The Debates are the report—transcribed, edited, and corrected—of what is said in the House. The Journals are the official record of the decisions and other transactions of the House. The Order Paper and Notice Paper contains the listing of all items that may be brought forward on a particular sitting day, and notices for upcoming items.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to give tribute to a very special group of Canadians. May we always remember with pride the bravery and sacrifices made by the 26,791 Canadians who served Canada during the Korean war, and in particular, the 516 who made the ultimate sacrifice.
This summer I was fortunate to spend some time with a very proud serving member of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, Mike Lotoski. Mike was on Hill 677 on the nights of April 24 and 25, 1951, during the Battle of Kapyong, when the 2nd PPCLI, cut off and alone, held off an entire division of Chinese regular forces, in the meantime saving the United Nations central front and the recapture of Seoul. For this bravery, the entire brigade was given a Presidential Citation.
When we remember some of the great battles for freedom that Canadians have taken part in, such as Passchendaele, Vimy Ridge and Operation Overlord, let us also always remember Kapyong and the 2nd PPCLI.
Mr. Speaker, tomorrow in Toronto Gail Asper will be honoured as the 2010 winner of the Edmund C. Bovey Award, which recognizes an individual business professional who has demonstrated exemplary leadership in support of the arts.
Gail Asper joins Winnipegers Kathleen Richardson, John F. Fraser and her father, Izzy Asper, as recipients of the Bovey Award.
Gail Asper is both a supporter of and an advocate for many arts organizations, including the Manitoba Theatre Centre, the National Arts Centre, the Manitoba Opera, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre and the Manitoba Museum. She has also been the force behind and leader of the campaign for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.
For this tremendous record of community service, Gail Asper was awarded the Order of Manitoba in 2007 and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2008.
I salute Gail Asper for her boundless enthusiasm and commitment to the arts and pay tribute to her significant contribution to Winnipeg, Manitoba and Canada.
Mr. Speaker, on the occasion of its 40th anniversary, the Centre d'action bénévole du Bas-Richelieu will pay tribute to the invaluable contribution its executive director, Claudette Dupuis, has made to the organization's success.
Ms. Dupuis is an accomplished manager, who has been able to provide many services with few resources. She was able to adapt the organization to the growing needs of its clients, people struggling with financial difficulties and other problems. She is a strong leader for the staff and for the many volunteers, who have grown in number from 226 to 745 in less than 15 years.
Ms. Dupuis has also participated in round tables, and is personally involved in many organizations in the region.
More than anything, she has always shown great compassion for those who are less fortunate.
I congratulate Claudette Dupuis, for the extraordinary work she has done with the Centre d'action bénévole du Bas-Richelieu. I wish a appy 40th anniversary to that organization.
Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure
Mr. Speaker, last Sunday I was at Coronation Park in Bathurst, New Brunswick, to attend the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure.
I would like to thank the volunteers, participants, donors, sponsors and communities for their support. The race was a resounding success. In fact, $33 million was raised across Canada.
This money will fund relevant and innovative breast cancer research, provide education and awareness programs, advocate for early diagnosis and effective treatment as well as a positive quality of life for those living with breast cancer.
I would ask that we keep the victims of this terrible disease in our thoughts.
Mr. Speaker, in 1962, 26-year-old Bill Thake of Westport, in my riding of Leeds—Grenville, was voted into office as a village councillor.
In January of 2011 he will begin his 50th straight year of serving the people of his municipality when he is returned as the acclaimed mayor of Westport. He has been head of this council continuously since 1969. The folks in Westport are so confident in his abilities that he has only faced opponents for the mayor's job three times and he handily won all three of those challenges.
As well as councillor, reeve and mayor, Mr. Thake has served as warden of the united counties of Leeds and Grenville four times and has served on many boards, foundations and community organizations. In 2003 he received the Queen's Jubilee Medal.
Held in the highest regard by the people in his community, on behalf of the people of Leeds and Grenville, I would like to congratulate Mr. Thake on his years of service and thank him for his dedication to the people of Westport and Leeds and Grenville.
Parliamentary Forum of the Community of Democracies
Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Forum of the Community of Democracies recently adopted a manifesto on democracy, appropriately enough on the International Day of Democracy. The forum is a coalition of democratically elected parliamentarians who work together to strengthen democracy where it is weak and promote it where it does not exist.
The manifesto, while acknowledging a “democracy recession”, emphasizes the universal values that underpin democracy, including human rights, rule of law, freedom of expression, independent media, accountability, transparency and access to education.
