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House of Commons Hansard #27 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was products.

Topics

The House resumed from April 15 consideration of the motion that Bill C-9, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River has seven minutes left to conclude his remarks.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are continuing our consideration of Bill C-9, the budget implementation bill. When I was speaking yesterday, I felt that I had to bring to the attention of the House what, in my view, was almost an extraordinary package of measures contained in Bill C-9. It was the scope of the measures contained in the bill that struck me. It struck me so much that I feel that there is a procedural anomaly extant here, that the bill is too big, too wide, and harms the ability of the House, of members of the House, to deal with its components.

As I mentioned, and maybe other members have done this, it would probably take me five or ten minutes to go through all the components of the bill if I read each statute and just mentioned what the amendment was all about. There are 11 income tax amendments. There are eight GST-HST amendments. There are a couple of Customs and Excise Act amendments. And there are some 20 other statutes amended.

In order to bring in a budget implementation bill, normally there is a ways and means motion that precedes the introduction of the bill. That is normal. That gives the House a heads-up. In fact, the government must have a ways and means motion adopted before such a bill is introduced.

I would not have a problem, and I do not think anybody would have a problem, with a bill that reflected, give or take, what was in the ways and means motion. If the ways and means motion implementing the budget has 10 or 20 separate items and the budget implementation bill that follows deals with those 10 or 20 separate items, I do not think we could argue that the bill does not reflect the ways and means motion and the ways and means motion does not reflect the budget because there is a theme.

However, in this particular case, the bill goes way beyond both the ways and means motion and what I heard in this House in the budget. I think probably all of us were here to listen to the budget speech,. However, there are things in this bill which were not mentioned in the budget speech and there are other things which were not listed, mentioned, or itemized in the ways and means motion.

What this bill comes forward looking like is what we sometimes call an omnibus bill. It is an omnibus bill. At least that is what some would say at first blush. However, I must say that as I look at this bill, it is not even an omnibus bill.

So, what kind of a bill is it? I will try and tell members why it is not an omnibus bill. But what kind of a bill is it? It is not even on the list of types of bills. It contains so many measures it looks like the House may be in the process of accepting a bill which is not an omnibus bill but which has dozens or hundreds of separate statutory amendments because there does not appear to be a limit.

If we can put 30 or 40 statutory amendments in this bill, why could we not put 50 in another one? How about 100?

This is a little bit like the Texas senate. As I understand it, the Texas senate used to meet for about one week per year. What it did was take all of the legislation it had to deal with and put it into one bill. It had one bill that dealt with the dozens of pieces of legislation it wanted to deal with in the legislative body in Texas, U.S.A. It would meet for a week, debate for a week and pass the bill. Its members were out of town, gone, and it was done. That is how easy it is. Maybe we are heading in that direction. I hope we are not and I am still considering just what the procedural implications are, both at this point and later at committee and then report stages.

There is also another procedure the House has adopted over the years. It is not an omnibus bill issue; it is called the miscellaneous statutes amendment procedure. This is a procedure, which the House has accepted and used for many years, where a whole bunch of miscellaneous minor technical amendments to statutes, 10, 20, 30 statutes, are bundled. The Justice Department bundles them up, creates a bill, and the bill is put through the House. It is usually debated very quickly at second reading and then goes to the justice committee.

If at any point along the way there is objection to any one component of the bill, that component is dropped. Otherwise, the bill goes through and these dozens and dozens of miscellaneous technical amendments are made, passed and done. It is really easy. This is not a miscellaneous statutes amendment bill. This is a budget implementation bill. It is too big and wide.

It is so big and wide that in the 10 minutes we each have here to talk about this bill, we will not actually get a chance to address some of these components. This has serious implications for the way we do our business and there may be another opportunity for me to talk about that in the House.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's arguments. An important aspect of this bill specifically affects rural areas. The government is trying to sneak in the privatization of Canada Post, as the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel would say. Losses for Canada Post as a result of this privatization are estimated at about $80 million, and rural areas would suffer the impact.

