Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and yes, I would ask my hon. colleague to be patient. I will get to my point forthwith.
The priorities of Canadians are not the priorities of this Liberal Prime Minister and his government, and this could not be more clear than when two former cabinet ministers were removed from their party. They were banished last week, and there was a breakdown in trust. Sadly, the fault lies clearly with the Prime Minister and his cronies, while the penalties continue to be placed on the members who were removed.
The Prime Minister has offered one falsehood after another trying to it explain away. Quite bluntly, it has been painfully obvious to the rest of the country that he put politics ahead of the best interests of Canadians.
The Liberals have tabled their bill for taxpayer-funded records suspensions. There it is; I am back on the issue. How does this align with the needs of Canadians? In general, how does it fit with public safety? The many issues facing our country in protecting our communities and ensuring a strong, fair justice system go well beyond the Prime Minister trying to interfere with the independence of the former attorney general or the director of public prosecutions.
We know where Canada is struggling with public safety. According to Statistics Canada information, Canada has a gang problem in our cities. We have a justice problem, with backlogged courts and court appointments for judges. We have a rural crime problem. We have a sentencing and recidivism problem, with revolving doors in the justice and jail system. We have evidence-lab challenges and RCMP police-resourcing challenges. Stats Canada has shown that gang-related shootings are primarily responsible for recent increases in violent crime in this country, and to date, the only Liberal response has been unfulfilled promises.
Instead of action, the Liberals' legislative changes, like Bill C-71, for example, went after licensed firearms owners instead of criminals. As the Department of Public Safety noted in its own consultation document, the vast majority of licensed firearms owners are not involved in crime. In fact, statistics provided to the public safety committee suggest that it is under 1%. The Liberals' legislative response to gang violence and illegal weapons has been to crack down on less than 1% of the problem and to ignore the 99%.
What would help? I know a number of items that could help improve public safety and reduce violent crime. First is spending the money the government promised for policing and to go after organized crime. Second is to put more resources into public prosecutions, courts and evidence labs. These have all been shown to be under-resourced, especially with the recent court decision to limit trial length. Third is to stop softening sentences for violent criminals, as proposed in Bill C-75. Serious crime needs serious punishment for reform to work, and all these ideas have evidence to show that they are needed and would have an impact.
What will not have an impact is a taxpayer-funded pot pardon. No one would be safer because of this policy. A very small number of Canadians would benefit from it. The truth, from my experience, is that most individuals likely to seek record suspensions may have a number of other convictions as well. While they may receive a single free record suspension, their other charges may not be so free. Possession might be only one of the many charges on a person's record.
Where would Bill C-93 leave this House and Canada on the constant effort to combat crime in an ever-changing and evolving world? After three and a half years of Liberal mismanagement, we have a strained legal system that sees more and more criminals going free, rather than facing charges, or pleading to significantly less-serious charges.
Prisoners will now have access to needles whenever and wherever they want in prisons. As our correctional officers have told us and have pointed out more than once, even in Europe, which the Liberals claim to be copying, the needles are never in the general population; they are in the hands of medical staff. Rather than dealing with the cause of crime, most often addiction, the Liberal plan is to continue the addiction.
Under the current Liberal government, we have seen a horrific record of protecting communities from returning ISIS fighters. When we asked the committee how many outstanding monitoring warrants were placed on the 60 ISIS terrorists who have returned, the number was zero.
While I have no doubt that teams at CSIS and the RCMP are working to keep tabs on these individuals, and are doing a great job, limited by the legislation from the government, the red tape and oversight rules proposed under Bill C-59 would no doubt make it harder to watch known radical extremists who have participated in horrific, hate-based crimes. To me and many Canadians, a desire to join ISIS is itself an admission that someone supports violence.
The Prime Minister is happy to talk about being opposed to radicals and extremists, but none of his actions suggest that he is serious about combatting the sources of radicalization or the threat of domestic terrorism. Words matter, but actions have impacts.
We have seen a radical and damaging string of policies that have increased drugs in our communities and have not helped make anyone safer. Whether it was the poorly thought-out and rushed legislation on marijuana, which ignored reasonable requests from police and medical professionals, or the unnecessary risk of drug-impaired driving, to my knowledge, we still do not have a reliable roadside mechanism to test for drug impairment or to increase supervised injection sites.
Nothing so explains the potential harm of the Liberal approach to crime as the issue of rural crime, which we are dealing with in rural Canada. My riding has a small city and an expansive rural region. Across Alberta, Saskatchewan and other parts of our country, we have heard from Canadians about the rampant, escalating crime in rural communities committed, for the most part, by urban criminals victimizing rural Canadians where police response is minimal, delayed, or in some cases, nonexistent.
