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House of Commons Hansard #97 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pope.

Topics

Canada Elections ActRoutine Proceedings

November 16th, 2010 / 10:05 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-594, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (voting hours).

Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce a bill that I believe will improve democracy by expanding access to voting in Canada. This bill would expand the hours of voting in federal elections from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. in every province and territory.

First, this is an important measure to standardize voting hours across the country. For example, currently voters in British Columbia vote between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., whereas voters in Ontario have until 9:30 p.m. to cast their ballots. Most important, the bill would improve the ability of every Canadian to exercise his or her democratic choice.

Voter turnout in federal elections has been declining steadily since the mid-1980s. In the most recent election, voter participation hit an all-time low of 58.8%. More Canadians did not vote than cast ballots for the Conservatives and Liberals combined.

There are many reasons for declining turnout but one of them is certainly the barriers people face to voting. Canadians lead lives that are busier than ever. There are single parents and families with two working parents. There are seniors who must rely on others to get them to the polls.

Our democracy is valuable. It is worth protecting. Expanding voting hours is a small but important step and I hope all members of the House will support it.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Passport FeesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my petition, signed by dozens of Canadians, calls upon the Canadian government to negotiate with the American government to reduce the United States and Canadian passport fees. The number of American tourists visiting Canada is at its lowest level since 1972. It has fallen by five million visits in the last seven years, from 16 million in 2002 to only 11 million in 2009. Passport fees for an American family of four could be over $500 U.S. While 50% of Canadians have passports, only 25% of Americans do.

At the recent legislative conference that I attended, representing 11 border states from Illinois to North Dakota, a resolution was passed unanimously, and it reads as follows:

RESOLVED, that [the] Conference calls on President Barack Obama and [the Canadian] Prime Minister...to immediately examine a reduced fee for passports to facilitate cross-border tourism; and be it further

RESOLVED, that [the Conference] encourage the governments to examine the idea of a limited time two-for-one passport renewal or new application;

To be a fair process, the passport fees must be reduced on both sides of the border. Therefore, the petitioners call upon the government to work with the American government to examine a mutual reduction in passport fees to facilitate tourism and, finally, to promote a limited time two-for-one passport renewal or new application fee on a mutual basis with the United States

Employment InsurancePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, my petition concerns EI reform and the pilot projects that exist as of today and which will continue through until June. However, after June it becomes a big mystery as to whether they will be maintained or not, and certainly a mystery for many people in my riding because, if they are maintained, it will mean a lot for local and regional economic development.

We are still dealing with the ravages of hurricane Igor. I recently visited the Port Union and Trinity Bay North area where we discovered that many people are deficient in the number of weeks required to receive EI benefits. Therefore, we are also calling for a program to be put in place by the local agency, ACOA.

In the meantime, this petition does concern the pilot projects, as outlined, that they should be permanently maintained. These names come from the areas of Twillingate, the New World Island area, and working in the plants, such as around Cottles Island, as well as Comfort Cove.

VIA RailPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, day after day, week after week, I continue to receive more and more petitions relating to reviving Superior passenger rail. Today I have several dozen more, wanting passenger rail service restored to the north shore of Lake Superior and to Thunder Bay. These are citizens in Marathon, Schreiber, Terrace Bay and other communities across the north shore, including Thunder Bay.

The VIA Rail route along the north shore of Lake Superior was cut over two decades ago, despite being VIA's busiest route. The petition is not necessarily related to VIA, but to any passenger rail service that will work to restore our local economy and to provide a vital transportation link across the north shore.

Cutbacks to passenger bus service and the cost of fuel across our widespread region make it even more important that we restore this passenger rail. It is also one of the most efficient ways to travel and it will be integral to reducing pollution, especially harmful climate change.

I am very pleased to introduce this petition today to restore passenger rail to the north shore.

Seeds RegulationsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to introduce a petition signed by dozens and dozens of citizens of British Columbia who support Bill C-474, a very important piece of legislation introduced by my colleague from British Columbia Southern Interior.

