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House of Commons Hansard #120 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was regard.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have defended lost causes. It has happened that the court said it would re-examine a case in detail and that arguments have been brought before it that may not have been seen before. That is exactly what I have been doing. Some Liberals may tell their colleagues that they established the faint hope clause in 1976; that it was their political party that has defended it tooth and nail since then, despite all the attacks; that they are the ones who enforced respect for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the ones who put it in place in 1982.

And we are the ones who are afraid to be tough on crime? I cannot agree with that. Voting against Bill S-6 does not mean we are not tough on crime. On the contrary, it means we respect the Charter. I repeat that the faint hope clause works very well and has proven to be useful. We do not need Bill S-6 to get rid of what is working well.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge my colleague's experience and way of speaking. His eloquence was clear as he began by saying that his remarks would sting. It reminded me of the day that I went to his riding when we began our prebudget consultations. He told us to hang onto our hats because it was going to hurt.

Knowing his characteristic seriousness, I was surprised and impressed that this distinguished criminal lawyer used figures. I would like to draw a parallel. He said that the current system put in place by our Liberal colleagues works very well and he asked why the government would change it. We could ask the same thing about Canada's securities regulatory system, which works well. Why change it?

Has my distinguished colleague given any consideration to the fact that the Conservatives have a habit of not fixing things that are broken, but attacking things that work fine?

Earlier, my colleague asked for an additional half an hour. I will quickly take my seat and ask him to keep up the good work and convince our Liberal friends to vote as we will and to continue to uphold the law that currently exists. I turn the floor over to my colleague, who is extremely eloquent.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Hochelaga, who has skilfully replaced our colleague Réal Ménard. I learned a great deal from Réal Ménard, and I sat with him on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Mr. Ménard is not a lawyer, but he was definitely eloquent when it came to his files.

Since I became a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in 2006, we have been swamped with bills. It is incredible. I was shocked. We are unbelievably busy. We seem to agree on some things. For anything related to cybercrime, things move quickly; we agree on that. I say we do away with parole after one-sixth of a sentence is served. I am a criminal lawyer—I defend criminals—but I agree with eliminating the one-sixth rule. I even used to tell my clients that they would get three years, but with the one-sixth rule, they would get out after six or seven months. We now realize that serving one-sixth of a sentence is not that. That is what shocks people. What shocks people is not the sentence that a criminal receives, but rather that he does not serve his sentence in prison.

With this bill, what happens is the opposite, because with the faint hope clause at this time, not only do offenders serve their time, but for the rest of their lives, they will not be released unless they can demonstrate that they are fully rehabilitated and fully capable of returning to society. At present, the Correctional Service of Canada controls that and it works. I do not see why we would change that.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2011 / 4 p.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question based on what I just heard. Why would anyone want to change that? Why such eagerness and interest? The people listening to us talk about this issue would really like to get to the truth of the matter. What is the strategy behind all this? Is there one? Can we see a strategy? What is the real reason for creating so much confusion that after saying one thing, they turn around and do the opposite?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague.

It took hearing the interview with the Prime Minister. He was asked whether he was in favour of the death penalty. He said no, that he would never reopen that debate, but that there were times when the death penalty might apply. That is when I understood where they were going with Bill S-6. It is the cornerstone. It is opening the door to reinstating the death penalty in Canada. That is precisely what is happening. This is the first step.

With all due respect, what I do not understand about the Conservatives is this idea of being tough on crime. Of course certain criminals deserve to go to prison. I have no problem with that. The problem is that we have to make them serve their time. Even if an individual is given an additional two years, he is still eligible for parole after one-sixth of his sentence. We just saw that with Mr. Lacroix from Norbourg. That guy was sentenced to 13 years, but he served only two. Why? Because he was eligible after one-sixth of the sentence. He is not dangerous. He was not violent in detention.

In the matter before us, a person who kills someone commits the worst crime under the Criminal Code. It is the worst crime a person can commit. Before that person has any chance of returning to society, we have to be sure that he is ready and able to return. That is exactly how the faint hope clause works. It was implemented in 1976 and it works very well. Again, out of more than 4,000 individuals who have had the right to apply for it, only 181 have done so. Out of that 181, only 147 have been successful and there have been only two recidivists. I was looking for this information earlier. Here it is: assault with a weapon charge in one case and robbery in the other case. I can assure you, we checked, these individuals are still locked up. The situation is under control. Eliminating the faint hope clause is unacceptable.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have really enjoyed my time in the House this afternoon, particularly listening to the speech of my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

He may want to know that I received an email from one of my constituents who is at home watching the debate on CPAC and who said that the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue was very refreshing and that it was nice to see someone speaking in the House on this issue who made some sense. I congratulate him.

The member already went over a lot of the numbers. I know I will repeat some of them, but they absolutely bear repeating, especially when we had Don Head testify at committee. He is the Commissioner of the Correctional Service Canada. He is not partisan. He is not working for us, or the Bloc or the Conservatives. He was there as the commissioner. He said that, as of October 2010, there were 1,508 offenders with cases applicable for judicial review.

