House of Commons Hansard #111 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was point.

Topics

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

It turns out that you were right. It was I who said that the member was from Edmonton, when he is, in fact, from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan. What caused the original confusion is that the riding is actually in Alberta, but it has the name “Saskatchewan” in it, so that can lead some who are not familiar with the geography to confuse the province of the member. It turns out the member is actually a proud Albertan, but not an Edmontonian.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

We understand that, absolutely.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Steven Guilbeault Liberal Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Madam Speaker, I am tabling responses to Order Paper Questions Nos. 629 to 634.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The minister just made reference to answering a number of questions. Generally, those answers are associated with numbers. I wonder if that was a mistake on his part or if there is an aspect in the Standing Orders of the House that I am not aware of.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

The minister did mention a series of numbers.

The hon. member for Battle River—Crowfoot.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate that, but the numbers were not translated into English. As much as I am proud of our bilingual heritage, I would ask that it be repeated, so that members who are not fluent in Canada's other official language would be able to hear the specifics of the questions that were named.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

Could the hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage repeat what he said?

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Steven Guilbeault Liberal Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Madam Speaker, the numbers are from 629 to 634.

Procedural Role of SpeakerPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you, Madam Speaker, for recognizing me on the House of Commons floor.

Madam Speaker, according to the green book, the role of the Speaker is as follows:

The office of the Speaker must be distinguished from its incumbent, who requires the support and goodwill of the House in order to carry out the duties of the office. The Speaker’s authority and responsibilities as Presiding Officer in the House of Commons flow in large part from the Constitution and from the written rules of the House.

It goes on to say:

The duties of the Speaker of the House of Commons require the balancing of the rights and interests of the majority and minority in the House to ensure that public business is transacted efficiently and that the interests of all parts of the House are advocated and protected against the use of arbitrary authority. It is in this spirit that the Speaker, as the chief servant of the House, applies the rules. The Speaker is the servant, neither of any part of the House nor of any majority in the House, but of the entire institution and serves in the best interests of the House as distilled over many generations in its practices.

That is a powerful statement, “over many generations”.

Today, I rose in the House immediately following the party opposite moving a motion that called for time allocation on Bill C-10 in committee. When I rose in the House and I called a point of order, Madam Speaker, you immediately rolled your eyes at me. You did not know what I was going to say, which means that you made a judgment against me presuming that you knew what I would say.

Regardless, it is my right as a member of Parliament, my privilege, to be able to stand in this place and to have my voice heard. As the Speaker of the House, according to the green book that I hold in my hands, which is the document that directs this place, it is your responsibility to gain the support and goodwill of this place. When you fail to show respect and honour to each and every member on the floor of this chamber, you produce a lack of decorum, because chaos will ensue when there is no respect and when there is not mutual honour.

Madam Speaker, the fact that you started by rolling your eyes at me and then proceeded to ignore me every single time I rose in the House to raise a point of order is absolutely inappropriate. When I rise here, I rise as the member of Parliament for Lethbridge. I was duly elected by the people of Lethbridge to have their backs right here in this place. I do not speak with my own voice. I speak with their voices, and so, Madam Speaker, when you roll your eyes at me, you roll your eyes at more than 120,000 constituents who have elected me to be here on their behalf. That, Madam Speaker, is incredibly disrespectful and in disregard for democracy.

I invite you to consider those actions and I invite you to take the next steps forward.

Decorum in Opposition LobbyPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, on a separate point of order, when this House agreed to the terms of Parliament and the rules that were established between parties, which were adopted through direction of the Speaker or the Speaker announced those, we set limits with respect to how many members should be in the House and how many people should be present during debate.

Routinely, during the filibustering and the interventions that were going on from the other side as they were making their remarks and being funny about things, I would hear an uproar of laughter coming from the opposition lobby. I would suggest to you, Madam Speaker, that perhaps those rules that were agreed to have not been followed. I think it is important that we look into it to make sure that, in the middle of this pandemic, the opposition parties are living up to their responsibilities under the rules that we agreed to and set out in advance.

