Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to rise in support of Bill C-19, Ending the Long-gun Registry Act. The state broadcaster, the CBC, has confirmed that $2 billion in taxpayer money have already been squandered on the long gun registry, with no tangible impact on preventing gun crime. This leads me to ask why some members in this place want to continue this wasteful program when the money could be put to much better use.
Our government is committed to cracking down on crime. We are committed to providing law enforcement officers with the tools they need to do their jobs. On this side of the House, our goal is to put criminals out of business, in stark contrast to those across the way who would rather harass law-abiding hunters, farmers and sports shooters.
When the long gun registry was introduced in 1995, the previous government promised it would cost approximately $2 million to implement over five years. In her 2002 audit, however, the Auditor General of Canada reported the program's costs had skyrocketed to more than $600 million. Moreover, due to a lack of solid financial information, she believed this figure did not fairly represent the true costs of the program. It is small wonder that when I ask people in my riding how they would describe the long gun registry, the response is always the same: an absolute boondoggle.
Apart from the cost to taxpayers and the financial burden on law-abiding citizens, there is also no evidence the long gun registry has stopped a single crime or saved a single life. This is not only my personal belief, but the belief of a vast number of my constituents, as well as law-abiding Canadians. It is also the belief of the Auditor General of Canada, who, in her 2006 audit, stated that the Canada Firearms Centre did not show how it helped minimize risks to public safety.
It is also the belief of veteran police officers such as Gilbert Yard, a retired RCMP superintendent, who has said in the past:
I believe that Canadians are much too astute to believe [the long gun registry] is anything other than a waste of time, effort and money. Wasting public funds that could really make a difference in acute justice issues, in my view, borders on criminal activity.
When our Conservative government came to office, we pledged that our approach to crime would generate the kind of practical results demanded by our law enforcement community rather than wasting taxpayer dollars on initiatives such as the long gun registry, which does nothing to reduce gun crimes. We promised to make our streets safer by tackling the deadly combination of drugs, gangs and guns. We promised to increase sentences for violent and repeat offenders, especially those involved in weapons-related crimes. We promised to work with the provinces and territories to fight the root causes of crime through community-based prevention. We made those promises and we have kept them.
Over the last six years, we have passed legislation to tackle violent crime. We introduced mandatory prison sentences for serious gun crimes, as well as reverse bail provisions for serious offences, changes that were long overdue. Our government has also passed legislation that creates a new offence to target drive-by and other intentional shootings that involve the reckless disregard for the life or safety of others. Those convicted of such acts are subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison, with a maximum period of imprisonment of 14 years. If these acts are committed by or for a criminal organization or with a restricted or prohibited firearm such as a handgun or automatic weapon, the minimum sentence has been increased to five years.
More recently, our government introduced comprehensive legislation which would make our communities safer by: extending greater protection to the most vulnerable members of society, as well as victims of terrorism; further enhancing the ability of our justice system to hold criminals accountable for their actions; and helping improve the safety and security of all Canadians.
In particular, the safe streets and communities act would: better protect children and youth from sexual predators; increase penalties for organized drug crime and house arrest for serious crimes; protect the public from violent young offenders; eliminate pardons for serious crimes; enshrine in law a number of additional key factors in deciding whether an offender would be granted a transfer back to Canada; increase offender accountability and support victims of crime; support victims of terrorism; and protect vulnerable foreign nationals against abuse and exploitation.
In addition to taking action on the legislative side, our government has provided more money to the provinces and territories so they can hire additional police officers. The government has also helped the RCMP recruit and train more personnel.
Our government has shown, through these measures, that it is serious about getting tough on gun crime, but we also need to ensure that we have a system of gun control that makes people safer rather than simply making people feel safe. That is why the government is investing $7 million annually to strengthen front-end screening of first-time firearms licence applicants, with a view to keeping firearms out of the hands of people who should not have them.
We have to ensure that our gun control keeps firearms out of the hands of those who threaten our communities, our safety, our lives. Our government is determined to maintain an effective firearms control system, while at the same time combatting the criminal use of firearms and getting tough on crime.
We also believe the radical notion that gun control should target criminals not law-abiding citizens. It should save lives not waste money. That is why our government is moving forward with Bill C-19. This would reduce the burden on farmers and hunters who use rifles and shotguns to protect their livestock or hunt for wild game. Ending the registration of non-restricted guns would also free up money that we could reinvest to combat the criminal use of firearms.
This government is taking a balanced approach to firearms. On the one hand, we are fine-tuning the law so it targets criminals and not law-abiding citizens. On the other hand, we have spearheaded legislation that gives the police and the courts new tools to fight weapons-related crime, especially related to gangs and organized crime.
It is a two-pronged approach rooted in common sense and one that will enable us to make our firearms control program truly effective, enhancing public safety for all Canadians.
I encourage all members to stand in the House and support this important legislation before us today.