Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand today to add my comments on Bill C-59.
I cannot help but at times draw comparisons with the Manitoba legislature and here. When I look at what the government is trying to do through a form of closure to limit debate, I reflect on the Manitoba legislature.
I have heard comments from my New Democratic colleagues that the Liberals did something of a similar nature. I can assure my New Democratic friends that my last experience with closure was actually within the New Democratic government in Manitoba. The NDP use closure in many different ways in the province of Manitoba.
What is important to recognize is what is taking place here and why this is a little more unique than most motions of different forms of closure that might take place.
It is interesting that time and time again we hear the government say how important this is for the victims. Even the previous speaker made reference to the victims. It is all about the victims. I, too, sympathize with the victims. I think every member of the House knows individuals who have been victimized through white-collar crime and other forms of crime. We all sympathize with the victims and we want to do what we can to minimize the impact that crime has on victims.
The big difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals is that we believe that we can do more to prevent victims from having to go through the hardships and emotional circumstances in which they find themselves if we can have a good, sound policy dealing with crime and safety.
At the end of the day, when we look at the differences between the Conservatives and the Liberals, we see that the Liberal Party has addressed this particular issue. My Liberal colleague has raised the issue of legislation or the idea of large-scale fraud and how we attempted to deal with that just over a year and a half ago.
After listening to the comments, in particular from the Bloc and from the Conservatives, I wonder why they did not embrace this enthusiasm that they have today back then. Had they done that, I suspect we would have had fewer victims. It is surprising to hear the government and member after member stand and talk about large-scale fraud when the issue of large-scale fraud was before the House on previous occasions. One has to question why it is they did not support dealing with the issue when the issue was first brought to their attention.
The way in which the government is now trying to say that the sky is falling and the bill must pass in the next 24 or 48 hours is somewhat unique. The Conservatives had the opportunity to do the right thing almost two years ago but they chose not to. They decided, in whatever collective wisdom they have among their benches, not to act on a good initiative that was before the House. We can just imagine the number of individuals who would not have been victims had the government done the right thing back then.
I would suggest that there are two issues here. We have the issue of large-scale fraud, which is very serious and which affects thousands of Canadians across this land, but it is also an issue that was before the House well before the government brought in Bill C-59. It is a real issue and it is causing a great deal of hardship in our society.
I understand there is virtually unanimous support from all members of Parliament. I suspect that had the government taken that issue, put it in this legislation and left it at that, the sense of co-operation would have been binding. We would have had wonderful co-operation. That bill would have passed quite quickly.
The Liberal Party has been advocating for that type of legislation for well over a year. Imagine the number of crimes that could have been prevented. Imagine if the government really was passionate about getting at large-scale fraudsters, the ones who victimized so many Canadians. Imagine for a moment that the government really was sincere in its comments and brought in legislation that dealt specifically with that issue. This would have been a wonderful thing to see. The government would not have needed to bring in closure. It would have had the support of Liberals and I suspect New Democrats. The Bloc would have supported the government for sure. The point is the legislation would have passed. It would have dealt with those large-scale fraudsters who caused so much hardship and concern for Canadians, and for good reason.
I have witnessed first-hand over the years individuals who have had their life savings taken away from them, or stolen from them, and the impact that has had on them, especially on someone on a fixed income. An individual on a fixed income does not have much of a choice. It is not like someone 75 years old can re-enter the workforce. Someone who cons a 75 year old out of thousands of dollars so he or she can vacation on some luxury yacht goes against what we believe is right. That is why we have laws of this nature. That is why we need laws to protect our seniors and others, because not only seniors are exploited. I sympathize as to why the need is there and I understand it.
At the airport just the other day I heard a newscast about someone selling vacation packages. It was a fraud. Imagine paying thousands of dollars for a vacation with the family and arriving at the airport find out that no such thing is taking place. People arranged to take time off from work. Commitments had to be changed. Money was allocated for the trip. All of this for naught because of possible loopholes in the law. Individuals took advantage of good, hard-working citizens.
These types of things happen far too often. We could do things in the House of Commons that would make a difference. I appeal to members to look at those things and act upon them.
I said previously that there were really two issues. The other issue is maybe not as pretty, and that is the political agenda of the government. The government's agenda is quite different from what is in the best interests of the average Canadian. The government gives the impression that it is tough on crime. This is one of those bills that it wants to use to demonstrate that.