Here are some of the numbers he brought to committee. Since the first judicial review hearing in 1987, there had been a total of 181 court decisions. Of those 181, 146 of the court decisions resulted in a reduction of a period that must be served before parole eligibility and 35 of them ended in a refusal.

Since 1987, we have only had 146. That is about six a year. To put things in context, since 1987, of the literally thousands of offenders who were eligible for parole early, only 181 applied. Of those 181, 146 received a reduction in their sentence.

This is really important. Less than 15% of the people who are incarcerated with no eligibility of parole for 25 years have even made the application. In addition, most applications do not commence at the 15-year mark. In fact, most of them start at the 17 or 18-year mark.

Those are some of the numbers. As we can see, it is not a great horde of inmates who use this as a loophole or a get out of jail free card. They are serving their sentences. Some are applying, some are being approved and, consequently, some are being rejected, like with any good process for decision making. The system is not broken.

Something that the numbers do not show, and if there is time I will get back to the numbers, is the purpose of the faint hope clause. It increases the safety of fellow inmates. It increases the safety of workers. It makes our federal prisons a better place to be, where people are engaging in good behaviour and, more important, rehabilitative behaviour. It promotes good behaviour because it holds out faint hope, which is exactly the point.

If people are convicted of murder, and frankly it does not actually matter whether or not they committed the murder, why would they comply with treatment? Why would they listen to the guards or their doctors about what kind of treatment or programs were needed?

If people receive a 25 year sentence and if they think they are there for 25 years, there is absolutely no reason to engage in good behaviour or in rehabilitation programs. Faint hope holds out exactly that, faint hope.

Addiction counselling, anger management, mental health supports, why would inmates even bother engaging with that stuff if they know they are in prison for 25 years and there is no hope. There is no reason to get along with fellow inmates because there is no chance, no hope and no reason for good behaviour because good behaviour will not actually help them.

It is not just about good behaviour; it is also about rehabilitation. If that is the case, why would an inmate engage in the rehabilitation process. If that is what is happening, if there is no reason to be involved, then we have to own up to the fact that when we release inmates after they have served their time, they are not necessarily rehabilitated.

There is a huge flaw in the thinking that this is sound public policy. It does not make any sense.

Time and time again, on crime and punishment issues, the government takes its cues from the U.S., from the failed policies of the United States such as more prisons, “three strikes, you're out”, mandatory minimums and, in particular, mandatory minimums for drug offences, which evidence shows do not work.

I sat in the justice committee and I listened to testimony about mandatory minimums on drug offences. Over and over again, we heard that they did not work. We heard in fact that policy-makers in the United States were retreating from that line of thinking. However, here we are following them when we know it is not working, when we know that what works is the four pillars approach: harm reduction, prevention, treatment and enforcement. We know that works, but instead we will do something that is outdated and that has been proven not to work.

Testimony at justice committee showed that it did not work, yet the Conservative government says that it is a great idea, that it will go ahead with it, that it will follow failed policies.

It is not about what is working, clearly. It is not about what does not work. What the government is about is ideology.

For those of us who do not asbscribe to that ideology, do we give up hope? Does this ideology mean that the Conservatives will never see reason, that they will never be reasonable?

Interestingly, I do not think that is what that means necessarily. We heard earlier from some of my colleagues that Newt Gingrich, if we can believe, recently wrote an article with Pat Nolan about this issue. I think it was in the Washington Post on January 7. If Newt Gingrich can come around, surely to goodness those guys can come around. Plain and simple, the article is remarkable. I want to read from it because I think anybody who is listening at home and my colleagues here will be so surprised. The article states:

With nearly all 50 states facing budget deficits, it’s time to end business as usual in state capitols and for legislators to think and act with courage and creativity.

We urge conservative legislators to lead the way in addressing an issue often considered off-limits to reform: prisons. Several states have recently shown that they can save on costs without compromising public safety by intelligently reducing their prison populations.

It continues:

We joined with other conservative leaders last month to announce the Right on Crime Campaign, a national movement urging states to make sensible and proven reforms to our criminal justice system--policies that will cut prison costs while keeping the public safe. Among the prominent signatories are Reagan administration attorney general Ed Meese, former drug czar Asa Hutchinson, David Keene of the American Conservative Union, John Dilulio of the University of Pennsylvania, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and Richard Viguerie of ConservativeHQ.com. We all agree that we can keep the public safe while spending fewer tax dollars if we spend them more effectively.

The Right on Crime Campaign represents a seismic shift in the legislative landscape. And it opens the way for a common-sense left-right agreement on an issue that has kept the parties apart for decades.

They are doing it in the U.S. They are reaching across the House. They are working on issues together.

It continues:

There is an urgent need to address the astronomical growth in the prison population, with its huge costs in dollars and lost human potential. We spent $68 billion in 2010 on corrections – 300 percent more than 25 years ago. The prison population is growing 13 times faster than the general population. These facts should trouble every American.

Our prisons might be worth the current cost if the recidivism rate were not so high, but, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, half of the prisoners released this year are expected to be back in prison within three years. If our prison policies are failing half of the time, and we know that there are more humane, effective alternatives, it is time to [fundamentally] rethink how we treat and rehabilitate our prisoners.

