Madam Speaker, before I begin today, I would like to first thank the fine people of Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner for putting their trust in me for the third time. It is an absolute honour and privilege to serve them in this capacity.
I thank my core campaign team, including our chair, Ryan Thorburn; volunteer coordinators, office managers, get-out-to-vote leaders, full-time encouragers, and basically the real bosses of the campaign, Sharlyn Wagner and Margo Dick; our IT go-to guy, Dean Grey; my financial wizard and agent, Dave Camphor; planning and printing logistics, Tim Seitz; volunteer care and event planning, Val Seitz; and all things signs, Alex Dumanowski and Gary Proctor. I thank them all so much for their dedication and hard work. They are a testament of what can be accomplished when people get together as a team. I will always be indebted to them.
I thank the many volunteers who door knocked, put up signs, helped in the office and volunteered with scrutineering on election day. None of this is possible without them, and I thank them very much.
I will turn my attention now to Bill C-5, which is the exact same bill, ironically, that was introduced as Bill C-22 in the last Parliament before the Prime Minister called his snap vanity election.
The Liberals would want Canadians to believe that Bill C-5 is simply about reducing minimum sentencing for simple drug possession, but that is not so. Most Canadians would be alarmed to learn that the Liberal bill, Bill C-5, is aimed at eliminating mandatory prison time for criminals who prey on our communities and victimize the vulnerable.
Bill C-5 proposes to eliminate mandatory prison time not for petty crimes but for things like drug trafficking and acts of violence. It would even allow violent criminals to serve their sentences on house arrest and not in prison, putting our communities at continued risk.
Over the last six years, Liberal legislation on crime and the criminal justice system has been largely out of touch with the realities of most Canadians, especially those impacted by crime. Canada's crime stats confirm that we are seeing rising crime rates all across this country, increased gang violence and shootings, increased organized crime activities, and increased drug trafficking, drug use and drug overdoses.
Let me focus for the next few minutes on examining several of the main areas of Bill C-5, those being the elimination of mandatory prison time for firearm offences, the elimination of mandatory prison time for drug dealers, the expansion of conditional sentences and the diversion for simple drug possession.
I try to look at this legislation through the lenses of having been in law enforcement for 35 years and of being a parliamentarian representing the constituents of my riding and their voices. Let us first of all look at the elimination of mandatory prison time for firearm offences.
In contrast to the Liberal spin on their being so-called tough on gun violence, which is what they have been feeding Canadians, there is the complete hypocrisy of Bill C-5, which proposed to eliminate several mandatory minimum sentences related to gun crimes, including serious gun crimes such as robbery with a firearm, extortion with a firearms, using a firearm in the commission of an offence, discharging a firearm with intent, which is Criminal Code language for shooting at someone, illegal possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm, importing or exporting an unauthorized firearm, discharging a firearm recklessly and other firearm offences such weapons trafficking, importing or exporting knowing the firearm is unauthorized, possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition, possession of a weapon obtained by the commission of an offence in Canada and possession for the purpose of weapons trafficking.
What does this really all amount to? Because the Liberals believe the current laws are unfair, they would be eliminating mandatory prison time for criminals who commit such crimes as robbery with a firearm, drive-by shootings and unlawful possession of firearms. It is clearer than ever that the Liberals are more interested in protecting criminals than they are protecting our communities. If we think things are bad now, just wait for this legislation to take effect, should it pass in its current form. I am afraid the worst is yet to come.
Let us look at the second area of the bill, which is the elimination of mandatory prison time for drug dealers. At a time when we are experiencing the heartbreak of addiction and overdose deaths in our country, the Liberals' solution is to eliminate mandatory prison time for several offences in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which specifically targets drug dealers and offences such as trafficking, or possession for the purpose of trafficking; importing or exporting, or possession for the purpose of importing or exporting; and production of a schedule 1 or schedule 2 substance, which are drugs such as fentanyl, crystal meth, heroin, cocaine, the very drugs that are wreaking havoc on our communities. How does that even make sense?
The Liberals are trying to spin it and say that Bill C-5 will help those who struggle with addictions. Come on, Canadians are not that naive or stupid. They know the Liberals are purposely failing to point out that the mandatory minimums they are eliminating are for drug dealers who specifically prey on those with addictions. This is not the solution. It would only make the current problems a lot worse.
The next area I want to look at in Bill C-5 is the expansion of conditional sentencing. The bill allows for greater use of conditional sentencing orders, such as house arrest, for a significant number of serious offences for which the offender faces a prison term of less than two years. Those offences now include sexual assault; kidnapping; criminal harassment; human trafficking; abduction of a person under the age of 14; assault causing bodily harm or assault with a weapon; assaulting a peace officer causing bodily harm, or assaulting a peace officer with a weapon; trafficking or importing schedule 3 drugs, which are hallucinogenic like LSD and psilocybin; and many other offences, such as prison breach, motor vehicle theft, theft over $5,000, breaking and entering a place other than a dwelling house, being in a dwelling house unlawfully, arson for a fraudulent purpose, causing bodily harm and criminal negligence.
