Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to follow my colleague, the member for Elmwood—Transcona. Earlier in the day, the member for Halifax and the member for Windsor—Tecumseh spoke to the bill.
It is interesting to note that the Conservatives cannot even rise in the House to defend the bill. The criticisms that have been brought on Bill S-6 have been so sharp and so clear that they do not have answers. The justice minister made his little partisan attempt earlier this afternoon, but it is very clear that the Conservatives know they do not have very much substance backing up the bill.
To start, we need to talk about what the history has been around Bill S-6. This is now the umpteenth time in the House of Commons that we are negotiating the same bill and having these discussions and debates around it.
Why has the bill come back yet again? As we well know, it is for one simple reason. What the government has done systematically with its justice legislation, some of which was good but mostly bad, is every time it moves in the House of Commons, it moves to prorogue the House of Commons and then starts the bills over again. Then the Conservatives have the audacity to come into the House and say something about the opposition not agreeing with or slowing down their agenda. What we have seen every time is the Conservative government stopping the Conservative agenda. For the umpteenth time now the bill is back.
In the cost of debates, prorogations and bringing this back, countless dollars in taxpayer money have been spent on the bill. It begs the question of why the Conservatives are bringing this forward so often every time they prorogue Parliament. It is a despicable act, given the importance of moving forward as a country and as a democratic government moving forward, having debates, deciding which legislation is good and which legislation is bad. That is an extremely important role in democracy.
As we well know, we see countries in North Africa where people literally die trying to obtain that quest for democracy, that desire to have what we have here. The forum for democratic debate is absolutely essential.
We have a democratically elected Parliament that is systematically prorogued by the government and a prime minister who tends to treat Parliament as his own personal play thing. Therefore, the government has brought the bill back.
When we look at the due regard of the impact of the Bill S-6, we have to look no further than the testimony of Don Head, Commissioner of Correctional Service Canada, before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on November 16, 2010. This testimony is freely available to every member of Parliament to look at the actual impact of the bill that the government keeps stubbornly bringing back.
On November 16, Mr. Head said, “Historically, since the first judicial review hearing in 1987, there have been a total of 181 court decisions”. Therefore, over the last 25 years, there have been 181 court decisions. This bill would obviously have an impact on that.
He went on to say:
Of these cases, 146 of the court decisions resulted in a reduction of the period that must be served before parole eligibility, and 35 resulted in a refusal.
Of the 146 offenders who have had their parole eligibility dates moved earlier, 144 have now reached their revised day parole eligibility date and 135 have been granted parole. Of these 135 offenders, 68, or about half, had no issue during supervision; 35 received a suspension but were not subsequently revoked; and 23 had their parole revoked. Seven of the 135 reoffended in a non-violent manner and two reoffended violently.
Over the last quarter century, out of the hundreds of persons who might have been eligible, as we work through the process, we find that many of them were rejected, some were granted parole and some, for parole violations, had their parole revoked. Only seven reoffended in a non-violent manner. Two reoffended violently.
I will finish the quotation from Mr. Head because it is very relevant to Bill S-6 and what has been brought forward today. He said:
Of the two offenders who reoffended violently, one was found guilty of two counts of assault with a weapon and one count of assault use of force, and the other offender was found guilty of one count of robbery.
This is a very important preamble to the debate we are having today. We are talking about the government being concerned about violations over a period of a quarter century that resulted in exactly one assault and one robbery. There is an inordinate amount of time brought forward on the bill for an issue that has essentially resulted in one assault and one robbery. While we deplore the assault and robbery on those victims, the reality is the other actions of the government have had a manifold negative impact on increasing crime rates far beyond the characteristics of the bill.
Let us take a moment and look at what the government has done since it has been in power.
We are talking about Bill S-6 and the net impact, if it had not been so poorly drafted. As usual, the government, as we have certainly seen in trade policy, most recently with the softwood lumber sell-out, did not do its due diligence. Softwood lumber communities across the country paid the price with another $60 million fine levied a few days ago and millions of dollars now in potential fines coming forward because the government simply did not do its work on the softwood lumber. The government has not done its work on Bill S-6 and even if it had, we are talking about an issue that over a quarter of a century resulted in one assault and one robbery.
