Madam Speaker, I will be pleased to speak to Bill C-93. However, before I do, I want to congratulate all my fellow Albertans celebrating carbon tax freedom day. I also want to thank the new provincial government in Alberta for keeping its promise, which is something my friends across the way do not know. Maybe they can wait for the translation. It kept its campaign promise to repeal that bill. I also want to take this opportunity to wish our new premier, Premier Jason Kenney, a happy birthday.
Bill C-93 is a bill basically to provide no-cost expedited record suspensions for those who received a criminal record for pot possession. It proposes to make changes to the pardon process to waive the fees for past pot possession convictions. It will assist Canadians who were criminalized for possession of pot that is now legal, waive the usual wait time and also amend other acts.
We generally support the bill, but I have to agree with my colleague from the riding of Victoria, and it is a dad joke, when he called it half-baked. We will support the bill. It is not perfect, but it is a step forward. I am sure when the Conservatives are back in power, we will take the time to fix the weaknesses in the bill.
The Conservatives at committee put through several valid amendments, which I will discuss here.
First, we put forward an amendment to allow for record suspension applications to be made through an online portal to make it easier and most cost-effective for Canadians to apply. Unfortunately, that was voted down by the Liberals.
We put forward an amendment to allow for applicants whose records had been destroyed to sign an affidavit explaining their circumstances and swearing that they were eligible. This would bring procedural fairness, which was criticized by several witnesses. It was originally passed at committee and then unfortunately defeated by the Liberals at a later stage.
We put forward an amendment to reinstate the Parole Board's power to cause inquiries to be made to determine the applicant's conduct since the day of conduct. It was unfortunately defeated by the Liberals.
We also put put forward an amendment with respect the Parole Board's power to cause inquiries with respect to any factors that may be considered in determining whether ordering the record suspension would bring the administration of justice into disrepute. That was also defeated by the Liberals at committee.
Finally, we put forward an amendment to require that the Parole Board include in its annual report a review of the success rate of this legislation and the associated costs. This actually was approved.
The Canadian Police Association put forward an amendment, which we hope the Liberals will consider. This is the police asking that the Parole Board retain limited flexibility and discretion to conduct investigations and to ensure that the small number of applications from habitual offenders, not all, are vetted. This would ensure that these individuals would not take advantage of a process that was clearly not intended for their cases.
There are some fiscal implications of the bill.
The Department of Public Safety and the Minister of Public Safety think it is around $2 million. They have not done any fulsome studies, but they guess it is around $2 million. It is funny timing for the minister to say that, basically at the same time the Senate has forced through Bill C-81, the new backdoor gun registry bill.
I want people to think back to the Liberal government years ago and Allan Rock. The government said that the gun registration would only be $2 million. It ended up well over a billion. It ended up costing Canadian taxpayers about $1.3 billion. Of course, with this massive spending oversight, what did the Liberal government do? Much like it does today with all its other mistakes, errors and incompetence. It blames someone else. It blames the provinces and the gun owners themselves.
[Member spoke in Latin and provided the following translation:]
Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
[Member spoke in Latin and provided the following translation:]
Beware of Liberals promising just $2 million costs.
The government apparently has not done a proper study on the costs or timelines. The fee previously was $631, which I understand had been moved up previously in 2012, on advice of bureaucrats who said that was the general cost of arranging the cost of the suspension. Now the government is saying it expects it to be $250. Where did $250 to the penny come from? We do not know because they have not done their homework on it.
It is currently five to 10 years to get the suspension, but the public safety minister said he could not offer a timeline as to when that would happen. He said that the critical point was not the cost or the actual timeline to help Canadians; it was getting the bill tabled. It was not the actual results helping Canadians, but it was the announcement of getting this bill tabled.
I have to ask, why now? The government has also said this is fundamental transformation. If it is critical and a fundamental transformation, I have to ask why the government waited until the final three weeks to put the bill through. Obviously it has been rushed through for political reasons.
I have looked at the departmental plans, and remember these are the plans that the minister signs and that are tabled in the House. This is not just nominal propaganda; these are actual documents tabled in the House, showing the government's plans for its departments.
These are the Liberals' targets for this year. The percentage of record suspensions that are processed within an established time frame is 95%, but the Minister of Public Safety says there is no time frame. Why would they commit to a target of 95%, table these numbers in the House and at the same time tell Canadians they do not know where they are going to help. I do not know if they do not have a clue, do not know what they are doing with their departmental plans or are just being disingenuous.
I also note that the departmental plans for 2018-19 for the Parole Board go out three years. When we factor in just 2% inflation, they are cutting 8.6% of the Parole Board's spending. This is in the Parole Board's departmental plans. These are actual plans, submitted in the House for long-range forecasts, which show they are cutting 8.6% of Parole Board funding.
When the member for Yellowhead submitted an amendment at committee, suggesting that people be able to apply online for this, members were told by the Parole Board that it could not offer it because of technical limitations. Apparently they do not have enough money to develop the technology, but at the same time we are going to allow this new process with up to 250,000 Canadians applying.
When we look at the Parole Board's departmental plans, which are also required to show labour going forward, they have not added a single body from the 2016-17 year. From last year to next year, they added five bodies. They are going to process perhaps up to 250,000 of these suspensions with no extra labour. Why do they think they can do all this extra work without providing extra bodies and while at the same time cutting 8.6% from the Parole Board budget going forward?
If getting it tabled is as critical as the minister says, and if it is so transformational, why has the government not provided for long-term funding in the departmental plans? It is not even mentioned in the public safety minister's own departmental plan. I remind members that all the pardons for the unjust criminalization of same-sex activities will be going through at the same time, yet with no extra bodies.
This is right from the Parole Board's departmental plan, signed off by the Minister of Public Safety. It says the volume of applications forecasted to be received this year or next year remains the same. We have all the applications from the unjust criminalization of those in same-sex activities all those years ago and potentially 250,000 Canadians who can receive a pardon for pot possession. The government has provided no extra resources and no extra staff, and has actually said there is not going to be any increase in applications over the previous year.
Again, I have to wonder how seriously the Liberal members are taking this. They say it is transformational and critical, but like so many other things, they leave it until the last second and rush it through. Are they pushing it through solely for their political agenda and for political reasons? The evidence shows they are. If they actually really cared about Canadians, they would have tabled this legislation at the same time they legalized pot. They would have taken the time to perhaps consider the other amendments put through by our party, the NDP or law enforcement members.
While we support the bill, it is another example of lazy legislation by the government.