We can no longer afford business as usual with prisons. The criminal justice system is broken, and conservatives must lead the way in fixing it.

Several states have shown that it is possible to cut costs while keeping the public safe. Consider events in Texas, which is known to be tough on crime. Conservative Republicans joined with Democrats in adopting incentive-based funding to strengthen the state’s probation system in 2005. Then in 2007, they decided against building more prisons and instead opted to enhance proven community corrections approaches such as drug courts. The reforms are forecast to save $2 billion in prison costs over five years.

Members will note that we are going to build more prisons.

It continues:

The Lone Star State has already redirected much of the money saved into community treatment for the mentally ill and low-level drug addicts. Not only have these reforms reduced Texas’ prison population – helping to close the budget gap – but for the first time there is no waiting list for drug treatment in the state. And crime has dropped 10 percent from 2004, the year before the reforms, through 2009, according to the latest figures available, reaching its lowest annual rate since 1973.

Last year we both endorsed corrections reforms in South Carolina that will reserve costly prison beds for dangerous criminals while punishing low-risk offenders through lower-cost community supervision. The legislation was a bipartisan effort with strong support from liberals, conservatives, law enforcement, the judges and reform advocates. The state is expected to save $175 million in prison construction this year and $60 million in operating costs over the next several years.

Some people attribute the nation’s recent drop in crime to more people being locked up. But the facts show otherwise. While crime fell in nearly every state over the past seven years, some of those with the largest reductions in crime have also lowered their prison population. Compare Florida and New York. Over the past seven years, Florida’s incarceration rate has increased 16 percent, while New York’s decreased 16 percent. Yet the crime rate in New York has fallen twice as much as Florida’s. Put another way, although New York spent less on its prisons, it delivered better public safety.

Americans need to know that we can reform our prison systems to cost less and keep the public safe. We hope conservative leaders across the country will join with us in getting it right on crime.

I can barely believe I stood and read something written by Newt Gingrich. I am holding it forward as a sound public policy, but it is so much more sound than what the Conservative government is doing. It is absolutely remarkable to me.

Time and time again the NDP has stood in the House and said that it is not about being tough on crime; it is about being smart on crime. I have heard my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona many times say “smart on crime”. Our justice critic the member for Windsor—Tecumseh is always talking about smart on crime. Our public safety critic, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, talks about smart on crime. Here we have Newt Gingrich saying that we have to be right on crime. It is the same thing. It is unbelievable. He is right on crime.

I would like to go back to some of the testimony given at justice committee, particularly the testimony of Don Head. He talks about Correctional Service Canada and how it supports the judicial review process. He says that CSC supports the judicial review process that is governed by a particular directive. He says that 12 months before the offender's judicial review eligibility date, the institutional parole officer would meet with an offender to determine whether he or she was planning to submit an application. The staff would advise the offender at that time of his or her responsibility to actually engage with legal counsel. The staff of Correction Service Canada also works with the offender to facilitate a transfer to the jurisdiction where the hearing would be heard if the offender actually requests a move.

Next in the process is staff would advise the inmate to request access to his or her file through Access to Information so the information could be shared with legal counsel. Then the primary worker or the internal parole officer works to ensure that a psychiatric and/or a psychological assessment is completed in the 12 months leading up to the application as well as a judicial review report. That makes good sense to me.

The judicial review report follows the form that the department uses to determine parole eligibility and it covers six different areas: the offender's social, family and criminal background; sentence administration dates; summary of transfers and any disciplinary actions; summary of the offender's performance and conduct; any assessments done by psychiatrists, psychologists or elders; and finally, the offender's personal development.

Earlier I talked about these incentives, the faint hope clause being an incentive for good behaviour, but also being an incentive to actually engage with rehabilitation services. It is right there in the judicial review report. One wants to ensure that all the boxes are ticked, that there is a good record and that the required assessments have been completed. It makes perfect sense.

Another reason I bring up the actual process is to show that CSC works really hard to help determine whether an offender is a suitable candidate for parole. I have a copy of Don Head's testimony. When he testified in committee he said on the record, “As always, public safety is our paramount consideration”. This is not just a matter of submitting an application online and an answer of yea or nay coming back. This is a lengthy, detailed and thoughtful process and as he said, public safety is of paramount consideration. He went on to say:

The offenders in our care all come from communities across this country, and most will return there. It is the job of Correctional Service of Canada to manage their sentence from the day they enter our facility through their incarceration and out into the community. And we do so with a constant eye to achieving good correctional results for Canada and Canadians.

When one hears about the process, one thinks this is achieving good correctional results for Canada and Canadians. When one hears about why the faint hope clause exists and the benefits it can give to the prison population as a whole, as well as to the workers in prisons, it makes good sense. It achieves good correctional results for Canada and Canadians. It is sound policy.

In 2005, Guy Bourgon from Corrections Research prepared a document on average time incarcerated for first degree murder convictions. In preparing this document, he asked the question: How long, in comparison to other countries, do offenders sentenced to first degree murder in Canada spend incarcerated? That is a really great question.

