Mr. Speaker, I am a lawyer by training and have practised law for most of my adult life. I served as managing partner in a successful law firm back home in Prince Edward Island. I have some experience as a prosecutor with respect to narcotics offences and election offences. That is something that will probably come in handy before too long in this country. Therefore, I understand the harm that crime can have on individuals. I know it hurts families. I know it hurts communities. I value a tough justice system, but not a vindictive one. I value proportionality and balance. I value the courts and their judgment. I value the Charter of Rights.
However, one gets a very strong impression that the Conservatives have a view of justice that is arbitrary, vindictive and disproportionate. We have certainly seen this manifested in Bill C-10, a bill that would most certainly be found to be, in whole or in part, unconstitutional. In effect, we also saw it last night in the debate on Bill C-316.
The bill before us today proposes to do something that in all my years of practising law I have yet to confront.
What widespread epidemic problem does the bill seek to fix? Are there thousands of incarcerated people in receipt of a judgment from Her Majesty where we have to divvy up the proceeds? Is this an epidemic in our country?
We know the answer to that. The answer is: very, very few.
I am not a cynic by nature, but the actions and the behaviour of the Conservatives really do cause one to question their motives. I am sure there are many members who like it when we oppose the myth-based crime bills. They perhaps want to be able to write fund-raising letters to their right-wing base, collecting untold amounts of money by suggesting that the opposition is soft on crime and that we do not care about victims. That is the type of divisive government we have in Canada.
The bill has already had a rough ride, primarily because it was initially ill-conceived and not well thought out. It was originally proposed and rejected because of jurisdictional problems. A non-partisan researcher and lawyer associated with the non-partisan Library of Parliament, Michel Bédard, said:
—I have doubts as to the federal government's power to pass provisions of this kind. It's important to understand that, according to the division of powers in Canada, property and civil rights fall within provincial jurisdiction. Under that head of power, the provinces have jurisdiction over contracts and all private law, including debt priority ranking. That includes debts owed to creditors, in particular.... It's important to realize that federal jurisdiction regarding debt priority ranking is limited to certain well-defined areas, such as bankruptcy, tax collection and banks.
This is obviously something that will have to be discussed at committee.
I would close by saying this. The Criminal Code is not some pet project to be tinkered and played with by Conservative backbenchers looking for reasons to appear tough. The Criminal Code is not supposed to be used and amended by backbenchers in order to send out a press release, or to be used as an opportunity to put something in a householder or newsletter. That is not how we make laws in Canada. In fact, I should say, that is not how we used to make laws in Canada. That is the sad part of what is happening in Canada under this fact-free Conservative government.