yes, it is a cost. However, at the end of the day, we, as a civil society, have to find that money because we are trying to keep our streets, our communities and our cities safe. How much is that worth? In my humble opinion, we really cannot put a value on that. Part of this whole process of funds is also rehabilitation. It is not just charging people who committed auto theft or burglary. It is also taking them at the early stages and working with them.

When it comes to resources that were identified by the Crown counsel, I agree with them, and I am going to ask the government to try to find the means and the ways to address the financial needs.

Various mayors and other people who have supported the bill were mentioned earlier such as the Insurance Bureau of Canada. Another burden is the insurance costs. A young man or a young woman graduating from college or university needs a car to get to work and the insurance costs are high. Why are they high? Simply because of some of these thefts, for example, that impede the system, the recovery process and whatnot.

I am thankful for the legislation and any legislation that will help keep our streets safe. Issues such as these are not a monopoly to any specific party or any specific person. I always have believed, and will continue to believe, that these issues are important to each and every one of us, no matter from what part of the country we come. If one part of the country is having some difficulties, as was mentioned earlier today, Manitoba, Quebec, or Montreal, we have an obligation to step in and do what we can.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I, too, am pleased to be speaking about Bill S-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime). As my colleague, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, so clearly stated just moments ago, the Bloc Québécois supports this bill. Bill S-9, just like Bill C-26, which went down the drain because of prorogation, and Bill C-53, which went down the drain because of the election, has the very specific goal of reducing vehicle theft. The bill's main measure, which is to create an offence for tampering with an identification number—which is also known as a serial number, just to clarify—is not new. In fact, it was lifted from Bill C-64, which was introduced by the Liberal government in September 2005.

However, Bill S-9 is broader in scope. It also targets the trafficking, export and import of any property obtained by crime and proposes a minimum six-month sentence for a person convicted of vehicle theft for the third time. My colleague, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, explained the Bloc Québécois' position well. Generally, we are against minimum sentences in justice bills because they tie the judge's hands and mean that no matter what happened and despite any exacerbating or mitigating factors, a minimum sentence of x number of months or years must be handed down to the person who committed the crime. This means that one person could receive the same sentence as another even though the crime they committed was not nearly as serious or they played a smaller role in the crime than the second person. The Bloc Québécois feels that is a problem.

However, it is said that when there is recidivism, organized crime is more likely to be involved. When teenagers steal a car and take it for a joyride, the hope is that there is not too much damage, because accidents can be caused by excessive speed. I imagine a person who commits this type of offence already has the makings of a criminal. However, in that case, there is not necessarily recidivism. Criminal groups make money by stealing cars, altering them, chopping them up to sell the parts, or shipping them overseas. If these people are caught more than once, they could receive a minimum sentence. The Bloc Québécois does not really have a problem with that in this particular case because of the way the legislation is drafted.

Bill S-9 is in all respects the same as Bill C-26 as passed, with support from the Bloc Québécois, by the House of Commons during the last session. Furthermore, Bill C-26, which the Bloc Québécois supported at third reading, was practically identical to the version introduced at first reading, which itself was similar to Bill C-53, introduced previously. We are in favour of sending Bill S-9 to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Unfortunately, as some hon. members have said and as my colleague, the hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, said during a speech on the same subject earlier this year, this committee is overwhelmed because the Minister of Justice has piled on the bills.

Although we may be in favour of some of these bills, we must still study them carefully. We cannot pass a bill without having studied it and heard from witnesses. Sometimes everyone in the House will agree on a bill, because it is clear and well written and we know its purpose and all the ins and outs. In this case, the bill may be fast-tracked, or passed very quickly. However, in most cases, we must study bills in much more detail and send them to committee to ensure that there is nothing fishy going on, and that we are on the right track.