Clearly, if the government is introducing this piece of legislation, Bill S-6, then it must think that something is wrong, that something must be broken. It is a great question. Maybe the case is that in Canada people are being let out way too early and in other countries offenders are staying in prison much longer. It is a good question to explore. I will flip to the answer that he discovered.

This went to committee from Mr. Sapers. In the first part, he looked at some research by Andrew Harris in 1999 and found that in Canada the accountability and performance measurement sector of Correctional Service Canada. It reported that offenders serving time for a first degree murder conviction spent, on average, 28.4 years incarcerated.

In contrast, 16 other countries around the world were surveyed for the same first degree murder charge or its equivalent and those who were eligible for release. Those who were sentenced to death or offenders sentenced to life without parole were excluded. They spent an average of 14.3 years incarcerated. Only Japan, Austria and the U.S.A. have offenders serving life sentences without parole in reported averages of 20 years or longer.

It is not even that we in Canada are way behind the rest of the world when it comes to sentencing for first degree murder. In fact, in Japan it was 21.5 years, Austria was 20 years and the U.S.A. was 29 years. We are at 28.4 years. We are behind the U.S.A. by just a few months. It is crazy when we think about it that way.

We know that we are not wildly out of sync with other countries around the world when it comes to our sentencing provisions. We know this is something that works. It keeps our workers safe in prisons. It gives people incentives to try to rehabilitate. It keeps our communities safer in the long run.

I urge all members of the House to reject what it is that Bill S-6 is trying to do.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member made an excellent speech on Bill S-6. Her commentary about the article written by Newt Gingrich and Pat Nolan should be required reading for all members of the House, particularly those on the government side. When I read the article, I thought Newt Gingrich had stolen my speech because we are practically in lockstep. I never thought I would ever see the day when that would happen.

If members read the article, they would see that he is taking a realistic approach to the problem. He is crossing party lines. He is working with Democrats to arrive at best practices. That is something we should all be trying to achieve regarding any aspect of spending money. We should be looking at what works and best practices, which is what the Americans are doing. After the Reagan administration, they have realized that the 25 years of “three strikes and you are out” has not worked. Jails are full of people and the crime rate is going up. Now they are looking at best case scenarios and reducing the prison populations in many states, reducing costs and getting results. That is what we should be doing in Canada. It is painfully obvious.

The member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue is very upset that he has lost the Liberal Party. The Liberal members are looking at short-term gain. They are worried about an election happening in a few months and are going to follow the Conservative Party to eliminate this bill. That is straightforward. However, all the evidence south of the border proves we should be looking at it in a different light.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I share the member's amazement with the Newt Gingrich piece. It makes perfect sense.

When we hear testimony at committee about what works and what does not work, often we know it does not work because we actually look at the experience in the U.S. Certain states have done everything wrong on different issues. I suppose it is useful. We can look at it to say that it does not work, that in fact crime rates do not go down, that it does not make sense that there is an increase in rehabilitation.

The faint hope clause does encourage rehabilitation. That is what we are here for. Because we live in a just society, it breaks my heart to think that some of my colleagues in the Liberal Party are going to support Bill S-6 because it is the political thing to do. This is an absolutely unjust bill. I think of Gandhi who said that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. What we are doing here is punishing for punishment's sake. It does not make good sense and it is unjust.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, when one considers it, at the end of the day, through this long, rigorous process that must be followed, only 1% or 2% would ever get out under the system. However, potentially 100% of the prisoners would behave themselves because of the belief that they might eventually be one of that 1% or 2%. To me it is a small price to pay, giving those people a semblance of hope to encourage them to stay out of trouble and engage in rehabilitation, which is what we want them to do. We must ensure that these prisoners are not a danger to others in the prisons nor a danger to the guards. I do not see anything wrong with the idea that somehow 100% of the prisoners will do the right thing, rehabilitate and behave themselves in the hope that they may be part of that 1% that gets out at the end of the day. That is obviously what the member for Winnipeg North's former leader, Pierre Trudeau, was thinking of when this legislation was dealt with. However, for short-term expediency, the Liberals have jumped on the Conservative bandwagon in fear when they should be looking at what is going on in other parts of the world, such as the United States.

It is interesting to note that Newt Gingrich and the NDP have aligned and the Liberals, not surprisingly of course, are following the Conservatives on this particular issue.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the member for Elmwood—Transcona has been here throughout the whole debate. He knows a lot about this issue and is very passionate about it.

One thing we forget is that in Canada a life sentence is a sentence for life. Even those offenders who are released into the community after they have served their time in prison are supervised until the time of their death. It is a life sentence.

When it comes to time served in prison, the average time served in prison for first degree murder in Canada is 28.4 years. That is one of the longest average times in the world. In comparison, the U.S. average time incarcerated is 23 years. In New Zealand, Scotland, Switzerland and England, the average time spent is under 15 years.

We are taking it seriously in Canada. There are many good, sound public policy reasons for keeping the faint hope clause.

We have to remember history. We have to remember the past. The faint hope clause was tied to the abolition of capital punishment and the concept that individual offenders are capable of change and rehabilitation. It is the just thing to do to stand up in the House and reject this proposition and to reject Bill S-6.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think I am the next speaker on the bill in any event, so we will get to some other issues.