In my RCM and in other rural RCMs, post offices have been closed down. Canada Post has even limited accessibility and mail delivery in an attempt to further centralize post offices in certain areas. Seniors and people with reduced mobility have a hard time getting their mail.

I have a question for my colleague. Will the Liberals let this bill pass, or will they stand up and tell the Conservatives that they have had enough of privatization and that they want to maintain our post offices?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member's remarks raise a very important issue. This bill contains financial measures and, like it or not, if the bill fails in the House, we are going to an election forthwith. We will not pass go or collect $200.

I do not know if the member is asking whether or not we are going to have an election now. But he is right, this bill contains measures dealing with changes to Canada Post Corporation. Believe it or not, this bill contains a provision dealing with the complete divestiture of AECL, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited.

In the past there have been separate bills dealing with the divestiture of Petro-Canada and Air Canada. They were separate bills and we debated a major policy issue, but no, in this bill it is buried. It could not help but be buried. When there are 30 tax and other measures in a bill, everything is buried.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I know the member is close to being the dean in Parliament. I will have to look at my remuneration package to figure out that $200 remark and will get my assistants to work on it, but I want to ask him a serious question about omnibus bills.

We do not use omnibus bills in Parliament in that name. However, in my short time here, which is about one-sixth of the time of the hon. member, I have seen various measures dealt with in one bill. I assume he is saying it is not against procedure to do same, but he would say that it is sneaky to do same and would not recommend it.

I know he is a learned author in these matters of parliamentary procedure, but is he saying it is sort of legal but semi-moral or is he saying it is all political and we have to sort of, as he would say, not pass go and not collect $200?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the $200 reference came from the game of Monopoly. It does not have much to do with what we are doing here today, I do not think.

An omnibus bill has a definition generally accepted by the House. The essential defence of an omnibus bill procedure is that the bill in question, although it may seem to create or amend many disparate statutes, in effect has one basic principle or purpose, which ties together all the proposed enactments and thereby renders the bill intelligible for parliamentary purposes.

This bill does not have one principle or thing. It ties together many disparate bills. It is not intelligible or useful for parliamentary purposes. We each get one vote on some 30 different measures, many of which should be stand-alone measures so that we can represent our constituents in dealing with those legislative measures and policy issues. Each of them is arguably quite distinct.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate. Is the House ready for the question?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.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?

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Jobs and Economic Growth ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 45 the division stands deferred until Monday, April 19, 2010 at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

April 16th, 2010 / 10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

moved that Bill C-5, An Act to amend the International Transfer of Offenders Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Oxford Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I would like to request unanimous consent to split my time.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to split his time?

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Northumberland—Quinte West.

I appreciate the opportunity to rise in support of Bill C-5 to speak about how this government is continuing to deliver on its commitments to Canadians.

As the minister has noted, one of the strongest commitments our government made when we were first elected was to make our streets, our playgrounds and our communities safer places for everyone. We promised to take action and we have delivered.

We have passed tough new laws to crack down on crime. We have taken action to ensure that offenders are held accountable and that they serve sentences which reflect the serious nature of their actions. We have given police and law enforcement agencies more of the tools they need to do their job.

The legislation before us today builds on this impressive track record while also helping to ensure that the appropriate factors are better taken into account when it comes to considering offender transfer requests.

Today, when a Canadian citizen serving a sentence abroad requests a transfer to Canada, the minister shall take several factors into consideration in assessing these requests. The minister shall, for example, consider whether an offender's return to Canada would constitute a threat to the security of Canada. The minister shall also consider whether the offender has social or family ties in Canada and whether the foreign government or prison system presents a serious threat to the offender's security or human rights. These are important factors.

Under the amendments, which our government is proposing, the minister would still be able to consider these factors. Bill C-5 would not change that. What it would do is clarify in the existing International Transfer of Offenders Act that the minister may also take other factors into account when considering requests for offender transfers. Among these additional factors is whether the offender's return to Canada will endanger public safety. Surely that makes sense. All of us want to ensure that our homes and our communities are safe, and that is what Bill C-5 would help to do.

