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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

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I fear I do not have enough time to cover all of the important issues that my colleague has just raised, but the government has displayed a dual character.

It has indicated an attention to the crime agenda that I believe is motivated by its political philosophy. I sit on the public safety committee with many hon. colleagues, and I know that the government believes that we need to strengthen and make our penal system harsher as a way of dealing with crime, and I believe this objective is well intentioned.

On the other hand, I also believe fundamentally, and I think Canadians know, that the government has seized upon crime as a political issue. This is why it continually brings forth piecemeal approaches. It pulls out a crime bill whenever it is in trouble politically. It tries to bring forth these bills periodically as a political approach, and that is bad for public policy. One comprehensive bill would be a much more productive way to deal with these important issues.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this bill. I was here earlier when the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca spoke eloquently about the need for parliamentarians to deal not only with those who commit crimes but also with those who have committed crimes without their knowledge or understanding. What he was talking about was fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

Back in 1997, the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba did a survey of provincial institutions and found that approximately 50% of people in provincial jails suffered from alcohol-related birth defects or other alcohol-caused mental defects. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or FASD, is a spectrum of disorders. It used to be called fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects, which had to do with the issue of prenatal consumption of alcohol by women.

In 1997, Anne McLellan, who was minister of justice at the time, rose in her place in response to a question that I posed about people in our jails in circumstances that could not be addressed through the rehabilitation process, because they did not understand that they had a mental deficiency that did not allow them to be rehabilitated. Our justice system is based not just on punishment but also on rehabilitation and re-integration, because people eventually get out of jail.

It was interesting that the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca raised the issue of FASD in the context of this bill, which deals with sentencing people to prison and how much time they should spend there. He mentioned as well that we have to deal with some complex issues, like unreported crime, which is really is mesmerizing.

The other part is that we are planning to spend $10 billion to build more jails. If we were to do the necessary analysis and consultations with our provincial counterparts, we would know that within our jails right now there are people for whom rehabilitation is not possible. Fetal alcohol syndrome is preventable but not treatable, and there is a shortage of institutions to deal with people. Many people who suffer from these alcohol-related birth defects get themselves into trouble.

As a matter of fact, I penned a monograph back in March 2000, which is titled, “Fetal Alcohol Syndrome--The Real Brain Drain”.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. We are debating Bill C-48, which is about making sure that multiple murderers are not given one sentence but multiple sentences to reflect every life taken. I have no idea what relevance the member's intervention could have to the point at issue.

I know the member for Elmwood—Transcona appreciates me shutting down the member for pontificating and using extra words that have absolutely no relevance to the issue we are dealing with today.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I will ask the member for Mississauga South to try to bring his remarks quickly to the actual substance of the motion that the House is debating.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as you well know, when debate occurs in this place and people raise issues that they believe are relevant to the debate before us, others can also comment on those points that are raised.

The point that was raised by the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca was whether the issues of dealing with the sentencing and whether there was credit for time served in pre-sentencing are the only things we should be looking at in terms of this being a crime bill and the hypothesis that we should be tough on crime.

I wonder how many people have figured out whether or not the motivation of the government to put the bill forward is impacted at all by the conditions in our jails right now and who may be there. Maybe the Conservatives have not thought of who is there who should not be there. Maybe it would change the statistics about who is in our jails, and maybe it might even change our assessment about whether or not we can afford to have more people in our jails without building more jails.These are all related. The bill is very linear in terms of this aspect. The government has come to the conclusion that we need to eliminate the two for one, yet that issue is still relevant in the scheme of how do we address crime in Canada.

We have a situation where the provinces have clearly said that half the people in provincial jails should not be there at all, and the federal justice minister said on the record that half the people in there should not be there. If flowing from this piece of legislation is the consequence that we do not give that credit for time, and all of a sudden people will be spending on average longer periods of time within our penal institutions, this means that if the jails are already bursting at the seams, consequentially we have to build more prisons. At a cost of some $10 billion to deal with a growing prison population, we have to ask ourselves whether or not there is a contribution to faulty thinking by this particular bill.