I would like to query the member about how this bill fits in with the Conservative election strategy. We have a number of boutique bills that cover issues that are already covered under the Criminal Code. As a matter of fact, the whole issue should be for us to revamp the entire Criminal Code, but that is not something in which the Conservatives want to be engaged.

We had a situation recently where the Conservatives discovered that Clifford Olson was receiving an old age pension in prison. They acted immediately to bring in legislation. When we looked into who started sending pension cheques to federal prisoners in the first place, we found that it was none other than Joe Clark's Conservative government in 1979, I believe it was. I have had the date wrong a couple of times already so I want to make sure that I am correct on that.

There is silence from the Conservatives, because they would never want to admit to their base that they were the ones who brought in that legislation. Don Mazankowski and other Conservatives were licking stamps, putting them on envelopes and mailing pension cheques to prisoners. They are the people who started it, but the Conservatives have to pretend that it was some sort of Liberal conspiracy. That is one they could not pin on the Liberals.

I have not yet heard a Liberal try to make the point that it was the Conservatives who started this process. We should give them credit in that they are helping correct it, but they should take responsibility for starting something they should not have started in the first place.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, yes, absolutely.

I do not really have much to add to what the member for Elmwood—Transcona said. I think he said it beautifully.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for London—Fanshawe, Status of Women; the hon. member for Québec, Contaminated Water in Shannon; the hon. member for Laval—Les Îles, Census.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be back after the so-called Christmas break. I have to say, it was not much of a break. I spent the last month and a half doing a lot of work in the constituency and participated in 11 tea parties. I am sure that many members were doing the same thing over the Christmas break; actively involved and probably working as hard or harder as sometimes we do here in Ottawa. I want to counter the impression the media have suggested in that the MPs are now back from a month and a half break. Some relaxing month a half break it was. I am sure many MPs were in the same boat that I was.

In dealing with Bill S-6, we are now at third reading. It has gone through committee, the amendment stage and I think the bill is likely to pass at the end of the day with support. I believe the Liberals and the government will put this legislation through. Whether it will make it through the Senate quickly enough to become law before the next election is a separate issue.

The fact of the matter is that speaker after speaker, particularly from the Bloc and NDP, have pointed out the history of the faint hope clause. The Conservatives like to misrepresent it, particularly with the media, and pretend that somehow it is an evil piece of legislation that needs to be eliminated. They do not ever get around to explaining to the public why it came into place initially and what the benefits of it are.

Other speakers have indicated how long, involved and complicated this process is. If I have enough time I will get into that later, but it is very involved and I think very few prisoners actually apply for it.

As I indicated before, in some ways it is a small price to pay for getting the co-operation of the prisoners. Right now if we throw them away in custody for 28.4 years, which is longer than most other countries, with absolutely no hope of any chance to get out, where is the incentive for them to take rehabilitation programs? Why would there be any incentive for them to behave themselves while they are there?

I do not think the public needs the promotion of prison riots, violence in prison, or inmates refusing to rehabilitate themselves. That is not what we want. If we can get 100% of the prisoners to behave themselves for long periods of time and take rehabilitation, knowing full well that at the end of the day there is only a 1% chance that any of them will ever be released, that is probably a very good approach and good idea.

Once again, we are looking for best practices and ideas that work regardless of the party, regardless of the jurisdiction or country that it takes place in. We should be trying to save the taxpayers of Canada and give them as efficient a government as possible.

The Conservatives are now talking about $9 billion in new prison developments and expansions, and the public are onside and say, “Absolutely, bring it on, get tough with those criminals and build more prisons”. However, it should be explained that costs would go up astronomically under some of these pieces of legislation the Conservatives are proposing to bring in. It is going to cost the taxpayers $9 billion for prisons. It is going to cost the provinces because a lot of these costs are going to be borne by the provinces. It is going to cost the taxpayer, and there is only one taxpayer, as the Conservatives often point out to us.

That is a different picture. It looks a little different to taxpayers when they see that. They see that Canada is going to build more prisons and is going to operate on the basis of “three strikes and you're out”, which has been proven not to work in the United States over the last 25 years, but we are going to adopt that model. The prisons are going to be filled with these prisoners and it is going to make us feel good for a while, but at the end of the day, it is going to cost $9 billion to build the prisons, and in perpetuity it is going to cost enormous amounts to keep people warehoused in prisons. That is what has happened in the United States.

That is why we have jurisdictions in the United States like California that are practically bankrupting themselves and are now coming to grips with the issue of overcrowded prisons that they cannot afford to run anymore. That is why we have the shocking revelation that none other than Newt Gingrich and Pat Nolan have joined forces to try to move the right in the United States on a more sensible path.

I never thought I would see the day when I would be supporting Newt Gingrich. When I read his communiqué and see that it is pretty close to some of the speeches I have made, I would normally be scared about that. However in this particular case, I think what Newt Gingrich is proposing makes eminent sense.