As deplorable as those two acts were, the government's intent and actions in gutting crime prevention programs have had far worse of an impact.
Let us look at the impact of what the government has done since it came to power, the so-called anti-crime government. It has slashed crime prevention programs by more than half. It has gutted the programs that actually reduce the number of victims in society. Yet, instead of doing anything to increase crime prevention, which the NDP would support fully, the government has gutted those programs. The NDP has stood strongly in the House to say that this was fundamentally wrong.
Every dollar spent on crime prevention programs saves six dollars later on in policing costs, courts costs and prison costs. Why would the government not beef up the crime prevention funding? That is certainly what Canadians want to see.
On the crime prevention front, Canadians want to see lower crime rates and crime prevention investment taking place because it is cost effective and it means eliminating victims. There are no victims when the crime is prevented in the first place. The government slashed those programs and is now bringing in this legislation. It is trumpeting how effective it wants to be on crime when the impact, over a quarter of century, has been one robbery and one assault.
The government has cut back on addiction programs. I will come back a little later to what even Republicans in the United States are saying, and Newt Gingrich was quoted earlier. Republicans in the United States have come around to the fact that they have to beef up funding for addiction programs to bring down the crime rate. What has the Conservative government done? Exactly the opposite.
Just a few scant weeks before the government came to power, the NDP brought forward a private member's bill. I was in the House when that vote was held and there were police officers and firefighters in the gallery. The legislation was for a public safety officer compensation fund. Conservatives at the time voted for that legislation. Firefighters, police officers and their families were very happy with that.
As we know, in many parts of the country firefighters and police officers are not covered by provincial or municipal plans. There is no insurance, which means if they die in the line of duty, if they die protecting Canadians, their families get nothing. Their families have to sell their houses.
I have spoken with spouses of firefighters and police officers who have had to take on second and third jobs to try to keep a roof over their heads, whose kids have had to give up on schooling, kids whose parents, father or mother, a public safety officer, or a police officer or a firefighter, died in the line of duty and there was nothing to compensate the family.
In the United States every one of those public safety officer deaths is compensated. There is insurance so the family can keep a roof over their heads. Families can mourn and go on with their lives, at least knowing they do not have to work every day to keep the wolf of indebtedness away from the door.
The Conservative government, elected scant weeks after that legislation was adopted by Parliament, has for five years steadfastly refused to provide compensation to police officers and firefighters in our country. If there is another reason for Conservative supporters to be ashamed, it is this; that the Conservatives would show such reckless disregard and disrespect for our public safety officers, our police officers and firefighters, who die in the line of the duty. The government has done absolutely nothing. It is sickening and deplorable.
For the government to pretend that it is somehow on the side of police officers, it is the height of hypocrisy. It has done even more than that. Before the Conservatives came to government, they made commitments to put community police officers on the streets right across the country. They have had five long years and have had ample opportunity to take action. Rather than bringing bills like Bill S-6 forward, they could have taken action in this regard.
Community policing is the most effective anti-crime strategy possible. Couple that with effective crime prevention policies and addiction treatment programs, we would have an overall strategy that would be remarkably effective.
What have the Conservatives done? They did not keep their promise. As my colleague, the member for Elmwood—Transcona mentioned a few moments ago, the government gutted the prison agricultural program, which was very effective in providing that transition for inmates back into civil society.
On the anti-crime front, the government has a lamentable and deplorable record. What it chooses to do is bring forward Bill S-6, after destroying the infrastructure that is providing for crime prevention and reducing the number of victims.
If the Conservatives continue to agitate for an election, putting those attack ads up across the country, wanting to go to an election right away, the only thing I would say is that given the Conservative record on crime, they better watch it. If the Conservatives want an election so eagerly, they will have to stand on their record. The Conservative record on crime prevention, the cutbacks to addiction programs, the disrespect for police officers and firefighters and the broken promises on providing community policing, is even worse than the previous Liberal government.