In particular, Bill C-5 would help to ensure that in all transfer decisions due consideration is given to the safety of any member of the offender's family, the safety of children and the safety of victims.

The government has already done a lot to give victims a greater voice in the justice system. Indeed, helping victims of crime has always been at the heart of this government's public safety and justice agenda. Our government is committed to ensuring that their voices are heard and their concerns are taken seriously. That is one of our highest priorities and why we have taken action on a number of fronts.

We have committed $52 million over four years to enhance the federal victims strategy so the government could better meet the needs of victims. Among other things, we have also created the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime and given victims the resources to attend parole hearings or seek help if they experience crime while abroad.

Our government has also taken steps to keep our children safe, most recently introducing legislation in the other place to strengthen the Sex Offender Information Registration Act.

I am confident these measures have the support of all hon. members, as does our efforts to protect victims, family members and children under the provisions of Bill C-5.

Crime places a heavy toll on individual victims, their families, communities and society at large. That is why we need to take action to be sure that the scales of justice are balanced to include victims and some of the more vulnerable members of our society. That is why Bill C-5 is so important.

In addition to ensuring that public safety is a principal consideration of offender transfer requests, Bill C-5 would also provide for the consideration of other factors, many of which are in line with current reforms currently underway within the corrections system.

These include whether in the minister's opinion the offender is likely to continue to engage in criminal activity after the transfer, the offender's health and whether the offender has refused to participate in a rehabilitation or reintegration program.

In addition, Bill C-5 notes that the minister may consider whether the offender has accepted responsibility for the events for which he or she has been convicted, including by acknowledging the harm done to victims and to the community, the manner in which the offender will be supervised after the transfer while he or she is serving his or her sentence, and whether the offender has co-operated or has undertaken to co-operate with a law enforcement agency.

As well, the legislation before us today notes that the minister may consider any other factor which he or she considers relevant.

All in all, the legislation before us today would help to ensure that Canadian offenders who request a transfer are treated fairly and equitably while not being allowed to escape accountability if an offence is committed abroad. It is fair, timely and what Canadians want.

I therefore look forward to working with all hon. members to ensure swift passage of this important legislation so that we can continue to ensure that our friends, our family members and our loved ones remain safe.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join in the debate on Bill C-5 and to outline yet another way our government is delivering on its commitment to keep our streets and communities safe.

As my hon. colleagues have mentioned, our government has already done a lot of things in that regard over the last four years. We have taken steps to ensure that violent criminals are dealt with appropriately. We have introduced legislation to ensure that serious crimes are met with serious jail time. We have given police and law enforcement officials the tools and resources they need to do their jobs. All of these initiatives are vital to our work of building safer communities for everyone, as is the legislation before us today.

Our government has made public safety the number one priority since we were first elected in 2006. That is what the legislation we have introduced today is all about.

Bill C-5 would help to ensure that Canadians continue to feel safe in their homes by strengthening the International Transfer of Offenders Act. Specifically, the legislation we have introduced recognizes that considerations of public safety are at the very centre of decisions about whether offenders serving sentences abroad are transferred to Canada.

Our government has also made sure that helping victims of crime remains at the heart of this government's public safety and justice agenda. We have committed to ensuring that their voices are heard and that their concerns are taken seriously. That is one of our highest priorities and why we have taken action on a number of fronts. The legislation our government is proposing would help further strengthen this track record by ensuring that the safety of victims can be taken into account when assessing requests for transfer.

As well, the changes that our government is proposing stipulate that the safety of family members and children can be taken into account. The minister would specifically be able to consider whether the transfer of an offender with assault convictions against family members would endanger their safety. The minister would also be able to specifically consider whether an offender incarcerated for a sexual offence against a child in a foreign state is likely to commit a sexual offence against a child if transferred to Canada. Surely, these changes make sense.

