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House of Commons Hansard #117 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was negotiations.

Topics

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud), as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

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.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

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

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles Québec

Conservative

Daniel Petit ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate at third reading of Bill C-21. The provisions of this bill would amend the Criminal Code to strengthen sentences in cases of fraud.

In our entire legislative arsenal to combat white collar crime, the charge of fraud is the most important weapon. It criminalizes a wide range of acts of deception. That said, there are two very general elements that characterize fraud, and the general nature of these elements is what makes the charge of fraud the most effective tool to combat white collar crimes.

The first element is deception or some other form of dishonest conduct, which can exist in all kinds of situations and take on many different forms. The second element is a financial loss, which includes not only the actual loss of money or other valuables, but also the risk of such a loss.

The combination of these two elements constitutes a case of fraud. Essentially, fraud exists when someone uses deception to get another person to hand over their money. Theft involves taking someone's property without permission, while fraud exists when a thief is cunning or smooth enough to convince the victim to voluntarily hand over their property. This deception exacerbates the financial loss since the victims feel ashamed and humiliated because they feel as though they contributed to their own misfortune.

The broad and flexible definition of fraud can also apply to securities fraud, such as accounting fraud based on overestimating the value of securities to shareholders and investors, incorrect declarations regarding a company's financial situation and Ponzi schemes, which we have seen recently in Canada and the United States.

Fraud charges are also an effective tool to combat other types of fraud dealing with mass marketing, mortgages, property titles, home renovation, health care and other types of insurance, and also taxes, not to mention the scams recently found on the Internet, for example, on eBay, where an article for sale is never sent to the purchaser even after it has been paid for.

The various measures contained in Bill C-21 for determining sentences for fraudsters aim to ensure that the crimes they commit are taken seriously. Currently, the maximum prison sentence for fraud is 14 years. This is the second highest maximum penalty in the Criminal Code, after life imprisonment. In that sense, it is a satisfactory maximum. However, it is possible to do more so that sentences correspond better to the devastating effects that fraud can have on its victims.

To begin, Bill C-21 establishes a mandatory minimum sentence for fraud over $1 million. Currently, the value of the fraud is considered to be an aggravating factor, which means that the sentence should be increased according to existing maximum sentences. As a result of Bill C-21, this aggravating factor will automatically lead—yes, automatically—to a mandatory sentence of at least two years. Whether it was a single fraud or a series of them, only a complex, well-orchestrated and well-executed scheme results in more than $1 million in losses, and it has likely included other types of crime, such as falsifying documents.

Fraud resulting in such significant losses must be considered a serious crime. The proposed two-year mandatory sentence is simply a starting point—yes, a starting point—that allows for the appropriate sentence to be determined. In fact, sentences for major fraud will also take into account all the other objectionable aspects of the offence, many of which are considered to be aggravating circumstances under section 380.1 of the Criminal Code.

Bill C-21 would add these new aggravating circumstances: the magnitude, complexity, duration or degree of planning of the fraud committed was significant; the fact that the offence had a significant impact on the victims, given their personal circumstances; the fact that the offender did not comply with rules or licensing requirements; and the fact that the offender concealed or destroyed relevant records.

In addition to the aggravating circumstances already set out under section 380.1 of the Criminal Code and the general circumstances set out in section 718.2, sentencing courts will take these new aggravating circumstances into consideration in order to determine a sentence that reflects the specific facts of each case.

Bill C-21 would also create a new prohibition order to prevent individuals convicted of fraud from reoffending. Specifically, it would allow the courts, when sentencing an offender convicted of fraud, to prohibit him from having authority over the real property, money or valuable security of others. That makes good sense.

The court would set what it considers an appropriate prohibition period. It would be an offence to violate such an order. The Criminal Code already provides for a prohibition order to prevent recidivism among individuals convicted of designated sexual offences involving children and child abduction offences. The proposed new prohibition order would offer the same protection, and the judge would have discretionary authority to make such an order. The judge would not make the order before the prosecution and the defence had the opportunity to comment on the impact such an order could have on the offender's ability to earn a living and other relevant considerations. In addition, the offender or the Crown could ask the court to vary the order.

