House of Commons Hansard #70 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was plan.


7 p.m.

North Vancouver B.C.


Andrew Saxton ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and for Western Economic Diversification

Madam Speaker, with respect to the appointment of the new Auditor General, Canadians can be confident that we have found a highly qualified individual for this very important position.

Mr. Ferguson brings with him the experience gained during a successful career in a series of senior financial positions with the Government of New Brunswick. We are fortunate to have found someone of his calibre to take on the demands of this important position.

As members know, the Office of the Auditor General plays a central role in ensuring the accountability and integrity of the Government of Canada. The Auditor General's job is one of the top financial jobs in the country, and it requires a top financial mind.

We looked for bilingual candidates. After an extensive process, Mr. Ferguson was chosen because he was the best qualified.

He has been a non-partisan public servant since 1985 and has had a distinguished career by any measure. Mr. Ferguson has succeeded in three important roles in New Brunswick: as comptroller general, auditor general and deputy minister of finance. In fact, he has had success after success in senior financial positions in the bilingual government of that province.

New Brunswick is a wonderful province with a rich heritage in both English and French. Mr. Ferguson's success in that bilingual jurisdiction is a good indicator of success in the federal government. Undoubtedly, the outstanding qualities that he brought to his career in New Brunswick will serve him well here in Ottawa.

The Auditor General has committed to improving his language skills in French. He has characterized this as a number one priority for him, including during his appearances before committees of the House and Senate.

Mr. Ferguson is a highly respected person in this field. We can be sure that he will carry on the high standards of auditing independence, integrity and excellence set by his predecessor Madam Sheila Fraser.

As Canada continues its efforts to strengthen accountability and transparency in its public institutions, while at the same time reducing the deficit and balancing the books, we will need a highly qualified individual in this post. That person is Michael Ferguson.

7:05 p.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Speaker, I knew they would hide behind Mr. Ferguson's candidacy. That is not what we are criticizing. We are not criticizing the man, just the fact that the government said it wanted someone who was fluent in both of Canada's languages, which is perfectly reasonable, but that did not happen. The government did not even satisfy its own criteria. I hope there will be consequences.

The Commissioner of Official Languages, who is responsible for ensuring linguistic duality here in the House, is investigating the matter. I am looking forward to the results of that investigation. We cannot let this go without raising a fuss. This indicates a total lack of respect for Canada's two linguistic groups. When an agent of Parliament is required to master both languages, but the appointee does not fulfill that criterion, that demonstrates lack of self-respect and lack of respect for Canada's two linguistic groups. That is what we are not happy about, not the candidacy of any particular individual. The government should respect its own criteria.

7:05 p.m.


Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

Madam Speaker, as I have previously stated, the government voluntarily sought bilingual candidates for this position. Upon completion of a rigorous process, the best qualified candidate was chosen.

The Auditor General's position is one of great importance within the government. It requires a person with expertise and many years of experience in the auditing field. Michael Ferguson is highly qualified and he is the right person for this job.

7:05 p.m.


Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, I have the pleasure of rising to continue debate on a question that I asked the government in October. That has to do with the mandatory minimum penalties in Bill C-10. This bill removes a judge's discretionary power to determine an appropriate sentence based on the crime and circumstances. Since that question was asked, this bill was rushed through the House with time allocation and closure. It is on its way to being the law of the land, unfortunately. This is another expression of the government's disrespect for Parliament, parliamentarians, Canadians and stakeholders who are represented in the House of Commons.

Bill C-10 had no consultation on some of its elements. They were new. They were not bills that had been previously discussed. Worse than that, the bill had many aspects that had been discussed, debated and brought forward in committee. It had input from stakeholder groups and experts across the country, and all of that expert testimony was ignored. The vast array of troublesome aspects of Bill C-10 had no modifications, no amendments permitted and, essentially, the expert advice from Canadians who knew about these issues was brushed off.

It is not my word on this. I want to put on record the voices of people who know about these issues. While the government claimed that Bill C-10 would make Canadians and streets safer, that is clearly completely false. It is a marketing ploy by the government. In fact, the vice-chair of the Canadian Bar Association's National Criminal Justice Section said:

We believe the substance of this legislation [Bill C-10] both to be self-defeating and counterproductive, if the goal is to enhance public safety. It represents a profound shift in orientation from a system that emphasizes public safety... rehabilitation and reintegration to one that puts vengeance first.

The executive director of the Washington-based Justice Policy Institute stated:

Republican governors and state legislators in such states of Texas, South Carolina, and Ohio are repealing mandatory minimum sentences, increasing opportunities for effective community supervision, and funding drug treatment because they know it will improve public safety and reduce taxpayer costs. If passed, C-10 will take Canadian justice policies 180 degrees in the wrong direction, and Canadian citizens will bear the costs.

The Assembly of First Nations' national chief said:

—the Conservative government's tough-on-crime bill will hurt First Nations people, who are already disproportionately represented in federal, provincial and territorial jails.