The declaration appeals to all democratic governments and parliaments to include the democracy dimension as a permanent component of their foreign policy.
In particular, it urges governments and parliaments to support democratic opposition movements and human rights activists in countries under totalitarian and authoritarian regimes.
It was my privilege to represent Canadian parliamentarians at this founding meeting.
Mr. Speaker, today members of Parliament and staff have an opportunity to save a life. The member for Kildonan—St. Paul and I are sponsoring the OneSwab, OneMatch, OneLife cheek swab event. The event is open to healthy individuals between 17 and 50, from 3:15 to 7 p.m. in Room 238-S.
This simple painless test collects cheek cells from inside the mouth and a genetic match might save the life of someone suffering from a blood-related genetic or metabolic disease. We believe if Canadians knew that, the 260,000 Canadian samples in the worldwide database would grow to millions.
My constituent, 20-year-old David Smyth, courageously spent the last few weeks of his life this summer, while battling leukemia, working to increase the number of Canadians on the OneMatch network.
David's legacy will live through the actions of Canadians today who register as potential stem cell donors. I urge all Canadians who are in good general health to take this simple pledge and become a hero to someone in need today.
Mr. Speaker, a screening of the film Incendies is being held tonight in Ottawa and all members of the House of Commons can attend. The Bloc Québécois will be there to take in—and take in again, for some of us—this outstanding film by Denis Villeneuve, based on a play by Wajdi Mouawad.
The film received a standing ovation at the prestigious Venice International Film Festival, was acclaimed in Colorado, won best Canadian film at the Toronto International Film Festival and in Halifax, and has been nominated for an Oscar in the best foreign film category.
The film, which reached the $1 million mark at the box office last weekend in Quebec, will also be presented at the film festival in Namur, and will be distributed in the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Israel and Switzerland.
On behalf of my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I would like to commend the tremendous talent of the film's director, Denis Villeneuve, who will be there this evening, as well as all of the artists who helped make this film a resounding success. Quebec is proud—
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal-NDP-Bloc Québécois coalition is alive and well.
In a book released this week, the leader of the Bloc congratulates himself not only on being the “driving force” behind the coalition, but also for secretly scheming with the NDP on its creation before it was sprung on a shocked nation. The Bloc leader also makes clear that his party is a full participant in the coalition. In fact, not only is the Bloc a full coalition partner with the Liberals and the NDP, it was, and continues to be, at its very heart.
The Bloc leader also reminds Canadians that coalition denials cannot be trusted. It misled Canadians in 2008 and it will mislead them today.
However, we know that Canadians will never accept a coalition led by a man who said that America was his country, in which the NDP would manage the economy and one that includes a party whose sole objective is the breakup of Canada.
Mr. Speaker, for 18 months, while the Conservatives have been making empty promises on their tough on crime agenda, Toronto resident David Chen has been forced to defend himself in the judicial system for protecting his property.
Arrested and charged for apprehending a known and convicted criminal who robbed his store, Mr. Chen now faces the full weight of the legal system pressed against him.
Last June, given government inaction, I proposed Bill C-547 as a solution. It would amend section 494 of the Criminal Code. If passed, the bill would signal Parliament's will to end this double victimization of citizens.
However, the Prime Minister can today adopt my bill and honour his government's commitment to end this injustice, or he can ignore it and feed the impression that this is yet another Conservative broken promise.
Mr. Speaker, in a book published this week, the Bloc leader congratulates himself not only on being the “driving force” behind the coalition, but also on secretly scheming with the NDP to create the coalition before it was sprung on a shocked nation. Apparently even Jacques Parizeau himself was 100% behind this coalition.
The Bloc leader is quick to discredit those who say his party is not a real member of the coalition, but just a supporting player. On the contrary, not only is the Bloc a full partner in the coalition with the Liberal leader and the NDP, but it continues to be at its very heart.
The coalition partners know that Quebeckers and Canadians will never accept a coalition that is led by a man who says he loves the United States, that would have the NDP managing the economy and that includes a party whose sole aim is to tear Canada apart.
Mr. Speaker, it is with great respect and heavy hearts that we mark the fifth anniversary of the Sisters in Spirit vigil. October 4 is the day to honour the lives of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls, and their families.
The latest information shows that this human rights crisis is not slowing down. The Native Women's Association of Canada has identified over 582 aboriginal women and girls who have gone missing or have been murdered, up 520 from five years ago. That means that aboriginal women and girls go missing or are victims of murder seven times more often than non-aboriginal women.