Bill C-21 would also improve how the justice system meets the needs of fraud victims, with provisions on restitution and community impact statements.

At present, under the Criminal Code, the judge can order an offender to compensate victims when the situation warrants in order to offset losses, especially financial ones, suffered as a result of the crime. Bill C-21 goes further by requiring that the judge consider making a restitution order whenever an offender is convicted of fraud. Moreover, the judge would have to ask the Crown whether reasonable steps had been taken to provide the victims with an opportunity to indicate whether they are seeking restitution. The purpose of this measure is to avoid situations where the sentence is handed down before the victims have a chance to indicate that they would like restitution from the offender and to set the amount of their losses.

If the judge were to decide not to make a restitution order, he would have to give reasons for his decision. This should prevent the court from inadvertently disregarding the issue of restitution. What is more, the victims would be able to understand why the judge decided not to order restitution, where applicable.

In its original version, Bill C-21 required that the judge give reasons for his decision every time he decided not to make a restitution order.

For instance, if the victim has not made a request for restitution, the judge could simply indicate that reason in his or her justification. However, in the version amended by the House of Commons' Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that we currently have before us, Bill C-21 now only requires a judge to provide reasons for not ordering restitution where the victim has made an application for it. While this may seem logical and inconsequential, it does somewhat diminish the bill’s goal of ensuring that restitution is always considered in fraud cases, even in the rare situation where a victim does not seek restitution, but when restitution could and should be ordered by the judge. However, in order to get this bill passed, we are pleased that the provisions pertaining to restitution can remain in effect despite this minor change.

Bill C-21 also urges judges to consider the impact that fraud can have, not only on individuals, but also on groups and the community. The Criminal Code currently requires courts, when sentencing an offender, to consider victim impact statements describing the harm done to or loss suffered by the victims. In some cases, the courts allow such statements to be submitted on behalf of a community. Bill C-21 would explicitly allow courts to consider a statement made on a community's behalf describing the harm done to or losses suffered by the community when imposing a sentence on an offender found guilty of fraud.

Bill C-21 is but one aspect of this government's wider initiative to improve the criminal justice system's response to major fraud cases. I therefore urge all members here today to support the expeditious passage of Bill C-21.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, on the issue of the restitution and whether or not the judge must give reasons for a decision, I found it interesting that it is the only amendment that was made at committee.

It would appear to me that if the clause were left alone, the court would always have to give a reason why the judge was not going to make a restitution order. By putting the amendment in, it means that we need two things, first of all that the victim does not seek restitution or does not give that indication. It would be an interesting argument. I would have left it alone.

However I understand that the reason the change was made, which the parliamentary secretary did not reveal to the House, was that the amendment was prompted by an intervention of the Canadian Bar Association for the reason that the courts were overtaxed and that it was going to be too much for a judge to be able to write orders for not giving restitution on all cases.

It then raises this question, and this is the reason I am rising. Why is it that the government is not even prepared to recognize that the courts have been overtaxed because of the inability to get the resources from the federal government to respect and enforce the laws of Canada? We make the laws. The government pays the bills.

I wonder if the parliamentary secretary would like to explain why he did not refer to the CBA intervention that forced this one and only change.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member is talking about two very extraordinary things. I have been a lawyer for exactly 37 years and I still work in the courts when I am not acting as a parliamentary secretary. I therefore know that all the courts across Canada, no matter what the province, have been overtaxed for 37 years. Is this because of a lack of resources? Is it because the Criminal Code is different? We could ask ourselves plenty of questions, but this problem is not new. We have had problems in the Quebec City district for 37 years. Over the years, the cases accumulate and nothing works. In certain instances, the victims and the offenders have to wait for their cases to be heard by the court.

With regard to the hon. member's second question, the committee, in its wisdom, decided upon this amendment when examining the issue of restitution orders. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights works exactly the same way as the House does. The opposition is in the majority while the government is in the minority. Committee members came to an agreement that judges should write restitution orders. I would like to reread an excerpt from my speech so that it is clear.