In fact, it will hurt first nations people and discriminate against them, as well as youth and people with mental illness.

The justice minister for Newfoundland and Labrador was clear that “incarcerating more people is not the answer”.

The bill's approach is contrary to what is known to lead to a safer society.

That was a statement made by the Canadian Bar Association.

I have pages and pages of testimony, all ignored by the Conservative government in Bill C-10, which is going to create more crime, greater costs and less justice.

7:10 p.m.

Delta—Richmond East B.C.


Kerry-Lynne Findlay ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Madam Speaker, let us review Bill C-10.

The hon. member has raised the issue of judicial discretion. Part 2 of the Safe Streets and Communities Act includes former Bill S-10, the Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act. These reforms were introduced in three previous parliaments, passed by both chambers but never by both in the same session.

Bill C-10 proposes to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, to impose mandatory minimum penalties or MMPs for the offences of trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, production, importing, exporting and possession for the purpose of exporting drugs, all serious drug offences.

Drugs covered are schedule 1 drugs such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and schedule 2 drugs such as marijuana. These offences would only carry an MMP where there is an aggravating factor, including where the production of the drug constituted a potential security, health or safety hazard, or the offence was committed in or near a school.

Importantly, there is an exception that allows courts not to impose a mandatory sentence if an offender is eligible for and successfully completes a drug treatment court or DTC program. The program involves a blend of judicial supervision and incentives for reduced drug use, social services support and sanctions for non-compliance. There are six DTCs in Canada: Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton and Vancouver.

If there is no drug treatment court in a particular jurisdiction, the court can delay sentencing to allow the offender to attend another approved treatment program. The Canadian drug treatment court model was initiated by federal prosecutors looking to effectively deal with repeat offenders whose crimes were motivated by drug addictions. By assisting the offender to overcome addiction, criminal recidivism is reduced and success is being achieved.

Bill C-10 also aims to further restrict the use of house arrest and conditional sentences never intended to apply to serious and violent crimes. Bill C-10 includes amendments that explicitly state that a conditional sentence is never available for offences punishable by a maximum of 14 years or life, for offences prosecuted by indictment and punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years that result in bodily harm, involve the import, export, trafficking and production of drugs or involve the use of a weapon, or for specific serious property and violent offences punishable by 10 years and prosecuted by indictments such as criminal harassment, trafficking in persons, motor vehicle theft and theft over $5,000.

Do the critics of our law reform agenda really believe that an offence with a maximum sentence of 14 years should ever be served in the comfort of the offender's home, even under the strictest of conditions? Do these critics believe that drug traffickers should serve a conditional sentence? This government is committed to ensuring that conditional sentences are only an option for appropriate offences. This will result in some offenders serving time in custody. Some will receive other types of sentences. This is as it should be.

Bill C-10 also proposes to denounce all forms of child sexual abuse through the imposition of new and higher mandatory minimum penalties and the creation of two new offences to target conduct which facilitates sexual offending against children. These amendments were included in former Bill C-54, which had been passed by this House with all party support and was at third reading debate in the Senate when it died on the order paper last March. I would be surprised if these reforms are not still strongly supported.

The government intends to keep its promises. One such promise is to better protect our most vulnerable, including children. There will always be critics, but we will be quick to defend our public safety approaches because we do so for the--

7:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order. The hon. member for Vancouver Quadra.

7:15 p.m.


Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, that is just another cherry-picking of the impact of this bill. Of course there are some things that all of the members support. It is the issues around mandatory incarceration for minor non-violent offences, and the use of mandatory minimums for broad, vague underlying offences that will result in unjust, grossly disproportionate sentences.

To sum up, the Canadian Bar Association has been absolutely clear that this bill will do nothing to improve the state of affairs that we are already seeing in terms of prison overcrowding and all of the results of that. It ignores the reality that decades of research have shown, that what actually reduces crime is addressing child poverty, providing services for the mentally ill, diverting young offenders from the adult justice system, rehabilitating prisoners and helping reintegrate prisoners into society. Bill C-10 ignores these facts and would actually be redistributing funds that would have been spent on those issues to more prisons, dealing with the overcrowding and all of the problems that causes. Therefore, this is a bad bill.

The Conservative government should be listening to Canadians on this matter, but it simply is not because it--

7:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I would like to give the hon. parliamentary secretary the opportunity to respond.

7:15 p.m.


Kerry-Lynne Findlay Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Madam Speaker, I am extremely proud of this government's approach to fighting crime and protecting our communities. It is a made in Canada approach that will increase public safety and restore the confidence of Canadians in the justice system. The people of Canada can count on this government to deliver on our commitments.

Of course, we are aware of the approaches taken in other countries. Of course, we are aware of how the Canadian criminal justice system works and how it can be improved. Contrary to the hon. member's assertions, our government's approach is a balanced one, combining crime prevention, punishment and rehabilitation.

Our government remains committed to ensuring that crime is prevented, that appropriate rehabilitation takes place and that proper punishments that fit the severity of the crime are served.

7:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:17 p.m.)