This year, over 75 communities held a Sisters in Spirit vigil to demand concrete action.
New Democrats stand with aboriginal families and other Canadians who are asking for an effective and unbiased police response, improved public awareness through the collection and publication of comprehensive national statistics on violent crime against aboriginal women, and steps to elevate aboriginal women's social status by closing the economic and social gap between them and other Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, the current Parliament was barely a week old before the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition kicked into gear. All three partners supported a job killing, 45-day work year to be paid for with massive hikes to EI premiums. In fact, the leader of the Bloc Québécois bragged today that he is the “driving force behind the coalition”.
It is troubling that the coalition's policy has included introducing massive tax hikes and job-killing measures that would put our economy at risk. It is troubling that the coalition does not care what Canadian voters think.
However, most troubling of all is the fact that the heart and driving force of the coalition is led by a party dedicated to the breakup of this great country.
Thankfully, the Conservative Party, led by the Prime Minister, is committed to a united Canada and to the policies that will protect, not kill, our fragile economic recovery.
Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois would like to pay tribute to an admirable politician, Michelle Bachelet. She is a trailblazer, becoming Chile's first female defence minister in 2002, first female president in 2006, and first female president elected by universal suffrage in South America.
She describes herself as a woman, a socialist, an agnostic and a divorcee and says these are four deadly sins in Chile. Her father was in the military and she herself was imprisoned and tortured under Pinochet. She lived in exile in Germany where she studied medicine. She returned to Chile in 1979.
During her visit here this week, she was awarded the Prix International courage au féminin by Reporters Without Borders, which recognizes “women who continuously fight for the respect of liberties and for the most fundamental human rights.” This morning, she was given the medal of honour by the National Assembly of Quebec in recognition of her political and social commitment. She is—
Mr. Speaker, it was with sadness that we learned this week of the passing of Maurice Foster. The former Liberal member of Parliament will long be remembered as a devoted and compassionate public servant.
Dr. Foster passed away on Saturday, October 2, after a battle with pulmonary fibrosis. For 25 years, from 1968-93, he proudly represented the people of the riding of Algoma, the same riding previously held by former Prime Minister Lester Pearson.
He served as parliamentary secretary to the President of the Treasury Board for nine consecutive years. He was the chair of three parliamentary committees, the deputy whip and an adviser to former Prime Minister Chrétien. He fulfilled all these roles with dedication, humility and humanity.
He was always a gracious presence on Parliament Hill, always someone whose door was open, always welcoming and always highly respectful of colleagues of all stripes.
I am certain that all members of this House join with me in extending our condolences to Dr. Foster's family and friends. He was a great Canadian.
Mr. Speaker, our number one priority is the economy, and that is why we continue to implement Canada's economic action plan, which has helped Canada weather the global recession better than nearly every other industrialized country.
What are the Liberals' priorities? Just last week they voted for the job killing, tax hiking 45-day work period proposed by their coalition partner, the Bloc Québécois. Other Liberal priorities include making it easier to possess and use illegal drugs.
Only a party with priorities completely offside with Canadians would release a policy that talks about health care on page six and promotes smoking on page four.
Yes, the Liberal Party might be able to photoshop a cigarette out of its health care brochure, but no computer program can erase the fact that the Liberal leader and his priorities are out of touch with the priorities of Canadian families.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday, when I announced the Liberal family care plan, the Conservatives said that these people can use their vacation time to take care of their family members. These people have no vacation time left. They have sacrificed all their vacations.
Why is the government so insensitive to the needs of these families and why does it continue to lower corporate taxes rather than take care of families in need?
Mr. Speaker, this is the fifth time that the Liberal Party has made this promise. Breaking a promise four times is not a sign of compassion. At the same time, the Liberal Party wants to raise taxes. We are talking about billions of dollars. This will truly hurt the Canadian economy. That is why this government cannot support such an irresponsible measure.
Mr. Speaker, is taking care of families being irresponsible? That is unbelievable.
The government, in 72 hours, spent $1.3 billion on a photo op for the Prime Minister. That sum of money, if spent to help families in need of care, would have aided more than 600,000 family caregivers.
How can the Prime Minister justify his reckless and irresponsible priorities?
Mr. Speaker, if this were such a responsible policy, I do not know why the Liberal Party would have broken its commitment to Canadians on it four times already before making a promise a fifth time.