This petition draws to the attention of the House that the approval of genetically engineered seeds in Canada, which are not also approved in our export markets, can cause economic harm to Canadian farmers, as we saw with the 2009 contamination of Canadian flax with GE flax disease that resulted in closed European and other export markets.

The petition notes that unexpected and unwanted contamination from GE crops can result in economic hardship for farmers as a result of lost or uncertain markets and low prices.

The petition calls upon the government to amend the seeds regulations to ensure that any potential problems with GE seeds can be dealt with in an appropriate and responsible manner to protect farmers and our agricultural industry, both in this country and in our export markets.

I would urge all members of the House to take note of this petition and act accordingly.

Children's HealthPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Madam Speaker, I have four petitions. The first petition is with regard to children's health and nutrition.

The petitioners note that the average 12-year-old boy is 14 pounds heavier today than in 1981, and that girls on average are 11 pounds heavier. They note that 26% of Canadian children aged 6 to 11 and 28% of teenagers are overweight or obese. Once children and teenagers get accustomed to eating unhealthy food, it is difficult to reverse this pattern.

Therefore, the petitioners are asking the Government of Canada to support my children's health and nutrition initiative, which would provide a daily nutritious meal of locally grown food to all school-aged children in Canada under the age of 18. This would combat childhood obesity, teach children about healthy eating and provide school-aged children a daily nutritious meal when they are in school.

G20 SummitPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Madam Speaker, the second petition is from my constituents and it is with regard to the G20 summit compensation.

The G20 summit, which was held in the downtown core that encompasses numerous residents and businesses, was held during the peak period of summer and many businesses suffered losses and significant property damage. As well, the proposed security area stopped customers from accessing some businesses.

The petitioners are asking the Government of Canada to compensate businesses for any property damage and loss of business because of the G20 summit.

Employment InsurancePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Madam Speaker, the third petition is from all across Canada and it is with regard to unemployment insurance.

The petitioners note that the so-called recovery still means that a large number of people are unemployed. It is important to have a social safety net to help regular Canadians through tough times and therefore reforms to the EI rules need to be made.

The petitioners suggest eliminating the two week waiting period, reducing the qualifying period to a minimum of 360 hours of work, allowing self-employed workers to participate in the plan, raising the rate of benefits of 60%, basing benefits on the best 12 weeks in the qualifying period and encouraging training and retraining.

Retrofit Homes ProgramPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Madam Speaker, the last petition is from constituents in my riding who are very excited about the eco-energy program but note that the eco-energy retrofit homes program will be cancelled by March 2011.

They note that the eco-energy program has proven economic benefits to Canadians, that it has realized significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and that the decision to cancel the program threatens the entire industry of professional and associate renovation contractors across Canada.

The petitioners want the immediate reinstatement of the ecoEnergy retrofit homes program so that they can make a meaningful commitment to support the future of energy efficiency and green jobs in Canada.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, if Questions Nos. 405 and 418 could be made orders for return, these returns would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Acting Speaker Ms. Denise Savoie

Is it agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 405Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Alexandra Mendes Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