The way things stand today, the minister is required by law to take several factors into account when considering a request for transfer. These include: whether the offender's return to Canada would constitute a threat to the security of Canada; whether the offender left or remained outside Canada with the intention of abandoning Canada as his or her place of permanent residence; whether the offender has social or family ties in Canada; and, whether the foreign entity or its prison system presents a serious threat to the offender's security or human rights.

Those are important considerations to take into account but nowhere in the current law is there specific mention of protecting the safety and security of law-abiding Canadian citizens. Nowhere is there any specific mention of victims, family members or children. These are serious omissions that the bill before us today would correct.

As well, Bill C-5 would allow the minister to consider a number of other factors when considering an offender's request for transfer. For example, the minister would be able to consider whether an offender who requests a transfer to Canada has refused to participate in career, vocational or educational programs while incarcerated in another country.

The minister would be able to take into account the circumstances in which the offender, if transferred to Canada, will be monitored and supervised after release. This is especially important given that one of the purposes of the act under the amendments our government is proposing would continue to be contributing to the administration of justice and the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community.

Bill C-5 would also allow the minister to take into account several other very important considerations when assessing an offender's request for transfer. These are: whether the offender has accepted responsibility for the offence for which he or she has been convicted, including acknowledging the harm done to victims and to the community; and, whether the offender is likely to continue to engage in criminal activity after the transfer.

Again, those considerations should surely help to guide decisions about whether to grant a request for transfer from an offender serving a sentence overseas. At the moment there is no clear legislative authority for the minister to take them into account. Bill C-5 would change that while also providing the minister with more flexibility in decision-making itself.

The legislation that our government has introduced today is designed to keep Canadians safe. It is fair, timely and what Canadians want. I therefore urge all members to work with this government to ensure its speedy passage.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague for his speech, and also my colleague before him who also made a speech. I never had the opportunity to stand and ask him a question but I will ask a question of my colleague from Ontario.

Bill C-5, from what I understand, is to enhance public safety, which is the major key plank of this legislation and which was never thought of before, as was pointed out by him.

One of the things he said concerned the ability to rehabilitate, as assessed by another country. For example, if someone were in the United States right now and programs were available for him or her to rehabilitate, such as vocational and certain other programs, if that individual were unable or unwilling to take steps or measures to rehabilitate, that would be used against that individual applying for the transfer into this country. Is that necessarily the case? What about in countries that do not necessarily have the programs for rehabilitation? Should that not too be considered?

Is that my understanding of it? Is that what he is pushing for? In other words, to rehabilitate someone or to gauge that person's ability to rehabilitate also depends upon the system in that country.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, with regard to a prisoner in the country concerned, yes, if that country does not have a prison system that affords the prisoner the ability for rehabilitation or to further his or her education and develop skills, this legislation permits the minister to take that into account.

The United States, Great Britain, Norway and other countries have similar correctional facilities to Canada. I would particularly refer to countries like Norway and Great Britain. When we visited the prisons in those countries we heard that 60% of their programs were adopted from Correctional Service Canada. It then would make it very easy for the minister to make that assessment.

The member rightly reflects upon and mentions the fact that we really do want to ensure that people are rehabilitated. Yes, in answer to that question, that is all taken into account under Bill C-5 and that would be one of the principal considerations that the minister would make.

Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am please to rise to speak to Bill C-5. I have to start my comments by saying that it is not the first time the House has seen this bill. The bill was introduced last fall with much fanfare and a sense of urgency before being killed by prorogation.

As with most measures introduced by the government, we are seeing them introduced two or three times with a sense of urgency. The Conservatives attack the opposition because the measures are not adopted right away, that we are standing in the Conservatives' way, only for them to kill their own bills, bring them back and feign that they have to be passed immediately. There is a renewed sense of urgency, even though they are the ones who killed the bills. It is no different with respect to Bill C-5.