The reality is this. Yesterday, the leader of the Liberal Party promised billions and billions of dollars of tax hikes on ordinary Canadians and on job creators in this country. This would have devastating effects on our economic recovery. That is why the policies are irresponsible. That is why on this side we do things that are real, affordable and, when we promise them, we do them.
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is saying that it is irresponsible and reckless to help families that are dealing with the burden of ALS or dealing with the burden of looking after somebody dealing with cancer for four years. He will have to explain to those families why it is that the only thing the government can say back to them is that they should take some vacation to look after those they care for.
Why does he not understand the needs of these families? Why does he characterize their needs as reckless? When will he start to do something for them?
Mr. Speaker, this government has taken measures, whether it is on compassionate leave or EI, a number of measures to help our seniors to make real, measurable progress in the lives of people. That is a very different approach than on the other side where those members promise billions and billions of dollars that would damage the Canadian economy in terms of tax hikes and then turn around and break those promises.
Fool me once, shame on me; fool me five times, you must be a Liberal.
Mr. Speaker, in fact, no members of this government are part of the inquiry. If the RCMP finds any wrongdoings with individual contractors, we expect they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Mr. Speaker, we are talking about the Parliament of Canada here.
If Conservative organizers take a $140,000 cut on the renovations of our most cherished political institution, then I guess it confirms that the Prime Minister has no respect whatsoever for Parliament.
The Minister of Natural Resources is under investigation by the Information Commissioner, the Ethics Commissioner and now by the RCMP. Is it not time he took a little time off to clean up his act?
Mr. Speaker, the now Minister of Natural Resources has made an outstanding contribution to Canada, an outstanding contribution to Quebec, an outstanding contribution to his constituency. It is unfortunate that the member opposite would make such reckless comments.
Mr. Speaker, after the Liberal sponsorship scandal, the Conservatives promised to clean house. Now we learn that Gilles Varin, a Conservative Party organizer and supporter, allegedly lobbied the government on behalf of a contractor even though he was not a registered lobbyist. Mr. Varin bragged to the contractor that he had friends at Public Works and that he could help the contractor land the $9 million contract to renovate Parliament, which the contractor did go on to win.
Does the Prime Minister realize that he is perpetuating the same system and the same practices the Liberals used?
Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, as the Minister of Public Works and Government Services has already said, no member of this government is under investigation by the RCMP. We have rules in place, and if some contractors broke the law, they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Mr. Speaker, if I remember correctly, the Prime Minister did not need an RCMP investigation to dismiss a minister a few months ago. Today, he is taking a different tack.
One of the Conservatives' many promises was that they would require ministers and senior officials to record all meetings with lobbyists, which the government has not done. Once again, does the Prime Minister realize that he is perpetuating an old system he roundly condemned when he was in opposition?
Mr. Speaker, the reality is quite the opposite, as I just said. No member of this government is under investigation by the RCMP. That is completely false. Our government is providing full information, and if an individual has broken the law, we have rules in place and that individual will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Mr. Speaker, the contractor who was awarded the contract to repair the West Block paid $140,000 to Gilles Varin, an unregistered Conservative lobbyist. Right in the middle of the bidding process, that same contractor had lunch with Bernard Côté, the assistant to former public works minister Michael Fortier. This is the same Bernard Côté who was fired because of a secret relationship he had with lobbyist Julie Couillard.
Mr. Speaker, no member of this government is part of this investigation. If the RCMP believes that it has proof that a crime took place, the individuals will be subject to the Federal Accountability Act and the taxpayers' money will be recovered.
Mr. Speaker, the contractor, Paul Sauvé, acknowledged that he hired unregistered lobbyist Gilles Varin because, and I quote, “...he had close friends who worked in the system...”.
According to media findings, at least two Conservative assistants were approached by Paul Sauvé or his lobbyist. Unless the Prime Minister thinks it is normal for contractors to try to get preferential treatment from his government's staffers, has the Prime Minister himself, in addition to the investigation, looked into the comings and goings of Gilles Varin?
Mr. Speaker, as I have said, no members of this government are part of this inquiry. If the RCMP does find any wrongdoing with any individual contractors, we expect it to prosecute to the full extent of the law.
Mr. Speaker, forget thousands of complaints, the government now says that it will make major policy decisions based on one complaint like it did with the census.
Here is one for you, Mr. Speaker. On Monday I told this House about Frank Rainville, a senior from Sturgeon Falls, who as a result of the federal tax that has been added to his essentials, is having to pay $20 more per month for his utilities. He does not know how he is going to cover the heating bills now that the thermostat has to be turned on.
