Mr. Speaker, as opposed to everyone on the government side, I will actually speak to what the debate is about right now, which is about shutting down the democratic process in this House by limiting the amount of time that we are allowed to consider a significant issue.
I do not think any party is claiming that this is not a significant issue. It is a significant issue and one that probably should have been dealt with four or five years ago when the Conservatives first formed government.
What we have before us is an undemocratic shut down of debate. The government wants to shove a bill through the House with nowhere near enough time to deal with the facts and to make proper public policy. That is offensive to the democratic process. Speaking as the NDP justice critic and as a lawyer, it is particularly offensive for the government to force a bill through in this manner when we are dealing with criminal justice issues and the question of people's liberty.
What is the government doing? This motion will obviously pass later today because of the holy coalition between the Conservatives and the Bloc, which will be more than enough members to get it through.
I am being reminded that I forgot to tell the House that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Hamilton Mountain.
This is what will happen. The government will call the bill tomorrow and we will have one day of debate. Allowing for question period and routine proceedings, that will amount to maybe four hours of debate or maybe even a bit less than that. At 5:15 p.m. tomorrow, the bill will be put to a vote. We will have one day of debate at second reading and then the bill will immediately be sent over to committee. The committee will be given until 11 o'clock tomorrow evening to report the bill back to the House. If my math is correct, the committee will have less than five hours to bring forth witnesses, debate the issues, make any amendments and go through the bill clause by clause.
We are talking about a criminal justice bill that would affect the liberty of people in this country and yet debate will be limited.
Then, and I always find this one really cute, if amendments are not approved at committee stage, members will have until 3 a.m., four more hours, to get proposed amendments to the clerk. I do not know who at the Table has been designated to be here until 3 a.m. on Wednesday morning but he or she will need to be because I assume we will have amendments during that period of time.
Wednesday is considered a half day given that the caucus meets on Wednesday morning. The bill will be called again in the afternoon and, by the end of that day, the debate on both report stage and third reading must be completed. A vote will be held that evening and, assuming the coalition will stick together, the bill will pass and be on its way to the Senate where the unelected, Conservative dominated, not responsible, other than to the Prime Minister, Senate will pass the bill and it will become law. The Conservatives have been in office for five years and they will shove the bill through.
We have had one election that was contrary to their laws and two prorogations during that period of time. We had the justice committee tied up for a very long period of time due to the shenanigans of the chair. The justice committee went a whole year without sitting because of the election, the prorogation and the shenanigans of the chair.
When we are talking about the importance of timeliness here, where have the Conservatives been? What they have been doing is what they have done with so many other crime bills. They always talk about protecting the victims but the victims were there five years ago, fours years ago, three years ago, two years ago and last year. When did we see this bill? The first time we saw it was about five or six months ago
There is another thing with regard to timeliness. On two different occasions, the Bloc Québécois introduced a private member's bill seeking unanimous consent. On those two occasions, the Conservative government refused to give unanimous consent. Where were the Conservatives then on protecting the victims? They were sitting on their hands because they wanted to take credit for this. That is what this is all about.
We are now faced with the prospect of an election, potentially in the next few months, so the Conservatives want to ensure they get this through so they can run around the country and say that this is what they have done to get tough on crime. It is a joke and it is highly hypocritical by any objective analysis.
I want to go to what this issue is about. From both the experiences I have had at justice and those my colleague from Vancouver has had on the public safety committee, the information that we need as to what changes should be made in this part of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act will not be available in that 36 to 48 hour timeframe I have just given. It will not be available because this information is not on a computer any place. I want to know how many people were released last year or in the last three to five years under the one-sixth provision of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
I actually have a rough estimate for that. We have asked this of both the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Justice repeatedly and they do not know, or at least they are refusing to say. They always get up and talk about victims but they do not tell us what this will really do and who has used this up to this point. We have some rough figures. There may be as many as 1,500 individuals per year. This is almost speculation on how many actually get it. We know, in a rough way, that it is somewhere in the 800 individuals per year range. We do not know though by how much their sentences are reduced. If I take a rough estimate that each person is going to get out a year earlier, because these people generally will be in the minimum security sections of our prisons, the cost is about $85,000 to have them there. I am not really great at math but I am certainly better than the government is. If we do this calculation for 1,500 individuals, it is up to about $100 million. If it is only about 1,000 people we are going to keep in, that would be $85 million a year.
When we go out to the public and say that we are taking care of the victims, we need to consider the taxpayers. We also will be asking who has used this. Is it all white collar crime? Is it the Earl Jones and the Lacroix of the world? We do not know that. We have had speculation that it may be people who have been involved in the drug trade. We do not know that, and if there are those, we do not know how many.
When I say “we”, I and my colleague probably has more information than the government has. However, I can tell the House that by tomorrow evening, when the committee is working on this, those figures will be no clearer than what I have at this point. Those statistics are not computerized. We know from other experiences that Correctional Service Canada and the Parole Board have to look at each individual file to tell us what an individual was convicted of, for how long and how much he or she will get off. However, we will not have that information so we will be flying blind by the time we actually have to vote on the bill when it gets back here on Wednesday.