This is why we have legislation before us that deals with more than just large-scale fraud. This is the reason the Conservatives expanded the legislation. They know it will be more difficult to get it through the House of Commons. They hoodwinked the Bloc, and I will give them that much. However, I do not quite understand why the Bloc would be onside with the legislation. I always thought there was more of a social conscience or more of a responsibility to look at the bigger picture within the Bloc.
I do not think the Liberal Party would do service, as the official opposition and as a party that has done so much in terms of justice, crime and safety in our country, if we closed our eyes and let the government get away with this. We have to recognize what the government is trying to do.
There are two different philosophies. The government genuinely believes the best way to protect society is to build as many prisons as possible and throw everyone and anyone into that prison if they violate a law.
The other day I had said that I was health care critic for the Manitoba Liberal Party. Also, for a short period of time, I was justice critic. In dealing with crime and safety, there is a lot more to that file than building a jail, keeping someone in jail for as long as we can and then letting them out the door.
Given the opportunity to hear the different sides, I believe people will buy-in to what the Liberal Party has to say on this bill. At the end of the day, I want to see less crime in the streets and communities of Winnipeg North. The best way to do that is to come in with an all-encompassing approach that deals with crime and safety. The government is failing in doing that. It is not delivering where it should be delivering because it is more interested in its political agenda of trying to give the impression it is tough on crime.
I will concede one point. The Conservatives are tougher than me in wanting to keep everyone and anyone in jail for a longer period of time, whether it is better or worse for society. I question virtually any policy they have related to justice.
I believe there has to be a consequence to every crime that is committed. I have seen crimes take place where there has been absolutely zero consequence under that administration. Maybe there will be another opportunity at another time in which I will be able to expand on that point.
I care just as much about the victims of crime as the government does. I believe all members care about the victims of crime. The difference is I want to do what I can to prevent some of those crimes from taking place. The way in which to do that is to develop programs that are sound, that make a difference and that get individuals off the wrong road and back on track. By doing that, we reduce the amount of crime in our communities in which we live.
As members know, we recently had a byelection in Winnipeg North. Crime and safety was the number one issue. I take it very seriously. There are areas in Winnipeg North where seniors will not go out of their homes because they do not feel safe in their communities when the sun goes down. Is putting everyone in jail until they hit 45 or 50 years of age the answer to that? Would that allow individuals to be safe? I would argue that is not the case.
Whether it is white-collar crime or other forms of crime, if we want to prevent some of these crimes from happening, we need education and programming. There also needs to be a punishment element, and I do not question that. I do not want the Conservatives to say that I am soft on crime or that I do not believe in punishment.
I do believe in punishment. I do not consider myself soft on crime. I consider myself an advocate in trying to minimize the amount of crime taking place in our communities, and I will talk about those types of government policies.
We could do so much more. We could take it down to the community level. For example, in dealing with white-collar crime, what can we do to better assist, better inform and educate 14 year old to 24 year old single parents? There are many 14 year old single parents. We could teach them to balance a cheque book. We could let them know how wrong it is to allow a cheque to bounce. We could teach them their responsibilities to the community as a whole, one of which is not allowing cheques to bounce.
That is one issue where if it is not dealt with at one level, it has a higher risk of continuing into the future. It potentially could become worse.
Are there things we could do to have an impact on that? I would argue, profoundly, yes. There are many things we could do to make a difference and to prevent people from becoming future victims or becoming victims in the first place.
That is the real challenge the government has to face. I have had an opportunity on one occasion to challenge the government on that. A number of days ago we raised the issue of some funding for gang prevention activities. The government made the decision not to reaffirm any sort of commitment to that. Preventing individuals from getting involved in gangs has an impact on preventing crimes. Why would the government not have the motivation to move in that direction?
When we look at the types of issues in white-collar crime, there are things the government could do. I question why the government has made the decision to expand what would have been legislation that could have very easily passed had it been focused on that large-scale fraud. It had the support of the opposition a year and a half ago. Had the government done that, it would not have had to bring in closure and this legislation could have possibly been passed by now.
With it being as all encompassing as it is, there needs to be more consultation. We need to hear what people have to say. There has to be more work done on the bill. That is the responsible thing to do, and the Liberal Party of Canada is doing the responsible thing.