However, in the version amended by the House of Commons' Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that we currently have before us, Bill C-21 now only—this word is important—requires a judge to provide reasons for not ordering restitution where the victim has made an application for it. While this may seem logical and inconsequential, it does somewhat diminish the bill’s goal of ensuring that restitution is always considered in fraud cases, even in the rare situation where a victim does not seek restitution.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, in the course of the hearings in the justice committee on Bill C-21, we had witnesses come forward who were basically saying that this was going to do little, if anything, to give our prosecutors and police the tools to effectively fight white collar crime.

Witnesses pointed to a recent story out of Toronto in particular. An individual had been accused of a Ponzi scheme, taking somewhere between $23 million and $27 million. About three weeks ago, the prosecutors in Toronto opted to withdraw all of the charges in spite of the fact that all of this money had gone missing from almost 100 people.

The committee heard that that was not a unique set of circumstances. The point was that we can pass all the laws we want, but we need to give our police and prosecutors the tools to prosecute these individuals. When the prosecutors have to decide between prosecuting these kinds of individuals and somebody who has committed a semi-violent crime, they are always going to opt to spend their time on that rather than on these because of the length of time it takes to prosecute.

I wonder if the member agrees with me that that is a good summary of the evidence. Is his government going to do anything about providing additional resources to our police and prosecutors in order to be able to effectively prosecute?

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, who is also a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

He asked a two-part question. He mentioned cases in his province of Ontario. I would point out to him that in Quebec, we have had our own share of problems. We had the Norbourg and Earl Jones cases. In the Norbourg case, people had, or seemed to have, documents allowing them to sell certain products, but 9,800 people were nonetheless defrauded by a man by the name of Vincent Lacroix. As far as Earl Jones is concerned, he apparently was not licensed to sell a host of products involved in a Ponzi scheme in which he made off with about $150 million.

The problem is that criminals are becoming more and more sophisticated, so in addition to needing financial resources, we also need intellectual resources. In future, some lawyers might also have to be forensic accountants in order to understand the dynamics of these crimes. Fraud is so sophisticated that it can take some time to understand the entire system that was set up. In the Vincent Lacroix case, Caisse de dépôt et placement sold the products to a company called Norbourg, and the government itself issued all the licences. Nevertheless, 9,800 people were defrauded out of $115 million or $150 million.

We need resources, but we also need to invest in law schools in order to provide lawyers with training in forensic accounting to help them understand the system and how fraudsters operate.

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10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to commend my colleague from Quebec for his articulate explanation of the bill, which goes after white collar criminals. He also does great work at the justice committee. He is my colleague there. He is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice.

I would ask him to go just a little bit further and explain to the House, first, the kinds of cases that the bill intends to address and, second, his understanding of why the opposition parties continue to criticize this important bill that is so necessary for protecting Canadians.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. parliamentary secretary has one minute to respond.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, that is not a very long time.

In summary, in the Criminal Code, we have what we call the fraud provisions, which have been in place since 1872. Now, we have set out a different way of doing things. From now on, when faced with a fraudulent scheme designed to steal pensions from poor people, we will have specific provisions under which minimum sentences can be imposed. This will send a clear message that stealing from our retirees will not be tolerated.

In Quebec, 9,800 retirees lost money because of an individual named Vincent Lacroix, who was sold a company by my own government's Caisse de dépôt et placement. It is unbelievable.

The purpose of our bill is to prevent these people from doing what they are currently doing and to put them in prison for good. The bill also proposes ways to provide restitution for victims because it is difficult for them.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, this bill is long overdue. The government introduced this bill in the previous session of the 40th Parliament and played political games with it. The government killed this bill with prorogation. Basically, the Prime Minister decided that prorogation would be good for his party and his government.

After the throne speech was read on March 3 and the House resumed sitting, the government waited 60 days before reintroducing the same bill. It was identical to the bill that came before the House in the second session of the 40th Parliament. Not one comma was changed. Every dot on every i was the same. Not a single letter or word was changed. It was identical. This Conservative government nevertheless waited about 60 days after the throne speech before reintroducing the bill. The Conservatives finally reintroduced it at first reading. Those familiar with the House rules know that only the government can introduce a bill at second reading. Neither the official opposition, nor the Bloc Québécois, nor the NDP can do so. Only the government can. So how long did it take the government to propose debate at second reading of Bill C-21on white collar crime? The government boasts that it alone looks after the victims, believes that victims' needs are important, and is working on criminal justice.