I want to talk about the purpose of the international transfer program. If we are seeking to amend it, it would be wise to consider why it is there in the first place. I will read directly from Correctional Service Canada's annual report for 2006-07 as to why we have a transfer system in place in the first place. It states:

The purpose of this program is to contribute to the administration of justice and the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community by enabling them to serve their sentence in their country of citizenship.

It continues:

If offenders are not transferred, they may ultimately be deported to Canada at the end of their sentence, without correctional supervision/jurisdiction and without the benefit of programming.

It goes on to talk about the fact that we may not even have any idea they had any criminal record at all, because there would be no record of it in Canada. It continues:

At any given time, there are over 2,000 Canadian citizens incarcerated throughout the world. Canadians serving a sentence of imprisonment abroad are faced with serious problems such as isolation, culture shock, language barriers and have no means to address the root of their problems because of the lack of programs available to foreign nationals.

It continues:

Without the benefit of transfers, offenders are deported at the end of their sentence to their country of citizenship, often after having spent years in confinement and being totally unprepared for safe, secure and successful reintegration into society. Transfers provide offenders with the possibility of becoming productive members of the community, by contributing to the administration of justice and the rehabilitation of offender and their reintegration into society as law abiding citizens.

Given that the Conservatives were attacking voraciously the fact that individuals were being transferred from foreign prisons to Canadian prisons, it is passing strange that an annual report would come out while they are in power talking about the essential nature of this program, not out of some sense of feeling sorry for these individual inmates, but as a recognition that it provides a critical function to public safety. If somebody commits a crime abroad, is incarcerated and does not receive the rehabilitation and help he or she needs to get better, when the individual is released, and he or she will be released, and deported back to Canada, he or she will not be ready for reintegration.

When we consider individuals who might be facing mental illness, and we have to remember that one in ten of those who are incarcerated are suffering from a very serious mental illness, and in the female population it is one in five, these Canadian citizens who are jailed in foreign jails and faced with mental health illnesses will not only not be getting any help, but will get much, much worse. What will land back at our doorstep inevitably is a much bigger problem.

When we scrape away the veneer of rhetoric and cut to the government's own words in the annual report for Correctional Service Canada, we recognize this program has important value, and that playing politics with it is frankly wrong.

It might surprise individuals to know that over 79% of the individuals in question with respect to this transfer program are Canadians in the U.S. These are individuals who are incarcerated in the United States. It is ironic, because the policies the government is pursuing right now of dramatically increasing incarceration fall very much into the model that is in the United States. We hear what a disaster that system is for the Americans right now.

The U.S. system is so overwhelmed that the Americans have an inability to provide programs, services and rehabilitation, such that when experts are looking at Canadians coming back from U.S. prisons, they say they are at a much higher risk of reoffending. In fact, we know that in California, the rate of recidivism, the rate at which individuals repeat offend, is over 70%.

Imagine this. A Canadian citizen has perhaps committed a smaller crime. Most crimes are related to substance abuse. We know that more than 80% of inmates are facing substance abuse problems. We are going to take somebody who goes in for a non-violent drug-related offence and we are going to put that person into a crime factory in the United States. We are going to send people in as minor criminals and churn them out of a system that some, including the head of the John Howard Society here in Canada, have called “a gladiator school”.

Those people will return to Canada. What will they do then? I think it is a very dishonest portrayal when we try to scare people into thinking that these are criminals who have committed acts in other countries and they are going to come here and do bad things. Here is another way of thinking about that and a more honest way of putting it. These are individuals, Canadian citizens, who have committed crimes abroad and who will come home.

The question is, who do we want to come home? Who do we want to step off that plane? Would we prefer somebody who was transferred into a Canadian jail, received proper programming, was rehabilitated and would not reoffend, or would we prefer that people languish in a foreign jail, where they get no rehabilitation, where if they have a mental health issue, they are going to get no treatment and where if they have a drug issue they get no help? They return to Canadian soil ready to commit more serious, potentially violent crimes.

