Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.
From the outset, I will state that I will be supportive of the bill going forward to committee. There are some issues in the bill that need to be carefully thought out. There are some positive things in the bill, but all of us have concerns.
I will not be critical of members in the House in the aspect of the bill that is paramount to us all, and that is the safety of the citizens of our country. All members here, no matter to which party they belong, truly believe they are here to make sure there is legislation in place to protect our citizens on a daily basis. I commend all of us on that. What I and other members have issues with is the approach.
How did we get there? Some legitimate issues have been raised particularly by members of my party and our public safety critic. Rehabilitation has always been paramount to the whole corrections system in this country. I am quite concerned that that whole idea is being eroded. We also want to make sure there are programs and the necessary funding in place to ensure that people do not reoffend. Programs which deal with issues of safety have been cut over the last few years. Those programs are vital to ensure the safety of our society. I am concerned about the erosion of those programs.
Some of the aspects of the bill need to be clarified. Bill C-39, the ending early release for criminals and increasing offender accountability act, was introduced in June of this year by the Minister of Public Safety. The bill amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. We should look at some of the things the bill tries to clarify.
It clarifies that the protection of society is the paramount consideration in the corrections process for the Correctional Service of Canada, the National Parole Board and the provincial parole boards as well. It provides that a correctional plan is to include the level of intervention by the service in respect of the offender's needs and the objectives for the offender's behaviour, the offender's participation in programs and the meeting of the offender's court-ordered obligations.
It expands the range of disciplinary offences to include intimidation, false claims and throwing a bodily substance.
It permits victims to make a statement at parole hearings. It permits the disclosure to a victim of the name and location of the institution to which the offender is transferred, the reason for a transfer, information about the offender's participation in programs, and convictions for serious disciplinary offences, and the reason for a temporary absence or a hearing waiver.
It eliminates accelerated parole review. It provides for the automatic suspension of the parole or statutory release of an offender who receives a new custodial sentence and requires the National Parole Board to review the offender's case within a prescribed period. It authorizes a peace officer to arrest without warrant an offender for a breach of a condition of the offender's conditional release.
Some of the objectives in the bill are probably supportable, and we are supporting sending the bill to committee, but we have to make sure that public safety is the paramount consideration when dealing with corrections issues.
My party believes that rehabilitation is key to preserving public safety and preventing recidivism. We believe in a corrections system where human rights are promoted and respected .
For these reasons we support the bill in principle, namely that public safety remains paramount in corrections policy, but we have concerns with the government's overall road map to corrections, including the over-vamping and deterrence at astronomical costs.
One of the major concerns I have heard from provincial premiers is how little consultation is taking place at the provincial level; this when so many of the costs will be carried by the provincial governments. This would be a heavy burden. They want to make sure they are part of the consultation as we move forward with legislation dealing with criminal offences and rehabilitation.
A number of organizations have also expressed concern about this bill, including the John Howard and Elizabeth Fry societies, and the Criminal Lawyers' Association. Rehabilitation is the key to an effective corrections system, prevention, and public safety. Professor Michael Jackson, a former director of the John Howard Society, has stated that they have serious concerns with this legislation.
There are different groups that need to be heard at the committee level. That is one of the reasons this bill needs to go to committee. We can then look at different ways to correct and modify this bill.
There are some positive things I see in the bill, but I have to say that we are concerned about the overall cost of some of this legislation. It will be shared by all taxpayers. The provincial premiers will have a difficult time managing their budgets. They are concerned about where this legislation is going and how it will affect their treasuries.
We heard from Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who stated that the cost of one of the bills could be in the range of $10 billion to $13 billion. This is an astronomical cost that, without question, will have an effect on our ability to provide other services, whether we are talking about health or other social services.
We also know there has been some erosion taking place in the programs that deal with prevention. If public safety is paramount, then we must make sure we have programs and resources in place to deal with crime prevention, so that people will not be reoffending.
A concern to us all is that so much of the legislation before us imitates our friends and neighbours to the south. I think we would all agree that the cost has been enormous on their society, with little decrease in crime or criminal activity.
If we are going to look for a road map, we want to make sure it is one that all of us could be supportive of. I believe it should be guided by principles based on fact and not emotion. It should have the resources in place, and we should know where we can get the funding for the programs.
Thus far, I see in this bill a cost to all of society. There is a cost to the treasury and to the public. We have a series of concerns that we keep raising. I hope the government will listen.
I think we would all agree that establishing the rights of victims to make a statement at a parole hearing is an important and positive aspect of this legislation. How it is implemented, how it is done, is something the committee will have to take a look at.
Of course, we would want to involve victims groups as well. It would probably be done on a case-by-case basis, because I am not sure all victims want to make a statement at the parole hearings. However, if they wish to, they should be given that opportunity.
The level of intervention would probably be decided on a case-by-case basis, with the victim having the opportunity to make a statement.
There have been a series of issues raised by different people, primarily advocacy groups. We need to listen to the John Howard Society and the Elizabeth Fry Society, which do good work in trying to rehabilitate criminals. We need to make sure that individuals do not reoffend. It is in the interest of all of us. For this reason, I will be supporting the legislation. I hope that we will be able to resolve some of these issues at the committee level before the bill comes back for third reading and final approval.