The government left Bill C-21 at first reading for over 200 days. During that time, who was asking, praying, urging and begging the government to move debate at second reading? The victims. The official opposition. The Bloc Québécois. The NDP.

I have not heard a single Conservative member publicly ask his or her government to stop dragging its feet with Bill C-21 at first reading and to move forward with a debate at second reading. I have not heard one single Conservative member publicly demand that, but I heard the opposition demand it. I heard the Bloc members calling for it. I heard NDP members calling for it. I also heard many victims wondering why this Conservative government, which claims that victims and Bill C-21 are important, was not following through.

The Minister of Justice used every possible opportunity this weekend to say that there were criminal justice bills that absolutely had to be passed in the House and that he urged the opposition to stop opposing these bills. We just heard the same things from the chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, who rose to ask a question of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. He asked the parliamentary secretary to explain why the opposition was opposed to this bill. That is not true. The opposition has always supported the government's desire to act quickly and effectively with respect to white collar crime and fraud. During the other session of the 40th Parliament, we tried to work with this government to ensure that this bill would pass.

However, the government and the Prime Minister decided to kill this bill by proroguing the House and Parliament. Then, when the House resumed, they waited some 60 days before reintroducing it. And once it was introduced, they waited more than 200 days to move debate at second reading.

How many days did the House spend debating Bill C-21 at second reading after having waited more than 200 days to debate it at second reading? The House took only two days to debate this bill because the opposition parties, notably the official opposition, want this bill to become law in our country. The opposition does not oppose this bill, and none of the three opposition parties slowed down the process of passing this bill. It was the government.

I believe it is important to remind the members of these facts because I am not making this up. Anyone who has a calendar can figure this out based on the date that the government prorogued the House in December 2009. The prorogation lasted nearly two and a half months, and the House resumed its work on March 3, 2010, with the Speech from the Throne. But it was not until about 60 days later that the government reintroduced its bill. Then the government waited more than 200 days to debate it at second reading—if my memory serves me correctly, it was 216 days. I know that it was more than 200 days; I am quite certain about that.

And now for the content of the bill. The bill establishes mandatory minimum sentences for those found guilty of fraud. That is what victims were calling for. Victims called for other things as well, but the government, in its wisdom, decided not to include them in this bill.

The victims were asking for two things. One, they wanted to see stiffer sentencing for white collar criminals; and the government, with its mandatory minimum sentencing of two years for criminal offences that are what we would deem white collar crime, responds to the victims' request.

However, the victims had a second request. The victims wanted the government to eliminate accelerated parole review for white collar criminals. The bill does not address that at all. This is something that opposition parties have been asking for, for several years now, and the government has not addressed it. It does not address it in the bill.

Liberals attempted to bring an amendment to the bill that would have amended the Corrections and Conditional Release Act in order to eliminate the accelerated parole review for the criminal offences that are dealt with in Bill C-21. The chair of the committee ruled it out of order because nothing in Bill C-21 dealt with the conditional sentencing and parole legislation.

I challenged the chair's ruling. However, I have to admit that his ruling was correct because my amendment, which would have eliminated the one-sixth accelerated parole review for the offences contained in this particular legislation, was in fact beyond the scope of the bill.

The chair ruled my amendment out of order. I challenged the chair, and unfortunately the Conservatives, the Bloc and the NDP upheld the chair's ruling.

There is a piece of legislation in front of the public safety committee of the House of Commons that deals with the issue of accelerated parole review. However, that as well is a bill that the government has been playing political games with and has been holding up, not moving second debate reading and letting it sit on the order paper at first reading for days and days.

We believe the government must act to respond to the request of victims, and not just the victims but of a variety of civil shareholders, that the one-sixth accelerated parole be removed, be eliminated, and not just for the white collar criminal offences but for virtually every offence, if not indeed all offences. In fact, one could describe it as being an offence to the sensibilities of Canadians and of our criminal justice system.

There is another point of white collar crime that the bill does not address. That is the issue that it does not in any way, shape or form attach these criminal offences to institutions.