I raised it, and the example of the provinces just happens to be related to the situation. I happen to know something about that. The member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca spent half his speech talking about it this morning, without having been interrupted. I can only assume that the House believes it was relevant then and I still think it is relevant to raise the fact that there are other things to take into account, not only when we deal with the sentencing, parole, house arrest and some of the other things we dealt with, but this is all part and parcel of the strategy of the government on how we address crime in Canada. How do we deal with those who commit serious crimes?

Yesterday the CBC did a special on a white collar criminal who defrauded about 70 clients out of about $25 million, and the Ontario Provincial Police laid charges in the case of the very last person who had been defrauded. Ultimately there was not enough court time, there were not enough resources to deal with that, and the charges were dropped.The person, who is in hiding, got away with fraud of some $25 million. The court officials described it by saying they had two choices: they could deal with someone who took money from people, or they could deal with a rapist and someone who committed serious assault and somebody who committed manslaughter. They had two choices.

When we look at that we have to ask ourselves whether or not it is important for us to deal with issues like recidivism, to deal with things like crime prevention. I have learned a lot about crime prevention from my own community. We have a wonderful crime prevention council, and Mr. Victor Oh took me under his wing and made sure that I was engaged in that kind of stuff. However, it is all related to how we address crime and criminals. It is not enough, in my view, to say we are getting tough on crime. It is not enough just to say, “if you do the crime, do the time”.

It is a slogan but it does not make a lot of sense when we are dealing with people in our jails who cannot be rehabilitated. We do not have the institutions to care for them before they commit a crime, and we certainly do not have the institutions to take care of them when they get out of those places.

I do not want to take up any more of the House's time. I know members would like to get on with dealing with the specific clauses of the bill.

I was motivated and encouraged by the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca who brought to the floor the fact that when we deal with criminal justice issues we have to deal not only with punishment but we have to deal with rehabilitation, reintegration, the whole gamut. We have to make sure there are supports for people so we do not have the recidivism rates that we have had, which continue to add to the growing population in our jails.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, clearly the government is not overly committed to its crime agenda. It called an unnecessary election in 2008 and prorogued the House on two occasions.

This bill has the support of all parties in the House. It took the government 216 days into the current session to re-table this bill. If that is not an example of the government not being overly committed to its crime agenda, then I do not know what is.

I would like to also observe that the justice system has probably never been totally revamped and there certainly has not been a major revamping in 40 years, and the Criminal Code is over 100 years old.

Would the member agree that perhaps the proper approach for the government to take would be to involve all opposition parties and come up with a comprehensive bill that would deal with all of the little bills that the government is dealing with? A comprehensive bill would be a single approach to the issue.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his suggestion. One of the things I have learned about this place is that people think that for every complex problem there is a simple solution, and that is wrong.

Some of the things that we deal with in this place on a criminal justice basis are very similar and probably should be dealt with in an omnibus bill. A number of bills propose changes to sentencing. Rather than having a separate bill for car theft, or another one for some other issue, et cetera, an omnibus bill tends to make the place inefficient. I would agree that if the government was serious about its crime agenda it would have brought like items together. The committee work could happen at the same time and the same witnesses could appear.

The member also raised another interesting point about the government being serious about its justice agenda.

Back in 2005, Internet service providers appeared before justice committee to say that they disagreed with being obligated to report matters related to the exploitation of children on the Internet. In 2006 the Conservatives took office and today we are still debating that bill, all because they want to have a silly, pissy short title for the bill. Rather than dealing with that directly they called an election and prorogued. The bill was Bill C-58 at one time and is now Bill C-22.

This shows that even on a straightforward issue such as dealing with the sexual exploitation of children through the Internet, the government is still spinning its wheels. Since 2006 the Conservatives have been holding up this bill. They are still holding it up just because they want a short title that says they are doing the job and getting tough on crime. This is outrageous. It is irresponsible.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, my remarks are going to be pretty short. The member from the New Democratic Party gave an excellent speech about this particular bill.

There really is not a lot of opposition to the substance of the bill itself. What has caused concern to me and others is the fact that on the surface there does not appear to be a need for this Criminal Code amendment. The reason is that if there is a homicide, a first degree murder, there is a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.