Decorum in Opposition LobbyPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, I respect where the gentleman is coming from, but the fact is that it is extraordinarily difficult for one person to measure how many people may be in another room due to hearing voices. I am not going to indicate how many people are in this room, but I can tell members that Liberal voices are very loud in this House of Commons regardless of how many are present.

Decorum in Opposition LobbyPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

An hon. member

Thank you. I am doing my best.

Decorum in Opposition LobbyPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, I would ask if the member could, just for one moment, be quiet.

As we know, today has been a very difficult day. We have been working hard for the dignity of democracy and for the free speech of all Canadians. The the member is now questioning who we have in the lobby. Recognizing that we do need to have support staff, we are always going to have somebody sitting at the desk in the lobby, which is the appropriate thing to do. We also have a member from the House leader's office who is also assisting me. However, for recognizing that there must be many people there, the member is way off course. All he is trying to do is say that Conservatives do not care about health. That is so not the case.

We are doing our job. We are putting all of the people in place, but the member wants us to go in there and count how many people there are. We are working, and perhaps if the member would care more about what his party is doing and a little less about what we are doing working together, we may have a little better discourse.

Bill C-10—Time allocation motionPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Madam Speaker, I do recognize this has been a challenging day for all of us. However, we have inherited the rules in this place and, quite honestly, those rules were based on the values of the members who originally debated and set forward those original Standing Orders, and which have been updated from time to time, after drawing consensus.

The government has chosen in its procedures today to draw upon something that has not been used in decades. There have been legitimate concerns raised by members of the Conservative caucus as to the applicability, especially considering the serious nature of the bill that is before us. It is very important to point out that there will be disagreements on what exactly the rules say and the values that we hold here today, not 30 years ago and certainly not when the country was first formed in 1867.

What I am simply saying is that the government member, the member for Kingston and the Islands, who spoke earlier, to suddenly say that the rules are well known, well, they are. However, if we use an archaic and often not used form, especially at report stage of a bill, when members have issues and have put forward, in good faith, proper amendments to the bill, to suddenly wash that all aside and decide that the rules have been decided, I would suggest the member should actually do it the proper way. At the beginning of every session, we are all allowed to come forward and present suggestions on the Standing Orders. That member could add some clarity to the Standing Orders as to the applicability of this at report stage. That is where we are.

The member also mentioned voices outside the chamber. The voices we should all be concerned about are those of our constituents. We are raising them here. I do think there is a challenge when we have members who are attributing voices outside of the chamber, because this chamber is not like the Centre Block House of Commons. Oftentimes we will have people walking through who inadvertently, and I am sure the Speaker has heard this many times, being adjacent, may sometimes be loud. We may attribute that to someone or some party, but we have no actual knowledge of who it is.

Madam Speaker, I would ask that before you give your ruling, please do take into account that the charges of the previous speaker, the member for Kingston and the Islands, to suddenly attribute sounds from outside of this direct space in this particular chamber is erroneous. The only voices we should be considering are the voices of our constituents, and not the physical sounds that come into this arrangement, in this chamber, as it is different from what it would be in Centre Block, where the chamber is basically kept separate from the voices outside.

I am going to quickly repeat two things for the member. This place has long abided by the rules that we put together. They do not come together easily. They are done through a common discussion on our values and debates to come up with specific rules. From time to time, those particular rules are revisited by parliamentarians, usually after every election. They are improved so that everyone understands the rules.

That is why we are asking for this ruling. It is so incredibly important for us to know whether the government can arbitrarily just mark down a certain number of hours and then use the tool of time allocation to disregard the legitimate and properly processed amendments that were presented to this House on a bill that touches upon so many things. It touches upon net neutrality, touches upon section 2(b) of the charter, something that the Prime Minister, his ministers and his caucus have said they want to always adhere to.

I will give credit to the NDP for voting against moving to Orders of the Day. I hope that we can all stand up and push back to make sure the government does not feel that even when it is in a minority position, it can simply run roughshod over members' rights, particularly that right to put forward amendments and to be heard.

I hope I have made a couple of important points. I hope that they will be heard, not just by you, but by members opposite, including the member for Kingston and the Islands.

