House of Commons Hansard #59 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was opposition.


Income Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I know we have 10 minutes for questions and comments, but I do note there are other members interested in posing questions.

The hon. member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola.

Income Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly agree with the member that any debt spent on infrastructure really should follow an economic framework of whether it makes our society more productive. It should not just simply be money out the door, and a hope that we will see a proper return.

Could the member maybe discuss the importance of ensuring there is good value for taxpayer money, and maybe give some thoughts about what things he will be looking at as the government moves forward on its plans in this area?

Income Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will try not to take up the rest of the 10 minutes with my response. Members know me not to be too verbose in the House, I am sure. I heard the member for Winnipeg North laugh at that, which is particularly funny.

With regard to the point about getting taxpayers value for money, it is particularly important, when we talk about something being infrastructure, to ensure that it actually is infrastructure. It is not because there are not important things that we should spend money on that are outside the category of infrastructure, but because there are specific economic arguments that one could make for deficit in the context of infrastructure that simply do not apply in other cases. The government is spending far more this year in terms of its deficit than its total spending on infrastructure. Therefore, it is pretty clear that there is a disconnect here. Again, as I was saying as we wrapped up, child care just is not infrastructure.

I want to quickly come back to the parliamentary secretary's question about lower income people not having money to put in their TFSAs. Again, I think some Canadians who are on the lower income end work very hard to save that much. It may not be most who can approach that maximum, but even someone who would have saved $6,000 or $7,000 a year would be losing out because of reducing the cap. More to the point, those wealthier Canadians, as I explained in my speech in some detail, are more likely to use RRSPs as opposed to TFSAs for a saving vehicle. We should do everything we can to expand TFSAs precisely because of the sort of differential positive impacts on those who are in the middle and lower income end.

Income Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member that I was not laughing at him. However, it is with pride that I stand today to comment on Bill C-2, in a special shirt with a unique-looking tie in celebration of Ukraine heritage.

The fact is that this is an implementation bill that ultimately will see thousands, in fact, millions of Canadians get a tax cut. I say it in that fashion, because the Conservatives who I have known over the years, generally speaking, vote in favour of tax cuts.

The types of tax cuts we are giving are going to Canada's middle class, such as teachers, firefighters, factory workers, and health care providers. They are part of Canada's hard-working middle class, and they would be getting a substantial tax cut, hundreds of millions of dollars in tax cuts.

Could the member explain to all those middle-class workers why the Conservative Party is voting against giving them a tax break? The member should recognize that the Conservatives are also voting against giving a special tax increase to those who make in excess of $200,000. This bill would ensure more income equality. Why would he vote against it?

Income Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I always appreciate the interventions from my friend across the way.

Let me be clear that this is a tax change. It is a tax cut for some and an increase for others. However, the government is not clear on who the “some” and who the “others” are. It is like robbing Peter to save Paul without a great degree of clarity about which one is Peter and which one is Paul. Those making less than $45,000 a year, who are more likely to use TFSAs, would be worse off under this measure. Future generations would be worse off under this measure.

We are all going to vote on this at some point, and the parliamentary secretary needs to be clear about who the benefits go to. Someone making $100,000 a year and not using tax-free savings accounts is a bit better off. If people are in the middle of that bracket using a TFSA, then they are either worse off or neutral. However, if someone is on the low end, then one would definitely not be better off.

When we have these kinds of tax changes, reducing some and raising other brackets, we need to have a clear idea of what we are doing. We need to have a clear idea of why, rather than simply shifting things around perhaps, arguably, just for the sake of shifting.

Income Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Ron Liepert Conservative Calgary Signal Hill, AB

moved that Bill C-229, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts (life sentences), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-229, which would amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. Before I outline my reasons for bringing this bill forward, I want to make a few general comments, primarily for the members of the opposition who, I am sure, when speaking to this bill, are likely to say that it is just another approach to legislation by a hard right-wing Tea Party Conservative member.

However, I supported Bill C-14 at second reading and in all likelihood will support the bill at third reading. I will be supporting Bill C-16 because I believe all Canadians should be treated with equality and, frankly, it is the motivation behind proposing this legislation, which I will explain in a moment.

I am sure we can all agree that Canada has a reputation as a peaceful country of compassionate neighbours who live in relative comfort and security. We are fortunate that as a country our crime rates are low and we are generally able to walk our streets without fear. However, we must also acknowledge that there are some in our country who seek to do harm. There are some individuals who do not respect our values of peace and compassion. These individuals seek to harm others and make us feel unsafe in our homes, on our streets, and in our communities.

In our country, we perceive that people are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and that principle should never change. However, when someone is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of heinous crimes such as multiple murders or murders which are so brutal that they upset us to even hear about them on the evening news, that person must be seriously punished for his or her actions. When a life is taken in such a manner, the families and loved ones of the victims are in essence given a life sentence with no chance of ever seeing that loved one again.

In the past 10 years, the former Conservative government introduced and passed over 60 substantive pieces of legislation to help keep criminals behind bars, to protect children, to put the rights of victims ahead of criminals, and to crack down on drugs, guns, and gangs.

I want to highlight some of the former Conservative government's justice accomplishes. They include the Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights Act, the Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act, the Safe Streets and Communities Act, the Abolition of Early Parole Act, and the Drug-Free Prisons Act.