The problem is that there is a lot of jostling in committee. There are bills that everyone agrees on, but members would like to hear from the witnesses. Some political parties want further information, and want to propose amendments. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is very busy right now. So it will be difficult for anything to happen with this bill. I do not know whether the House is unanimous on this bill, but based on what I have heard from the various parties, it seems that we will not have any trouble moving it through. The government needs the support of one party, and the Bloc is in favour of this bill.

A little later, I will give some interesting statistics. According to what I have read on this subject, the number of car thefts has been going down since 1996. Nevertheless, now is the time to act, because it still happens too frequently.

The social and economic consequences of these thefts are a heavy burden, both for individuals and society as a whole. Just think about the insurance companies that are faced with this problem. Insurance companies are no different from other businesses. When they incur costs by compensating people who have had their vehicle stolen, it is the consumer who foots the bill at the end of the day. That is the way things work. It is true that vehicle thefts affect everyone.

The cost of automobile insurance varies based on how often you use the vehicle and where you live. Central Quebec is known as a region with high rates of vehicle theft and possession of stolen vehicles. It is possible that insurance there costs a little bit more. Without repeating what was said earlier, I would say that Winnipeg is, unfortunately, Canada's vehicle theft capital. I am sure that people pay much more to insure a vehicle in Winnipeg than in other municipalities in Canada. Montreal and Toronto also have a high number of vehicle thefts because of the large number of vehicles registered there.

Back when I was a local radio reporter in my region, I witnessed several vehicle seizures. Unfortunately, a number of criminal gangs had chosen Victoriaville and the surrounding area as a location for their illegal activities. Even some very modern garages that sold nice cars were raided, and police seized several vehicles. Charges were laid, and people were sentenced to jail for possession of stolen goods. I sometimes covered these events. Today, there are fewer such garages, no doubt because of those seizures. They may have set up shop elsewhere, or they may be more discreet. Still, we cannot bury our heads in the sand. The scourge persists in my region and all across Canada.

The Bloc Québécois agrees with the new trafficking offence set out in Bill S-9. The purpose of this provision is to curb trafficking in cars and car parts. Organized crime groups get rich by quickly dismantling cars and selling the parts. Some stolen cars immediately leave the country for sale elsewhere, but in general, cars are stolen for parts, so vehicles are stripped right away.

Judging by the list of most frequently stolen cars, thieves are not always after very costly or luxurious vehicles. Some groups put in orders for particular makes of vehicles.

I do not need to list those makes, but I can say that the most popular cars are the ones most frequently stolen. Many of them are compact cars that cost between $20,000 and $25,000. There are so many of these cars on the market that parts are in high demand. That is where possession of stolen goods comes into play. Fenders, engine parts, mufflers, wheels, everything goes. Everything gets recycled and sent to shady dealers for resale. Worst of all, these parts are not necessarily resold for a better price. Consumers who have been in accidents or who have defective parts in their cars buy these parts in good faith, not knowing that they are buying stolen parts. This is a very lucrative market for gang members.

This bill also tackles another problem: vehicle theft for the purpose of joyriding. I am not sure what the correct word for that is in French. Most thefts of this type are committed by young people.

For instance, this happens when someone stops their car in front of a convenience store and unfortunately leaves the keys in the ignition, perhaps even leaving the car running. Sometimes in the winter, people might leave their cars running while they run in to buy some milk. They get out of the car without locking the doors. Someone can walk by more or less by chance and steal the vehicle to go for a joyride. A friend of mine was the victim of this kind of theft and the police found his car in a ditch a few kilometres from where it had been stolen. The young people had simply abandoned the vehicle there, unfortunately with some damage, because they had gone for a joyride in a field. Not everyone commits this kind of vehicle theft for the same reason.

I mentioned statistics earlier. According to the most recent statistics from the insurer's organization, Groupement des assureurs automobiles, there were more than 38,800—that is nearly 40,000—vehicle thefts in Quebec in 2006. That is the equivalent of one motor vehicle theft every 14 minutes. That is a lot of theft. Insurance companies had to pay out $300 million, which has a direct impact on all insurance premiums. Despite those high numbers, Quebec is far from the worst. In fact, per capita, the figures are far lower in Quebec than in the western provinces.