What this all means is that criminals who prey on victims in their communities can now serve their sentence at home, many times in the same neighbourhood as their victim. Again, this clearly puts communities at risk. For years now we have heard whispers that the Liberal government was trying to empty out our prisons, expedite parole and reduce sentences. It now appears that those whispers are coming true. I wonder how conditional sentences will deter criminals who prey on our communities.
I also want to touch briefly on another aspect of Bill C-5, which is the diversion measures for simple drug possession. Again, the Liberals are trying to tell us, and are asking Canadians to believe, that the diversion section in Bill C-5 all of a sudden gives police and prosecutors the ability to use their discretion when determining for simple drug possession whether to lay charges, warn, or refer to support programs. It might come as a complete surprise to the Liberals, but that has been the case all along.
Police have been doing that. For decades they have been using their discretion whether to lay charges on someone for drug possession. In fact, Canada's Public Prosecution Service has previously issued a directive to prosecutors to avoid prosecuting simple drug possession unless there are major public safety concerns. Yes, I admit, Bill C-5 now does codify this approach, but it is unlikely to have any impact because this is already the practice when dealing with simple drug possession.
This legislation is out of touch with rising crime on our streets. It is out of touch with the needs of victims and communities battling gang violence. It is out of touch with law enforcement from across the country, who continue to report rising crime, increased violent crime and more gang shootings. This legislation is out of touch with our country's opioid epidemic. Crime has been increasing every year the Liberals have been in power, reversing a two-decade trend. This is the worst government on keeping Canadians safe in the last 20 years.
According to Stats Canada, the crime severity index has risen since 2015 from a 66.9 rating to a 79.5 rating in 2019, a 25% increase in serious crime. The violent crime index has increased from 70.7 in 2014 to 89.7 in 2019, which is also a 25% increase in the last five years.
Stats Canada also reports that rural crime and the rates of rural crime are increasing 23% faster than urban crime rates.
The Toronto Police Service has some of the best publicly available stats when it comes to the realities in its community. There has been an increase in shootings, gun homicides and injuries in each year of the last six years the Liberals have been in government. In comparison, let us first look at 2014, before the Liberals formed government, as the baseline for the Toronto numbers. In 2014, there were 177 shootings in Toronto alone, which resulted in 103 people killed or injured. Those are unacceptable numbers, but pale in comparison to the years that followed. In 2016, there were 393 shootings in Toronto, with 183 people killed or injured. In 2017, there were 367 shootings, with 180 people killed or injured. In 2018, Toronto again had 393 shootings, with 208 people killed or injured. In 2019, those numbers jumped to 492 shootings, with 284 people killed or injured. In 2020, there were 462 shootings, with 217 lives lost or injured. So far, in 2021, those numbers are continuing, at similarly unacceptable rates, with over 380 shootings and 198 people killed or injured.
I am sure Canadians are wondering how this bill will reduce shootings and people dying even by just one. What will removing mandatory minimum sentences on firearms offences such as the ones I have mentioned do for our communities? Safer communities should be the focus of the current government, but sadly they are not.
Since 2016, nearly 30,000 Canadians have died from opioid-related addiction and overdose. Why is the first action of the Liberal government to reduce sentences on drug trafficking? How does this help the tens of thousands battling addictions whose habits are being fed by the very drug dealers preying on the vulnerable this bill is meant to protect? Going after these drug dealers should be the priority of this place.
Canadians do not feel safe and nothing in this bill will help them be any safer in their homes and communities. In 2020, an Angus Reid survey found that 48% of Canadians felt crime was getting worse. Canadians are rightly tired of being afraid in their own neighbourhoods and homes. The top priority of any government should be the protection of its people. This bill does nothing to address those threats against Canadians; it only protects criminals from being held responsible for their crimes.
The bill really shows how far out of step the Liberal government is with the needs and concerns of everyday Canadians. A legal scholar recently suggested that when looking at legislation we should be asking what the problems are that we are trying solve and whether the proposed legislation would solve those problems. It is the kind of question that should be asked in this place every time the Criminal Code or any similar act is used to try and solve policy problems. I can say that after reviewing Bill C-5, I would assert that the legislation may actually contribute to the problems we are facing in this country, rather than trying to solve them. It does nothing to improve public safety.
Let us be clear. The problem the government should be trying to solve is gun violence committed by criminals and gangs using illegal firearms, mostly smuggled into this country and used to kill in communities across Canada. It should be trying to solve the addiction and drug problems we have and the overdose deaths plaguing our communities across this country, not catering to those who are contributing to the epidemic. It should hold criminals responsible for their violent crimes and drug dealing and focus on rehabilitation, not a revolving door of justice. However, the Liberal solution to these problems is a lazy, misguided approach that caters to criminals, ignores victims and does not protect Canadians.