The most serious offence in the criminal code is murder. First degree murder, a murder that is planned and deliberate, carries a mandatory penalty of life imprisonment with an ineligibility of parole for 25 years. Murders that are not planned and deliberate carry the same penalty where they are committed in certain circumstances, including where they involve the killing of a police officer or sexual assault.

Through previous legislation, the former Conservative government strengthened penalties for murder, including eliminating the faint hope clause, which allowed a murderer to apply for parole after 15 years, and enabling consecutive periods of parole ineligibility for multiple murderers so they would no longer receive a sentencing discount.

Today, I am introducing the life means life act to ensure that the most heinous criminals would be subject to mandatory life sentence without parole. The life means life legislation would ensure that offenders who were convicted of heinous murders and those who were convicted of high treason would be imprisoned for the rest of their natural lives with no access to parole. This would include murders involving sexual assault, kidnapping, terrorism, the killing of police officers or corrections officers, or any first degree murder that would be found to be of a particularly brutal nature.

The life means life act would amend the Criminal Code to make a life sentence without parole mandatory for the following crimes: first degree murder that is planned and deliberate and that involves sexual assault, kidnapping or forcible confinement, terrorism, the killing of police officers or corrections officers, or conduct of a particularly brutal nature; and high treason.

The bill also gives courts the discretion to impose a sentence of life without parole for any other first degree murder where a sentence of life without parole is not mandatory, and second degree murder where the murderer has previously been convicted of either a murder or an intentional killing under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

The law allows a criminal serving life without parole to apply for exceptional release after serving 35 years. This application would be made to the Minister of Public Safety and the final decision would rest with cabinet. The family of the victim would be able to provide input before any decision. This is consistent with the traditional approach of granting clemency and addresses legitimate constitutional concerns.

I recognize that some of my colleagues will object to this bill. They will say it is wrong to lock up someone for life because the person can be rehabilitated. To them I say, no amount of rehabilitation can bring back the victim of a murder. No amount of rehabilitation can bring back the stolen birthdays, holidays, and special moments in that victim's life. No amount of rehabilitation can bring back that victim to his or her family.

I believe Canadians will largely agree that some crimes should result in the murderer never walking free again. The victims of these murders deserve nothing less. As I said at the outset of my remarks, some of my colleagues will say this is just another Conservative tough-on-crime bill. Well, I am a Conservative and this does fit the definition of tough on crime. Similar laws already exist in the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia. These governments have found similar measures to protect victims and their families.

To those who would call the bill another Conservative tough-on-crime bill, I would say to them that they are right. As mentioned earlier, when in government, our party introduced a series of measures to restore the balance between the rights of the criminal and those of the victim's family. I believe this bill is the final piece of the Conservatives' efforts to ensure that the scales of justice in the future are never tipped in favour of those who commit heinous crimes at the expense of the family of the victim.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Charlottetown P.E.I.


Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I have two questions for the hon. member.

He indicated that the bill is designed to ensure that those who commit the most serious crimes do not walk the streets. We already have a mechanism for that. It is called the dangerous offender designation. Perhaps he could explain why that is inadequate to address the problem he seeks to address through this private member's bill.

Also, there is a provision in the bill that allows for an application to the Minister of Public Safety after 35 years and for a determination to be made by the cabinet as opposed to the current system which has that designation made by trained professionals at the Parole Board. We do have an eminently qualified cabinet, but what is it about the Parole Board that makes it uniquely unqualified to deal with the most serious cases?

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Ron Liepert Conservative Calgary Signal Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, on the first question relative to a dangerous offender, it seems to me that it is easier said than done to declare someone a dangerous offender. I have seen numerous situations where application has been made to have someone deemed a dangerous offender and it has been unsuccessful. This is pretty straight and clear as to what the rules would be, what the direction would be to the courts. Having it written in law is more fair to the victims' families and for that reason, I believe the bill is warranted.

Relative to the Parole Board, one of the things in determining how special circumstances would apply, the elected official, the Minister of Public Safety , and ultimately the cabinet, are responsible to Canadians. They are elected by Canadians and they have a responsibility to Canadians. I am not trying to say that the Parole Board does not work well and does not take all considerations into account, but at the end of the day, the Parole Board is not reportable to anyone. In other words, board members are not elected by Canadians. I would prefer that it would be those who are elected by Canadians who would make the special circumstances exception.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech even though I do not share the values or the opinion he expressed.

I will ask him a question. Considering that the Supreme Court declared several of the Conservative laws he referred to in his speech unconstitutional, why is he introducing such a bill?

Why is he bent on taking that approach when it is clearly not working?

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Ron Liepert Conservative Calgary Signal Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I suppose that if we believe in something, we do it, and many of us on this side of the House do believe that this is the type of legislation that is required.

There may have been certain circumstances where particular legislation may not have been deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court. That should not stop us from doing what we believe Canadians elected us to do, and that is to bring in legislation about which we feel strongly. In this particular case, through a private member's bill, I feel very strongly about protecting the rights of victims' families who have gone through a traumatic experience with a crime of heinous nature.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for all the work he has done on his private member's bill and how hard he has worked on bringing this forward.

However, judging by some of the comments from our colleagues across the floor, I think they are missing the point. This is something we are trying to put forward for victims' families.

I would like my colleague to talk about the impact on the families of the victims because they have to go through the parole process time after time, and it forces them to relive the nightmare. The bill would protect them from having to go through the nightmare of losing a loved one again and again. Could he please talk about the impact of not having to go through that parole process?

