Madam Speaker, I certainly am pleased to stand on behalf of the constituents of Red Deer—Lacombe. If many of them actually knew what the Liberal government was proposing through Bill C-75, they would be up in arms about it. This is why.
Much like my colleagues from St. Albert—Edmonton and Bow River said, Alberta right now is going through some tough times. We are not just going through tough times economically as a result of low oil prices and abysmal policies federally and provincially when it comes to our energy sector, but also as a result of crime, especially in the central Alberta region right now.
The City of Red Deer and the central Alberta area are among the most dangerous areas and communities in Canada to live. Rural crime in Alberta has been an ongoing issue of great magnitude for the past several years. In fact, my colleagues and I who have rural components in our ridings in Alberta have worked with our provincial colleagues to have a rural crime task force over the last six months. We have consulted widely with stakeholders. We have consulted with Albertans. I had three town halls in January. I had influenza and pneumonia at the time, but I still made it to those meetings, where hundreds of people filled halls in our community. I know this would be the same for my colleagues.
I met with the RCMP, law enforcement officers, and virtually every stakeholder impacted by this, including victim services organizations, rural crime watch organizations, and citizens on patrol. All of these organizations gave us clear direction of where they wanted their government to go. If they read and knew about the contents of Bill C-75, they would realize that on virtually everything they advised us to do, the bill does the exact opposite. This is the problem.
Here are some of the things I heard loud and clear from the constituents I represent, and from police officers as well. I met with every detachment, including Rimbey, Sylvan Lake, Blackfalds. I met with city police in Lacombe and the Red Deer city police, who are RCMP as well. I met with Ponoka. I met with everyone I possibly could on this issue.
The problem they face is what happens after police catch criminals. Here I am talking about the current laws we have today, not the watered down version that Canadians are going to get. This is about the current legislation today.
A police officer can arrest someone who is in possession of stolen property from at least 10 different break and enters for theft. They hold these people in cells and take them to their hearings, where they will get bail. Part of the bail provisions these people get is an instruction that they not associate with any of the people who have also been charged with these crimes, and that they not participate in any more illegal activity. They are given a slap on the wrist and off they go.
Five days later, the RCMP or police will pick up these same individuals in the same area. They will find them in possession of stolen property from other illegal break and enters. The value of that property is in the thousands of dollars, and usually motor vehicles are involved either as a tool or to get to a crime scene, or to be stolen. These individuals will be held in cells and will go back before the judge again. Now they are there facing charges from the previous break and enters, now breach of bail conditions, and now more theft and break and enter charges. What does the judge do again? It is a slap on the wrist and away the criminal goes.
I spent a lot of time as a fisheries technician, an angler, and a fishing guide. I understand the value of catch-and-release, but when it comes to crime, catch-and-release is bad policy. This is not working for the people I represent, and it is only going to get worse. It is called the revolving door on crime. The police and the people in the communities know this. It is the same people doing the same things over and over again without consequence. This is a critical problem.
I have a private member's slot coming up and I was going to present a bill to the House that would have created an escalating clause for theft over $5,000 because of the magnitude, cost, and impact that is having on the communities I represent. There seem to be no ongoing consequences for this, but if there were an escalator on a second, third, or subsequent charges of theft over $5,000, or for stealing motor vehicles, there would be consequences for the more crimes someone commits. It should cost them more.
Here is the problem. In Alberta, the current federal government has been negligent in appointing judges. The government cannot say that there are not good, qualified candidates in Alberta. It might have trouble finding good, qualified Liberal candidates to fill some of these vacancies, because there are not a whole lot of Liberals left in Alberta. There is no shortage of qualified people in Alberta to fill these vacancies.
As a result of the Jordan decision, a number of these crimes are pleaded down to bare minimums to advance the court docket.
We hear words from the minister like “efficiency”. Efficiency simply means that they are going to get these people before the judge, slap them on the wrist more quickly, and send them through that revolving door faster. The only thing this bill is going to do for thieves in central Alberta is make them dizzy from how fast the revolving door is going to go around as they go in and out of the justice system. This would be an absolute abomination for the law-abiding property owners in my constituency, should this bill come to pass. To me, it is absolutely mind-boggling.
I will get back to the rural crime task force. They want more provisions to be able to look after themselves to protect themselves and their property in rural areas. They want more serious consequences. They want more police on the roads able to do the work that needs to be done.
There are people who live 45 minutes to an hour away from the police. In fact, I have heard of instances when the police did not show up for three or four days after the actual crime to just catalogue and log what was actually stolen. This is how serious and how far behind the system actually is.