With regard to requests for financial assistance made by communities affected by the forestry crisis under the Temporary Initiative for the Strengthening of Quebec’s Forest Economies (TISQFE): (a) how many requests for financial assistance have been made since the initiative’s commencement on June 17, 2010; (b) how many requests for financial assistance have been made (i) by each of the 17 targeted communities listed under the TISQFE, (ii) for each of the five programs covered under the TISQFE; (iii) by each of the 17 targeted communities for each of the five programs covered under the TISQFE, (iv) for each of the three initiatives covered under the TISQFE, (v) by each of the 17 targeted communities for each of the three initiatives covered under the TISQFE; (c) how many requests for financial assistance have been made by (i) small and medium-sized enterprises, (ii) small and medium-sized enterprises in each of the 17 targeted communities listed under the TISQFE, (iii) small and medium-sized enterprises for each of the five programs covered under the TISQFE, (iv) small and medium-sized enterprises for each of the three initiatives covered under the TISQFE; (d) how many requests for financial assistance have been made by non-profit organizations (i) in each of the 17 targeted communities listed under the TISQFE, (ii) for each of the five programs covered under the TISQFE, (iv) for each of the three initiatives covered under the TISQFE; (e) how many requests for financial assistance have been made by tourist establishments (i) in each of the 17 targeted communities listed under the TISQFE, (ii) for each of the five programs covered under the TISQFE, (iii) for each of the three initiatives covered under the TISQFE; (f) of the requests submitted for the authorization of the Regional Director, how many did the Director approve, and how many did the Director reject; (g) of the requests submitted for the authorization of the General Director for Regional Coherence, how many did the General Director approve, and how many did the General Director reject; (h) of the requests submitted for the authorization of the Vice-President for Operations, how many did the Vice-President approve, and how many did the Vice-President reject; (i) of the requests submitted for the authorization of the President, how many did the President approve, and how many did the President reject; (j) of the requests submitted for the authorization of the Minister, how many did the Minister approve, and how many did the Minister reject; (k) in cases where financial assistance was granted, what was the amount granted to each requestor (i) in each of the 17 targeted communities listed under the TISQFE, (ii) for each of the five programs covered under the TISQFE, (iii) for each of the three initiatives covered under the TISQFE; and (l) what was the total amount of all financial assistance granted under the TISQFE in each of the (i) 17 targeted communities, (ii) five programs, (iii) three initiatives covered under the TISQFE?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 418Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

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

With regard to the government's financial assistance to the provinces and territories through the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements (DFAA): (a) what is the total amount paid out by the government since the DFAA program began in 1970; (b) what is the total amount paid out each year to each province and territory since 1970; (c) what was the total amount paid out to the province of Quebec as a result of the Saguenay flooding in 1996; and (d) what was the total amount paid out to the province of Manitoba as a result of the Red River flood in 1997?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Acting Speaker Ms. Denise Savoie

Is it agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from November 15 consideration of the motion that Bill C-48, Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca has 19 minutes left.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on this issue that is of pressing importance to all Canadians, including those in my excellent riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

Of all the issues we deal with, one of the most frightening for members of the public, naturally, is the issue of violent crime. It strikes fear in everybody. In these days of the 24-hour news cycle, everyone is aware of what is happening within our country from coast to coast. When bad things happen, everyone is aware of them.

It is important, although difficult, for us to try to disarticulate what we see in the media from the facts and to determine with an objective eye what is going on and what can be done to protect our citizens. As elected officials, our primary responsibility is to do what we can and must do to protect our citizens from harm.

Let us take a look. What are the most dangerous cities in Canada? In order of ranking, the first is Port Coquitlam, B.C., then Edmonton, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Vancouver and Calgary; then it goes down through Surrey, Halifax, Toronto and of course many others. These are the 2007 murder statistics.

Is the murder rate going up or down? Since 1990, with one small change a couple of years ago, the homicide rate has actually been in significant decline. Canada's violent crime rate is three times less than that of our friend south of the border, yet the incarceration rate in the United States is significantly higher than in Canada. In the U.S. about 0.7% of the population is in jail. In Canada it is roughly about 0.12%, which is a big difference.

The question is: What do we do and what should work in terms of dealing with violent crime?

I would like to mention a few other things that may be of interest to members in the House.

In 2006, 2.45 million crimes were reported. Of those, 48% were property-related crimes and 12.6% were violent crimes. There were 594 murders in 2007, 12 fewer than the previous year. One-third of the murders in 2007 were stabbings and another one-third involved firearms. Of the murders involving firearms, handguns were used in two-thirds. Seventy-four youths were accused of murder. That is down by 11 from the previous year. The reason I mention these statistics is to put things in context to show the challenges we are currently facing.

There is a particular area that was not included in this data, particularly in terms of cities because the cities are small, and it relates to the north. In places like Nunavut, Iqaluit and Yellowknife, the rate of violent crime is at levels that would shock Canadians from coast to coast. Let us take a look at those levels.