My question is very simple. Will the Prime Minister finally act now for Frank Rainville and all Canadian families and take the federal tax off—
Mr. Speaker, this is very interesting coming from the leader of the NDP who demands a tax cut on a very small percentage of items, but when we brought in the same tax cut across all goods and services that consumers purchase, he voted against that tax cut.
The truth is he favours higher sales taxes. That is the big difference between all three parties of the coalition and this government.
Mr. Speaker, according to the Minister of Industry, a single complaint was enough to justify scrapping the mandatory long form census. In the meantime, thousands of seniors across the country are asking that their old age pension cheques increase by more than just $1.50. The cost of living is on the rise, and food prices are increasing. Our seniors deserve better.
Why is there such urgency when it comes to the census but virtually nothing for our seniors?
Mr. Speaker, it was this government that cut the sales tax by 2% for seniors and the entire population. It is the coalition parties—the NDP, Liberals and Bloc Québécois—that want to increase the federal GST by 2%. That is their position, but ours is the exact opposite.
Mr. Speaker, I guess these complaints from Canadians about the issues they are facing are not enough for the government to act.
Evidence is mounting in the same vein that we cannot trust tests on the safety of imported toys. We have heard from many parents, not just one, who are concerned about protecting their kids. They are worried about whether or not the toys are safe or unsafe. The government will not even tell them which ones might be harmful because it does not seem to care enough, I guess.
If one complaint is enough, think of all of the moms and dads who are worried about their kids. After delaying their own law to protect kids against toys, why will the government not act now?
Mr. Speaker, Canadians are seeing a pattern of well-connected Conservative insiders accessing ministers' offices and influencing contracts.
Is this why the Prime Minister had to send a letter this weekend to his ministers telling them to stop taking money from people who do business with the government? Is he content to sweep this latest evidence of abuse under the rug, or will he do the honourable thing and fire his Minister of Natural Resources?
Mr. Speaker, on January 19, 2009, I attended a fundraiser in the riding of Bourassa. I understand that the member opposite is not happy about such activity in his riding. Fundraising events are indeed held in Quebec ridings. At no time was there any discussion about government business. It was strictly a fundraising event.
Mr. Speaker, the Quebec Minister of Education, Line Beauchamp, wrote to her federal counterpart to denounce the elimination of the mandatory long form questionnaire. She pointed out that she will lose an important tool enabling her to “make funding decisions and monitor the results of [her] investments”.
Does the Prime Minister realize that eliminating the mandatory long form census questionnaire is inconsistent with his claims of sound management of public money?
Mr. Speaker, as I have already said in the House, it is important to find a reasonable and fair solution to better protect the privacy of citizens. At the same time, we must be able to collect the necessary data to obtain information about our society.
Mr. Speaker, there is no rational basis for the government's decision to eliminate the mandatory long form census questionnaire. The member for Beauce, the former industry minister, even went so far as to invent complaints from the public to justify the unjustifiable.
Does this manipulation of the facts not prove that the government does not have a logical argument to justify a purely ideological decision?
Mr. Speaker, I would like to quote the Bloc leader, the core of the coalition, who proposed the following solution: “Well, if you refuse [to fill out the form], certain government services won't be provided to you for as long as you refuse. A passport, for instance, employment insurance, for instance.”
That may be the solution of the heart of the coalition, but it is not our solution.
Mr. Speaker, the federal government has signed agreements with Newfoundland and Nova Scotia to pursue oil exploitation on the continental shelf, which will allow Newfoundland to begin exploration activities on the Old Harry site. Quebec has been trying to reach a similar agreement for the past 12 years, but Ottawa is dragging its feet and no progress has been made.
How can the federal government justify its refusal to sign a similar agreement with Quebec, after doing just that with Newfoundland and Nova Scotia?
Mr. Speaker, the world seems to have been turned upside down. Now the Bloc Québécois is speaking the language of its head office. Suddenly it is pro-oil. It is somewhat strange to see. As the government, we committed to developing our natural resources in a responsible manner. Yes, there is a Canada-Newfoundland offshore petroleum agreement and one with Nova Scotia. As for Quebec, which has shown some interest, discussions are currently underway. We will certainly not take any lessons from a party that has absolutely no credibility on energy issues.
Mr. Speaker, an independent Quebec would have the tools to resolve its differences with other nations, such as the International Joint Commission, the United Nations and the International Court of Justice in The Hague. But since Quebec is inside Canada, unfortunately, it is at the mercy of the whims of the federal government and cannot access these tools.