Life imprisonment means a life sentence. It does not necessarily mean that every day is going to be spent in prison. However, there is no sentence greater than a life sentence. If I could go back 25 or 30 years when the death penalty was here, if that was still the case now the penalty for a first degree murder would be death. There is not a more significant penalty than that. If there was a double murder or a triple murder, the person can only be executed once.

When the law was changed, we ended with a life sentence. Life means life. A sentence cannot be any longer than that. It was absurd to talk about consecutive life sentences. We only have one life to live at this point in our human history. The impacts were felt to be pretty minimal.

Second, as has been pointed out here, no one has raised any particular instance of releases of individuals who are serving life sentences for multiple murders. There has not been one. If there has not been a release of that nature, why was it found necessary to draft a bill to change the law to prevent something from happening that is not happening anyway? That is the second reason why this bill does not appear to be necessary.

Third, it is really quite egotistical of a House of Parliament to make an assumption that what it would do in this House would have a huge impact on the street in terms of preventing crime. I hope no one here is naive enough to think that by merely sitting in our comfortable seats and changing the law we are going to immediately impact life on the streets in terms of crime prevention. This is not the case.

Many of us think that way from time to time. We politically posture to pretend that by changing the law in some little way we will make Canadians safer. Only in some cases is that a fact. In most cases we are just changing the law that our police and our courts work with.

These are three reasons why will bill looks pretty unnecessary. However, there is a place for this bill. My colleague of 22 years from Mississauga spotted it many years ago. This is that one of the objectives of sentencing under the Criminal Code, one of the specifically written objectives that this House enacted 15 years ago, is societal denunciation for the crime.

In looking at the application of a life sentence, at first blush there does not appear to be much room for additional denunciation. A life sentence is a life sentence. However, it just so happens that in our laws governing parole there did appear to be a failure to take advantage of an opportunity to show denunciation, further denunciation.

Our law does permit parole eligibility, not automatically granted parole but the ability to ask for parole after 25 years have been served. As has been indicated here, the average release time for someone, and this is the average across all those convicted and given life sentences, is about 28 years. They serve 28 years before they apply for parole. Therefore, by the time we take in those who are less than 25 years and those who are over, there are a lot of long sentences being served here.

However, in dealing with the parole eligibility dates, there was an opportunity for society to show an additional element of denunciation. That would involve saying if people killed a second time, they would have to have another 25 years or another period of time of actual in-custody sentences served before they could have eligibility. That was the reason this concept of increasing the denunciation was born. I can support that. In this case, the bill would allow for judicial discretion in applying these penalties.

However, lest we think that this additional denunciation in relation to parole eligibility would have an impact on the street, I can say without any hesitation, and I hope members are realistic enough in the House to agree with this, that there is virtually no case involving a homicide or a double homicide, whether at the same time or sequenced later in time, where the individual involved in that tragic circumstance will pull out a calculator and try to figure out whether or not he or she should proceed because there is some enhanced denunciation involving parole eligibility dates.

It is our hope, naive as it might be, that if someone were to think about, he or she might take it into consideration before taking the drastic action of taking a life. In some case I hope that would happen, that the additional denunciation related to the increased parole eligibility application periods would actually provide some pause or thought on the part of the perpetrator. In most of these tragic cases, I doubt that will happen. In 99% of the cases, the individuals involved do not even think about it and do not think they will ever get caught, so the event happens. It is a tragedy time after time after time.

I will support the bill. As has been mentioned, one might as well consider my words as notice to members opposite that the short title of the bill probably will not survive the committee's consideration. It might, but it is a warning to the drafters of these bills and the short titles that the House is not likely to accept the insertion of political commercials into the short title of bills anymore. Let us get a good objective statement of the change in law proposed by the bill and we will live with that. Do not over-torque it.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is the House ready for the question?

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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-31, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There being no motions at report stage, the House will now proceed, without debate, to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Lunn Conservative Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

moved that the bill, as amended, be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

November 16th, 2010 / 12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Lunn Conservative Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

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

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-31, Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act. With this legislation, the Government of Canada intends to amend the Old Age Security Act to suspend old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits for incarcerated criminals.