The most violent regions in all of Canada that were not on the list are Iqaluit, Whitehorse and Yellowknife. In Yellowknife, the rate of aggravated assault is 350% higher than the average. In Iqaluit, the aggravated assault rate is 1,033% above the Canadian average. That is absolutely shocking. According to the RCMP, the rate of sexual assault is more than 1,270% above the average. Much of the north's violent crime wave involves sexual assault, and it defies easy explanation.

Let us take a look at something that is quite staggering. If we want to look at violent crime, let us look at what happened prior to that.

In Nunavut, one-quarter of all babies are born with fetal alcohol syndrome. That is absolutely remarkable. The average person with fetal alcohol syndrome has an IQ of about 67 to 70. Fetal alcohol syndrome is the leading cause of preventable brain damage at birth. This is one of the problems that exists in this area.

Another challenge in the area is suicide. In Nunavut, young women 15 to 24 years of age are 36 times more likely than other Canadian women in the same demographic to commit suicide. That is absolutely shocking. It is a situation that occurs far away in the north and receives very little attention, but it is a tragedy.

In fact, conditions exist in some of these areas, particularly in first nation communities in parts of our country, that I can tell members from personal experience are essentially equivalent to what we find in the developing world, in a third world environment. That is what we have within our borders, in Canada today in 2010.

Within the milieu of some of those communities in northern British Columbia in which I have had the privilege of working, I remember, while making a house call to a gentleman to perform a post-operative checkup, seeing a toddler of four or five years old with untreated impetigo on his face. While the child was standing there with this weeping infection on his face, his uncle was flopped over, drunk at 10 o'clock in the morning, and his father was drunk and swearing at me, as was his mother.

What kind of hope does that child have when he witnesses this kind of abuse taking place right in front of him? The child has little hope at all.

I have been saying this for 17 years in this House. If we are going to be intelligent and responsible to the taxpayer, in terms of doing what is necessary to reduce violent crime, then, rather than standing in the House and saying we simply need to build more prisons and throw people in jail, why do we not be smart about it and try to prevent the crime in the first place so that victims do not have to live in trauma for the rest of their lives as a result of being victims of crime? People may adapt to the situation they have been subjected to, but many times they never really get over it. They adapt to it if they can. However, why do we not try to prevent these kinds of horrors and trauma for the people who are being victimized?

How do we do that? It is very interesting. This is not rocket science. A lot of the evidence has been gathered, and I would hope the government really takes a look at studies that have been done before and find out what works.

In Ypsilanti, Michigan, the Perry preschool program has done a 35-year retrospective analysis on early learning head start programs. It asked what we need to do to reduce violent crime and what we need to do to reduce crime in general. It found that if a child were subjected to a number of interventions, it would help. Number one was home visits by nurses from the prenatal stage all the way through to the first two years of life, every one to two weeks. The mother is able to engage with the home nurse, in terms of the questions she may have, as well as the father, enabling them to develop proper parenting for the child. Single mothers, particularly teen mothers, who are isolated are at risk. They need to be selected and engaged quickly. Nutrition is critically important, as well as teaching proper parenting.

The other thing that worked very clearly, which is interesting, is that if the children were subjected to two-and-a-half hours of preschool time per day five days a week, up to the age five, before they went into school, it had a profound impact upon the outcome for those children. This costs very little. What is the cost-benefit of this when they did the cost-benefit analysis? In the Perry preschool experience, it was a saving of seven dollars for every dollar invested.

The same thing was done in Great Britain. There are a number of excellent studies that I would encourage the government to take a look at. There was the 1996 study called “Misspent Youth”, from Great Britain; the 1998 study “Beating Crime”; and “Calling Time on Crime”.

The government could take a look at the 1999 study done by the Montreal-based International Centre for the Prevention of Crime. In the United States, Lawrence Sherman did a meta-analysis of 600 programs. He and his team evaluated 600 programs, which had already done work in crime prevention, as to what works and what does not work.

The identification of families at risk, the early home visits, getting the kids into a preschool situation for two and one-half hours a day, enabling the parents to know what proper parenting is, dealing with substance abuse by the parents and reducing violence within the household are all absolutely crucial to changing the trajectory of a child's life.

