Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak at report stage of Bill C-10, the Conservative omnibus bill. The bill is actually made up of nine bills combined into one. It is a bill that the Conservative government is ramming through the House without proper scrutiny. We do not even know how much it is going to cost. Witnesses were barely given time to speak as they were forced through committee so quickly.
New Democrats proposed to the government that the bill be divided, so that the parts which would improve public safety and help protect our children could be passed at all stages immediately. I am the father of two young children. I know how important it is to protect our children. Unfortunately, the Conservative government rejected our proposals.
We also proposed amendments to the bill, which the Conservatives flatly rejected at committee. The Conservatives do not want to debate the real problem with this legislation or any other legislation they put in front of Parliament.
Every day in the House the Conservatives undermine democracy by shutting down debate prematurely without reason. New Democrats tabled a motion in the House last Friday in a last attempt to stop this because this is a democracy and Canadians deserve a real debate.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that Bill C-10 would cost the federal government $5 billion over five years and the provinces and territories somewhere between $6 to $10 billion. The Parliamentary Budget Officer is working to complete more detailed projections; however, he has to work basically in the dark because not all of the facts and figures have been provided to him by the government. The government has not provided adequate information so he can do his work.
Many critics suspect that the government's refusal to produce realistic costing documents is because it has no idea what the real price tag for Bill C-10 is going to be. Worse yet, the government wants to force this legislation into law before we have a chance to find out how much it is going to cost Canadian taxpayers.
Since the introduction of this controversial omnibus bill, we have seen a groundswell of concern from across this country. Opposition to the Conservative crime agenda has been steadily mounting. Experts from across the political spectrum have urged the government to rethink the sweeping changes to the criminal justice system that are contained in Bill C-10.
We have heard repeated warnings about huge costs to taxpayers, the crippling impact on our courts, and the enormous pressure that will be put on our already struggling corrections system. These serious warnings are simply being dismissed by the Conservatives without any explanation.
In response to questions about Bill C-10, the Minister of Justice recently commented, “We're not governing on the basis of the latest statistics”. Clearly, facts and evidence, and research were not a priority when the government was drafting Bill C-10, but neither was the cost to taxpayers.
Provincial leaders spoke out in committee against the bill. They have been very clear that they are not ready to bear the costs of the government's political agenda, nor do they agree with many of the measures contained in the bill.
The Canadian Association of Crown Counsel has spoken out and has said that Bill C-10 will overload prosecutors and jam our already stressed court system.
This so-called tough on crime agenda has already failed across the border in the United States, where governments are moving away from the same approach that the Conservatives are now proposing. States like Texas are now abandoning the mandatory minimum and three strikes policies that lead to ballooning prison costs, populations and skyrocketing costs to the taxpayers. States have found that these approaches have actually done little to prevent crime, but do a great deal toward bankrupting the states.
Canada should be learning from the mistakes of our neighbours, not repeating them. We need practical solutions on crime that improves safety in our communities, not old strategies that are expensive and proven to be failures.
There are some measures in the bill, like provisions that toughen laws around child luring, sexual exploitation of children, that we as New Democrats fully support, but there are also those that will do nothing to make our streets and communities safer places.
New Democrats believe that the primary goal of any legislation, any changes to our criminal justice system, should be public safety, safer streets and to protect our families and communities. A major way to accomplish this is by supporting cost effective crime prevention programs that really make a difference, something which the government has failed to address.
I spoke up about a program last week. There is a society in my constituency whose funding is being cut and it actually helps at-risk youth, educating them about self-esteem and getting back into school. The funding for this program is being cut by the Conservatives.
Our communities would be safer if the government focused on goals like putting more police on the streets and stopping gangs from recruiting our youth.
Conservatives always talk about how they are investing into policing, the front line officers. The facts are that the Auditor General, in the last report in June, pointed out that police officers were woefully underfunded to fight against gangs and crime. We need more front line police officers. Not only do they help prevent crime, but they help to deter crime. That is a good way to go about preventing crime in our communities.
We should ensure that our corrections system has rehabilitation programs that reduce the rate of re-offending. Unfortunately, the government is cutting funding to prevention programs like the Pathfinders about which I talked. Youth gang prevention programs are critical to the future of our children and the safety of our communities.
This Conservative approach is not smart on crime. Canadians deserve better. I urge the government to reconsider the real concerns of Canadians expressed by members of the opposition and people across the country.
At the last stage of the bill, I urge the Conservative members to consider the amendments proposed by New Democrats and I urge it not to push the bill through.