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Ron Liepert Conservative Calgary Signal Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague because that is exactly what the bill would put to rest to a large degree for the families of victims.

We see it happening every day. We see how traumatic it is when the family has to go through the court process and provide victim impact statements.

I have not, thankfully, had to be involved in this kind of situation, but I can imagine how difficult that must be to have to face that particular situation and sometimes continue to relive it and maybe face the criminal in terms of the parole process. The bill makes it very much an end decision, so that the families of victims can move on with their lives and not have to worry about going through that process time and time again.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Charlottetown P.E.I.


Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-229, which aims to change the law concerning life sentences for the most serious offenders. Bill C-229 proposes mandatory and discretionary sentences of life without parole for certain murders. I will not be supporting this bill.

Bill C-229 is nearly identical to former Bill C-53, the life means life act, which was introduced by the previous government on March 11, 2015. That bill died on the Order Paper with the dissolution of Parliament.

The bill would change the existing criminal law in three ways.

First, it would make imprisonment without parole mandatory for high treason; for planned and deliberate murder if committed during a sexual assault, kidnapping, or terrorism offence; where the victim is a police officer or correctional officer, or if committed in a particularly brutal way.

Second, the bill would provide judges with the ability to impose a life sentence of imprisonment without parole for any other first degree murder, as well as for any second degree murder where the offender was previously convicted of murder or of an intentional killing under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

Finally, the bill would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to provide that an offender sentenced to life imprisonment without parole may apply for an executive release by the Governor in Council after having served 35 years in custody. If released by the Governor in Council, the offender would be subject to conditions similar to parole conditions and the offender's sentence would continue to be administered under the jurisdiction of the Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada.

We agree that public safety is of paramount importance; however, I am not convinced that the measures contained in the bill would actually result in increasing public safety. Our government made a commitment to use evidence in our decision-making and there is precious little of it which stands to support this bill.

The amendments contained in Bill C-229 would be unprecedented in Canadian law. They are also, in my view, unnecessary. I agree that the most serious offenders, murderers, should be dealt with accordingly by the criminal law. I can also confidently say that the most serious offenders, in fact, are dealt with accordingly by the criminal law.

Our judiciary and the Correctional Service already possess the tools necessary to ensure the most serious offenders will not be released from custody, specifically in the form of a dangerous offender designation. This bill would seek to limit the discretion of our judiciary and the Correctional Service. That is not something I can support.

While it is true that some individuals may eventually be released from prison, this would only happen after their application has been carefully reviewed by the Parole Board of Canada. In addition, those who are released have lifelong restrictions placed on their liberty and may be re-incarcerated if they breach a condition of their release. I believe that our current system works effectively and I have confidence in the ability of the Parole Board of Canada to make appropriate decisions, taking into account all relevant circumstances. Therefore, I question why these changes would be required.

Indeed, for that group of offenders who, under the current regime, would benefit from rehabilitation and gradual reintegration into society, Bill C-229 would require them to stay in jail longer. This bill only favours punishment for punishment's sake and does not meet our other sentencing objectives, including, for example, rehabilitation. I do not believe that Canadians would accept such an approach.

I also have concerns about the constitutionality of this bill, and I am not alone in this view. Stakeholders, including the Elizabeth Fry Society, have raised questions not only about the bill's constitutionality, but also whether its measures are even required. Our government has indicated repeatedly the importance of respecting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and ensuring that our work is consistent with it. Supporting this legislation would not be in keeping with that commitment.

It should be noted that the Liberal Party has consistently opposed the measures contained in this bill, including when it was introduced as the former government's Bill C-53.

At that time, we noted our objection to the proposed introduction of a new regime that would require an offender to submit an application to the Minister of Public Safety for executive release by the Governor in Council after serving 35 years of their sentence, rather than to the Parole Board of Canada.

Others raised similar concerns about Bill C-53, including the Canadian Bar Association and the John Howard Society. These stakeholders were of the view that Bill C-53's proposed measures, which are replicated in Bill C-229, would not improve public safety and that there is no evidence that offenders convicted of serious crimes are paroled unjustifiably.

Some stakeholders, when discussing Bill C-53, also noted that excessively long periods of incarceration that eliminate the prospect of offender rehabilitation are destructive to offenders' physical and mental health, and fail to properly balance the principles of punishment with those of rehabilitation and reintegration. These principles are a core part of our corrections philosophy. Nothing in Bill C-229 would address these concerns.

To be fair, some stakeholders may support the objectives of Bill C-229, if they believe it would protect society by keeping violent or dangerous criminals in custody for longer periods. However, as I have already said, the most serious offenders who would be caught by this bill would already be unlikely to ever be released, given the public security risk they pose.

I would also like to point out the concerns that I have with respect to the impact that Bill C-229 may have on indigenous peoples. As members know, the government has recently put forward Canada's new position with respect to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Persons.

The government has made clear its commitment to change the relationship between Canada and the indigenous population. We know that there is an overrepresentation of indigenous people in federal custody, for a multitude of reasons. I am concerned that Bill C-229 would do nothing to address this problem. I do not believe we should be advancing initiatives such as Bill C-229 at a time when crime rates continue to decrease and the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples in prison continues to persist.

The government has signalled its intention to comprehensively examine the current state of the criminal justice system, and I am hopeful that this issue will be examined thoroughly. It is an issue which demands attention and, more importantly, action.