Comparing the number of vehicle thefts in 2006, Quebec had 507 per 100,000 inhabitants and Alberta had 725. The worst rate—and I think some of my colleagues have mentioned this—is in Manitoba. Earlier we heard that Winnipeg was the car theft capital of Canada. In fact, Manitoba had 1,376 thefts per 100,000 inhabitants. This is rather frightening, especially if we compare it to the average across Canada, which is 487 per 100,000 people. In all of Canada, approximately 160,000 vehicles were stolen in 2006. As I said earlier, the rate has been going down since 1996, but the statistics show that we are still facing a very serious problem.

The situations in Quebec and the western provinces are different. In Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the majority of the cars are stolen for joyrides, simply for the fun of stealing a car and going for a ride. Sometimes cars are used during the commission of another crime. People steal a car to commit a holdup and then abandon the car shortly thereafter. In western Canada, auto thefts are committed by people who are not necessarily seeking monetary gain from this larceny. The purpose is a joyride. These thefts are committed for fun, on a dare, or to get a car to commit another crime.

In Quebec and in Ontario, even though people steal cars for joyriding in those provinces as well, most of the auto thefts are linked to trafficking in and possession of stolen vehicles.

The most commonly stolen vehicles are not the ones we might think. They are not just luxury vehicles with high resale values. The most popular vehicles are stolen for their parts. I have a list from 2006, but most of the media provide a list every year of the 10 most stolen vehicles in Canada. The list is even broken down by most stolen vehicle per province.

For the most part, we are talking about small cars such as the Honda Civic, Subaru Impreza and Acura Integra. The Acura Integra no longer exists, but people modify it. They like that model because it is a high performance vehicle and the parts are traded on the market rather easily. These are highly sought after parts. That kind of car is very popular. There are also the minivans used by small families; we see a lot of them on the road. Vehicles are stolen for their parts and not necessarily for their value.

The Library of Parliament put together a very interesting document for the committee to use during its study of this bill. I remember some of the facts that were in it. The Insurance Bureau of Canada, or IBC, estimates that auto theft creates a financial burden in excess of a billion dollars a year. This estimate includes the theft of uninsured vehicles, costs related to health care, court proceedings, police services and legal services, and personal expenses incurred by owners.

Thus, vehicle theft costs our society about a billion dollars a year. There is a direct financial impact on consumers. Auto insurers figure out how much money they lose because of auto theft, and then they pass the cost on to drivers and vehicle owners. These costs also depend on where the vehicle is located and how it is used. For example, members of Parliament who use their cars a lot for work are more likely to have their cars stolen because they travel a lot and park in many places. Their cars are not sitting in garages. They put a lot of kilometres on their cars and are at greater risk of having their cars stolen.

In Canada, the number of motor vehicle thefts per 1,000 inhabitants dropped 15% in 2008, continuing the general decline we have seen since 1997. This drop is due to the fact that we opened our eyes and adopted certain measures. Since September 2007, Canadian auto manufacturers have had to install electronic immobilizers in new vehicles, which makes them more difficult to steal.

Insurance companies are also trying to reduce theft by offering better deals to owners of vehicles equipped with anti-theft devices. This may not necessarily be an alarm system; it could be a device with an intelligent key, which makes it more difficult for a thief to start the vehicle.

Luxury vehicles stolen and shipped overseas in containers to Russia, Africa and the Middle East, where they are in demand, as my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie mentioned, are often equipped with a GPS, which makes it easy to locate them.

I would be remiss if I did not mention certain municipal bylaws. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of theft in my region. In Victoriaville, there is now a municipal bylaw prohibiting drivers from leaving their cars running if they are not in them. Another bylaw provides for a fine if a vehicle's doors are left unlocked. If a vehicle is parked in the driveway and the doors are not locked, a police officer can give the owner a ticket. People are increasingly being made aware of the problem of auto theft. Studying this bill in committee will allow us to tackle the problem of auto theft.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his very interesting and informative speech.

