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.