How can the government refuse Quebec what it has granted Newfoundland and Nova Scotia? How can it justify such a double standard?
Mr. Speaker, this is rather ironic. The Bloc Québécois wants to separate Quebec from the rest of Canada. Its leader will talk about it anywhere around the world, even though the people with the most at stake are sick of hearing about Quebec separation.
I would like to make one thing clear: we are entering into talks with Quebec and there is some interest. Quebeckers can count on our government to begin negotiations in good faith and in due form.
Mr. Speaker, in just 18 months the Prime Minister's temporary chief of staff is required to return to his role at Onex. The conflicts of interest are obvious and endless, but in addition, the situation opens the potential for insider information, which could very well be passed along to this corporate giant.
The Ethics Commissioner has confirmed that only Mr. Wright and the Prime Minister can release details of his employment contract, adding that she “would love to have them do it”. When will they release it?
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Wright has not even started his job here in Ottawa and already the Liberal opposition is planning his departure. There is not an 18-month part of that.
I do think it is fantastic that someone with Mr. Wright's abilities is prepared to come to Ottawa to engage in public service and serve his government. He and his staff have sought and will continue to seek and follow the direction of the independent Ethics Commissioner. That is the responsible thing to do.
Mr. Speaker, industry, health, finance, treasury board, defence and international trade. What do these have in common? They are all departments that Nigel Wright can have nothing to do with because they are industries in which Onex has holdings. Even Brian Mulroney's former chief of staff, Norman Spector, has called Mr. Wright's arrangement a joke.
Are Canadians really supposed to believe that Mr. Wright, the Prime Minister's temporary chief of staff, will not have any dealings with any files related to Onex?
Mr. Speaker, the first measure that this government took when it was elected was to bring in the toughest ethics package in Canadian history and one of the best ethics packages around the world.
Let me also say this. Mr. Wright has spoken with the Ethics Commissioner. He has sought her counsel. He has sought her advice. He will follow all of her recommendations and maintain the very highest ethical standards, just as this government does each and every day.
Mr. Speaker, in light of soaring costs, the Pentagon has just decertified Lockheed Martin's system for tracking the costs of the F-35 program. In the meantime, the Conservatives think that Canada should hand over a blank cheque to that same company. The United States are saying that the company is unable to control costs, and other countries are re-evaluating their needs, but the Conservatives want to hand over a blank cheque for the biggest military purchase in Canadian history.
In fact, the decertification of Lockheed Martin's system for tracking this particular project is a technical issue between the Pentagon and this company, Lockheed Martin.
We welcome the diligence that is being exercised on the project. All the allies, including Canada, will benefit from this type of strong oversight. It is not expected to have any impact on the cost for Canada nor the delivery schedule of the 65 F-35 aircraft that we are committed to acquiring beginning in 2016.
Mr. Speaker, it seems the government is outsourcing diligence.
The Conservatives like projects where spending is out of control because it reminds them of their own deficit. The Pentagon has realized that the cost of the F-35 has skyrocketed. It revoked Lockheed Martin's failing cost control system. What do the Conservatives do? They want to hand over a blank cheque for the biggest purchase in Canadian military history.
When will the Conservatives do the right thing, have an open and transparent competition in Canada and respect taxpayers' money?
Mr. Speaker, as I said, this is actually good news.
I think my friend opposite has hit a blank spot in the tape in his memory system, because there was a time when he had this to say, “The Liberal Party is very supportive of replacing the CF-18 fighter jets with the most appropriate next-generation aircraft”.
I agree with him, as does Lieutenant General Deschamps, the chief of the air staff, when he said, “The Lightning II is the only fifth-generation aircraft available to Canada. Not only that, but the F-35 offers the best cost value of any fighter available to us”.
I agree with both of them. Why has the hon. member changed his mind? So often we see this with the Liberal Party.
Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Bloc Québécois is praising himself as the “driving force” in the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition. This is a coalition that has policies that would be devastating for our economy. It has a partner that aims to break up our country.
Would the minister comment on the recent revelations regarding the role of the Bloc Québécois in the coalition?
Mr. Speaker, in addition to the leader of the Bloc Québécois admitting that he was the driving force behind the coalition, he also told all Canadians that this plan was in the works long before Parliament even convened in November 2008. The Bloc Québécois leader discredits those who insist his party was not truly part of the coalition but, rather, was a peripheral player. Not only is the BQ a full coalition partner with the Liberal leader and the NDP but it continues to be at the heart of the coalition. The Bloc Québécois leader also reminds Canadians that coalition denials cannot be believed, because if they cannot be believed in 2008 they cannot be believed today.
