Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-234. Since my colleague from Joliette already announced it in a previous speech, it will come as no surprise when I say that the Bloc Québécois will vote against Bill C-234. We have serious doubts about the effectiveness of such a bill and feel it would only push people to spend more on security systems that would not actually make them safer.
This bill seeks to amend the Income Tax Act to create a non-refundable tax credit for individuals who purchase a home security system. It would grant a credit of up to $5,000 for the total of all amounts spent on home security. This includes the acquisition, installation, maintenance and monitoring of a security system installed in an individual's home. The eligible home includes any structure that is separate from the house, such as a garage or even a barn. The credit could be used every year. However, in cases where more than one member of the household claims it, the maximum amount eligible would be $5,000.
In my speech, I will approach this bill from three angles. First I will explain why we believe this money could be put to much better use. I will then talk about the issue of rising crime, which we discussed at the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. Finally, I will propose some solutions to address this problem.
First of all, we oppose Bill C-234 because we believe that the money that would be spent to subsidize the purchase of such systems would be much better spent on provincial police, indigenous police and the RCMP. First nations police services are in dire need of resources, and the government needs to start by funding them properly to help remote communities. Just this week, actually, when I was filling in at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, we were discussing the problem of lack of resources at the RCMP.
Bill C-234, introduced by the member for Prince Albert, from the Conservative Party, says that rural crime is increasing at a higher rate than urban crime. It attributes this to the fact that rural areas are sometimes not as well served by law enforcement, which apparently leads some residents to install security systems, such as cameras or alarms. If the police already have a hard time responding, what is the point of investing in an alarm system?
Clearly, the police response would be too slow to prevent the crime anyway. I myself live in what would be considered a rural area, and I have sometimes come across this problem and this reality. The member even acknowledged that his bill will not fix the problem. The Bloc Québécois is not indifferent to this concern, of course, and neither am I, after hearing testimony at the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. However, why not invest more in the RCMP and in provincial police forces by transferring that money to Quebec, the provinces and the territories?
This type of tax credit encourages people to spend money on systems that are not likely to prevent crime. The preamble to Bill C-234 nevertheless tries to justify the relevance of this bill by stating:
Whereas the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, in its Thirty-third Report of the 42nd Parliament, recognized that crime in rural areas is of growing concern to rural residents across the country; Whereas the Committee heard that while crime in rural areas is more acute in western Canada, eastern provinces are also experiencing high crime rates in rural areas; And whereas the committee heard from witnesses of incidents related to property crimes, such as break-ins, thefts and, in some cases, violent assaults, including sexual violence and violence towards women;
I will repeat that Bill C-234 will merely push people to spend money on goods and services that will only give them a false sense of security.
Indigenous communities are sorely lacking in resources and are often poorly served by police forces. Money spent by this bill would be much better spent on security in first nations communities, which are asking that this become an essential service. According to Jerel Swamp, the vice-president of the First Nations Chiefs of Police Association, indigenous police services work with limited resources. What we did realize at the Standing Committee on the Status of Women is that indigenous women are often the most affected by security issues. It is difficult to understand why indigenous police services are the only ones in Canada that are not deemed an essential service.
I have another example from the Rama police service in Ontario, which does not have money to fund forensic and crime investigation units or to provide aid to victims. This is essential in cases of sexual assault.
In its throne speech, the federal government committed to accelerating the implementation of a legal framework to recognize first nations policing as an essential service. It promised to take action on this shortly after the 2019 election. These promises were renewed after indigenous protests against the Coastal GasLink pipeline in British Columbia. Those indigenous peoples are still waiting for royal assent.
Again according to Mr. Swamp, Public Safety Canada currently funds services through the first nations policing program, but the funding received is inadequate to provide the services the communities require.
The federal promise to make first nations policing services an essential service is a step in the right direction. Our departments, Public Safety, have said that passing legislation to make indigenous policing an essential service will require developing a better funding framework.
The first nations policing program was created in 1991 to provide funding for agreements between the federal government, the provincial or territorial governments, and first nations and Inuit communities to provide policing services to these communities. The federal government contributes 52% of the funding for the first nations policing program, with the remainder coming from the provincial and territorial governments. The program provides policing services to nearly 60% of first nations and Inuit communities.
In 2018-19, the Department of Public Safety spent more than $146 million through that program to support 1,322 police officer positions in over 450 first nations and Inuit communities. According to Mr. Swamp, however, the funding is inconsistent and always allocated for the short term. This makes planning difficult and creates a lack of predictability. Even so, the police chief believes that these services are effective in investigating violent crimes using their limited resources.
Second, as part of its study on women living in rural communities, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women addressed the issue of crime, not only in urban settings, but also in rural areas.
Some of the other potential solutions proposed by witnesses in committee include a suggestion that the government transfer operational funding, on an ongoing basis, to Quebec, the provinces and the territories for the community-based shelters and halfway houses that help women affected by violence. Another suggestion was that more money be sent to Quebec and the provinces to help survivors of violence.
Some recommended better training on the realities women face, in particular for the RCMP, to help stamp out bias and teach officers how to respond to the trauma these women may have experienced. Others said that we need to work on lifting women out of poverty by, for example, getting them better access to the job market by supporting universal child care services.
Speaking of universal child care, I want to point out that the government must give Quebec the right to opt out of the federal program, with full compensation, since Quebec already has its own program, which has been proven to lift many women out of poverty.
I am calling for the government to take a feminist and economic approach to this crisis that recognizes that the programs are often poorly suited to women entrepreneurs.
Third, we also need to work on prevention by enhancing social programs that improve our health care system, particularly in the area of mental health. There is no magic solution for that. It will take more resources, financial resources in particular. It is absolutely essential that the government increase health transfers significantly, permanently and unconditionally so that they cover up to 35% of health care system costs. That would enable us to take care of our people.
In closing, I believe, as does my colleague from Joliette, that the fight against crime begins with the fight against poverty. We need to work proactively to improve the situation and to ensure greater equality of opportunity. That is a value that is important for Quebeckers. The end justifies the means. If we help people stay out of a vulnerable position where they have no food and live in unsafe, inadequate housing conditions, then we will be helping to reduce opportunities for crime. We have a duty to act.