Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech I want to take the liberty of answering the question that was posed by a Conservative member to another Conservative member.
The bottom line here is that no one in the House wants to see drugs inside or outside of prisons. That is the reality.
There is an economic law called the “law of diminishing returns”. At a certain point, if enough money is spent on a particular investment, the return is less than the money spent on it, so one has to look at other ways to allocate that funding.
I am talking about the $122 million that the government allocated for the prevention of drugs in prison. The result of that $122 million, and I want Canadians to know because this is taxpayers' money, was zero. Basically the Conservatives put some gimmicks in place to prevent drugs from coming into the prisons. There were ion machines that gave false positives a higher than usual number of times. There were sniffer dogs and other gimmicks that the Conservatives brought in.
However, the result of that $122 million that we spent on preventing drugs from getting into prisons was zero. There was a zero result, which the head of correctional services, Don Head, pointed out in a study done a year ago by the committee. He pointed out that the urinalysis rate of prisoners' testing positive for drugs in the prison system before the $122 million was spent was the same rate as after three years.
In other words, it did not reduce the number of people taking drugs in the prison system. What it did do was shortchange taxpayers in the amount of $122 million.
That is the supply side when I talk about the “law of diminishing returns”, and it is maxed out. We spent an extra $122 million trying to prevent drugs from getting into the prisons, and it did not have any effect.
However, we have a waiting list on the other side of the economics. I know my friends do not believe in facts and figures. In fact, the member for Newton—North Delta often points out the Conservatives are allergic to data, research and facts.
The facts are that if we look at the demand side in prisons, we have a waiting list of 2,400 prisoners waiting to be treated. They want to get into a program. They want to rehabilitate. They want to get rid of the addiction they have so they can move into our communities and live a normal life.
What does corrections mean? Corrections means that we correct our behaviour. We correct the behaviour in prison. When people commit crimes, they go to prison and become part of a captive audience. Believe it or not these people are going to return to our communities. How can the government make sure these people are able to integrate into our communities? It could provide those rehabilitation services and apprenticeship opportunities, so when the prisoners get out into our communities they are better able to integrate into our society. That is how it works. That is the demand side of it.
On the demand side of the equation, we need to reduce the demand of people wanting to take drugs. The best way to do that is to treat the people who are taking drugs. We were able to spend $122 million on the interdiction side, which showed no result, yet we are cutting programs that have shown to be effective.
The corrections investigation officer has, time after time, pointed out that we need additional funds and resources to provide services to people who want to be rehabilitated. We have experts from our communities. There have been many peer studies done around the world that very clearly point out that we also need to work on the demand side to reduce drugs in prisons. However, facts, figures and research do not really work with the Conservatives.
Earlier today, one of the members from the Conservative side pointed out that some members somehow want drugs in our prisons, or they do not care how many drugs are in prisons. That is absolutely incorrect. I am perplexed. I do not usually get mad, but I do not think there are any members in the chamber who want more drugs, let alone in prisons. We do not want any drugs in our society.
How do we deal with it? The best way to deal with it is by helping those individuals who have addictions.
We heard the figures earlier; 80% of the people coming into our prisons have some sort of drug or alcohol addiction. That tells me that there are not enough resources in our communities to help these people and to get them off drugs and alcohol. If we can do that in our communities before they commit crimes, we would not have victims. We would be helping them by eliminating the victim side of it.
The member also talked about how we are going to bring in a charter for victims and help them. I have been in this place for two and a half years. I have not seen a single piece of legislation from the other side of the House to help victims.
The Conservatives will talk about the veterans and how they are the champions for veterans' rights. I know of a number of cases in my own constituency and I hear from veterans across the country that the government has failed. These are our heroes. These are people who have served our country. These are the people who have given us the right to speak here and outside the House in a free and democratic society.
Going back to the bill, I look at the title, the drug-free prisons act. The correctional investigation officer wants zero tolerance for drugs in prisons. I agree with that. We should strive to do our best, but that is an aspiration. It is not the reality in our society.
We talk about spending $122 million on the interdiction of drugs in prisons. We have seen no results. The results that the experts have given us are from the rehabilitation and prevention side. That is where the results are. That is where we can still have economies of scale. We can get more prisoners off drugs. Those are real facts. That is science. Those are economic models.
The Conservatives will tell us that they are great economic managers, but they have been in government for seven years. In seven years, how many surplus budgets have they had? Can someone tell me from the Conservative side how many surplus budgets they have had? They have all gone quiet, because they have had none. The budgets have all been deficits. Not only that, the Conservatives have had the largest deficit for any government in the history of our country, yet they call themselves good managers of our money.
Here is another example. When the Conservatives formed government, we had $26 billion in a current account trade surplus. Under their management we have somehow turned a $26 billion surplus into a $62 billion deficit. That is their record.