I wonder if he could share his opinion on this kind of bill. This is the third time such a bill has been introduced. First, Bill C-53 was introduced shortly after the 2006 election. Then Bill C-26 was introduced before the 2008 election, when the House was prorogued. Now we are talking about Bill S-9.

Does the member think the Conservatives are simply trying to delay these bills? If the government had really wanted to, we could have passed this bill a long time ago. In his opinion, why has the government not yet addressed this matter?

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very pertinent question.

It is odd; not too long ago, I was one of the MPs who supported the anti-spam bill. The government was responsible for delaying that bill. Several years later, we are still discussing it, even though this bill appeared to have unanimous support and would have had no difficulty being passed by the House of Commons.

It is the same thing with auto theft. The bills that came before Bill S-9, which my colleague mentioned, were exactly the same. Unfortunately, Parliament was prorogued. The government itself shut down the House of Commons, which meant that the bill died on the order paper.

Another time, we were looking at a bill to bring in fixed election dates, but the Prime Minister decided that he wanted to call an election, which meant that that bill also died on the order paper. This has been going on for years. I get the feeling that the ministers will tell the public that they have come up with a bill to reduce the number of car thefts. We hear that every time, but it is always the same bill. We must adopt it as quickly as possible, and agree to move on to something else. There would be no problem with adopting Bill S-9 quickly.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill S-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime).

All of us here know of constituents who, or we ourselves, have been victims of individuals who have stolen cars. It is traumatic for the victims and their families. It is costly for insurance companies. Above all else, it is an incredible violation for those whose cars have been stolen.

We support the government bill. We want to work with the government to make sure it is an effective bill in the public interest, to ensure there is a continued decline in auto theft. What is interesting, along with most other crime in Canada, is that there has been a decline in auto theft. In 2006 there were some 430 vehicles stolen per day, which is a very large number, but the number of vehicles stolen continues to decline.

The Liberal Party will continue to support legislation that is effective and improves public safety. At one time the government had 16 bills on the order paper that were related to crime. We said that we would support 11 of the 16 bills immediately, but the government said that if we did not support all of the bills, it would not agree to 11 of its bills being supported in one block. That is unfortunate because this bill has been introduced several times in the past, due in large part to the Prime Minister's continual proroguing of Parliament. In doing that he has put the government's legislation back at square one. That is not in the interest of the public and is not a good use of taxpayers' money. It certainly makes this place work less effectively than any of us would like to see.

We certainly encourage the Prime Minister to work with us to ensure that the bills he is putting forward are good ones. We will work with him to ensure they are passed as quickly as possible. If a bill is not good legislation, we want to ensure that we can change it to make sure it works in the public interest.

This bill proposes to do three things. It makes it a crime to alter, destroy or remove a vehicle identification number. It makes it a crime to knowingly sell, give, transfer, or transport, send or deliver goods acquired criminally. It makes it a crime to possess property known to be obtained through crime for the purpose of trafficking.

In the past, my party put forth a number of bills relating to protecting children, to eradicate child pornography, to reduce violent crimes, to implementing minimum sentences for using a gun in the commission of a crime. We would certainly like to continue supporting good bills.

Auto theft is a national problem. It is particularly problematic in Montreal and Winnipeg. It has been endemic in those cities for a very long time. If the government wants to apply significant resources, it should do that in an evidence-based fashion. Rather than putting forth legislation that sounds good on the surface, we have to make sure that the legislation will make the public safer and will not waste the taxpayers' money.

The government has had a number of bills that will be exceptionally costly. If one sums up the cost of the government's justice bills, they will cost the taxpayer $11 billion. We would support that if that $11 billion was well spent, but the government is putting out a wide net that will capture people who should be in jail as well as individuals who perhaps have medical problems and should not be.

