Mr. Speaker, let it not be said that there are no reformers in this place. In entering the debate I noticed the member for Lethbridge said was that we should change the way we handle petitions, that we should somehow handle them more seriously. If we were to do that the people who sign these petitions would take more care and be more serious in signing them. I did not totally follow the logic but so be it.
To some extent I too have been disappointed in the debate today. I come from a municipal background in which we actually had representatives from all the political parties. I had the good fortune to sit beside a Conservative member who was a good friend of mine. I notice that in this House they are few and far between. As a matter of fact we had more members on my municipal council of 11 than we have Conservative members in the House.
I go back to my riding and talk to them every once in a while because in some sense they have a more balanced perspective coming from right of centre. I appreciate that.
As a municipal councillor I have handled petitions on such things as people being opposed to a granny flat. Virtually 100 per cent of a neighbourhood said it did not want a granny flat
because it would start the destruction of the neighbourhood. That happened in my community.
I took the petition seriously because the petition said that if we were to allow a granny flat, this was the thin edge of the wedge. The next thing we would have were high rises in single family neighbourhood housing.
I took the petition and went around knocking on everybody's door. I explained to them what the petition said was not correct. I explained to them that the character of their neighbourhood was going to remain the same. The fact was that virtually 100 per cent of the people in that neighbourhood signed the petition. I take every petition that I receive very seriously.
We received a petition on medium density housing, group homes and extended nursing homes. People opposed that. One would have thought the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang was going to establish a clubhouse. Instead we were talking about a nursing home where many of us, if we are fortunate enough, will go if we are around that long. We had petitions on day care, development, street pedlars, slowing down growth, reforming the Young Offenders Act, you name it, a municipal council gets it all.
In municipal politics any delegation can come forward and make a presentation to council. Therefore petitions are things I take very seriously and I believe most members in this House do.
I believe every member consults with his or her constituents on a regular basis. Somehow the suggestion that we are not to be trusted is wrong. Everybody who is in this House is concerned about serving constituents.
Let me put a petition to the House, because this is an issue that came up during the election campaign. It relates to pensions and double dipping and how I stand on this issue. I had no problem saying that I thought there needs to be pension reform. I said I would support the age of 60.
I disagreed strongly with the concept of double dipping. If I as the member wanted to get a petition ready and if I were to ask the question of whether the electorate agrees that there should be no double dipping, there would be an overwhelming number of people who would sign the petition. I would change the petition slightly, keeping in mind that we have three different levels of government, or actually four because in Ontario we have the municipal, regional, provincial and the federal government.
One of the things that the leader of the Reform Party has always said and I agree with him 100 per cent is that there is only one taxpayer. Keeping that in mind if I were to write a petition and it asks whether you agree that double dipping should be outlawed, the answer would be an overwhelming yes.
If I worked the petition a bit differently and ask whether they believe that if somebody is collecting a pension for sitting on municipal council or in a provincial legislature and they get elected as members of Parliament, meaning that is double dipping, do they think it should be stopped? I can tell everybody just from my talking with people that the answer would again be yes. I guess in some ways I really do wish that we could try to make this House a little less partisan and try to debate the merits of legislation that come up.
The speaker from Wild Rose was referred to after speaking in this House on Friday. He got into the whole issue of crime, justice and lawlessness in this country. I found the discourse rather bothersome because the crime issue is an easy one to pick on. Interestingly enough that is one of the examples being raised here. It talks about the Young Offenders Act. It was not too long ago when the Minister of Justice rose in the House and talked about a report by a gentleman by the name of Dr. Anthony Dube. Dr. Anthony Dube is a criminologist at the University of Toronto. He knows more about the public perception of the judicial system, he knows more about the public perception as to the extent of crime in Canada than probably any other Canadian. He is an expert on those issues.
He found that Canadians on the whole believe that they live in a much more violent society than they actually do. That is an interesting commentary. Where does that come from and what kind of implication does it have? I can tell you where it comes from. Dr. Dube outlined it. It comes from the fact that the popular media insists on feeding us a daily dose of some horrendous crime that takes place in Canada, and if nothing goes on in Canada, it will go to the United States; if nothing happens in the United States it will go to Europe, Africa, Asia, wherever it has to go.
We have news crews in this country ready to move on a second's notice, to go out to some crime scene so they can splash it all across the TV screen and the next day in the printed media with the sole purpose of somehow driving ratings. It is not hard to understand how people perceive our communities to be more violent than they really are.