If we stopped and thought about it rationally for just a moment, we would realize that this program does have an important function in that regard. We also need to consider just how small a number we are talking about in terms of the number of people that were transferred in any given year. It ranges from a low, and we had it last year, of around 40 individuals who were transferred, to a high of about 90. The government makes this proclamation about how essential this bill is. Even if one forgets everything I just said, we are talking about 40 to 90 individuals.

The government goes on to say that under its administration, and it is very proud of this, it has stopped dramatically the number of transfers. Yet if we look at that same annual report and look at the number that was actually denied by Canada as opposed to by another jurisdiction, in the last year of a Liberal government, in 2004-05, there were four people denied. In the last year for which we have statistics, under the Conservative government in 2006-07, the number is seven.

Here is a matter in front of us of supposedly enormous urgency to change and a government touting how it has dramatically reduced the number of people it is allowing to come here. We have gone from four people denied to seven. That is in the annual report. That is some crisis.

It is under assault right now, but I think we have to recognize that Canada has one of the best prison systems in the world. Its mandate is rehabilitation. Our rates of recidivism are low. Despite the fact that the Conservatives refuse to acknowledge it, crime in this country has been consistently on the decline. I use Statistics Canada for my facts in this regard. I think Statistics Canada is an appropriate place to turn when we are trying to figure out what the crime statistics are in a country.

When the Minister of Public Safety was last before the public safety and national security committee, however, he said we cannot believe Statistics Canada; we cannot believe the facts, do not listen to them. He said instead that there were invisible crimes going on that were unreported and that those were skyrocketing. The types of crimes that we could not put our finger on or actually identify were going through the roof. I asked him where he was getting this information from, what was his source. His response was he got it from the Vancouver Board of Trade.

I submit that if I am going to use statistics on what is happening with crime in this country, I would be much more likely to use the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association and Statistics Canada, all of whom tell us crime is in decline, particularly violent crime, as opposed to listening to the Vancouver Board of Trade on an issue that might be very local to whatever situation it is faced with.

The point is that the facts do not seem to matter, that what matters is the politics, that there is an attempt to use crime and issues surrounding crime as a wedge, as an opportunity to divide Canadians to try to extract political gain. I would submit that this is a relatively new phenomenon. In the House in the past, all parties have recognized that if there is one area in which we really should not be playing politics it is in crime, in keeping our communities safe, and that we should follow evidence-based systems that rely upon what actually works.

Let us take a look at what actually keeps our communities safe and reduces crime and focus on those things. Let us not play into false perceptions or sensational media reports with policies that do not work, cost billions of dollars, make our communities less safe but extract an inch or two of political gain at any given moment.

What we need to do in that regard beyond Bill C-5 is take a look at the trajectory of dealing with crime in this country. We need to look at the actual evidence of what has worked and not worked in other jurisdictions and at what we should be doing here in Canada. On that, I am going to come back to the American example of incarceration.

Many know that the American rate of incarceration is much higher than the Canadian rate. What people may not know is that was not necessarily always the case. If we go back to 1981, the Canadian and U.S. rates of incarceration were relatively similar, with the U.S. rate being about two times the Canadian rate per capita. However, Republican policies came forward that were aimed at “tough on crime” measures to drive up prison populations and that difference went from some 200% higher to nearly 700% higher, an increase of 500% in a very short period of time.

If there was a dramatic impact in terms of making the United States safer during that period of time, perhaps there could be an argument that literally tens of billions of dollars were spent for that additional incarceration. The fact is that in that period of time the United States witnessed the same decline in rates of recidivism and crime as did Canada. Violent crime rates and property crime rates right across the board are all down by about the exact same measure. The only difference is that the U.S. had to pay tens of billions of dollars more.

The evidence is that it has a far more sinister impact. If we consider the case of California, there is now a taxpayer cost of $8 billion a year with a prison system that is overflowing with more than 150,000 inmates. I mentioned before that over 70% of inmates reoffend upon release, are recycled back into a prison system that offers no programming or treatment to treat the underlying causes of their criminal activities.