The reason I am bringing this up in the context of this bill is that we are talking about violent crime. We are talking about homicides. We have to be able to reduce violent crime, and there are some very smart things we can do that will enable us to do that.

Simply building more jails, as seductive as it is on the surface, has been proven not to work. If it were going to work, then surely the United States would have a much safer country than ours, because they incarcerate far more people and have much tougher penalties, including the death penalty.

If that course were going to work, surely that society would be safer than ours. However, the reality is that it is not. There are many more people incarcerated, there is a much higher cost to the taxpayer and, from the public's perspective, people are not safer. They are actually less safe and subjected to more violence. It is a much more dangerous society than Canada's. Therefore, why do we not take a look at what works and implement the things that do?

There are other things we can do that work. One thing we should do, as I said before, is look at prenatal care, which is extremely important. We also need to deal with substance abuse. In the House, we occasionally spend time talking about marijuana. I do not support people using it. It is much stronger now than it ever was before. The THC content of marijuana runs around 36%.

However, if we look objectively at what does the most harm in our society, we will find that by any real measure it is actually alcohol. Alcohol causes many more problems in our society than marijuana ever does. This is all just a way of saying that, instead of being fixated on certain things that may be attractive at a certain level, we should look at ways to reduce substance abuse in general, whether it is marijuana, crystal meth, narcotics, alcohol or cigarettes. All are harmful and have an effect.

I can say from personal experience in emergency rooms that, for the number of people who have come in having done horrible things to other people, far and away alcohol was a mitigating factor. Whether it was a person who drove drunk and killed someone or a drunk person who beat up his or her partner, alcohol was a primary factor in all of that.

We need to try to tear away some of the myths of what we are talking about, deal with the facts and try to implement things that work. If we want to reduce substance abuse, which I know is a common goal for everybody in the House, why do we not take a look at reducing substance abuse with things that work?

The early learning head start programs work very well. They also reduce child abuse rates. Hawaii's healthy start program, which I would encourage the government to take a look at, would reduce child abuse rates by over 90%. That is absolutely staggering. The program identified families at risk, brought in mentors who were usually women who had children, engaged parents who could be at risk, worked together to teach proper parenting and proper nutrition for children and enabled children to live in a loving and caring environment, dramatically changing the trajectory of the children's lives.

We have the science to prove it. Dr. Julio Montaner, Dr. Evan Wood and others at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS at St. Paul's Hospital have done some incredible work with neurologists from other parts of the world. In fact they can prove now that one can look at a developing child's brain and see that it is developing well if the child is subjected to a loving and caring environment, free of sexual abuse and violence, and has security. Whereas if a child is subjected to those terrible things, one can see that the neural connections in a child's brain happen slowly or do not happen adequately. As a result, the child is at a much higher risk of committing a crime later in life.

I hope this is something the government will take a look at. If it is interested in reducing crime and interventions like the early learning head start programs work, what exactly does it do in terms of crime? This is what was found. Those kinds of programs reduce maternal arrests by 69%, they reduce child abuse rates by 80% in the studies that were done to age 15 and they reduce youth crime by 66%. If there were a program that saved the taxpayer anywhere between $7 and $11 per $1 invested and reduced youth crime by 66%, surely the government would work with the provinces to implement this, because all of this entails working with the provinces.

That makes sense from a humanitarian perspective, it makes sense to reach our objectives, and it makes fiscal sense. The cost-benefit analysis has been done. The evidence is in. It requires action. The government can use a convening power and its fiscal tools to work with the provinces to be able to achieve this objective.

It staggers me, quite frankly, that the government does not do this. It would look good doing this and it would be serving the public in what it is doing. This is my way of saying that these interventions work very well.

On the issue of drug policy, if the government wants to sanction people taking illegal drugs and thinks that is going to help to make our society safer, then it is delusional. All it needs to do is look south of the border to see what has happened in terms of the Americans' war on drugs approach. In fact, a number of states have actually decided very clearly that this does not work. That is what the facts tell them. The war on drugs is a failed war. It does not work. It has never worked and it will not work. In fact, rather than thinking it does work, it actually makes society less safe. It is more costly, does more harm, increases use and makes our society less safe. These are all outcomes that we do not want to have.