I want to read some parts of the letter. It should be required reading for all of us. I would be surprised if anyone, even on the Conservative side, disagreed with anything he has had to say in this recent communiqué of January 7, 2011. He says:

With nearly all 50 states facing budget deficits, it's time to end business as usual in state capitols and for legislators to think and act with courage and creativity. We urge conservative legislators to lead the way in addressing an issue often considered off-limits to reform: prisons. Several states have recently shown that they can save on costs without compromising public safety by intelligently reducing their prison populations.

I hope everyone is with me so far because it certainly sounds reasonable to me.

He goes on:

We joined with other conservative leaders last month to announce the Right on Crime Campaign, a national movement urging states to make sensible and proven reforms to our criminal justice system - policies that will cut prison costs while keeping the public safe. Among the prominent signatories are Reagan administration attorney general Ed Meese...We all agree that we can keep the public safe while spending fewer tax dollars if we spend them more effectively.

Why would any member of the Conservative caucus have a problem with this, up to this point? He continues:

The Right on Crime Campaign represents a seismic shift in the legislative landscape. And it opens the way for a common-sense left-right agreement on an issue that has kept the parties apart for decades. There is an urgent need to address the astronomical growth in the prison population, with its huge costs in dollars and lost human potential. We spent $68 billion in 2010 on corrections - 300 percent more than 25 years ago. The prison population is growing 13 times faster than the general population. These facts should trouble every American.

He goes on to say: “Our prisons might be worth the current cost if the recidivism rate were not so high”.

I can agree with that. He goes on: “...but, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, half of the prisoners released this year are expected to be back in prison within three years”. This is proof that the current system does not work. He continues:

If our prison policies are failing half of the time, and we know that there are more humane, effective alternatives, it is time to fundamentally rethink how we treat and rehabilitate our prisoners.

It is time to fundamentally rethink how we treat and rehabilitate our prisoners. We can no longer afford business as usual with prisons.

That is an admission that the Reagan administration made a serious mistake. Maybe it made sense to a lot of people at that time, and it was popular at that time, but through the last 25 years we can look back and see that we are not getting the results that we wanted to have.

The criminal justice system is broken and he says that Conservatives must lead the way in fixing it. Several states have shown that it is possible to cut the costs while keeping the public safe. Is that not what we all want?

Consider events in Texas, which is known as a tough on crime state. Conservative Republicans joined with Democrats in adopting incentive-based funding to strengthen the state's probation system in 2005. Then in 2007 they decided against building more prisons, unlike our government which will build $9 billion worth of new prisons. They stopped building more prisons. Instead, they opted to enhance proven community corrections approaches such as drug courts.

We know that we have drug courts here in Canada and the evidence shows that they work reasonably well. That is what they are looking at in Texas. Once again, we should be able to compare notes and realize that if a system works here and works there, it must be a good idea.

The reforms are forecast to save $2 billion in prison costs over five years, because as I have mentioned before, we know that when we lock in $9 billion in prison construction, take all the fixed costs associated with keeping all these prisoners we will have in there, where will it end? We will have no end in sight, and then 10 or 15 years from now, we will try to dismantle the system that is not working when we knew at the beginning that it would not work.

He goes on to say: “The Lone Star State has already redirected much of the money saved into community treatment for the mentally ill and low-level drug addicts.”

Once again, a recognition of something we already know here. Not only have these reforms reduced the prison population of Texas, helping to close the state budget gap, but for the first time there is no waiting list for drug treatment in the state, and the crime rate has dropped 10% from 2004, the year before the reforms.

These reforms did not just happen this year. They have been in effect now for five years. Why is the government not sending a task force down to Texas to check up on this stuff? Why are we not hearing speeches from the opposite side about what they discovered on their trip to Texas? Why are the Conservatives not looking at doing that? The simple answer is that what Conservatives are doing is what they think is selling to the public. That is what it is really all about. It is not about results, saving money and giving the taxpayers value for dollars spent, which is what we would want, and finding out what Texas is doing and implementing it here. No, it is all about what does the focus group say about the current crime measure before us on a particular day. We have a new one almost every day.

The crime rate dropped 10% from 2004, and according to the latest figures available, it reached its lowest annual rate since 1973. That is a rather important statistic. He also said:

Last year we both endorsed corrections reforms in South Carolina that will reserve costly prison beds for dangerous criminals while punishing low-risk offenders through lower-cost community supervision. That is a very sensible thing to do.

However, what does the government want to do? It wants to throw these low risk offenders into the $9 billion worth of prisons it is constructing.

He also says: “The legislation was a bipartisan effort with strong support from liberals, conservatives, law enforcement, the judges and reform advocates”.

Speaking about South Carolina, he says: “The state is expected to save $175 million in prison construction this year and $60 million in operating costs over the next several years”.

It is those operating costs that are really debilitating to our treasury. When we should be spending the money on health care and other productive things in society, we are fixing ourselves in cement by indicating that we will have operating costs for many years to come when we fill the prisons with people.

He goes on to say:

Some people attribute the nation's recent drop in crime to more people being locked up. But the facts show otherwise. While crime fell in nearly every state over the past seven years, some of those with the largest reductions in crime have also lowered their prison population. Over the past seven years, Florida's incarceration rate has increased 16 percent, while New York's decreased 16 percent. Yet the crime rate in New York has fallen twice as much as Florida's. Put another way, although New York spent less on its prisons, it delivered better public safety.