Canadians have told us heartbreaking stories of violent encounters, financial hardship and trauma from repeated thefts and victimization. Canadians have spoken of fear, alienation and abandonment. That is not Canada. That is not my Canada, but it has become an unfortunate reality in the Prime Minister's Canada.
With Bill C-93, the government is proposing a no-fee, no-waiting-period record suspension without any enquiries or reviews of personal history or conduct. The reason we have a Parole Board, both the administration and the regional organization, appointed to conduct hearings is to exercise discretion in the review of individual cases. Parole hearings can uncover vital information about convictions, such as a plea deal with lesser charges despite the person having been involved in serious and violent crimes.
While there are likely to be a very limited number of cases like this, such cases may be separated from simple possession issues. Moreover, some plea deals may have been arranged with lesser charges but with specific instructions, such as an agreement to have no record suspension, as appropriate to the person's personal history.
This means that these pardons would be granted as a matter of process, and the board would take up no inquiry of the person and would have little or no opportunity to exercise discretion. This means that even in cases where it was patently obvious that the person continued a criminal lifestyle but did not have a conviction entered against him or her, a pardon would be granted.
The police in this country have raised some concerns about Bill C-93. They suggest that our officers need to feel confident that individuals who are a threat to public safety and the public order are going to be popping up on CPIC, even if they have been convicted of simple possession.
Here is a scenario as an example. There are many individuals who have been charged with more than one serious criminal drug offence, but once they have gone to court and worked out a plea deal for simple possession for a multitude of possession charges, these charges are then reduced for multiple reasons, such as to ease a court backlog, to save witnesses from testifying or to secure testimony for the conviction of a bigger criminal player, etc. The plea to a simple possession charge would be used by the Crown with the understanding, as I said previously, that the conviction would still be a permanent part of that individual's record, ensuring that any future investigation of a similar nature could be appropriately linked and applied to that person's own personal history.
This does not serve the best interests of officer safety or community safety. It does not promote the rehabilitation of those entrenched in the criminal element, the ones who threaten to be repeat offenders.
I appreciate the fact that we cannot hold unproven facts against individuals. That would be unfair. However, we cannot ignore the circumstances that would lead to the arrest, charging and conviction of individuals using the available laws and the discretion of the day, which is key. The Crown and the courts would not have accepted the lesser pleas knowing the proposal today. This itself would affect the administration of justice.
There are two very different scenarios at play here: one person who is stopped and charged for carrying a dime bag of marijuana versus a person who is caught up in a drug ring and pleads to a simple possession charge. They are two very different people, but the proposed changes would treat them the same way. One is not a danger to police or the community, and the other continues to pose a risk. That is what should be screened. There should not just be blanket pardons.
While the Liberals are happy to talk about there being discretion in our justice system, they have removed the discretion of the public service at the Parole Board as well as the discretion of the Parole Board itself. It is important to keep in context the arrest charges and plea deals, especially since many plea deals would never have considered the possibility of a future government legalizing drugs and imposing record suspensions without any review or context.
The House should consider that no individuals would benefit from this act who would be excluded otherwise, and I can see no way to make that happen without an appropriate review.
I hope that members of the committee are not prevented from making minor and common-sense amendments to the legislation that would ensure public safety. Already we have seen too many pieces of legislation from the Liberals that ignore common sense and public safety in favour of policy and division.
To be clear, I know, and I believe members know, that these are not the public safety priorities of Canadians. This bill would not help victims recover from the trauma of violent crime. It would not prevent criminals from victimizing rural Canadians. It would not stop gang violence or deter youth from joining gangs. It would not address illegal firearms in our country. It would not address the many concerns and challenges faced by prosecutors and police across the country.
I see Bill C-93 as a continuation of the Liberals' plan: more minor gestures without the requisite actions to combat addiction, crime and poverty to improve public safety. It is a plan that would provide a benefit to a select and small group of Canadians at taxpayers' expense, a plan that would double down on legalizing marijuana while ignoring real, serious and important threats to Canada's public safety. These are not the priorities of Canadians. This bill does not address the issues, and from what I have heard from police and prosecutors across the country, it does not address their concerns.
I can only assume that Liberal MPs will once again be called on to vote in blind faith with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety, because today more and more Canadians are seeing clearly that the priorities of the Liberals are not the priorities of Canadians.