Mr. Speaker, this is the government that rode into Ottawa on the horse of accountability. It said it would clean up Ottawa, but all it has done is replace dirty Liberal lobbyists with its own dirty Conservative lobbyists. So, now it is Conservative cronies who are using their connections to sell privileged access to juicy government contracts. The public works gravy train is alive and well. It just changed engineers.
We stopped Rahim Jaffer and we stopped this Gilles Varin, but how many more well-connected Conservatives are skulking around the hallways, the corridors of power, peddling influence and getting these juicy contracts that they do not deserve?
Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated, no members of this government are part of this inquiry. However, if the RCMP does find any wrongdoings with any individual contractors, we expect it will prosecute to the full extent of the law.
Mr. Speaker, it is not as though the Conservatives did not know who Gilles Varin was. He had been operating illegally for decades. In 1977, he was convicted on five counts of corruption and breach of trust. In 1993, he was caught illegally lobbying the Conservative government. They knew about his sordid and corrupt past, so when Mr. Varin returned to knock on the Conservatives' door, why did they open it right up, instead of slamming it in his face? Is it because he is still a Conservative organizer?
Mr. Speaker, no member of this government is under investigation. If the RCMP believes that it has proof that a crime took place, the individuals will be subject to the Federal Accountability Act and the taxpayers' money will be recovered.
Mr. Speaker, for three weeks now, the Bloc Québécois has used numerous concrete examples to prove that the March 31 deadline makes no sense whatsoever. Municipalities will be unable to meet this deadline because of federal administrative red tape and a shortage of workers and materials, as well as colder temperatures.
Will the government stop being so stubborn and extend the March 31 deadline so that municipalities will receive all the money that was promised to them?
Mr. Speaker, three weeks ago, the Bloc realized that there was a infrastructure plan because the mayors spoke to them about it. Before that, it was not on their radar. In fact, the Bloc members voted against it. We will continue to work with the mayors from all of Quebec's cities, and the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities is in touch with his Quebec government counterpart. Discussions are under way and, as usual, we will keep our promises.
Mr. Speaker, because of the March 31 deadline, the municipality of Stanstead risks losing federal funding for its Pat Burns arena. Construction delays beyond its control mean that the municipality may not meet the ridiculous deadlines set by the federal government. The Conservatives are so far removed from reality that they forget that our winter makes the work more difficult.
Why is the minister not doing what Quebec's municipalities and the National Assembly are calling for and extending the deadlines?
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is right. We do not have winter in the rest of Canada. I am glad she pointed that out.
Here are the facts. Again this week I spoke with Minister Hamad. We had a lengthy discussion about certain projects in Quebec. But most importantly, he has promised he is going to get the information to me on the status of different projects right across Quebec. That is good news because of course with that information, with the details, which I have yet to receive, we will be able to work closely with Quebec. Of course we promise to be fair and reasonable, and the projects will go ahead.
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Public Safety, when asked about the cost of prisons, said, “I'd rather not share that”. The Parliamentary Budget Officer did, and here is what he said, “The total funding requirement for correctional departments in Canada is thus projected to rise to $9.5 billion” in 2015.
Why does the minister insist on hiding this information? When will he tell Canadians the truth about the cost of his Truth in Sentencing Act?
Mr. Speaker, the minister has been very clear. We are committed to keeping law-abiding Canadian families safe in their homes, streets and communities. That means keeping dangerous criminals behind bars, where they belong. Our Conservative government is proud to be on the right side of this issue, the side of law-abiding Canadians and the side of victims who want justice.
Unlike the Liberals who muse about reducing sentences for criminals, our government will always put public safety and the rights of law-abiding Canadians first.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday, we announced the Liberal family care plan, which would cost a fraction of the price of the Conservatives' new mega-prisons. Yet the Conservatives are going ahead with mega-prisons, even though the crime rate is going down, while health care costs are skyrocketing.
The minister should explain to Canadians with chronic diseases and the family members who care for them why their needs are less important than the Conservatives' mega-prisons. Why?
Mr. Speaker, we believe that dangerous criminals should be where they belong, behind bars. This commitment has a cost, a cost we feel Canadians are willing to invest because the cost to society is so much more. Unlike the Liberals and their NDP-Bloc coalition partners, our government understands that a safe, secure and just society is an investment worth making.