At the same token, this is a great country, not just because of what we have accomplished, but because of the way we try to accomplish things, which is by listening and accommodating. Now, more than ever, we need to listen to voices that are different from our own. We need to learn to garner consensus and not just run roughshod over legitimate concerns as they are presented.

I do know today has been a challenging day. I do respect the role the Speaker has and that you have tried to be as fair as possible. I hope we end up after today in a better place. I also hope that the government perhaps takes some time over the weekend and reconsiders the way it is presenting its motions to this place. They are doing so with very little respect for the members present, but most importantly, with little respect for the members previous, who put together these rules so we can keep this country strong and together, even in disagreement.

We have those common ties, those values and those rules in our standing orders, which we all respect, so we do not end up with just a product. We end up with a process that makes us proud to be Canadians.

Decorum in Opposition LobbyPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Madam Speaker, there was an allegation made by the member for Kingston and the Islands that somehow Conservatives were disrespecting public health advice. I think that was what he was trying to imply. I, as the whip for the official opposition, want to assure all members in this House and, in fact, all Canadians that the Conservative Party certainly does take the public health advice incredibly seriously.

As the member mentioned, there was some discussion among parties about how we would best conduct ourselves during a pandemic, and numbers in the House were a part of that. The guidelines have all been followed in setting out the distance between seats. I can assure everyone that Conservative members have, in fact, far exceeded the expectations of physical distancing and guidelines in the House, as have all parties.

I will point out as well that, when the member refers to people being in a lobby or an area behind the chamber, he well knows that we do not refer to the presence or absence of members in the House of Commons, and he is incorrect to do so. I would hope that you would call him to order on that.

Decorum in Opposition LobbyPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

There have been quite a number of points of order today. We will get back to them next week, as necessary.

It being 1:30 p.m., we will proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from February 18 consideration of the motion that Bill C-234, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (home security measures), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to talk about Bill C-234, another Conservative attempt at introducing a boutique tax credit. We know that Conservatives were extremely popular for doing that back in the day because, of course, Conservatives like to give tax credits to the rich at the expense of everybody else, and that is exactly what Bill C-234 is about.

The proposed legislation being considered today would amend the Income Tax Act to provide a non-refundable tax credit at a rate of 15% for up to $5,000 in eligible expenses incurred by the taxpayer for home security measures. Qualifying home security measures would include expenses for the purchase, installation, maintenance and monitoring of a security system installed in one's home.

In responding to the proposal, I would first note that our government is committed to a tax system that is fair and works for the middle class. Second, I would note that this proposal in the bill falls quite short of aligning with this objective. The benefits of a tax credit for home security expenses are expected to be skewed toward higher-income households, which are more likely to have the means to pay for such expenses. By disproportionately benefiting high-income Canadians, this bill would undermine the goal of sustaining a fair tax system.

As hon. members are well aware, the personal income tax system raises revenues based on the ability of individuals to pay. In this context, tax credits and other kinds of tax relief are mainly meant to recognize and offset the effects of factors such as income, family composition, age and health status on a person's ability to pay tax. The Canadian income tax system generally does not, as is proposed in Bill C-234, recognize personal and discretionary expenses of other individuals. A tax credit for home security expenses would, therefore, be subsidized by all taxpayers, including those who choose not to incur those expenses, those who cannot afford it, as well as those who are not able to claim the credit at all, such as renters.

Rather than asking Canadians to subsidize the spending of Canadians who can afford a home security system, our government has undertaken in the last few years to eliminate poorly targeted, unfair and inefficient tax exemptions and has committed to undertaking another tax expenditure review to ensure this process continues. The government has cut taxes for middle-class Canadians, raised them for the wealthiest 1% and increased benefits for families and low-income workers.

Our government has also improved tax fairness by closing loopholes, eliminating measures that disproportionately benefit the wealthy, and cracking down on tax evasion. We all need to pay our fair share, especially during a crisis. All Canadians deserve a fair and equitable tax system. The proposed tax credit for home security measures that would disproportionately benefit higher-income Canadians, which, as I indicated earlier, has always been a priority of the Conservative Party, would be at odds with the government's stance on these types of boutique tax measures.

