Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak in the House today to represent my constituents in opposing Bill C-71, which is causing concern not only in my riding, but across Canada, especially the rural regions of Quebec.
Let me provide a brief history lesson. The former Liberal government of Jean Chrétien promised a gun registry in 1995 at a net cost of $2 million. He believed that it would cost only $119 million to implement it and he would collect $117 million in fees. Well, it took only seven years before the auditor general sounded the alarm in 2002, saying that the cost of this initiative had reached $1 billion. Two years later, it was valued at $2 billion. It went from $2 million to $2 billion.
That does not include the harm caused to thousands of hunters and farmers across the country, some of whom lived hundreds of kilometres from major centres and risked having their guns confiscated if their registrations or renewals were not done on time. That is when we noticed the disconnect between the Liberals and rural Canada and we still see it today. We had to wait for a Conservative government to make things right.
Let us be clear. The Conservatives support common sense gun control measures and the responsible use of firearms. It always has and it always will. In fact, it was a Conservative government that added the requirement for a firearms safety course to the national safety code in 1991. A Conservative government also amended the Criminal Code to include mandatory minimum sentences for firearms offences.
Let us not forget also that street gangs do not walk around with hunting rifles. That is the first thing. They like being discreet and they prefer handguns, which are already controlled and prohibited by law since 1934. Those criminals will continue buying their firearms on the black market, probably from the box of a pickup truck in some back alley in a large urban centre. This does not necessarily happen in the regions. Bill C-71 will not change that reality.
The Conservative government suspended the mandatory registration of long guns in 2006 and abolished the firearms registry in 2012 because it was costly and inefficient. Today, instead of looking forward and finding solutions to reduce the crime rate in Canada, the Liberals prefer to take us back to the 1990s by introducing Bill C-71.
First, they tell us that the bill does not include a registry, but the wording says that a retailer who sells a firearm must check the reference number with the registrar and record it in a system, where it must be kept for a period of 20 years. What is a registrar doing other than maintaining a registry? I am not sure how this translates into English, but in French, the word enregistrement includes the word registre. The word used in the English version of Bill C-71 is “registrar”, which comes from the Latin registrum, meaning “registry”.
As Jean Chrétien said, “A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It's a proof.” The Prime Minister likes to say, “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.” Well, a registrar is in charge of a registry.
They can claim that this registry will be simpler than the last, but there is still going to be a registry and they should not hide that fact. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the Liberals are doing. They are hiding the truth from us. The minister evidently recognized the lack of clarity of Bill C-71 when he introduced it on Monday, March 26, 2018. He indicated that there was no established standard for complying with the obligation to keep records for a mandatory period of 20 years. He recognized that certain small businesses still keep paper records. I can attest to that because I am a hunter. I am not a collector, but my son and I regularly exchange firearms, in accordance with the law and the rules, and the retailer who has sold us our guns still keeps paper records, which he will have to hold on to for 20 years.
Companies sometimes change owners, computer systems are changed sometimes every five years, and even tax documents are only kept for seven years. How did the minister decide on 20 years, which is three times longer? What are the penalties if the records are lost, misplaced, or destroyed as a result of a fire or technical malfunction?
Before introducing legislation, the government must ensure that it is complete.
Furthermore, Bill C-71 requires the owners of certain restricted firearms to call and request authorization to transport their firearm every time they leave home with it.
On March 26, 2018, here in the House, the minister said that owners could request authorization by phone or by Internet, and that the process would take about three to five minutes. However, there is no government office that can serve the public in three to five minutes.
The Auditor General criticized the Canada Revenue Agency, because it is almost impossible to get an agent on the line. Many have spoken out about similar situations of being stuck on hold for 15, 20, 40 minutes, or even longer, with employment insurance, immigration and citizenship, and other government agencies. The Liberals suddenly think that gun owners will be able to get someone on the line in less than five minutes. That is completely ridiculous.
Earlier, my colleague talked about how the Internet is not as fast in rural areas as it is in big cities. In my riding, there are some places where the Internet is not available at all. People have no way to access the Internet to get the PDFs. This will never work. Let's be realistic. Law-abiding people are going to get tired of waiting, and criminals who own illegal guns are not going to call the toll-free number to request permission to transport them.
With respect to privacy, the federal government is getting ready to transfer files from the old long gun registry to Quebec authorities that are trying to set up their own gun registry. Not only is the government doing that without the consent of the people involved, but it is also transferring information that has not been updated in a long time. Registration stopped being mandatory in 2006, which was almost 12 years ago, and the files have not been updated since the registry was abolished in 2012. The government is about to transfer files that have been out of date for six to 12 years.
I ask the Liberals across the aisle what guarantees the federal government obtained to ensure that Quebec's firearms registration service, or SIAF, is fully aware that this list is largely obsolete, and to ensure that Quebeckers do not end up in a situation where they have to prove that they genuinely no longer possess the firearm listed in the old registry or face fines ranging from $500 to $5,000.
Everything seems to point to the fact that this bill was hastily put together. Furthermore, instead of taking meaningful action to reduce crime in Canada, the government did the exact opposite by opposing mandatory sentences and consecutive sentences through Bill C-38.
I am not going to vote for a bill that will create more red tape for hunters in my rural riding and that has the potential of treating my law-abiding constituents as criminals.
Instead of trying to pass Bill C-71 before summer break, I urge the government to take a step back, listen to the concerns of rural residents, and withdraw Bill C-71 before the fall.
In conclusion, I can say that people in my riding are talking to me about this bill. I consulted my constituents and received tons of feedback, several dozen responses, in fact. Everyone is on our side. No one wants a registry, and yet, despite the government's claims, there will inevitably be a registry.