That is what the government has done on the crime front.
I want to mention a couple of other aspects that contrast vividly with Bill S-6, a bill that the government continues to bring back every time it prorogues the House because it says it is anti-crime.
Canadians are also aware of two other things that the Conservative government has done in the last few months. First, with respect to that murderous regime in Colombia, the secret police and the army, guilty of the deaths of dozens and dozens of people, labour activists, human rights advocates, the government chose to sign a preferential trade agreement. The government gave it preferential trade status. In other words, it whitewashed all the deaths. It did not in any way say that Colombia had to clean up its act and stop the secret police, the army and the paramilitaries from massacring civilians.
The Conservatives said that they would give Colombia a stamp of approval. It did not matter how many people were murdered, Canada would give Colombia a preferential trade agreement. It was absolutely despicable and hypocritical.
Across the length and breadth of this land, people see that difference. They do not see it as logical that a murder taking place in Colombia is all right and that the government is somehow being tough on crime in Canada.
Canadians are very principled people. Whether on the South Shore—St. Margarets, or in northern Alberta and Edmonton, they understand the distinction that a regime whose secret police and paramilitaries and militaries are guilty of murder should not be given a reward for having committed those crimes.
Then, of course, just a few months ago, we had this government bring forward other legislation. As we know, the IRS and the American state department have deplored the laundering of drug money in Panama by illegal drug gangs. What did the government do? Again, it gave Panama a stamp of approval and has put in place a trade agreement the NDP is sharply opposed to, allowing for more cover ups of the money laundering and tax evasion that takes place in Panama. There is no tax information agreement in place. The government requested it in a weak way. At this point in time, to put that trade agreement in place is fueling the laundering of dirty drug money in Panama today.
Here is the contradiction. After having prorogued a couple of times, this government comes forward yet again with this bill stating that it wants to be tough on crime. If we look through the statistics of the Correctional Service of Canada, we see that what it is actually talking about is one act of assault and one act of robbery over 25 years. Then we see what the government actually does. The government talks a good line; it does not walk its talk. What it does is to gut the programs that actually contribute to public safety.
Following me will be the member for Vancouver Kingsway, who is going to talk about the youth gang program the Conservatives have just gutted again, yet another public safety program, yet another crime prevention program, which stops crimes before they are committed. And what does the government do? It stops it.
That brings us back to the fundamental question: why is this bill being brought forward? That is the crux of the debate here today. It is not about crime; it is about the partisan, juvenile posturing the government has become renowned for. After five years in power, it still has no opportunity to get a majority government. That is because of its juvenile posturing on these important issues. When we look at its fiscal management and its record deficit and the appallingly misspent or misallocated money, the tens of billions of dollars for corporate tax cuts, and at the economy and government's throwing away of 600,000 well paying full-time jobs and its replacement of them with 400,000 low paying part-time jobs, and it then coming into the House and saying, this is a triumph, these are the contradictions that Canadians see. Canadians do not like these contradictions and the inability of the government to walk the talk.
Then we get to the crime file and we see in case after case, whether it is rewarding bad or murderous regimes, cutting back on the prison farm program, not keeping its promise on community policing, not showing respect and providing support for families who have lost a police officer or a firefighter family member by providing for the public safety officers compensation fund this House voted on five and a half years ago, and then the cutbacks to crime prevention and youth gang programs, to addiction programs, all of which have an impact on reducing the crime rate, these are the contradictions that Canadians see more and more. These are the contradictions that Canadians deplore. Yet this government is revving its motors, putting on its attack ads and its smear campaign in full bore to go for an election right now. It is very clear that it wants an election: devil the people, devil the Canadians.
Conservatives are saying they do not want to get stuff done, that all they want to do is to have partisan attacks, smear campaigns and to run attack ads everywhere they can. But Canadians want something different. They want a real crime strategy, a smart on crime strategy that prevents crimes before they are committed. They want to make sure that the funding is in place for youth gang strategy, and they want an effective, smart on crime strategy that actually—