Our government's approach has been to target support to the middle class and those working to be part of it. The government estimates that the annual federal cost of the proposed tax credit would be approximately $130 million. This aspect of the proposal should also be taken into consideration, especially at a time when the government is focused on helping Canadians through the challenges they face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government is also focused on tackling the work of recovery to create the conditions for new employment and new growth, now and in the years ahead.

As part of our COVID-19 economic response plan, we introduced the Canada emergency response benefit, which supported over eight million Canadians. Then, last August, the government transitioned the support to a suite of new temporary benefits: the Canada recovery benefit, the Canada recovery caregiving benefit and the Canada recovery sickness benefit. Each of these three latest programs will remain in place to deliver support to individuals who are directly affected by COVID-19 through to the fall of 2021. Last year, in the early days of this pandemic, we also introduced a special goods and services tax credit top-up payment for individuals and families with low and modest incomes, as well as a special Canada child benefit top-up payment for families with children.

Our government is providing additional support to low- and middle-income families with young children in 2021 by providing up to $1,200 through the Canada child benefit for children under the age of six. We are also making payments in recognition of the extraordinary expenses faced by persons with disabilities and seniors. With budget 2021, the government has a renewed pledge to do whatever it takes to support Canadians right through to the end of this pandemic.

As we continue to navigate through this pandemic, we will continue to assess the needs for additional support where it is needed. This enormous responsibility must be central to our considerations when looking at new proposals. I would also like to add that tax changes should ideally be undertaken through the budget process, which enables the government to fully consider trade-offs, balance priorities and undertake new fiscal commitments only to the extent that they are affordable. At a time when we are making unprecedented fiscal commitments to support Canadians through the challenges posed by COVID-19, this has never been more important.

With this in mind, and taking into account the concerns we have with this bill, it would be very difficult to support Bill C-234. I would add that we have seen boutique tax credits like this before from the previous Conservative government. We have seen time and time again that the Conservative Party is interested in only helping the wealthy. They have absolutely no consideration for what the impacts of this bill would be.

As I asked in my speech, how do they think we are going to pay for the efforts that are proposed in this bill? We would pay for them from the general tax revenue, which is essentially going to be affected by this measure. That includes everybody in the lowest part of the spectrum and in the middle. This bill is asking low-income Canadians to subsidize a boutique tax credit for people who have home security systems in their house. Who has home security systems in their house? It is people who can afford them. Home security is not something that is a need or a requirement, especially not in a country like ours.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Really?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, the members across the way yell, “Really?”. Yes. It is not a requirement. It is something that people get installed because they want to have it. Desperately wanting something does not make it a requirement, and that is what is so mind-boggling about Conservative logic. They think that just because someone really wants something, it suddenly becomes a need. It is not a need. We do not live in a country that needs home security systems.

Of course, there are a lot of people out there who want them. I have one in my house, but I do not think that it is a requirement, and therefore the federal government, through the taxpayers of this country, should not be subsidizing and effectively paying for it. What kind of country do we live in when we agree that the federal government needs to help people install and pay for home security systems in their houses? It is ridiculous. This bill should not pass.

I implore all members of this House not to vote in favour of this bill. It is not worthy of their vote. It is just a bill that advances hidden boutique tax credits, because that is where Conservatives have always liked to put the tax advantages: to the wealthy. They are doing it with this bill here.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

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.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am rising virtually today to speak to Bill C-234.

I want to recognize and express sympathy for residents in rural communities across the country who more and more are living under fear of being the victims of crime. This increases as the population in many rural communities diminishes. People are more isolated. They not only feel more vulnerable, but they are more vulnerable. It is important to recognize that we need to have a response to that increased vulnerability. The question is how best to do that.

One of the things to note about the bill to establish a tax credit for Canadians who install security systems in their home is that there is a cost to the program. Those tax measures come at a cost to the public purse, so the question is whether that money is being effectively spent for the purpose of reducing that vulnerability.

