Mr. Speaker, before I begin my remarks, I want to take a moment to talk about my friend and Conservative colleague from Prince Albert who introduced this private member's bill, Bill C-234. I know that my colleague from the NDP touched on a lot of different areas, but this bill focuses on one issue that can make a difference.
Since he was first elected in 2008, the member for Prince Albert has worked tirelessly on behalf of his constituents. I have worked with him in some of these areas, particularly on crime, and witnessed first-hand his commitment and enthusiasm on the many issues near and dear to my constituents as well, whether it be agriculture, international trade, or anything else he has worked on with regard to the United States, including transport, and now this particular rural crime issue.
Across the Prairies, we have seen a steady increase in criminal activity in recent years. Criminals are no longer just stealing gas and diesel for their vehicles, but more expensive items such as farm machinery, tools and trailers.
In the last Parliament, my colleague from Lakeland, Alberta, passed her private member's motion, which instructed the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to undertake a study on rural crime. In response to that study, I held five rural crime town halls throughout my constituency to get a better understanding of the types of crimes being reported.
Being proactive in these five town halls, I actively sought people's policy proposals to improve public safety, not only for themselves but also their entire community. Soon after, I wrote the public safety committee outlining 13 proposals, because it was doing the study at the time, and one of them happened to be this very bill we are debating here today.
Before I speak about why I am supporting this legislation, it is important to highlight what happened with the public safety committee study on rural crime back in May 2019, almost two years ago. After eight committee meetings, the Liberals at the time used their majority to ensure that the report would contain absolutely nothing of substance.
In all my years in politics, I have never seen a committee report that was that thin. The Liberals did not allow a single recommendation to be included in that report, and after hearing from a multitude of witnesses, the entire report was just two and a half pages long. I do not know how much it cost to do, but I imagine it was almost $100 a word.
Worse yet, due to the committee's report being so short, the opposition filed a dissenting report that was no longer than the report itself, which prevented the opposition parties from including substantive additions to the report to improve it. I cannot think of any better example of how little time the Liberals have for some of these prairie issues. It was clear from the results of the last election.
Having said that, every MP in the Prairies knows this is a growing problem, and it is not just a prairie problem either. For example, police-reported crime rates are higher in rural than urban areas. In some cases, and I know my colleague from Joliette mentioned this in his speech tonight as well, crime is even 30% higher in rural areas than in urban areas.
In my constituency, we have seen an increase of property crime violations. We have also seen a rise in break-and-enter crimes. I met and spoke with individuals who were the victims of these crimes and they shared how violated they felt after someone broke into their home, farm or business.
In one instance, the thief was brazen enough to break into the home in the middle of the night while the family was sleeping, stole the car keys and drove away with the vehicle. While luckily no one was hurt in this instance, the fact remains that someone broke into their home while they were sleeping in their beds. They woke up the next morning with the frightening realization of how vulnerable and exposed they were.
People living in rural and remote communities know that due to their distance from major urban centres, response times by the RCMP, fire and ambulance are not as quick as they are in communities like Brandon or Prince Albert. Thieves and criminals also know that, which I believe is part of the reason they are now preying on rural communities.
Those who have ever lived on a farm or in a small town know that the relationship and connection with those in their community is something truly unique. They rely on their neighbours, they look out for each other and they make sure that when something needs to be done, they raise their hand to volunteer and get it done. That is what has been happening across the Prairies as rural crime watches have been resurrected.
People are now taking extra precautions, such as taking notice of vehicles are entering people's yards and reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement. I know many who used to pride themselves on not having to lock their doors or even leaving the keys in the console of their vehicles. Sadly those days are pretty well over.
The reality is that criminals are getting better organized. We found out that they are even using drones to check out people's farmyards to see if anyone is home, or to go hunting for what they want to steal next. No one who lives on a farm expects the RCMP to be able to respond to a call within 10 minutes.
This private member's bill will provide a financial incentive for families to better protect themselves. By creating a non-refundable tax credit for home security measures, it will help reduce the costs of getting a system installed. This tax credit would be applied to the installation, maintenance and monitoring of a security system installed on an individual's property to monitor structures such as homes, garages and barns.
As the adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By making it just that much more difficult for thieves or criminals to go undetected, it will undoubtedly discourage future crime from occurring and provide valuable evidence to help solve a crime. By increasing the risk of the criminal getting caught, either by catching their face or a vehicle on a camera, or by alerting law enforcement of the crime in real time, this bill is a common sense bill that will produce results.
If this bill is passed, it is my hope that the security companies will also help communicate this new tax credit to the public, in the same vein as what happened with the home renovation tax credit. I firmly believe encouraging this conversation about steps families can take to better protect themselves and their property will have a tangible impact on crime rates.
This bill is just one step to curb the rising rural crime rates. Our Conservative caucus knows there is still so much more work to be done. Solving this rural crime epidemic will take all three levels of government working together.
I want to applaud the Government of Manitoba for adopting one of the recommendations that came out of my rural crime town halls. Under the leadership of the former minister of justice, the Hon. Cliff Cullen, it established a dedicated RCMP rural crime task force in Manitoba, which the province calls the RCMP crime reduction enforcement support team.
It has already been involved in numerous province-wide operations, including the seizure of $76,000 from illegal goods and 150 weapons, and more than 20 recovered stolen vehicles. The team's good work and investigations have led to criminal charges against 43 people. This concept is something that both the Alberta and Saskatchewan governments have already implemented, and I suspect they are seeing similar results.
In closing, I urge all of my colleagues in the House to support this legislation. It is time for action and leadership on this issue. The Liberals are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a very ill-thought-out buyback program, which only impacts law-abiding firearms owners and sport shooters. Instead, let us spend time and resources on something that will make a big difference.
I thank my colleague from Prince Albert for all of his efforts on this file. I will be voting in favour of Bill C-234. As I said earlier, this is only one of the solutions in a vast suitcase of things that can be done and differences that we can make, but I think it is a big one. I believe that my colleague brings this forward in a responsible manner, which will be able to an impact on rural crime across Canada, never mind just on the Prairies.