When you compare us with the United States of America we are a much more peaceful society than it is. Unfortunately we are not as fortunate as Europe. This is talking in terms of hard statistics. There are places in Europe where they do not report on crime hardly at all because they do not see any socially redeeming value in it. The suggestion is there that it might be encouraging crime.
The other thing that Dr. Dube talked about was the public perception of the sentences that judges hand out. He had two groups. To one group he gave the transcripts of the trial. Those people went through the hundreds of pages of exactly what went on in the courtroom. He gave the same trial information to another group of people but it came from the media.
He found that the people who got the information by reading what went on in the courtroom would more often find that the judges were just in their sentences or maybe even too harsh and alternatives to incarceration that might have been imposed should have been considered. In the cases of people reading the media information what the study found was that the people did not believe that the judicial system was working because they believed that the judges were much too lenient. That says something and it is an important lesson for us here. It means that when we take time to study all sides of the issue the solutions might not be as simplistic as they look at first blush. That is important to note.
In terms of the Young Offenders Act, the Liberal Party is committed to dealing with it and we want all members of the House dealing with it seriously in committee. We should make the best possible changes in the legislation that we can make, keeping in mind it will never be perfect because we are living in an evolving society and the dynamics change.
On the issue of killer cards every member of the House wants to find a way of getting rid of them. There is no question about that.
As to the recall of members, I have some difficulty with it. There is the underlying premise that when the electorate made a decision on October 25, 1993 it was not an informed decision.
I think that it was an informed decision. There is a responsibility on the part of the electorate when it does make a decision that government is going to be governing for a period of approximately four years.
It is the ultimate insult to say that the electorate, in making its decision, made a bad decision and somehow it has to be protected from the decision that it made.
We discussed petitions and how they are presented. As a new member in this House, I came to the orientation and one of the people who made a presentation to all members on petitions was the member for Beaver River. She told us how to present petitions. She is the one who made suggestions on it. I do not think she was telling us not to take these presentations seriously. I think every one of us takes these presentations seriously.
There is a fundamental premise in all of these motions and certainly references to the national energy program and going back to when the deficit started and the debt started. There is definite politics being played there. I wish it were not so but it is certainly being done.
I will refrain in the next four years in this House from referring to the Reform Party from the west as perhaps the party of alienation, that feeds on alienation, just like the Social Credit Party did. I will refrain from saying, the explanations by the member for Beaver River notwithstanding, that it was the members of the Social Credit Party involving the father of the present leader who got rid of recall.
I do believe that issues being raised in this House for debate, issues that this Parliament does not work, are a red herring. I say that because there has been a crisis of confidence in our democratic institutions, I recognize that, but that crisis of confidence has been fed by forces within this country. I would suggest that what we collectively do in this House over the course of the next four years is really going to determine the future of Canada.
To some extent we are going to be entering some very difficult debates. I do not for a minute think that we are going to avoid dealing with the issue in Quebec. We will at some point. I think every member believes that we are going to be doing that. However, it is important that we look at the parts of this country that work well. Our democratic institutions have worked for 127 years. We have one of the best governments in this world and every one of us should recognize that. We should not be saying that somehow this country does not work or that somehow this country has broken down, because it has not.
We can certainly all work together to make it better, but one of the first things we owe this country is to believe that we can do it. That is not by destroying the very institution itself.
In terms of being accountable, governing is not easy. Any governing party is going to have problems. However, we went to the electorate on October 25 and we went with a plan. We were elected with a majority of members in this House.
As a member, I do not totally feel good about what happened to the former government in terms of the number of seats it received. Somehow I do not think that was very fair. It certainly bothers me and I would like to see if during the course of this Parliament that can be redressed. When I look at members who are classified as independents I see members who are not really full members of this House in terms of what their privileges are. If I am to believe that every constituency deserves representation, which I do because it made a choice, there is fundamental respect that we should extend to that member in terms of rights.
Mention was made of the Charlottetown accord, but nobody mentioned that our Prime Minister when he was Leader of the Opposition called for a referendum on the Charlottetown accord. The Liberal Party believes that referendums have a place. I can say that in my constituency the split was almost down the middle. About 55 per cent were for the Charlottetown accord
and 45 per cent were against it. I know that my colleague from Kitchener went the other way.