Let me remind the House of what the bill sets out to do. Once passed, it will suspend old age security benefits to prisoners in federal penitentiaries who are serving sentences of two years or longer. Then in provinces that have agreed to help us implement the bill, an information sharing agreement will be signed, which will allow us to suspend old age security benefits for individuals sentenced to a term of 90 days imprisonment or more in that province or territory.

We want to see these changes implemented as soon as possible and the support of the provinces and territories will be vital to getting that done. It is important to note that this government has taken steps to minimize the impact of innocent spouses and common-law partners. The proposed bill ensures that low income spouses or partners of the prisoners will not lose their own entitlements to the guaranteed income supplement and the allowance. The guaranteed income supplement and allowance benefits to spouses or partners of prisoners will be adjusted so they are based on the income of the spouses or partners who are not incarcerated rather than the combined income of the couple.

The bill would bring the Old Age Security Act in line with other federal and provincial government programs and would suspend benefits to the incarcerated. Across the country, seven provinces and one territory already suspend social and income assistance to inmates.

There are international precedents as well. In the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia among others, also suspend the payment of state pensions to prisoners.

The purpose of old age security is to help seniors, especially those living on a fixed income, to meet their basic needs. It is an important program that recognizes that seniors helped build our great country.

Prisoners do not have to worry about these costs. They do not have to worry about things like paying rent or buying groceries. That is because their basic needs are already paid for by taxpayers. Hard-working taxpayers should not be paying twice. Prisoners should not be receiving old age security benefits. Our Conservative government believes that Canadians who work hard, contribute to the system and play by the rules deserve government benefits such as old age security. It is wrong and obviously unfair that prisoners who broke the law continue to receive the same benefits.

The bill is another example of our government's commitment to ensure fairness for hard-working taxpayers and putting victims and taxpayers first, ahead of criminals. The response we have heard from families of victims and victims organizations have proven to me that the bill is truly the right thing to do.

Let me name just a few of the people who support the bill: Sharon Rosenfeldt who is the mother of one Clifford Olson's victims and president of Victims of Violence; Ray King, the father of another victim of Clifford Olson; David Toner, president of Families Against Crime and Trauma; Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu; and Kevin Gaudet, Canadian Taxpayers Federation as well.

Ms. Rosenfeldt and Mr. Gaudet appeared before our committee during our study of the bill. Ms. Rosenfeldt's son was tragically murdered by Clifford Olson. For years she has been a tireless advocate for victims and their families. She urged for the passage of the bill. It is common sense that one cannot benefit twice at the expense of Canadian taxpayers. That is why Canadians are upset and outraged. The bill is important for the principles of fairness.

Mr. Gaudet informed the committee that their petitions in support of the bill received close to 50,000 signatures from Canadians across the country in only six weeks. He spoke about how it was not just victims and stakeholders who wanted the bill passed, but countless everyday Canadians cared so much about the bill that they had taken time out of their busy lives to voice their opinion.

When the minister spoke, she said that she had received more correspondence on this issue than almost any other. I have heard from several of my constituents and I know MPs from all parties in the House have also heard from their constituents. Canadians across the country have told us they do not want these benefits going to prisoners. We understand why they feel so strongly about this issue. Canadians are telling us they want the bill passed and they want it passed soon.

I am pleased to report that after extensive study at committee, the bill was passed, but we still have a way to go. We must complete report stage and third reading of the bill, as we are doing now. Then the hon. senators must study it and pass it before it becomes law.

I urge all parties to not unnecessarily delay the bill. Let us get the bill passed so we can ensure that mass murderers like Clifford Olson, Paul Bernardo and Robert Pickton do not receive these benefits while in jail. It is what Canadians want and expect. It is the fair and right thing to do.

I urge the House to get behind the bill to pass it as soon as is possible.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not disagree with the bill and where it is headed. However, I am very concerned with the fact that the victims of crime initiative has seen a 41% cut since 2005. When we add that up to the more than 70% that has been cut from the crime prevention programs, which stop people from becoming victims in the first place, I wonder where some of this revenue would be used. Could the government use some of the revenue it has saved to restore the cuts it has made to important programs that help victims.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, there probably is not a government in history that has done as much for victims as we have.