I urge all members to oppose Bill C-229. Its proposals are ideologically driven, not supported by available evidence, and would do nothing to improve public safety. It would further limit the discretion of the judiciary and is not the kind of legal reform we need in this country.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise here today. It is always a pleasure to represent my constituents, the people of Jonquière. I am always proud to speak in the House of Commons.

Issues that affect my region's economy are especially important to me. We talked about this a lot earlier. Unfortunately, the government is dragging its feet on many files, and this includes protecting jobs in the forestry sector. Our farmers are still fighting against diafiltered milk. We have yet to see any measures to improve access to employment insurance, for example in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, since we have a two-tier system.

Today in the House we are debating Bill C-229, which amends the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

Let me be very clear: the NDP will be opposing this bill at second reading. It reminds us once again of the many reasons why Canadians sent the previous government packing. This is a bill that seems to have been written on the back of a napkin. It in no way reflects reality.

Instead of spreading misinformation and vote-seeking propaganda, the Conservatives should tell Canadians the truth. Under the current system, the most dangerous offenders who pose a risk to public safety never get out of prison.

We believe in evidence-based policy. Any reforms made to the sentencing regime should focus on improving public safety, not on political games.

The Conservatives have been talking about this bill since 2013, but waited until just a few months before the election was called to announce its introduction at a flashy election-style event. That same day, a Conservative member sent out an email to raise funds and add to the list of Conservative Party members. The subject line of the email was “Murderers in your neighbourhood?” This is another example of the troubling use of the politics of fear by the party that was in power at the time.

The ironic thing about the Conservatives is that they are always the first to want to talk about safety in our communities, but in the last three years, the Conservatives cut RCMP expenditures by millions of dollars. Not so long ago, the commissioner of the RCMP said that they had exhausted their budget and needed more money. That is where investment is needed: in the RCMP and public safety.

I believe that Canadians expect better from politicians. Major issues demand our attention, such as setting a decent minimum wage of $15 an hour and providing better access to employment insurance by making it accessible to everyone in every region.

There is work to do on pay equity and restoring home mail delivery. More resources need to be given to public safety, including the RCMP. Bill C-51 needs to be revisited and the order in council for Bill C-452 on exploitation and trafficking in persons needs to be signed.

Instead, the Conservatives would rather continue to introduce biased bills. Public policy must first and foremost be based on facts, and the objective of such policies must be to keep the public safe, not to win political points. We need to give our public security agencies more resources. We need to take action. We need to invest in prevention in order to prevent crime and help offenders reintegrate into society.

A brilliant lawyer named Michael Spratt said, and I quote:

Throwing away the key is an admission of failure. It amounts to admitting that our prisons are warehouses, that rehabilitation is a lie, that the law that holds us together as a society is still the law of the jungle — an eye for an eye. It’s the politics of despair.

I cannot give a speech about crime without thinking of the victims. Today, my thoughts are with all the victims, particularly the victims of crime. Some of them may be watching right now. Too often we forget the impact of crime on their lives and on the lives of their families, particularly when someone is killed. The NDP has always cared about victims and that is why we think it is so important to implement truly effective policies to keep the public safe.

The Conservatives should do a bit more research before introducing bills. In the current system, the most dangerous criminals who pose a threat to public safety never get out of prison. That is why any reforms made to the sentencing regime should focus on improving public safety and increasing financial resources, rather than on unconstitutional bills.

My opposition colleagues should know that it is up to the Attorney General to ensure that the laws that are introduced by the government are constitutional. However, once again, the Conservatives are introducing a bill that will more than likely end up being challenged in the courts. Many of their bills, some of which were mentioned today in the House, have already been deemed unconstitutional by the court.

I wonder whether my Conservative colleagues respect the principle of constitutionality and the separation of powers. We live in a democracy, but I all too often have the impression that they do not really believe it.

I will come right out with the question and it is up to them to answer it. Do they believe that it is important for parliamentarians to introduce bills that are constitutional? I will give them a chance to answer this question, which I believe is a very simple but important one.

In my view, it is essential that we put forward public policies that are based on facts and comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our Constitution.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House to support Bill C-229, introduced by my colleague the hon. member for Calgary Signal Hill.

Bill C-229 recognizes that there are some crimes that are so serious and heinous that the only appropriate sentence is life imprisonment without eligibility for parole.

It is a truism that anyone who is convicted of murder has committed a deplorable act worthy of severe sanction. At the same time, it is also a truism that not all murderers are equal, yet under the Criminal Code all persons convicted of first degree murder are treated equally.

Proportionality is an important principle in sentencing, yet under the Criminal Code no allowance is made for proportionality when it comes to those convicted of first degree murder. If we take someone who plans, deliberates to commit, and commits a murder, that would be the classic case of first degree murder. That person, under the Criminal Code, would face a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 25 years behind bars. Then if we take someone who not only plans and deliberates to commit a murder but in the course of committing that murder commits other serious crimes, such as crimes of domination, under the Criminal Code that individual would be subject to the same sentence notwithstanding the presence of aggravating factors.

In order to maintain public confidence in our justice system, it is important that the punishment fit the crime. Bill C-229 seeks to enhance public confidence in our justice system by rationally providing a more severe sentence for the most serious of crimes, including the most serious of first degree murders.

There are some who say that, quite frankly, Bill C-229 is not charter-compliant. While I acknowledge that there are arguments in favour of that position, I would submit that, in looking at the case law, Bill C-229 is very likely charter-compliant. While there is not sufficient time in the relatively short time that I have to speak to this bill with respect to the case law, I would note the Luxton case of the Supreme Court of Canada.

