Madam Speaker, I disagree very much with the previous three speakers, so much so that I am not even sure I am going to refer to the notes that I have in front of me, but let me see if I can make some sense out of the nonsense that I have heard and the falseness of the arguments that have been presented about this very important Private Members' Bill.
In recent years, we have seen crime rates rise across Canada and that crime is getting more severe. This is especially true in rural Canada. In 2017, the crime rate was 23% higher than in urban centres. In some parts of the country, particularly in the Prairies, it is staggeringly higher: between 36% and 42% higher. While provincial governments have responded with concrete measures to tackle this serious issue, the Liberal government has not only refused to take any meaningful action, but has actually made the situation worse.
I want to thank my colleague for Prince Albert for introducing this Private Members' Bill, Bill C-234. This bill seeks to create a non-refundable tax credit for home security measures. It is unfortunate that this bill is necessary, but the Liberal government refuses to undertake the necessary reforms to our justice system, something that no one from the Liberal Party, the Bloc or the New Democratic Party wants to talk about. This is necessary to protect rural Canadians. The issue is the justice system.
We need to do what we can to support Canadians in their efforts to acquire and put in place the devices and mechanisms so that they can feel safe, or at least have some semblance of feeling safe, in their homes.
During a recent study, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women heard testimony from two women who had been repeat victims of rural crime. These women spoke about the toll it takes on a person's mental health when they are constantly worried about being victimized over and over again. They spoke about how repeat offenders from outside their communities target them because they know that help from law enforcement is a long way away, and that if the police come to the scene the criminals are already usually long gone.
They told us how the vast majority of people in their communities have been victims of crime, often more than once, and that many people do not even bother reporting crime anymore: They do not see the point because the justice system continues to let them down. They also spoke about how these criminals are more often armed with firearms and are not afraid to use them, yet shamefully the Liberal government is cracking down on farmers and hunters and law-abiding firearms owners while softening punishments for criminals who use their firearms illegally.
The idea that Canadians are giving up on the idea of justice should be of deep concern to all members of Parliament. When people see that the system does not work for them, they lose confidence in it. When that system is the police and the courts, the consequences of inaction are dire. It is already starting to happen: An Angus Reid poll from January 2020 found that confidence in the RCMP, local law enforcement and the criminal courts has been declining steadily since 2016. The same poll noted that in 2020, 48% of Canadians said they noticed an increase in crime, while only 5% of Canadians thought there had been a decrease.
People may be wondering how we got here. I grew up on a farm. When I was a young man, we were not particularly worried about crime at all. We could leave our doors unlocked when we worked in the fields or went into town. We could leave keys in the ignition of our pickup trucks with the windows rolled down when we parked in town to go into a store for a few minutes. We did not wake up at night scared that someone was armed and prowling around our yards looking to help themselves to our property. The only problem we really ever had was that once in a while, somebody would come into the yard, pull up to the gas tank and fill up their car.
However, the world is a different place now. For the past five years or so it has been getting worse. When it comes to rural Canada out west, the Liberal government does not get it or simply does not care, as we have seen from the member for Kingston and the Islands. He never mentioned crime, which is what this bill is all about. He never mentioned the justice system, which is what this bill is all about. He never mentioned that businesses can write off all of the things that this bill proposes to do, but private citizens cannot. He never mentioned those things at all.
Very often it seems that rural Canadians are the last of the Liberals' worries. Policies that are touted as landmark achievements of the government are typically at the expense of rural Canadians: the carbon tax, the tanker ban, the no-more-pipelines bill and the gun grab, just to name a few.
Another extremely damaging policy that has contributed to the increase in rural crime is Bill C-75 from the last Parliament. Bill C-75 took a number of very serious offences and made them hybrid offences so that they could be dealt with through a fine or a minimal amount of jail time. It also made the requirement that bail be given at the earliest opportunity with the least onerous conditions.
My colleague's legislation was brought forward, in part at least, in response to the Jordan decision by the Supreme Court of Canada. This decision clarified that the timeline for a trial to begin is in order for the Crown to uphold the constitutionally protected right to trial in a reasonable amount of time.
One would think that if the justice system was backed up with numerous serious cases, to the point where trials were being thrown out, the logical decision would be to increase the capability and capacity of the justice system to appropriately deal with it.