Once again, that is something that we want to support.

He goes on to say:

Americans need to know that we can reform our prison systems to cost less and keep the public safe. We hope conservative leaders across the country will join with us in getting it right on crime.

I guess his message is not going anywhere in Canada with the federal Conservatives or Conservatives elsewhere in the country because we do not see a recognition of what the problem is and how it can be solved.

I would like the people who are watching CPAC to know that Newt Gingrich was the speaker of the house when Bill Clinton was president, so it goes back a little way. Newt Gingrich wanted to run for president himself but he was speaker of the house from 1995 to 1999 and is the founder of American Solutions. Patrick Nolan was the Republican leader of the California State Assembly. There are some very high level people in the United States doing a total about-face on this issue. It could not have come at a better time in terms of our assessment of this bill and others in the House.

When the member for Winnipeg North made a speech earlier in the day, I asked him a question. We are from the same province and are trying to deal with issues that work in certain areas. We know that our home province of Manitoba is practically the only province in the country that has been able to get a handle on auto theft and has reduced the rate of auto theft by 80% in the last five years. That is an astounding result.

Manitoba also has new legislation on the seizure of goods obtained by crime. The Hells Angels' clubhouse was recently seized in Winnipeg and I am told that in the last few months 21 more houses in Winnipeg have been seized, for a total value of $9 million, which has taken the money out of crime, which is why criminals are in prison.

Before the RICO law in the United States, criminals were quite willing to go to prison for a couple of years because they knew that once they were released they could access millions of dollars that were hidden in banks. Now the money, the bank accounts, the houses, the cars and the grow-ops of the Hells Angels are being seized. Where is the reward in criminal activity when those things are gone?

That is the type of activity Canada should be advocating. It is the NDP government in Manitoba that has taken those two initiatives that are achieving results. We just wish the federal government could show the same kind of initiative and results. The federal government is being outshone by a provincial government when it should be showing leadership, following best practices and taking the advice of its own seatmate, Newt Gingrich, in the United States.

I see the member for Kings—Hants taking notes. He is certainly aware of Newt Gingrich. He would probably want to read Newt's latest tome. I am sure he would be very impressed with what he has written.

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4:50 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, what is happening here is that the government simply wants to build more beds in prisons and build bigger prisons because it knows that it appeals to a small part of its base but it does not make any dollars and sense. Aside from no sense, it makes no dollars and cents.

Given that it costs $343,810 to keep one woman in a federal prison for one year, does my colleague think it makes sense to build more prisons and put in more beds rather than giving people the opportunity to rehabilitate or deal with problems in a preventive way in terms of having supports in place for people who have a mental illness?

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4:50 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think Newt Gingrich and other conservatives in the United States have recognized that the program is unsustainable primarily because it does not get results at the end of the day.

The government will have some short-term advantage with the public because the public will agree to the building of prisons, but it is not looking at the $9 billion associated with building them and, as the member pointed out, the fact that it costs $343,000 a year to keep one person in prison without showing results.

We need to start getting smart on crime but the Conservative government is not showing a lot of signs of that at this point.

I pointed out earlier that on the day the Conservatives found out that Clifford Olson was getting a retirement pension, they introduced legislation to eliminate it. However, when we checked into it, we found out that it was the Conservative government of Joe Clark that started mailing pension cheques out to prisoners in the first place.

A lot of things need correcting in this system, and that was one of them and it was corrected, but the Conservatives did not admit that it was their problem in the first place. They did not admit that they were the ones who started sending pension cheques to prisoners in the first place. I just get total silence from that side when this issue comes up.

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4:55 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the things we have not seen from the government is a follow through on programs and services for youth.

Prior to coming to this chamber, I worked at the multicultural council with youth at risk. We ran an important summer program that gave youth the opportunity to learn skills and get engaged with the community. We had over a 90% success rate of youth either going back to school or finding employment.

It is also important to note that the government has changed some of the actual programs to make it more difficult to acquire funding. One in particular that was sadly lost was the new beginnings project where counsellor Bill Marra and the executive director of new beginnings and his staff did a terrific job on a garden project. During the summer, youth at risk would learn gardening skills and provide food for the community. However, the government made the program so difficult that it has disappeared.

Just recently, our summer employment bank was also reduced in terms of funding. Around $4,000 to $5,000 has been cut from Windsor West so more youth will not get employed. Our youth unemployment rate is 20%. It is critical to have these types of programs in place so young people can get the opportunity to learn skills and further their education and experience because they will be applying it in the field.

We had a press conference, along with the presidents of the University of Windsor and St. Clair College, the student unions and a youth activist group, to bring this issue forward.

I would ask my colleague about the fact that not enough preventive work is being done and that only a small amount of money is necessary to get youth to make other decisions. If we provide them with a choice, they will make the right choice for the most part.

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4:55 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, just a few days ago, the government announced that it would not renew the funding after either March 1 or April 1 for three anti-gang programs that it had set up across the country approximately three years ago.