In that case, Luxton, who was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without eligibility for parole for 25 years, appealed and challenged his sentence. He challenged his sentence on the basis of section 7 of the charter, which deals with life, liberty, and the security of the person, and section 9 of the charter, which deals with arbitrary detention, and section 12 of the charter, which deals with cruel and unusual punishment. In a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court, Luxton's sentence was upheld. Not only was it upheld, but the Supreme Court pronounced that it is within the prerogative of Parliament to treat the most serious of offences with the appropriate degree of severity in order to maintain a rational sentencing regime. That is precisely what Bill C-229 provides by rationally providing a harsher sentence for the most serious of murderers and other criminals.

I should also note that, in the Luxton decision, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized that the Criminal Code provides sensitivity to each individual offender. Bill C-229 also provides sensitivity to each individual offender inasmuch as it provides that anyone who is convicted and sentenced to life in prison without eligibility for parole does have an opportunity to apply for executive parole after 35 years.

There may be certain case where, even in the most serious of crimes, parole is appropriate, but only after an extended period of incarceration, and rationally a longer period of time, having regard for the particularly serious nature of the offence that the individual would have been convicted of.

What Bill C-229 does is that it ends this circus of mandatory parole reviews every two years for the most serious of first degree murderers.

Right now, if an individual is convicted of a first degree murder and thrown in jail for life without eligibility for parole for 25 years, after 25 years, they may apply for parole. If their parole application is turned down, every two years there is a mandatory parole eligibility review. Bill C-229 puts an end to that. It puts an end to families having to go every two years to these hearings where the horrors of the crimes inflicted upon their loved ones are relived, no matter how unrepentant the killer may be, and no matter how unsuitable for release the killer may be.

There are those who say that Bill C-229 is just too tough. I say, tell that to the victims' families. Tell that to Sharon Rosenfeldt, whose son was brutally murdered by Clifford Olson. Ms. Rosenfeldt supported Bill C-53. She supports life means life, and in so doing she has said, after almost 40 years, the impact that the crimes by Olson has had on her and the Rosenfeldt family never go away. They live with that family every single day.

Indeed, the sentence that Olson imposed on the Rosenfeldt family, as Rosenfeldt said, is tantamount to a life sentence. I say, then, so too should the sentence for the killer be a life sentence. Very clearly, in some cases, life must really mean life.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to address what I know is an important issue in the minds of many individuals in dealing with the broader issue of crime.

When I look at Bill C-229, I see a flashback to the Conservative government. I know a number of the Conservatives who are here today will reflect on Bill C-53. I can recall there was a great deal of fanfare about Bill C-53, because it fit the Conservative mould and their tough-on-crime approach to politics.

An impressive image was just given to me. However, it is something that has been portrayed on numerous occasions from the Conservative Party. I will not attempt that image, but it is consistent with Conservatives. They like to cater to that group of individuals by saying they are tough on crime.

I wish the Conservatives would develop that same attitude in being tough on preventing crime, at which they have failed. If we talk to the people we represent, we will find there is a general feeling that the Conservatives missed the mark in making our communities feel safer. To me, that is really what we should be looking for when we bring in private members' bills.

However, this private member's bill is a regurgitation of a government tough-on-crime approach. After all, who is going to oppose convicting felons who have killed several people, the Clifford Olsons of society? There is not very much public sympathy, even from me, toward those individuals. However, it is that imagery that really concerns me.

When I was on the opposition benches and the government brought forward legislation, I argued that government needed to play a stronger role in dealing with preventing crimes from taking place in the first place.

Last night, I was talking to my daughter, the new MLA for Burrows. Today was her first day in question period, and she chose to talk about the issue of crime. She wanted to highlight what she believed was important in dealing with crime in the communities.

In the door-knocking that we did together, both in the federal election and the provincial election, we realized very clearly, as I have over the years, that we could talk about education or health care, but there was a common issue for people, no matter what political party or candidate they were inclined to support, and that was their concern about crime and safety in their communities.

As an elected official for the people I represent, one of the first things I look at in government legislation or in an opposition private member's bill is whether the legislation will have a positive impact on making the communities and neighbourhoods in which we live a safer place to be.

However, when I look at the legislation before us, the parliamentary secretary to the minister was quite accurate when he talked about the issue of designated dangerous offenders, which is already addressed in our system for the Clifford Olsons and others who have that designation. Therefore, in good part, the private member's bill before us becomes somewhat redundant, not completely but somewhat.

The bill would not do anything to discourage crime from taking place on our streets. At least I do not believe that it would. I would be interested in hearing from the sponsor of the bill whether he believes that there would be less crime as a direct result of the legislation.

What I thought was interesting in the bill is the fact that the Conservatives are aware that when we say “life for life”, there is a constitutional component or a charter-related issue with regard to making that sort of proclamation and putting it in the form of legislation. Would it be challenged in the courts? The short answer to that is, yes, it would be challenged.

What was the Conservative Party's idea to prevent that from taking place? It said that after I believe it is 35 years, then the individual can then appeal it, not to the Parole Board but to the Government of Canada, in particular, the cabinet.