The first point I would like to make is a general one in respect to these kinds of tax rebates as a way of implementing policy. It is important to note that when it comes to this way of effecting public policy, the fact is that the assistance goes overwhelmingly to the people who already have resources. First, people need to have the money in the bank to get a security system installed and it is only afterward that they recover some of that cost. The more income people make, the more able they are to get the security service installed. The more taxes they pay, the higher ability they have and the more they can receive in benefit as a rebate on the taxes they pay.

There is already a fundamental issue here where it is the people who have the most resources to respond to the problem who get the most assistance. Of course, while their higher income correlates with a higher benefit under a program like this, people's vulnerability to crime in rural communities is not proportionate to their income. People with lower incomes are not less vulnerable to crime in rural communities. It makes sense as a matter of fairness to pursue solutions that will benefit people equally regardless of their income and the amount of tax they pay. What we need are solutions that work for everyone.

When we look at the study that was done on rural crime in the last Parliament, as a consequence of the motion brought forward by then NDP MP Christine Moore, some problems were highlighted. When I had the pleasure of working with folks in the RCMP on the issue of collective bargaining, one of the things I heard loud and clear was that often the roster for local detachments was unfilled by 50% or more. I have heard this from RCMP members who live in Elmwood—Transcona, but are, in some cases, posted to communities outside of Winnipeg, so they have experience with policing in rural communities. While positions exist for policing in rural communities, often there is an insufficient amount of trained officers to fill those positions.

When we talk about public investment to stem rural crime, we should ensure RCMP detachments are staffed to the recommended staffing level instead of asking officers to make do with less and to work tons of overtime and, in many cases, to respond to calls alone. In some cases, they are leaving to respond to a call from a location that might be an hour or more away. It seems to me that investing in filling up those staffing rosters is a better use of public funds.

We also heard in the course of that report about the way the RCMP conducted its business. In many cases, rookie officers are assigned to rural postings and do not have a lot of experience. They do not have training particular to the circumstances of the rural communities and the indigenous communities that they are responsible to police.

They need investment in better training for RCMP officers, so they understand better the communities that they are working in. Hopefully they could then do a better job, particularly if they had the resources and adequate staffing levels to not be overextended the way that they are. They need to be supported with appropriate training so they can really do the right kind of policing work, alongside the communities they are assigned to protect, and to address some of the underlying causes and increases in rural crime.

It was stated earlier, and it is quite true, that the success of a security monitoring system is only as good as the response time of the local authorities. The fact of the matter is that, as long as our RCMP detachments and other rural policing forces are chronically understaffed, those response times are simply not going to be adequate to the task. At the very least, one could say that this bill puts the cart before the horse. There is a lot more to do in terms of not just investing in more police officers for rural Canada, but investing in the training so they can deliver policing in communities in the right way that has the appropriate impact.

One of the things that they need in order to do that, in addition to appropriate staffing levels and the right kind of training, is to make sure that the right kinds of supports are there in the communities. That may mean mental health supports, and we know that rural Canada is chronically underserved in a proportion even worse than urban Canadians, and they still do not have adequate mental health supports.

Mental health is not adequately integrated into our health care systems across the country, but that is felt even more so in rural communities. Having better services available to rural Canadians is an important part of the solution here, not just in respect to mental health, but also in respect to women's health, especially when some of the crimes of concern are sexual or violent crimes.

How do they address those problems and that feeling of vulnerability? While certainly adequate protection is part of that package, adequate services are also needed to make people feel that they are supported at the outset, and that, if something did happen, they are not going to be on their own. We do not want them to be isolated out in the place where they live with maybe just a handful of friends and neighbours who, nevertheless, live at a considerable distance.

This is an issue that has come up in some of the efforts of my colleague from Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, who is concerned about certain behaviours that are not, themselves, what might be considered under law right now as acts of abuse but, through isolating people, set the stage for certain kinds of abuse. The more abusers can isolate people and get them into a position where they do not have other resources to rely on, the more the table is set for the kinds of abuse that we do not want to see any Canadians suffer. That investment in the right kind of supports is also very important.

As New Democrats, when we look at what is needed, we see a need to make sure that we have the appropriate staffing levels that are already recommended. They are there on paper, but not there in actuality.