We have a government that decided to set up three anti-gang programs at multiple locations across the country to keep young people away from gangs and away from crime and then, after three years, it wants to cut their funding completely and shut these programs down when the programs, evidently, have shown to have benefits and are solid programs. That is not an example of a government that is smart on crime, in any sense of the word.

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4:55 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Elmwood—Transcona has been very articulate and outstanding in this Parliament in pointing out the differences and the contradictions between what the Conservatives say and what they actually do.

Here we have a situation where there have been massive cutbacks in crime prevention programs and massive cutbacks in addiction programs. In short, there have been massive cutbacks in every sector that actually works to reduce crime.

Given the Conservatives' track record and given all these things that they have cut back on that actually helped to bring the crime rate down, does the member not think that the real objective of the Conservative government is very juvenile partisan gamesmanship, that rather than actually doing the concrete things that reduce crime and that work in communities, they want to stoke some kind of political fire to obtain some kind of cheap partisan political advantage from what they should be taking seriously?

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5 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, we need look no further than the prison farm program. We had six prison farms in this country for many years in Kingston and in Winnipeg where prisoners would get up at six in the morning and work with animals producing milk and other farm commodities. The government just shut down the farms when it should have been doubling them, taking the number of farms from six to twelve, or maybe even more, and expanding them. However, it shut them down at cost to the economy for the farmers around Kingston who used the abattoir in Kingston. There are dairy herds in Winnipeg and in Kingston that have been sold off. The land is being sold off. When I tell Conservative voters what the current government has done to the prison farms, they shake their heads.

This is an issue that even the government's own supporters cannot understand. The Conservatives are basically looking to the next election. Their whole vision is to lurch from crisis to crisis and to wonder how the issue will look in a focus group and how it will help them in the next election to get a majority government. They want to forget about the long-term consequences and the long-term costs that have been clearly demonstrated in the United States and recently commented on by Newt Gingrich.

They want to spend $9 billion to develop prisons to house prisoners when they say that the crime rate is actually dropping and then there will be the ongoing costs of keeping these prisoners, which, as the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River pointed out, is about $300,000 a year per prisoner, when they should continue to fund the anti-gang programs that they started three years ago. They should also have addiction programs and rehabilitative programs. They should actually start following Newt Gingrich, to be honest, to achieve results.

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5 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

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—

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5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade.

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5:20 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the hon. member. I had some difficulty following his train of thought. He jumped around a lot and he really used a lot of examples and analogies that had nothing to do with this particular piece of legislation, but I would ask a pretty straightforward question.

I have heard the hon. member talk a lot about what Canadians like or do not like, so I am assuming he has spoken to most Canadians on the issue of crime. However, the real issue here is that Canadians want to feel safe and secure in their homes, on the streets, in their workplaces. That is not an unreasonable thought, and it should not be foreign even to the NDP's mindset. However, the NDP does not support legislation that enforces that.

My question to the hon. member is, does he intend to support Conservative legislation that actually forces criminals to serve their time in prison, or not? It is a simple question, yes or no?

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5:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will say this to the member: What the NDP has been pushing for is the kinds of programs that reduce crime. If the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's thinks that Canadians support the Conservatives' gutting of crime prevention programs, I think he will have a rude awakening come this election the Conservatives are pushing for.

What Canadians want to see is crime prevention programs put into place. They want to see the Conservatives keep their promise for community policing. Canadians want to see the kinds of addiction programs that bring down the crime rate.

The Republicans in the United States are saying that the NDP is right on these crime issues, that what the Conservatives have done is a wrong approach, that they are wrong to cut back on crime prevention and addiction programs. If the Republicans in the United States can say the NDP has been right all along on a smart on crime strategy, I guess it begs the question, on what planet are the Conservatives if even Republicans can understand the simple concept that when we put crime strategies in place, we spend less money and we have fewer victims? I guess the question is, why are the Conservatives offside of every other civilized country and even their own right-wing parties in other countries, who have come to the realization that we have to put in place the supports and the crime prevention strategy before the crime happens?

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5:25 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I noted earlier in the debate, the Conservatives have cut back on the summer employment programs for youth in my area of Windsor West, where they cut thousands of dollars. What that means is that more youth will not find employment.

We have an unemployment rate of 20%. I have worked directly with youth at risk. One of the most important things we can do is to ensure their training and schooling and that they actually have employment during the summer.

It is interesting, because this is the government that talks about its fiscal record, and just the other day, it spent another $650,000 on a vase made by an American.

We have to wonder about the priorities of the Conservatives when the people who are on the streets right now, the youth who are actually spending record amounts of money and getting into debt to go to school, have no opportunities. It is not only important that they actually make some money, but also that it keeps them out of trouble and gives them hope and opportunity. It is also important for the Canadian economy for productivity, because if they get into their field of study, they are getting experience and we are not losing them to the United States or other jurisdictions because there are no jobs and they have no experience.

I would like to ask the member for Burnaby—New Westminster about choices like these. In his riding, is he seeing the youth being left behind? Will that cause a problem in the future? I just cannot believe the government could buy a vase for $650,000, but does not have enough money for one of the regions with highest youth unemployment rate, my riding, which has 20% youth unemployment? Where are its priorities?