Rather than providing resources, more resources for police, more resources for our prosecutorial services, more resources for the bench, and more resources for our penal system, the government has its own agenda and is spending a lot of money on other things. This is money that is actually taken out Canadian taxpayers' pockets.
The primary ordinance of any government ought to be the safety and security of its law-abiding citizens. That does not appear to be the case with this piece of legislation. The people I represent would be very frustrated to know this.
I will get to a couple of the details. I think most of my constituents would be deeply offended to find out the direction the government is going on some of these things.
First is theft over $5,000. Right now there are basically two different categories of theft in the Criminal Code. If someone steals something with a net value or a deemed value or an instrumental value of over $5,000, that is currently an indictable offence. What that means is that the crown must go ahead and pursue that as a criminal matter, as an indictable offence, before the court, with a mandatory prison sentence of some sort involved, with a maximum penalty of up to 10 years.
Should Bill C-75 pass in its current form, that provision will now basically have the same type of penalties that theft under $5,000 has. Theft under $5,000 right now actually proceeds by way of summary conviction, or potentially as an indictable offence, or as a hybrid offence.
Basically, what the Liberal government is proposing is to treat theft over $5,000 the same as theft under $5,000. In fact, after the changes go through, there is going to be little to distinguish theft over $5,000 from theft under $5,000, which means that a judge could hand out the same penalty to someone who stole a car as to someone who shoplifted a pack of Hubba Bubba. That is where this is going. It is really unfortunate.
We want to give our judges a little discretion. I understand that, but why would we water down the legislation so much, to the point where they actually would not even have that discretion anymore. I would argue that instead of doing this kind of work, we should have provisions in the bill for theft over $20,000, if someone is going to start stealing expensive motor vehicles, or theft over $100,000, if someone has run a string of thefts and has stolen a welding truck, an RV, and a trailer, and so on. Why these things are not being taken any more seriously than shoplifting a package of gum is beyond me. We are heading absolutely in the wrong direction.
I did take a bit of offence. I know that not everyone who ends up in the criminal system has had an easy life, but the justice minister categorized the changes in the Criminal Code to take into consideration a lot of factors, and one of those factors is the result of previous victimization. Let us take a look at what these charges are.
First is participation in the activity of a terrorist group. This does not sound like someone who does not know what he or she is doing and is underprivileged or is having trouble on the street. Second is a prison breach. That does not sound like someone who is underprivileged. Third is municipal corruption or influencing municipal officials. I do not see the homeless people in my riding having a lot of influence on the mayor or the reeve or anyone to that effect. Fourth is influencing or negotiating appointments or dealings in offices. That does not sound like a crime of the underprivileged or of those who were previously victimized.
I could go through most of these: extortion by libel, advocating genocide, possession of property obtained by crime, prohibited insider trading. Yes, these are the crimes of the poor and unfortunate the Liberal justice minister characterized when she made her speech. These are well-organized crimes that are perpetrated by people who know darn well what they are doing, and they are doing it on purpose. This brings me to my point on organized crime.
Right now the current government has two bills in the House: Bill C-71, which proposes to crack down on law-abiding firearms owners and make their lives intensely more miserable; and Bill C-75, which would actually make life far easier for criminals. The hypocrisy and juxtaposition of these two pieces of legislation is absolutely astonishing.
For example, the Liberal public safety minister said that the government is using Bill C-71 to crack down on guns and gangs, yet the justice minister is proposing a bill that says that we are going to hybridize offences in the Criminal Code for participation in the activities of a criminal organization. If we are not living in freaking upside-down land, I do not know what is going on.
The Liberal government is going to penalize law-abiding firearms owners with Bill C-71. Meanwhile, it is going to change the Criminal Code and say that if members of a gang are using guns, we are going to proceed by way of hybridization, potentially a summary conviction offence and a mere fine, for being involved in that criminal organization. This makes absolutely no sense. It makes no sense to the law-abiding firearms community in my riding. It makes no sense to the law-abiding community in my riding.
The criminals and thieves who are operating in my riding are looking at today's legislative agenda and saying to themselves, “My goodness, the smorgasbord just got bigger and better. We are now going to have shopping lists for firearms, because the government is requiring business owners to keep those shopping lists available for us. We are going to be able to go to all the homes we want to and get the property we want.” They will get a slap on the wrist and a trip through the revolving door. Bada bing bada boom. They will thank the Liberals. We know who supports the Liberals. It is the criminals in this country. It is not the law-abiding citizens.