In terms of the fact that the individuals on the parole boards have the expertise, I am fairly confident in their abilities and so forth. That is the reason they have actually been appointed to parole boards. That is why we have parole boards, because they offer a sense of professionalism and expertise that members of a cabinet or members of Parliament might not necessarily have, collectively anyway. They may possibly have some contributions toward that expertise. However, in terms of the whole review process, is there more confidence in the cabinet or a review panel of professionals?

After 35 years of incarceration, because that is in essence what the private member's bill is alluding to, then they would be able to go to cabinet. I do not think that is the best way to go. I can understand the politics of making that suggestion, just like I can understand the politics of why I believe we have this particular private member's bill before us today.

I do not know if it is out of frustration that the private member has in terms of the government's failed attempt to materialize on the bill. I am going to assume that it is, that we have certain members of the Conservative caucus who believe that the government's inability to pass Bill C-53, or to get the work done that they were hoping to get done on Bill C-53, was in fact incomplete. Therefore, this is that regurgitation in the form of a private member's bill.

We know and appreciate the efforts of all members and the time and energy they put into bringing forward private members' bills. I do not want to take anything away from that, because I recognize that on all sides of the House there is a high sense of commitment to the process of bringing forward a private member's bill or motion, and I do respect that.

However, I would try to highlight, in the best way I can, to the sponsor of the bill but also more broadly to the Conservative caucus as a whole, that, at the end of the day, if we want to make our communities safer places to be, they need to refocus that image they are trying to portray of just purely tough on crime. I, too, believe in consequences for crimes, and I suspect that all members do. From the perspective of being tough on crime, there needs to be a consequence when someone commits a crime, but at the end of the day, I think what we want to see is how we can prevent crimes from taking place in the first place.

These are the types of initiatives I would like to see more debate on in the chamber. That is one of the reasons that I support the federal Liberal budget and the measures it is taking to improve the quality of life for all Canadians.

At the end of the day, I cannot support this private member's bill. I think it has missed the mark, and it should be refocused on something entirely different.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to say that I am pleased to rise this afternoon to discuss Bill C-229, but rather that I am surprised to rise in this Parliament to be discussing a bill that has been brought forward from the last Parliament.

It is unexpected to see what was clearly a political showpiece, introduced by the Conservative government just before the last election as Bill C-53, reintroduced into the House. It shoots some holes in one of the arguments I used to make, having been the NDP public safety critic for the last five years, that these bills tended to come from the PMO. Clearly, this time they cannot come from the PMO. They are coming from some other place and the former PMO.

It is also surprising, because this tough on crime agenda that the member for Calgary Signal Hill introduced, endorsed the tough on crime agenda idea. This is an agenda that has been rejected by many jurisdictions in North America that have gone down this path. It was rejected by many U.S. states, including the State of Texas, which was probably the poster child for tough on crime agendas. It realized that these kinds of bills do not work.

The former U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder said:

statistics have shown -- and all of us have seen -- that high incarceration rates and longer-than-necessary prison terms have not played a significant role in materially improving public safety, reducing crime, or strengthening communities.

I am also surprised because I thought it was pretty clear that this tough on crime agenda was rejected by Canadian voters at the last election.

As I said, as the NDP public safety critic in the last Parliament, I had the task of opposing the raft of so-called tough on crime bills that made up an agenda for the last government. I am surprised to see the member for Calgary Signal Hill donning this cloak of tough on crime as if it helps to promote his bill, which it does not. However, it does clearly situate the bill among that sea of bills that the Conservatives introduced that had common characteristics.

These characteristics are that they had a certain popular appeal because they were directed at horrible crimes, or at deservedly unpopular criminals, a common characteristic that gave a false impression of how our criminal justice system actually works. In fact, they are bills that were largely unnecessary. They have a common characteristic in that they are singularly ineffective at improving public safety. Finally, they often had the common characteristic of claiming to serve the interests of victims. As someone who taught criminal justice for 20 years and worked a lot with victims and victims' families, I know that what victims' families say they want is for no one to go through what they have gone through ever in the future.

The last characteristic that almost all of these tough on crime bills have in common is that they are almost certainly unconstitutional. Cases are now working their way through the judicial system that will invalidate most, if not all, of these bills adopted in the previous Parliament from the tough on crime agenda. There were harsher sentences, mandatory minimum sentences, barriers to parole, or even in the most baffling case, the retitling of pardons as record suspensions and increasing the barriers to getting a pardon for those who had been rehabilitated and were trying to reintegrate into society. They increased the barriers to getting a pardon, which would allow them to get a good job, return to the community, and support their families. This whole sea of laws are now in the process of being struck down.

I know that the Minister of Justice has launched a review of the entire Criminal Code, which will also address all of these tough on crime bills that resulted either from private member's bills or from the government's omnibus crime bills.

What we saw recently, in April, was that the Supreme Court of Canada struck down two portions of the tough on crime agenda. It struck down mandatory minimums of one year for drug offences, and struck down the provisions that take away the right of those who serve time before being convicted and sentenced to get additional credit for that time served. It was just 10 days later that the B.C. Court of Appeal also overturned mandatory two-year minimum sentences for drug trafficking for those under the age of 18 or in places frequented by youth.

I will turn now to the actual provisions in Bill C-229, which are really life without parole for murder when associated with certain other offences or which involve certain victims, or murders which are carried out with special brutality, or high treason.

The very title of the bill, life means life, is false. It really distorts what goes on in our criminal justice system. Those with life sentences, even if they are released from the institutions, which most are not, remain under supervision for the rest of their lives and remain under restrictions even if they are paroled. A life sentence in Canada does mean a life sentence under supervision.