When we are talking about real records, facts and figures, science and economics, economics tells us that the $122 million did not have the impact that the government was hoping for. We, along with experts, were telling the Conservatives that they needed to spend money on the other side.
Going back to the title of the bill, this is just like the title for Bill C-2 with regard to InSite in Vancouver, making our communities safe. Their talking points are that they want to hear from the communities when this is decided. In 2003, when InSite was being put in place, the community decided. The City of Vancouver met with stakeholders, whether they were public safety officials, police officers, public health officials, medical officers, doctors, nurses or community organizers, and they came up with a plan to set up InSite in Vancouver. It has been highly successful in regard to reducing crime rates and reducing needles in the area.
Conservatives say the opposition parties want the needles out in the community or that we want our kids to have access to these needles. That is not true. In fact, the needles that were in the alleys and in front of businesses are no longer there. That has been reduced because of InSite, which was put in place to deal with heroin addicts in Vancouver.
A process was in place that was working well. However, what do the Conservatives do? They said they want to consult the community. In 2008, they took it to the court in B.C. and then to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court clearly told them that under the charter people have the right to access these particular services. Well, we know the Conservative ideology. They were not satisfied with the Supreme Court decision. What did they do? They came up with this fancy name that the bill is protecting our communities, yet it does exactly the opposite.
It is the same with Bill C-12, the drug-free prisons act. There is nothing in the act that gives facts and figures or how it is going to reduce drugs in our prisons. In fact, Bill C-12 basically adds a provision to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act that makes it clear that the Parole Board may use positive results from urine tests or refusals to take urine tests for drugs in making decisions on parole eligibility.
This gives clear authority to an existing practice of the Parole Board, which we support. In other words, the practice is already in place if a prisoner has a positive test for drugs, that information is taken into consideration by the Parole Board before parole eligibility is decided.
Bill C-12 has a misleading title, “drug-free prisons act”. Maybe the Conservatives are hoping to send a letter to their base or maybe they have already, because they did that when C-2 came to the House. They fired off a letter to their Conservative base asking for money based on how they were protecting the community. In fact, it was exactly the opposite. The bill does not protect the community. It puts roadblocks for communities to make local decisions. The bill is basically Ottawa telling our municipalities what they can or cannot do in their neighbourhoods. The communities can decide for themselves.
I do not see any facts or figures for some sort of program or plan that would show us how this measure would make our prisons drug-free.
I would certainly like that, but I am also pragmatic. We have had laws for hundreds of years prohibiting drugs in our society. The United States raised a war on drugs and said they were going to get rid of them. Did they get rid of them?
We have spent billions of dollars trying to. There are the times when we have to keep going back to this law of diminishing returns.
However, we have to look at the other side, which I have also talked about. That is the rehabilitation side, but there are shortages of space for people who want to get into these programs. The title of the bill has nothing to do with trying to make our prisons safer and rehabilitating and correcting the behaviour of prisoners.
Bill C-12 has a misleading title, as the bill would do little to eliminate all drugs from our federal prison system. An investment in rehabilitation is required if we are serious about rehabilitating prisoners and integrating them back into the community.
I think all people in this House believe that the prison sentence has to fit the crime. There is no doubt that if somebody commits a crime, we put him or in prison. I think all Canadians agree with that. The bottom line is that in two years, three years, four years, 10 years, or whatever the sentence is, these people are going to come back into our communities, so how do we deal with them?
Well, we try to rehabilitate them. We try to correct them in our system. They are a captive audience, and we have seen that when people have taken programs in prison, the recidivism rate for those individuals goes down quite low. Would it not make sense for the Conservatives to provide those resources, instead of wasting money on fancy titles for a bill or sending letters out to their base saying that they are actually doing something here and asking for money?
That is wrong. It is not going to help us in the long run.
The NDP has been very steadfast in its support for measures that would make our prisons safe, while Conservative governments have ignored recommendations from correctional staff and the Correctional Investigator that would decrease violence, gang activity, and drugs in our prisons.
I have had the chance to visit a number of prisons. I had the chance to visit a couple of prisons in Kingston. I had a chance to visit prisons in British Columbia, my province. I visited Kent prison and I also visited Matsqui prison. I talked to the prisoners. I talked to the correctional staff. Overwhelmingly, the response from those individuals was that, first, they do not have enough rehabilitation programs to rehabilitate the drug addict. In addition, money for apprenticeship programs is being cut.
To sum up, we certainly need more investment . There is a long list of people who are waiting to get into drug rehabilitation programs. That is the correct way to go forward: to prevent these individuals coming into our communities without any treatment in the correctional system.
New Democrats will support the bill at this stage, but the title does not reflect the true intent of this bill.