With this broad net, it sounds good for the government to puff up its chest and say that it supports the protection of Canadian citizens. Everybody in the House wants to protect Canadians. We are also interested in ensuring that those people who are inveterate criminals, repeat offenders and those who have committed violent crimes do pay the price and spend time in jail. However, the government has failed to look at both sides of the equation.

When I was putting myself through school, I worked for a while as a guard in a maximum security prison. I used to work there as a physician too. What I found, and this is the fact, is that 50% to 60% of people in jail have a combination of things. They could have fetal alcohol syndrome, now known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. A good chunk of them have had brain injuries. Many of them have what we call a dual diagnosis, a combination of both psychiatric problems and drug problems.

The problem is there is not a coherent way to address this. There are ways we can prevent those problems from happening. It would make more sense to work with the provinces, which are the managers of the provincial institutions where people serve sentences of two years less a day.

In one of the jails in my riding, and this is a standard practice for provincial institutions, there is a huge lack of ability to treat people with problems such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which is the most common cause of preventable brain damage at birth, those who have substance abuse and psychiatric problems, and people who have brain injuries as a result of falls or other accidents. The jails are littered with these individuals. Would it not make more sense for the federal government to work with the provinces to ensure that people get the treatment they require?

Right now we see a revolving door syndrome within the provincial institutions. The police and the public are exceptionally frustrated because many people go on to reoffend. They become part of the revolving door syndrome. There are people in my community of Victoria whose houses have been broken into dozens of times. In Victoria proper more than 1,500 people are living on the streets. Sixty per cent of those people have dual diagnoses. They have a combination of psychiatric problems and substance abuse problems. Those problems cannot be shrugged off. They are medical problems that require medical intervention. The good thing about this is that there are programs that are effective in dealing with these problems. Let me give one example.

Dr. Evan Wood and Dr. Julio Montaner at the centre of excellence at the University of British Columbia have put forth programs such as NAOMI, the North American opiate medication initiative. This is a drug program for those who have intravenous injection drug problems, particularly with respect to narcotics. A group of people were given narcotics. Those people who had been committing crimes, stealing cars, doing break and enters and other actions to pay for their drug habits were given narcotics by a medical professional. Those people were brought into the medical system. The result was that a majority of those people moved away from engaging in criminality. They got the care they required. They were able to get skills training. They were able to get off the drugs, get back with their families and get their lives back on track.

It is a much less expensive intervention than throwing somebody in jail.

Members and viewers might be interested to know what it costs to keep one person in jail. For a federal maximum security institution, it costs $240,000 a year for a man, and for a woman, it costs $330,000 a year. In a medium security institution, it costs $140,000 a year. Most Canadians could not hope to earn that amount of money in a year, yet it is taxpayers' money which pays to keep people behind bars.

By all means, inveterate criminals and people who commit violent acts need to be behind bars; that is in the public interest. However, there has to be a way to break the cycle of criminality and there are ways to make this happen.

I mentioned NAOMI. Why is every single city in Canada that has an intravenous drug problem with some of its citizens and wants a North American opiate medication initiative not allowed to have one? Why does the federal government not work with its provincial counterparts to enable people to get the drug rehabilitation and psychiatric services they need in provincial institutions?

Only by doing this, along with the skills training, will we be able to break the cycle of criminality. People will leave the provincial institutions and one day they are going to be convicted but they will not get sentences of two years less a day. They will get sentences that are longer than that. They will end up in a federal institution which means the federal government will be paying for that with taxpayers' money.

It is completely illogical and shortsighted for the feds only to look at the punitive aspects of criminality rather than to ask: Can this be prevented? Can some of these people be treated? Can the cycle of criminality be broken? Can our streets be made safer? Can the cost to the taxpayer be reduced? Can the judicial system be more effective? The answer to all of those questions is yes. Is the federal government doing that? No.

I would implore the federal government to pursue getting the justice minister and other senior ministers, such as the health minister and others together with their provincial counterparts to implement these solutions. We do not have to reinvent the wheel. The solutions are there.