I would like to read an article by Darcy Henton that was published in the Edmonton Journal on May 5, 2010, headlined “Alberta wary of white-crime bill”. It states:

A white-collar crime bill reintroduced by the federal Conservatives this week received a lukewarm reception Tuesday in Alberta from both a financial crime crusader and a fraud victim.

The justice bill, which had to be reintroduced after it died on the order paper when the prime minister prorogued Parliament last winter, sets a mandatory minimum two-year sentence for frauds over $1 million.

The bill also requires judges to look at several aggravating factors that could increase the sentence and to consider victim impact statements and restitution.

Retired investment broker Larry Elford, who advocates on behalf of investors, said the new bill still appears to contain a loophole that exempts it from being applied to investment institutions.

“It's a wonderful gift to the investment industry,” he said. “It would exempt the largest fraudsters in Canada. I can't understand why they would reintroduce the law with the same loophole.”

Elford said the law wouldn't apply to corporations like Goldman Sachs which is currently the subject of a civil fraud suit brought on by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the national securities regulatory authority in the U.S.

“Any Bay Street operator could sell any product in any fraudulent and misleading manner and this bill would not apply,” Elford said.

Edmontonian Jason Cowan has been pressing for tougher white-collar crime laws since he and a partner were allegedly defrauded of more than $2 million in 1996.

“I think it's absolutely necessary that there are some checks and balances,” he said. “These white-collar criminals are getting off all the time.”

[The federal justice minister] said the legislation will make jail mandatory for fraudsters who bilk their victims out of more than $1 million.

“Our government is standing up for victims of white-collar crime,” he said when the bill was reintroduced Monday.

The justice minister then waited over 200 days before moving second reading debate. That is really what I would call standing up for victims of crime: using their misery, using their hardship as a political ball game. It is shameful.

The official opposition supports this bill. We have from the outset. We have never hidden that. Every single member of the Conservative Party and every single member of that Conservative government knows that the official opposition supports the bill. We supported it in the last session of the 40th Parliament. We made it clear. We were very public about our support. So for any member of the Conservative Party to rise in this House, or outside of the House, and claim that the opposition is opposing this bill or holding up this bill is simply an untruth. Pure and simple, it is an untruth, and no Canadian should believe that Conservative MP who rises in this House, or outside of the House, to claim that the official opposition does not support and has not supported Bill C-21, the white-collar crime bill.

Canadians should then ask themselves, if a Conservative, a member of Parliament, is willing to tell an untruth on something that is so clearly not true and easily refuted, what else are they telling untruths about? What other issues are they not telling the truth about? What other issues are they spreading untruths about? Canadians should ask themselves that question, because why would someone tell an untruth on the issue of claiming that the opposition, the official opposition, is opposing or has opposed this bill or attempted to hold up this bill when the facts clearly show that the government has held up its own bill in order to play political games with victims of crimes? That is despicable. It is scurrilous. It is deplorable.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

Madam Speaker, you know that it is unparliamentary for a member of this House to accuse another member of lying. The word “untruth” that has been repeated on numerous occasions by this member is the same as the word “lie”, and I would ask you to take her to task for this. That is unparliamentary language.

I know this member is better than that. I work with her at committee on a regular basis and this is something that is beneath her.

So I would ask you, Madam Chair, to rule on that.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, on the same point of order, the use of the term “untruth” is not unparliamentary. It is very factual. I did not accuse that member of lying. Had I done so, that would have been unparliamentary.

What I did say is that the member and any member of the Conservative Party and government who claims, in this House or outside of this House, that the official opposition has in any way opposed, in the past or today, Bill C-21, or in any way delayed Bill C-21, is saying an untruth.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I thank the hon. members for their comments on this issue. I think indeed the word is getting very close to the line and I would ask all hon. members to be a little more judicious in their use of words in terms of what constitutes parliamentary language in this House.

The hon. member has one minute to conclude, so I would sincerely hope that she will be more judicious in her use of language.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I take note of your statement. I also take note of the fact that you did not declare it to be unparliamentary. You stated that it comes close to the line, but you did not make a statement that using the term untruth, with regard to a member, is unparliamentary. I take note of that.