Because the U.S. system is so overwhelmed, the same people are not being treated and are being pulled back into the system in a never-ending loop of crime, victimization and cost. This is the model the government wants to follow. This is the direction the government is headed.

In addition, the Federal Court ordered the state government to release 55,000 inmates before they finished serving their sentences because the conditions of the prisons were unconstitutional. Canada signed a UN convention against double bunking and ever since then, we have been bringing that rate steadily down.

The minister now says that to deal with the soaring prison population, we are going to return to that policy, the same kind of policy that is leading to higher rates of recidivism, which means less safe communities. Not only are we talking about billions in more costs, but ultimately we are going to be talking about higher crime rates with these policies. The question may be asked: Just how far have the Conservatives gone when it comes to spending on correctional services?

In two years' time, the budget of Correctional Service Canada will have increased by some 96%. The capital budget for Correctional Service Canada, in two years' time, will have been increased by 238%. Make no mistake, as staggering as those increases are, they are just the tip of the iceberg.

At the end of this month, Mr. Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, will submit for Parliament's consideration the total cost of the government's measures. Get ready for sticker shock. The cost will be astronomical.

When we consider how poorly this system has worked before, let us consider what our alternatives are. Instead of spending billions of dollars on prisons, what are some of the things the government should be spending on?

Let us start with crime prevention.

In 2005, the last full year of a Liberal government, the National Crime Prevention Centre supported some 509 projects, in 261 communities, for a total of $56.9 million. Today, the Conservative government has slashed funding and programming by more than half, cutting every year. Now less than 285 projects are funded and actual spending on crime prevention has been slashed to just $19.27 million. That is a cut of more than half on crime prevention.

This is deeply disturbing. We know from people like Dr. Irvin Waller, who has done extensive studies in this area, that for every dollar we spend on crime prevention, we save $7.00 on incarceration and $4.00 in eradicating costs dealing with both probation and re-entering. We are talking about saving $11.00 for every $1.00 we spend in prevention, yet the current government has decided to slash funding on crime prevention.

When I have gone across the country, I have had an opportunity to speak with boys' and girls' clubs, organizations that are right at the front line of helping youth at risk, of turning them away from a dark path toward a life of prosperity, paying taxes and happiness. I have talk to the Salvation Army and the YMCA. These groups are critical in providing that community support and resource to help young people. When I hear that their funding has been slashed, that they are in a position where they get less and less cash, even as they watch billions get dumped into prisons, it is tragic. It is tragic because It means there will be more victimization.

Perhaps this is one of the greatest flaws of the approach of the Conservatives to crime. They wait for victims. They let the crimes happen. Then they say that they will get the guys and really punish them. They say that they will throw them into really terrible, dark places, where they will learn their lesson.

However, because the Conservatives are cutting from the things that stop crime from happening in the first place, we have more victimization. Then because they are cutting from the ability of the prison system to deal with a manageable population, they are destroying their capacity, their ability to make those people better, ensuring that when they walk out the door, they are better and they do not commit more crimes.

We know that more than 90% of inmates will walk out the door of those jails. No matter how long we make those sentences, they will come back out. Again, we have to ask ourselves who we want walking out those doors.

The government often touts its position on victims of crime. The reality is it has been cutting there too. The Prime Minister has cut grants for the victims of crime initiative by 43% and contributions to the victims of crime initiative by 43%. Even on the front line of helping victims, the government is cutting, as it dumps billions into prisons. It is cutting from the prison farm system. It refused to act on the Correctional Investigator's report on Ashley Smith and the terrible problems in our prison system, with mental health and addictions issues. It is undermining police by refusing to even support its promise to put 2,400 more officers on the streets. something the Canadian Police Association called a betrayal. Despite engaging Mr. Iacobucci on Afghan detainees, the government ignores his recommendations when it comes to reforming the RCMP.

Enough is enough. It is time for the government to actually listen to evidence and take real action.