There is a program which the current federal government axed. The program was put forward by a Liberal government. If an initiative reduced youth crime by 50% to 60% and saved the taxpayer $7 for every $1 invested, would that not be a good thing? Would that not be something to embrace? It would be a great investment. That initiative exists.

The early learning head start program has been assessed. Peer reviewed studies have shown very clearly that in the first eight years of life early learning head start programs have a host of social benefits from reducing youth crime by 50% to 60%, to keeping kids in school longer, to better educational outcomes, to more money earned and less dependence on social programs. All of those are winners. That program could be integrated in our schools if the federal government would simply take it upon itself to work with the provincial governments to adopt this.

When we were in government from 2004-06 a member of Parliament from Toronto, one of our hockey heroes, negotiated this with the provinces. All of the provinces signed on to it. They did not sign on because it did not work, they signed on because they knew it would work. Today, four years later, there is more evidence to show that this initiative works to reduce youth crime by 50% to 60%, saving the taxpayer $7 for every $1 invested. We know it works because we can peer into the developing brain. We know how the brain does and does not work. We know what bad things do to the development of a child's brain. We know how that changes the trajectory of the child making the child more prone to leading a life of crime, to taking up substance abuse and to engaging in an array of activities that are not in the interests of society and certainly not in the interests of the individual as the child grows into adulthood.

I have been speaking about this initiative for 17 years. This is the 17th anniversary for those of us who were elected on October 25, 1993. Sometimes it feels as though I am talking into the desert breeze. This program actually works. I implore the ministers to look at this program. The evidence is compelling and exciting. It works.

Initiatives such as the North American opiate medication initiative, the head start program for children, and initiatives that reduce the incidence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder all work in the public interest and at a much lower cost for the taxpayer. That is something the government ought to be looking at.

For the interests of our police officers, I would implore the government to look at the McNeil decision that came down through the courts. That decision needs to be reversed. The decision is tying the hands of our police officers when it comes to prosecuting those who have been charged. Rather than putting the accused on trial, it actually puts police officers on trial. I would ask the government to review the McNeil decision. It is a very serious decision that is hindering the ability of the police forces across the country to do their job.

I would also ask that the federal government look at ways to ensure that our police have the resources they need.

When we were in government, we put forth a number of initiatives to enable us to have a much larger police force. We have an aging police force. There is a competition for police officers and for various jobs. Right now, police officers in my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, our RCMP, are having a difficult time policing remote areas that have had some serious crime problems. The public is not served well by this. Our police officers are not served well by this.

I would ask the government to look at some of the work we did, to work with us to ensure that we have enough police officers. We need to deal with the current deficit in police forces across our country.

There is also the matter of how our police officers are treated, particularly the RCMP. There are some significant human resources issues surrounding how the RCMP officers and their families are treated. I would implore the government to work with the RCMP to ensure that this is being addressed.

A last thing I want to mention has to do with victims' benefits. When we were in government, we worked very hard with victims' groups to ensure that they had the resources they needed for the care and treatment of victims. This is a crucial issue in the execution of justice in Canada.

I see that the government has not used the resources set aside for victims. I would strongly recommend that it take a look at this and ensure that those citizens who are victimized in our country, particularly those who have been subjected to violent offences, receive the care they need. I think everybody in this House realizes that abandoning victims would be immoral. The government ought to ensure that there are enough resources to provide victims of violent offences with the care and treatment they require.

In closing, I want to say that we support this bill. We would like to work with the government to ensure that this an effective bill. We want car thefts to continue to decline. We want the government to work with us, not only on this bill but also on its other judicial bills, to ensure that our laws are in the public interest, that the moneys are spent wisely, and that we have safer streets for all.

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1:45 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Is the House ready for the question?

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1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members


Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members


Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Electricity and Gas Inspection Act and the Weights and Measures Act, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

Fairness at the Pumps ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario


Tony Clement ConservativeMinister of Industry

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

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1:50 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?