What does work? We can take a look at Portugal. Portugal actually liberalized its drug laws. What did it find? It found less drug use, less cost, less harm and less violence. All of that worked very well.

I would strongly encourage the government to work with the provinces and liberalize the drug laws, because the war on drugs that we are seeing is actually a war that we see on the streets. Many of the murders that we have found in my province of British Columbia have been rooted in drug wars, organized crime gangs fighting over drug territory.

If the government wants to attack organized crime, one of the most effective ways to do that is to go after the financial underpinnings. We can take them out by going after their finances. We can go after their finances by changing the drug laws. If we change the drug laws, that is the worst news for organized crime in this country. That would be a hammer on organized crime. I strongly encourage the government, which says it wants to get tough on crime, to look at drug policy as a way to get tough on crime. If we change the drug laws, we would actually be undermining significantly organized crime gangs. We will not be increasing drug use either. Nobody wants that and it is absurd to think otherwise.

Lastly, on the police, there are a number of decisions that have come down, the McNeil decision and others, that are really harming the ability of our police to do their job. These decisions put the police on trial instead of putting the accused on trial. It makes it very difficult for our police to do their job. They do a yeoman's job across our country. Whether it is the RCMP or other police forces, they do an incredible job for us and we have a huge indebtedness to the men and women who serve us every single day.

I really implore the government to take a look at the crime prevention initiatives that work. We have more than 30 years of experience. The cost-benefit analysis is there. It will reduce crime, it will reduce harm, it will reduce violent crime, and in that we would be doing our job.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for his speech. It is the first time I have had this discussion with the hon. member, who will not be running in the next election. I want to say to him that he certainly has been a great inspiration on all levels in the House, and for me as a fairly new member of Parliament back in 2004. For that I thank him.

I want to talk to him about this issue that he speaks of so passionately and has done so for as long as I have been here. On the surface, he talks about this piece of legislation and how it deals with the idea of discounts, which on the surface I do not have a problem with.

However, the member brings up many aspects of the core of the problem. One of the issues regarding drugs is that we do not put enough emphasis on harm reduction, which is something that has been debated for quite some time, through Europe especially right now and all over the world.

Harm reduction seems to be thrown aside for the sake of increasing the amount of penalty for individuals involved in crime. Perhaps the member could talk about harm reduction.

Also, over the past few years we have not seen a lot of vision when it comes to the reduction of crime before the crime actually begins, to use the vernacular. So I thank him for his intervention.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my friend for his very kind and gracious comments. He really serves his constituents well and will continue to advance the issues that are important not only to his constituents in Newfoundland and Labrador but also to Canadians from coast to coast.

The member is absolutely right in terms of harm reduction. It is unfortunate that the evidence-based harm reduction policies that work, such as the Insite program that Dr. Montaner and his team have run out of St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, or the NAOMI project, which is an acronym for the North American opiate medication initiative, are not embraced.

Essentially, the NAOMI project is a drug substitution program for narcotics. It has enabled people to actually get on with their lives, to stop taking drugs or to have their drug issues managed, which has led to a reduction in crime or a reduction in harm. It has led to people become productive members of society and get back with their families.

Rather than taking an ideological approach, as the Prime Minister has in the past on this, I would strongly encourage that he becomes educated about this. There is great work that has been done in Canada. Communities from coast to coast need to have access to those programs.

Rather than impeding access to those programs, I hope the Prime Minister and the government will become facilitators to those programs for the communities that would like them.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to my hon. colleague's very passionate and well-reasoned statements on liberalizing drug policy in this country.

I am left somewhat puzzled, though, because that is absolutely not what is under debate at the moment. We are discussing Bill C-48, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to the National Defence Act.

“Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act” is the name of the act and the issue under debate right now is whether we should give judges in this country discretion to provide sentences for multiple murders that are consecutive, not concurrent. I did not hear my friend address any comments to that.

I wonder what the member's position is on the matter under debate. Does he think judges in this country should have the discretion to give consecutive sentences for multiple murders or not?