As I said, with those who are convicted of first degree murder, we heard talk about families having to go through the application for parole again and again, but they do not start that process for 25 years. Those convicted of first degree murder most often have a 25-year period before the parole thing kicks in. At minimum, they are going to have a 10-year period. That is a bit of a distortion of what actually happens to families in the cases of these most serious crimes, but not in the cases of some minor crimes, I will concede.

There is an irony also in the bill in its content. The Conservatives were very intent on removing what used to be called the faint hope clause, former section 745.6 of the Criminal Code, which allowed those convicted of the most serious crimes who had received a life sentence with no eligibility for parole for more than 15 years to request a hearing to allow them to have a parole hearing. That was seen as very effective by those who work in the corrections system.

The Conservatives in 2012, through a bill from the Senate, Bill S-6, repealed that faint hope clause, yet it comes back in this private member's bill as after 35 years, admittedly longer, but it does restore a version of that faint hope clause. I find that ironic.

If it should every be passed, I believe that the courts will find the bill unconstitutional on two grounds. One, it would be arbitrary in that what is the penal purpose? What purpose is served by the bill? I submit that there is no penal purpose being served by the bill, because as I said, those who commit these most serious crimes are almost never released. Two, it would probably be declared unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment.

I know the member for St. Albert—Edmonton said he believes it is constitutional, but we can cite a very large number of legal scholars, Isabel Grant from UBC being one, and Debra Parkes from the University of Manitoba as another who would differ quite strongly with him. Of course, so does the trend of the recent Supreme Court decisions and the B.C. Court of Appeal decision, and a year before, the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, which I forgot to mention, which overturned aspects of mandatory minimum sentences involving firearms.

The real impact of the bill would be to ensure that those convicted of these admittedly terrible crimes serve longer times in institutions, but we know from what happened in the United States that this has no impact on public safety, and note that in Canada we now have a murder rate which is at its lowest since 1966.

What it would do is create a management problem in our prisons. Those who think they are never going to get out have no incentive to engage in rehabilitation programs and they have no incentive toward good behaviour. I am going to quote what Don Head, the commissioner for Correctional Service of Canada said on this:

As the proposed legislation would lengthen the incarceration period for some offenders, it's possible that it can reduce incentives to rehabilitation and good behaviour, potentially compromising institutional security as well as the safety of my staff and other inmates.

We have to be very careful about creating a situation which would endanger the safety of our correctional staff who already work in situations of great stress and also that of other inmates.

In conclusion, of course, I will not be supporting this private member's bill. Instead, I would like to see the House deal with provisions that would provide greater opportunities for rehabilitation, an addiction treatment in prisons, greater access to pardons, and all those kinds of things that might help us avoid these kinds of crimes in the future.

Life Means Life ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Air TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

May 19th, 2016 / 6:30 p.m.


Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would posit that there is not a single airport in Canada that is more tightly or effectively regulated by its local government than the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.

A strict noise limit is in place. A strict number of landing slots is available. A strict morning and evening curfew is in place. Nav Canada ensures that more than 90% of all approaches to the airport are over Lake Ontario. Contrast this to Pearson airport or Montreal airport at Dorval, where many of the final approaches are over densely populated areas, and large aircraft can land 24 hours a day.

Quite frankly, with his tweet ending any possible expansion of the Billy Bishop airport, the minister succumbed to the very worst type of not in my backyard politics. Of course there are always community concerns with any change to an airport's profile, but it is government's role to put in place the conditions for this type of initiative to succeed through stringent regulation or investment, rather than to quash it.

Unfortunately, the Liberals have opted to be the party of no rather than the party of how. I would also like to remind everyone that the federal government is just one of three signatories to the tripartite agreement. While it does have veto power, I would suggest that it has the least skin in the game when it comes to the future of the Billy Bishop airport.

The other two signatories of the agreement, the City of Toronto and the airport's operator, PortsToronto, have far more interest in the future of this airport.

If the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister is so sure that Toronto City Council would never allow the expansion of the airport, why did he have to order the Minister of Transport to pre-empt its process? Unfortunately, this Billy Bishop tweet was merely foreshadowing more of the Liberals' “it is my way or the highway” behaviour.

With Bill C-10, we have once again seen the federal government act with great haste to pass legislation, while the Government of Quebec and the Government of Manitoba are telling Parliament to put the brakes on this legislation.

When it comes to acting in the best interests of their constituents, I am saddened that the entire Liberal GTA caucus has chosen to remain silent and stand behind the will of a vocal few.

We should not be surprised. With the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley voting against Bill C-10 at second reading because he truly believed it was not in the best interests of his constituents, voting in support of it at report stage, and then indicating that he would vote against it at third reading, we know who controls the party behind the scenes.

That member will vote for what he believes is in the best interests of his constituents only when he can be assured that he will be outvoted by a large majority, and his vote has become of negligible consequence. Some good that will do.

My question is very simple. Will the federal government withdraw its veto on the future of the Billy Bishop airport and allow Toronto City Council to have a free vote on the future of its island airport?

Air TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

London West Ontario


Kate Young LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am responding again to the question asked by the hon. member for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek regarding the government's position on the former proposal to amend the tripartite agreement among the federal government, the City of Toronto, and PortsToronto.