I will simply conclude my speech on Bill C-21 by stating again that the official opposition supported it. We demanded, asked, requested and begged the government to bring it forward in the last session of the 40th Parliament. We attempted to work with the government to get it through the House of Commons quickly. The government and the Prime Minister, in their wisdom, decided to kill the bill through prorogation. They waited, after the throne speech, over 60 days before reintroducing the exact bill, now under the label of Bill C-21, and then let the bill sit at first reading for over 200 days before finally proposing second reading debate.

It is clear. The official opposition supports this bill. We will be voting in favour of this bill.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to put it on the record here, without apology, that we believe that the Liberal Party is opposing or delaying this legislation for partisan purposes.

In fact, she as much as admitted that she challenged the ruling of the chair at committee, when she knew that the ruling of the chair was correct. I cannot think of a better example of delay than introducing amendments that she knew were out of order, then challenging the chair when he correctly ruled that the amendment was out of order. This has been the process at committee.

I also refer back to the discussions at committee on Bill C-4, where essentially the Liberal Party, in regard to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, where we are trying to introduce the protection of the public as a key and primary sentencing principle, is using the tactic of death by witness.They stack the witness lists and keep introducing witnesses in order to delay and obstruct the legislation.

I want to challenge her. Why is it that today in this House, when she and her party were given the opportunity to allow this bill to pass immediately--

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

When?

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

--they said, no, we want to put up more speakers; we support the legislation but we want to go on and bash the government for a few hours today.

That is my question for the member.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I would ask all hon. members to speak once they have been recognized. That applies to all members in this House.

The hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, the member is creating fantasies. Yes, I challenged his ruling in committee at clause by clause, and it took literally between 30 seconds and 90 seconds to dispose of it.

Compare that Liberal delay to the Prime Minister proroguing Parliament, and suspending and paralyzing all of the work of Parliament for two and a half months.

It is laughable. It is risible that the member would get up and use that as an example of Liberals delaying this bill, with 30 to 90 seconds compared to two and a half months of prorogation, over 60 days before reintroducing the bill and then over 200 days before moving second reading debate.

I rest my case.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, I asked the parliamentary secretary this but did not get an answer.

Although all parties are supporting the bill, and I will go into that in my speech as to why, I think there are concerns in terms of honesty and truthfulness. Would my colleague from the justice committee agree with me that the evidence we received at the committee was that the bill in its application would be applied in very narrow circumstances and that a great deal of the white collar crime we have identified will not be dealt with by this legislation? Would she agree that the portrayal of this legislation that it is the be all and end all, which is the role the Conservatives are trying to place on the bill, is not accurate, that the Canadian people are being misled if they were to understand the bill would do a lot to combat white collar crime when, in fact, it is not. I just ask if she agrees with that analysis.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I agree with my colleague, the justice critic for the New Democratic Party.

My colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh is entirely right. The bill addresses a very small, teeny-weeny aspect of white collar crime.

Witness after witness came before the committee and said that in order for the government to really tackle white collar crime, it has to work with the provinces in order to establish real, coordinated, integrated teams with proper resources. As long as our court system and our prosecutorial core is overtaxed and overburdened because of a lack of financial resources and human resources, then they will continue to be put in a difficult position, as were the prosecutors in Ontario, in Toronto, with that major fraud case recently where they dropped the criminal charges against alleged fraudster because they said they simply do not have the resources. They had some major rape cases and they had to make the choice, either they prosecute the alleged offender, the perpetrator of the rape, or they go after the alleged fraudster. They had no choice but to put their resources behind the rape case at trial.

That is untenable. We do not hear Conservative members of Parliament speaking up and calling on their government to bring new resources to our court system, to the prosecutorial core. We are not hearing that.

When we look at what the government has done in terms of victims, the government, with the House, adopted a budget. In the budget there was $10 million annually for programs and services to be given directly to victims of crime. The government did not spend all of the money. I believe it was $4.9 million or $5.9 million that the government actually spent in services and programs given to victims. It turned the rest of the money back to the consolidated revenue fund, but then turned around and spent over $6 million, I think it was maybe $10 million or something, more money on advertising that victims matter. How cynical is that?