We see the need for appropriate training and perhaps more experienced officers being assigned to rural communities, so it is not just a matter of new officers with little training trying to figure out how a community works and what the particular sensitivities are, cultural and otherwise, and finding their feet even as they struggle with these immense challenges.

Then, of course, there is the need to have the supports there for people who may commit acts of crime themselves. There is also the need for supports for potential victims of crimes, so they know they have the resources they need in order to live a good life, even though they do not live in an urban centre, which should be perfectly possible in a country like Canada. I know there are many people who are proud to live in rural communities, and they should be able to do that with a strong sense of safety.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

2 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

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.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

June 4th, 2021 / 2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank all members of Parliament for considering this bill, Bill C-234.

To provide the House some background, this came from town hall meetings we held back in my riding, where 300 or 400 people would show up, all talking about the seriousness of rural crime and crime in general. They talked about being broken into, not just once, but twice or three times. They talked about how they are no longer able to get insurance.

At these meetings, it was interesting that we would bring in members of the RCMP, who would talk about repeat offenders, crime watch and things they could do to protect them and their families. They talked about the tools they needed in order to get the appropriate prosecution and to arrest these individuals who, most times, were repeat offenders, attached to gangs, and in and out of the criminal system.

One of the things that came out of these meetings was this bill. It was not a Conservative plan to create a boutique tax credit and take care of the rich, as my colleague from the Liberal Party mentioned today. That is not true at all. Rather, it is to say that we need to do something at the federal level to address the issue. This was one way of doing it. When I introduced the bill, I said that it was not the be-all and end-all, but part of a package of measures we need to address the crime issue, especially in rural Canada.

I talked about how I would be more than willing to let the committee massage it, make it better and actually have the conversation on crime. That is why I was so disappointed today when I sat here and listened to my colleagues across the aisle and other parties. When I listened to the member from the Liberal Party, he did not mention crime. He did not understand the intent of the bill. The intent of the bill is to get us talking about a very serious issue that is going on in rural Canada and across Canada. He talked about taxation, unfairness, boutiques and partisanship. I am not an overly partisan person. Members know that and he knows that, too. I was looking for results.

I will give credit to the members from the Bloc and the NDP. At least they talked about the issue I was trying to address. If I have success with this legislation, even if it does not pass, it would be the fact that we brought the subject, put it on the benches in the aisles here in the House of Commons and started the debate on it. If the government is going to be deaf to the debate, it will do so at its own peril. This is something that rural Canadians and Canadians in general want to talk about.

What I find interesting about these crime watch meetings is that we get a lot of people who come out. The RCMP showed up, and even a prosecutor showed up and talked about the frustrations with respect to prosecuting these people, but we never see a judge show up. We never see the minister talk about these issues. The minister or the parliamentary secretary has never looked at the issue and phoned me to say that I was addressing an issue that maybe we need to address. There has been total silence. The response from the government with respect to crime is total silence and denial. This is a huge problem. It is a problem that Canadians want us to talk about in the House of Commons. It is a serious issue. This is an issue that if we did it right would actually benefit people right across this country and make people feel safer. It would address the crime issue.

Unfortunately, we are probably not going to see this bill move forward. I am hoping my colleagues in the Bloc and NDP will maybe have second thoughts, because there are dairy farmers in Quebec who want this bill; there are cattlemen in Saskatchewan who want this bill; there are unionized workers who live in the rural areas who want this bill. Hopefully, they will reach out to those parties and ask them to change their minds and at least get it to committee to debate it, maybe make some good suggestions and make it better.

If a boutique tax credit is not the right way to go, they should tell us what the right way to go is, but at least address the reality that this is a real issue. Let us put forward some solutions to address the issue. Unfortunately, if this bill does not pass, I do not know when the issue of rural crime or crime will ever come up again in the House of Commons in this session, unless we see another private member's bill from a member who understands how important this issue is.

I thank everybody in the House for considering the bill. I hope members will reflect upon it before the vote and maybe we will see it go to committee, because that would be the right place to address the issues and maybe see a really good piece of legislation come out of the House of Commons.