Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Prime Minister has used an interesting choice of words.
This is a very typical example of Liberal legislation. Liberal legislation, for those who have not already caught on to this, is where the Liberals take a change that has been demanded by the public and they take just the tiniest little bit so they can say they listened to the public's concerns, have addressed them and now they will act.
Heaven help opposition members if they vote against it because they were the ones who said that the changes were necessary and here we are changing it. If the opposition votes against it, obviously it did not want these changes at all.
The fact is that they only take that tiniest little bit of change because they do not want to offend their strange friends who do not want to see any changes in the system that would actually cut down on the rights of criminals over the rights of law-abiding citizens.
Let us take, as an example, statutory release. They are talking about conditions that will be implemented to say that under these conditions prisoners may not now qualify for statutory release under certain types of violent crime and so on. However, conditional sentencing, which was brought in by her predecessor, who I think will become ambassador to the United Nations or something, has now been applied to violent offenders. When we brought it back to the House the public was outraged. What did the then justice minister have to say? He said that he had never intended that it should apply to violent offenders.
The Deputy Prime Minister is now saying that we are going to take these prisoners who do make it to jail, although not all of them do, and tell them they may not be able to get statutory release. Of course we have judges out there who are telling them that they may not even have to go to prison.
I would think, if the Deputy Prime Minister is serious about making some proper changes in the justice system, she would make changes first to the sentencing provisions by getting rid of class one and class two offences as being eligible for conditional sentencing in the first place so that those people are incarcerated.
Then we get to the question of statutory release. Statutory release, for anyone who does not understand what it is, is a very liberal provision that says that when prisoners have served two-thirds of their sentence, regardless of how they acted inside the prison, regardless of whether they have participated in any corrective programs, regardless of whether they have been incorrigible inside or fought with guards or other prisoners, they would be released. In fact, they could be in segregation at the time their statutory release comes up and they would go right from administrative segregation out into the public.
We did a study on this a few years back. I sat on that study, as did the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough who was in the Progressive Conservative Party at the time. One of the things we really looked for in the review of the CCRA was the total and absolute abolishment of statutory release. We both listened to the arguments as to why there should be a parole system. We both understand the concept of not wanting to keep prisoners until the end of their date, warrant expiry as it is referred to, and then simply open up the door and have them walk out. It is far better to have them go out under some form of supervision to reintegrate them into society.
We both accept that, except they have to earn that release. They have to earn the right to get out before warrant expiry to go back into the public under conditions and supervision. We accept that and in fact totally support it. However we do not support prisoners, who have not done a single solitary thing to earn it, being released.
This is what happens inside a prison. If prisoners behave well, if they show some remorse and try to rehabilitate themselves, avail themselves of the programs that might be suitable for them to take, particularly given their offences, they can get out earlier than two-thirds of their sentence.
However what often happens with some of these prisoners inside is that they do not see the need to bother making any kind of effort to co-operate with the guards or take any programs because they know they will be released automatically after serving two-thirds of their sentence. Even if they get caught with dope, fight with other prisoners or throw buckets of urine on the security guards inside the prison they know they will still get out early because of the statutory release provisions.
When we studied this at the subcommittee, the subcommittee that was tasked with the review of the whole CCRA, statutory release became a big point for the opposition. I proposed that we recommend to the government that we abolish statutory release. Interestingly enough, after studying it and after listening to a lot of witnesses all very much in support of it, the Liberal members of the subcommittee agreed to recommend that statutory release should be abolished.
We wrote a preliminary report that went upstairs to the PMO. The report came back with probably a very nasty note that said “Don't you dare make such a recommendation to us. Get back in there, call some new witnesses who will back you on the need for statutory release and change your recommendation”.
The Liberals came back, very sheepishly and somewhat apologetically, and told us that they would have to disagree on that one area but that they could agree to everything else. I said, “Not a chance. We made compromises in our position to get statutory release in because it was something we had identified as being important to the public”. So they marched in a bunch of their specially selected people and tried to come up with the argument that the jails would be overcrowded and that if we did not have statutory release, some prisoners would not be able to earn release and would be in until warrant expiry, which would lead to overcrowding in the jail.
We have to first listen to what the Liberals themselves were saying on this issue. They wanted to allow some people, who could not behave well enough to earn parole, out of jail. These are prisoners who cannot earn parole because their behaviour is not sufficient to trust them out in the public. They cannot earn the parole so we will simply give it to them automatically.
That is the kind of absurdity that is going on in the system. That is what is wrong with the minister's bill today. She wants to tinker around the edge. She wants to maybe make a few little provisions dealing with how to work statutory release. The reality of how to work statutory release is to get rid of it. We need something where prisoners will try to earn parole and work their way back into society.
I am all in support of the concept of rehabilitation. First, we want to prevent crime wherever possible. We want to change the system enough that we do not have people committing these stupid crimes that lead them to jail. When they are in jail, we want to encourage them to recognize that they made a mistake, that they will rejoin society and be a valuable, law-abiding member of society. This is not the way the system works right now and tinkering around the edges of it will not make those kinds of changes.
I could probably go on for about an hour on this subject alone but I see that I do not have that kind of time. I have some encouragement from the Liberal side, which does want me to go on, but, unfortunately, the rules they have put in place prevent that.
I can assure the House that if the government keeps tinkering around the edge of legislation, we will continue to oppose it. There is something wrong when it cannot come out with one decent piece of legislation that goes all the way, instead of legislation that tries to pretend it has done something.
We still hear to this day that the Liberals offered us a triple E Senate but that we turned it down. They still bring that red herring out every so often, all because they came out with an absolutely unworkable set of constitutional amendments that 70-some-odd per cent of this country turned down, even though it contained a couple of decent things. To this day they still maintain that we voted against the good things, which, of course, technically speaking, we did because it was embedded with a whole lot of bad stuff.
It is the same thing with the bill. There may be tiny bits of merit in it but we are always faced with the conundrum of voting for the little bits of improvement that the government is willing to make or to say no, because if it cannot be done right then it should not be done at all. Should we just tell them to get out of the way and we will do it? Well the day when we can do it is coming very close. We expect that in spite of all the scandals, all the investigations and the fact that we will not hear back on any of these investigations for awhile, the Prime Minister will go ahead and call the election. The main reason, as bad as the news is now, is that he knows it will only get worse.
When the Liberals come out with legislation like this, they deserve to be booted out. They should move over and we will bring in legislation Canadians really want.