As noted previously, the proposal would have permitted the use of any capable jet aircraft, not just the Bombardier C Series, and allowed for the extension of the runway. As has been discussed before, in November 2015 the government determined that it would not agree to the amendment of the tripartite agreement to permit jet aircraft and extend the runway. As also stated before, the decision regarding the tripartite agreement and Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport was intended to strike a balance between commercial and community interests, environmental and cultural challenges, including the evolution of the Toronto waterfront.

Again, it has been suggested that Bombardier will not be able to carry on unless the amendments are agreed to. Once again, it is misleading to say that the only issue when examining the proposed amendments to the tripartite agreement was the impact on Bombardier. The government decision to not reopen the tripartite agreement was based on the needs of the city's residents and of those who live in the vicinity of the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.

The government, however, has faith in Bombardier and its products. It has been repeatedly stated that the Bombardier C Series is an excellent aircraft, a world-leading aircraft. It will not rise and fall based on a decision concerning a single airport. It does not need a decision to permit it, and only it, to fly to one specific airport. Not only would that be inappropriate in any circumstances, it would fly in the face of the multitude of factors and considerations that must be assessed and examined when airport expansions are being proposed.

The C Series can fly into most of the airports in the country and around the world, and it is gaining more and more opportunities to do so. The C Series aircraft will soon be in commercial service and represents a notable step forward in commercial aircraft development and aviation.

As noted previously, the order received from Air Canada will help not only Bombardier, but the airline and Canada's aerospace industry in general. As also noted, it will be entering commercial service soon with Swiss airlines. Swiss airlines has said on its website that the first flight will occur in mid-July of this year. Other deliveries have also been announced.

However, the most noteworthy announcement in the last month is that Delta Air Lines has placed a significant order for the C Series aircraft. It was announced in late April that Delta had ordered 75 C Series aircraft, with an option for 50 more, numbers that would make it the largest operator of this remarkable aircraft.

It does not seem to me that the sound decision to not amend the tripartite agreement has harmed Bombardier's sales. The aircraft continues to bring in sales, and when it is seen in commercial service and its promise is turned into action, I am confident more sales will be the result.

Air TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to note that in both the debate about Bill C-10 and the decision by the minister to not approve the lengthening of the runway, members have continually referred back to Bombardier. I appreciate the member's affinity for the Bombardier C Series aircraft. Like her, I look forward to the aircraft entering into service with Swiss airlines later in the year and seeing first-hand how the aircraft operates.

If the member truly does believe that overwhelming local opposition exists to the future expansion of this airport, why will she and her government not let the process continue and let Toronto City Council have a vote on it? Is she afraid of Toronto City Council making a decision that the member for Spadina—Fort York will not agree with?

Air TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Kate Young Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government is very aware of the issues raised several times recently by the hon. member for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek. The government believed in November 2015, and it still believes, that when making a decision about expanding an airport, the potential impact on one aircraft manufacturer cannot be examined in isolation. The effect on the local residents must be considered.

In addition, the government still believes in Bombardier's ability to continue to develop the C Series aircraft and to make new and innovative products that will enhance its standing in the international aerospace community and benefit the Canadian economy. The recent orders Bombardier has received for the C Series show clearly that this is a great aircraft and many airlines want to use the aircraft at many airports, not just at the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.

Agriculture and Agri-foodAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this evening's adjournment debate and to hear the views of my hon. colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary, on a question I asked the minister in the House. I was disappointed in his answer, but 35 seconds is not a lot of time.

I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to outline the Liberal government's overall views on the importance of having agricultural policies based on a vision for the future. Canadian farmers make their decisions based on the short-, medium-, and long-term policies that are in place. It is truly very important for the future of Canadian agriculture that decisions on our farms be made on the basis of policies that will be in place for the long term.

We signed the trans-Pacific partnership, which is currently on the table and waiting to be ratified. That agreement is very important, especially to western Canada, because it will set the long-term parameters for international trade.

We also have a free trade agreement with Europe that also needs to be ratified. Indeed, it will give Canadian products additional access to markets, and this includes Canadian beef, grain, and fruit. We are fortunate to have supply management in Canada. Canada is the only country in the world that enjoys this duality: we export agricultural products, and our products are protected by supply management. This broad vision is very important.

Nevertheless, I am still quite worried about the responses this government has been giving us on agriculture in recent months. I am convinced that my colleague opposite also has some concerns. I know that he is a farmer himself and that his son has taken over his farm. If he has his own vision of farming in Canada, perhaps I could get more answers from him.

However, I do not want my colleague to forget the issue at hand, which is diafiltered milk. Fifteen days ago, we were told it would be resolved in 30 days. Our dairy farmers are really at their wits' end. They are desperate and are even talking about coming to see us here on the Hill in two weeks, after our break. It should not have to get to that point. These people have asked the government to take action. The government has some possible solutions. Even during the NDP opposition day, however, the government did not share any possible solutions with us. This uncertainty about future policies is creating a great deal of insecurity among farmers.

We cannot build a strong country and a strong agricultural system if we do not know whether the current government is committed to Canadian agriculture. We absolutely have to have a vision for the short term, the medium term, and the long term. That said, the long term is really important. We need to maintain the conviction that Canadian agriculture is of paramount importance in Canada and the rest of the world too. We can do without a lot of things, but we cannot do without food and quality food products made by people right here at home. These people work morning to night, seven days a week, 365 days a year to give us the most important thing: good food.

Here in the House, the least we can do is answer their questions and enforce the policies in place.

I hope that my colleague will be able to provide some answers.