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1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members


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1:50 p.m.


Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

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1:50 p.m.


Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure this afternoon to speak to Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Electricity and Gas Inspection Act and the Weights and Measures Act. We are at third reading.

The bill is an important piece of legislation that goes a long way toward establishing fair business practices in industries that measure or weigh the products they sell.

It enhances consumer protection, something that is important to this government and to all Canadians. Bill C-14 promotes measurement accuracy, and encourages consumers and retailers alike to have confidence in a fair and competitive marketplace.

With this in mind, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology heard from a wide range of expert witnesses: consumer groups, industry representatives, and civil servants. Their testimony contributed to lively and informative discussions.

I would like to take a few minutes to remind the hon. members that Bill C-14 is about fairness for both consumers and businesses, and it depends on the accuracy of the measurements of goods.

Every day Canadians make countless purchases based on measurement. With each transaction, these buyers, as individuals or as representatives of organizations and businesses, trust that the amount of produce they get at the grocery story, the amount of fuel they get at the gas pump, or the amount of milk they get from a farmer is precisely the amount they paid for. They trust that goods are measured meticulously and dispensed appropriately.

Under existing legislation, namely, the Weights and Measures Act and the Electricity and Gas Inspection Act, measurement inspectors conduct random inspections of measurement devices, and consumers have an avenue through which to file complaints of suspected measurement inaccuracies.

More stringent legislation is needed to maintain the credibility of Canada's market system and to ensure that the trust of consumers is well placed. More people are needed on the ground to validate measurement equipment. More inspectors are needed to detect non-compliance.

It is for these reasons that the bill before us today is of such vital importance. This legislation will encourage a fair processes and fair business transactions for Canadian consumers and businesses.

The hon. Minister of Industry is charged with ensuring that consumers and businesses receive fair and accurate measures of the goods they purchase. Although the importance of enforcing accurate measurements may sound obvious enough, experience has shown that only through a carefully monitored regulatory regime can Measurement Canada accomplish this task.

The proposed fairness at the pumps act provides the foundation for such enforcement. Bill C-14 amends the Weights and Measures Act and the Electricity and Gas Inspection Act. Specifically, Bill C-14 addresses weaknesses in existing legislation with three timely updates: first, mandatory inspection frequencies for devices subject to the Weights and Measures Act; second, increased fines and penalties for non-compliance; and finally, ministerial power to designate authorized service providers to assess the accuracy of measurement devices at check-out counters, gas stations, and everywhere else consumer goods are quantified.

Allow me to speak more on this last point. Authorized service providers will be private businesses trained and designated by Measurement Canada to inspect the accuracy of various measurement devices. They will provide private businesses driven by market forces to offer competitive rates and flexible schedules. They will be private contractors whose quality of work will be ensured through the public oversight. Measurement Canada's own inspectors will perform random follow-up inspections to make sure that authorized service providers evaluate equipment impartially, precisely, and reputably. Measurement Canada inspectors will also continue to respond to complaints from the public, to take cases in which non-compliance is detected, and to enforce actions as required.

As an added benefit of mandatory inspection frequencies, increased demand for authorized service providers across several trade sectors will create hundreds of jobs. It will create jobs for front-line workers who travel to the sites to inspect the accuracy of measurement equipment.

Designated authorized service providers must also be fair to retailers. Honest and fair-minded business operators, not just consumers, feel the sting when their less conscientious competitors inaccurately measure the products they sell.

The proposed fairness at the pumps act would help level the playing field for small businesses. Bill C-14 would ensure that all players in the retail petroleum, the downstream petroleum, dairy, retail food, fishing, logging, mining, and grain and field crops sectors are held to the same moral and business standards.

The industry's input has been invaluable. Consultations underscored the fact that retailers could also be victimized by inaccurate measurements, whether by their own inadvertent errors or their competitors' deliberate miscalculations. In fact, it was through our consultations that we saw a need for mandatory inspection frequencies and took action to bring these new inspection intervals into use.

