Madam Speaker, I commend my colleague from Surrey North for bringing the bill forward and raising the profile of this issue.
This is an issue that deserves our consideration. Other members have spoken about this in the House both today and previously. We have heard wide support from our colleagues regardless of which party they are from, apart from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, and that is a concern. I will return to that at the end of my comments.
The bill would make street racing a much more serious offence than it is now. Other colleagues have pointed to circumstances and tragic incidences in their communities, not only in British Columbia but around the country, where individuals have lost their lives, and that is a tragedy. If we can stop one person from being harmed or killed by bringing forward this legislation, then we will have done a good thing.
Quite often we want to see what others are doing in other jurisdictions. In his speech last week, my colleague from Surrey North pointed out what others are saying in other jurisdictions, and they have already taken action.
Manitoba has taken action. The Manitoba minister of justice has said that:
Amendments made to our Highway Traffic Act this past session have given our provincial street racing offence the highest maximum fine and the highest demerit point level available for provincial driving offences under that legislation.
Manitoba has introduced strong new measures to deal with dangerous drivers, and I think that is a good thing.
Motions have been brought forward in British Columbia as well. The attorney general of British Columbia, Geoff Plant, in reference to street racing, said:
The Criminal Code needs to be tightened up in the area of conditional sentencing so that conditional sentences are rarely, if ever, available for a crime of this nature.
As others have mentioned, it is often young people who get involved in street racing, for whatever reason. It might be their sense of invincibility or their sense of adventure and desire to push the limits. If we look at the vehicles available now as compared to the vehicles that were available when I and others here first started to drive, they are powerful machines, capable of reaching very high speeds quickly.
My colleague from Elk Island gave us some calculations about just how dangerous speed can be, and I agree with him on that point. Those kinds of circumstances have led to tragedies around our nation involving street racing.
I had the opportunity many years ago to teach driver training. I did not teach in-car instruction. I taught young people, who were just learning to drive, in a classroom. A police officer was at one of the sessions and he told stories about being on the scenes of accidents involving high speed, including street racing. The stories were simply horrific. Our colleague from the PC Party mentioned that he was a paramedic and was on the scene of serious accidents. If we can help to prevent even one tragedy, we will have done a good thing, which is why the bill is worthy of our support.
As was mentioned by my colleague from the Bloc and others, we need to put legislation in place that will send the right message. We do need to send the right message when we bring forward legislation. If we communicate through our laws that street racing is a serious and a dangerous thing and if individuals choose to participate in that kind of activity they will be held to account. If we send that message through this legislation we hope that will have an effect on people's behaviour.
When given alternatives, such as the opportunity to participate in racing at a race track, young people often will not take that choice because of the thrill of racing on a city street. That is unfortunate. Because of that we need to let young people know that if they street race they will pay the price with some serious consequences.
We need to let young people know that if they street race, they will pay the price with some serious consequences.
There is a raceway in my riding called Mission Raceway. It is a facility for both drag racing and road racing. That would be a great place for young people to race their cars. If there could be a way of building in some alternatives for young people who were engaged in this kind of activity to use the raceway as an opportunity to get that energy out in that way, I think that would be a great thing. Whether or not individuals choose to do that would be up to them. If we could provide an opportunity for that, perhaps they would make that choice.
Ultimately, it comes down to individual responsibility. Young people need to take responsibility for their actions. We have seen what happens when they do not. It not only affects the families of the victims who may be involved in accidents but the drivers themselves. Even if they survive the crash, they have to live with the scars in their own lives of having to live with what they have done in street racing if they have caused some serious damage or if they have killed somebody. If we could help young people to avoid that, we would have done a good thing, as well.
I am surprised by the message sent by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice on this topic. He seems to be the only one who has spoken against this bill at this point. That is somewhat surprising because there is agreement among members of the opposition. I hope there is wide agreement among members of the Liberal Party, backbenchers and others, who will have an opportunity in a free vote to support this motion. There will not be some kind of edict from the justice minister that this a motion that is not worthy of their support, because it is.
If we can send the right message and teach young individuals that they are responsible for their actions, then we will have done a good thing. This is a bill that is worthy of the support of members from all parties.
Again, I wish to congratulate my colleague from Surrey North for his hard work on this issue. I encourage every member to support this bill and make it a reality in our land.