We created the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime to serve as an independent resource for victims, at $1.5 million per year. We have a victims fund to provide resources for victims of crime in the support of provincial and territorial services and NGOs.

Support for victims is a priority of this government. We have provided funding of $5.25 million over five years for the creation and enhancement of child advocacy centres across Canada to help better serve young victims and victims of crime.

We certainly have done significant things for victims of crime. In this case, the bill addresses not only those who are victims of crime, but those who are associated with victims of crime. It requires immediate passage. It is important to put the interests of victims ahead of the interest of prisoners and the entitlements of prisoners.

I would ask the member and his party to get behind the bill, not drag their feet, but have it passed as soon as possible.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I believe the saving to the government will be $2 million when the bill passes, but the savings as a result of the provinces signing could be as much as $10 million a year.

Could the member tell us what the situation is with regard to the provinces? Has the government talked to the provinces about this? If so, what is the response it has received from the provinces? Does the government have a commitment from any or all of them to participate in this program and how soon would this roll out?

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Firstly, it is not a question necessarily of just the savings of dollars, although that is important. It is the fact that Canadians are outraged with the fact that any money is spent with respect to paying old age security for prisoners when they already have their food and accommodation looked after. The very kind of things for which old age security was intended is already provided for them. Therefore, any amount of money would be too much of a payment.

The minister has certainly been in discussions with the provinces and a number of provinces are on board. I would expect that there would be a good take-up rate on this. We would expect this to go forward as soon as possible. We urge those members, as we are urging the House, to move the bill forward as quickly as possible to the Senate and eventually get it passed.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am going to support the bill, as it looks like most members are going to support it. No one is foot-dragging or delaying it. However, I have three points.

The parliamentary secretary said that one of the rationales for removing these OAS payments was that they were prisoners who broke the law and should not receive benefits. If that were the rationale, then we would be removing benefits from anyone who broke the law at any time.

We are doing this, and I think the member has already said it, because these individuals in custody are already being supported with food and shelter and other amenities. Is that not the reality? In fact, we pay prisoners something like $5 a day. That is $100 a month. We pay prisoners an allowance per diem. Therefore, if the government were consistent with this, it would remove the $5 a day.

Will the member agree also that this does not apply to the Canada pension plan payments, which is a separate pension plan entitlement that prisoners in custody will continue to receive? Unless they defer them to age 70, they can start receiving them at age 60 if they wish.

Would the member not agree with what I have just said so we can keep a balance in the way we are explaining the rationale of this legislation?

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the member seems to be leaning toward supporting this bill. That is a good and admirable thing.

He stated what the underpinnings of it were. The constituent from Redvers, Saskatchewan who wrote to my office set it out very succinctly. He said the principle upon which this bill should rest and the reason it should be passed is that meals and accommodation are already provided and that costs taxpayers a whole lot of dollars. People do not think taxpayers should be victimized again by paying prisoners old age security that was meant to cover things like food, shelter and so on.

There is the issue of victims and those associated with them watching as prisoners set up savings accounts and accumulate dollars. It is an affront to them. They think it is outrageous. It is something they cannot tolerate. They want us to take that benefit away. The specific reason is that provisions are already made at great cost to taxpayers. Taxpayers and those close to victims should not be victimized further.

I suggest that the member not only think about supporting the bill but that he get his colleagues to support it as well so that it can be passed as quickly as possible.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, in 1979 the Conservative government of Joe Clark changed the rules to make federal inmates eligible for these pensions in the first place. I am very interested in knowing what the rationale was for the Conservative government's decision at that time.

Surely when the minister was formulating this bill, discussing it in caucus and coming up with the rationale for doing it he would have looked back to find out why the Conservative government of Joe Clark started giving pensions to prisoners in the first place. Was it because of a court case? Are there any records to indicate what the rationale was in the first place? We understand the government's wanting to get rid of the payments now, but the question is why a Conservative government started doing it in the first place.