Some businesses have implemented inspection frequencies voluntarily. They have seen solid benefits from inspections, because the companies know beyond a doubt how much they are selling. They face fewer inventory problems, and this streamlines their business practices and saves them time and money.

All consulted stakeholders, including consumer groups, reiterated that mandatory inspections are necessary to uphold the integrity of the industry and to help retailers remain competitive in high-stakes markets.

Consumers welcome this legislation as a means to re-establish the principles of fairness, honesty, and decency in commercial transactions.

Retailers welcome the legislation as a means to ensure that companies compete ethically to win the business of Canadian buyers.

As members of this House, we must welcome and endorse fairness at the pumps and in the marketplace. We must uphold integrity in transactions that depend on the measurement of goods. We must promote and protect the interests of consumers and retailers alike. Canadians have done their part. It is now time for us to do ours. What is fair must remain fair. I call on all hon. members to vote in favour of Bill C-14, a bill whose time has clearly come.

I have one item I would like to add. As a past employee of an oil company, I audited gas stations. These audits included reviews of inventories. There was nothing more important to the gas companies than making sure that we had accurate measurements of inventory. As this product is held underground, it becomes an environmental issue if it is found to have gone missing. It is not only an economic issue but also an environmental one.

Gas companies welcome this government's approach to making sure that we have fair and accurate measurements at their pumps and at all scales across this country.

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2 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I must interrupt the hon. member for Burlington at this time as it is two o'clock. He will have 11 minutes remaining in his speech when the House returns to this matter.

Teen Challenge FarmStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was recently my pleasure to visit the Teen Challenge Farm in my riding. This farm is part of an addiction rehabilitation initiative that was originally founded in 1958 and which now has 16 locations across Canada.

This organization offers a three-phase program of faith-based residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation and provides structured spiritual, academic and vocational training. This training equips individuals to return to society as responsible citizens.

On my visit I met several young men in different stages of the programs, some just new and starting out on their new life journey and some graduates of the teen challenge program who have stayed on as mentors. These mentors are examples of the success that can be attained through this program.

The positive outcomes and success rates at this facility reflect the hard work of these folks and the dedication towards a better life, and a better and safer society.

We thank the Teen Challenge Farm for what it does.

Medal of BraveryStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in recognition of the heroic actions of Shane Doucette, a resident of Port au Port West, a small community in my riding of Random—Burin—St. George's.

It is because of the quick thinking and actions of Shane Doucette that his co-worker Jason Riggs is alive today. On August 18, 2008, while working for an oil company in Alberta, Shane discovered that Jason had fallen into a tank of toxic fluids.

Without hesitation, Shane placed his own life at risk and rescued Jason, who was unconscious when Shane removed him from the tank. Shane revived Jason by performing CPR. While Jason required a long stay in hospital, he did make a full recovery.

Because of his heroic actions, Shane was presented a Medal of Bravery on Friday by the Governor General.

I ask all members of the House to join me in recognizing Shane Doucette and congratulating him on this prestigious award.

Shane is the son of Gerard and Gertie Doucette of Port au Port West.

Claire Sauvageau-ChartierStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, we celebrated Claire Sauvageau-Chartier's 100th birthday on August 22 in Champlain, Quebec.

A caring, dedicated woman, Ms. Sauvageau-Chartier, a mother of seven, always helped and assisted others.

A nurse by profession, this remarkable lady attended to everyone in distress who came to ask for her help, and she did so free of charge. In times when health care was often too expensive for most people in this farming region, she helped numerous women during childbirth.

For decades, she bandaged the countless cuts and stitched the many wounds of unruly children.

Her hospitality is legendary, and her sharp mind has not diminished, even at the age of 100. This amazing lady still lives in her own home, by herself.

I would like to wish Ms. Sauvageau-Chartier, my mother-in-law, all the best on her 100th birthday. May you continue to enjoy good health and the love of family and friends.