This would have allowed accused individuals to have their right to a fair trial upheld in a timely fashion and kept public safety and the administration of justice as a key objective for the security of Canadians.
Instead, the Liberals took the path of least resistance and decided to clear up backlogs of serious offences by giving prosecutors the ability to offer light sentences for serious offences. They also ensured that more people got out on bail just for good measure. The Liberal government, through its changes, took the already quickly revolving door of the justice system and made it spin even faster.
For rural communities, this meant that offenders who regularly target residents would be back on the street shortly after being arrested. In rural Canada, where a small RCMP detachment can be responsible for a vast geographic area, the government has created an almost impossible task. Instead of getting tough on crime, which I vividly recall our current Attorney General of Canada referring to as “stupid on crime”, the government decided to put criminals' needs ahead of victims and their families in rural communities.
It is important to note that those tough-on-crime policies that the Minister of Justice smirked at were hugely successful at reducing the crime rate and the crime severity index and in instilling confidence in our justice system. Instead of doubling down on our Conservative formula and putting public safety at the heart of the justice system, the Liberal government has now also introduced Bill C-22. This bill slashes punishments for a number of serious firearms-related offences and ensures that all of the offences that the Liberal government hybridized in Bill C-75 are now eligible for conditional sentencing, which basically means jail time in one's house.
My constituents are absolutely shocked at the Liberal government's decisions to put the wants and desires of criminals above the needs and safety of law-abiding Canadians. Instead of providing them with assurances that the government understands the issue and that they are working to restore confidence in our justice systems, the Liberals have done the complete opposite.
That brings us back to Bill C-234. This bill is starting down the path of trying to correct what the Liberals have broken since forming government in 2015. Since that time, we have seen crime increase in frequency and severity, yet the Liberals have taken no meaningful steps to curtail it, only to exacerbate it. That is why my Conservative colleagues and I have formed a Conservative rural crime caucus to come up with solutions to this epidemic that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General cannot seem to be bothered with.
The legislation that we are discussing today is a great first step in addressing the rural crime epidemic. It will help Canadians get the tools that they need to protect themselves and their homes from criminals by providing a non-refundable tax credit. Tools like security gates and other access control devices to keep the yard safe could help deter criminals by preventing access and making it harder for criminals to target a rural property. Cameras and alarms could help provide valuable information that law enforcement could use to hopefully identify and catch these criminals, even if they are not able to respond while the crime is in progress because they are so far away.
While this bill is an important step, Conservatives understand that it cannot be our only step. Deterring criminals to find a less prepared victim is not a permanent solution. To that end, I was pleased to introduce my private member's bill, Bill C-289, back in April. It seeks to create an aggravating factor for targeting people or property that is experiencing increased vulnerability due to its remoteness from emergency police or medical services.
My bill would also seek to make existing aggravating factors for home invasion more inclusive of rural properties and face the realities of rural crime. Last, Bill C-289 would ensure that a judge would give careful consideration as to why an offender did not get bail when the judge is considering extra credit for time that was served before the trial.
Rural crime is a complex issue. Given the unique challenges posed by geography and more humble resources in many of the communities, it requires a thorough, multi-faceted approach, and the federal government needs to be an engaged partner. In fact, over a year ago, there was agreement for the provincial and federal government to create a pan-Canadian working group on rural crime. We have heard nothing about this since then from the Liberal government. While the governments across the west in the provinces have been quick to back up these words with action, we have seen no movement from the Liberals at all. The provinces have done an admirable job, but we cannot escape the reality that this is an issue that requires federal leadership.
This should not be a difficult decision for the government, so it raises the question of why the government is so opposed to doing the right thing. Is it because the government really has no understanding of the challenges facing rural Canadians? Is it because rural crime is disproportionately an issue based in the west and the electoral math does not portray it as a worthwhile initiative when there are plenty of policies that the government still wants to enact? Is it because the Minister of Justice is so blinded by ideology and so committed to his hug-a-thug plan that he is willing to let rural Canadians bear the cost of his inaction?
Canadians have a right to life, liberty and security of the person. For rural Canadians in many parts of our country, the Liberal government is not creating the conditions for those rights to be realized.