Our government is proud to be on the right side of this issue, the side of law-abiding Canadians and the side of victims who want justice.
Mr. Speaker, in two weeks, the EI pilot project for the best 14 weeks to help seasonal workers will end. This is a time when part-time jobs are going up, full-time jobs are going down, unemployment is going up and the economy is contracting. Everyone agrees that the recovery is stalling.
This pilot project has been running successfully for five years. Will the government extend the EI pilot project, or are seasonal workers just another group the government is happy to leave behind?
Mr. Speaker, as you know, during the recession we did introduce special measures to help those who were hardest hit by the global recession, to give them extra benefits and give them the opportunity to get back to work. We have focused tremendously on helping 1.2 million Canadians get the training they need to develop their skills for the jobs of tomorrow.
When it comes to the pilot projects, we are reviewing them and any decisions about them will be based on what is best for Canadian workers and for Canada's job creators.
Mr. Speaker, every day, I get a huge number of calls from concerned workers who are already having trouble making ends meet. The best 14 weeks pilot project was a success, and it is vital to regions with a high unemployment rate.
If all it takes is one complaint to abolish the mandatory long form census, why is the minister not listening to the thousands of workers who are calling for an extension of the best 14 weeks pilot project?
Mr. Speaker, I am surprised that the hon. member is so concerned about the unemployed.
During the recession, we introduced several measures to help the unemployed and their families, including measures to help workers find another job or acquire the skills they need for a new job. Every time, the hon. member and his colleagues voted against these initiatives. It is shameful. We are taking action to help the unemployed and their families.
Mr. Speaker, 2010 has seen an unprecedented level of Canadian activity on the international stage. From the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games to the G8 and G20 summits, Canada has played host to the world. Our government's leadership and investment has restored Canada's international prestige, and our quick responses to natural disasters in Haiti and Pakistan have once again demonstrated the generosity of Canadians.
Could the minister please inform the House about how the government is carrying forward Canada's international leadership role?
Mr. Speaker, last January the Prime Minister, and rightly so, called 2010 Canada's international year. Canada's strong support for international peace and security includes more than 3,000 troops, as well as police, diplomats, development officers and correctional personnel, serving in a variety of UN-mandated missions around the globe.
Yesterday our government was proud to launch Canada's action plan to promote and protect women and girls in international zones of conflict.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to say where our concerns for workers and families are in Canada.
We want to create jobs for those workers and prosperity for those families. That is why we are pleased to see Export Development Canada providing a loan that will allow Vale to purchase hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment manufactured by Canadian workers here in Canada for use all around the world.
It is a proud story of Canadian exporting success that creates jobs and prosperity for Canadians at home. That is our priority for Canadian workers.
Mr. Speaker, Air Canada machinists are worried. The company wants to transfer the work of its machinists to a company called Aveos, yet Aveos is talking about moving some of its operations to El Salvador.
The Leader of the Government spoke about ongoing discussions with the companies involved. However, the Air Canada Public Participation Act is clear and requires that Air Canada maintain operational and overhaul centres in Montreal, Mississauga, and Winnipeg. Will the government enforce this?
Of course, Mr. Speaker, all the companies that are affected by that particular piece of legislation are expected to adhere to the law. I have no proposals that have crossed my desk that suggest otherwise.
Mr. Speaker, with Thanksgiving just days away, communities such as Grassy Narrows First Nation are worried that the fish they are eating are still contaminated with mercury.
The problem is made even worse by clear-cutting in the region, which can raise mercury levels in rivers and fish, and now Weyerhaeuser is not respecting Grassy Narrows' moratorium on logging.
Health Canada has ignored repeated calls to test the fish in the English River system for these dangerous pollutants.
Can the minister reassure people that there is no chance that their Thanksgiving dinners are coming with a side order of mercury? Why will the government not act to protect the people of Grassy Narrows?
Mr. Speaker, we are all concerned about the plight of first nations, particularly in Grassy Narrows, which has experienced a good number of challenges. We remain committed to work with the community involved and to ensure that the government can provide the support they need.
Mr. Speaker, too many children's lives throughout the developing world are being lost to diseases that can be prevented, and Canada is taking real action to save lives in developing countries.
At the UN, the Prime Minister announced a 20% increase in Canada's support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Today I am pleased to announce Canada's increased contribution to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization of $50 million over five years. This will strengthen the immunization systems in developing countries and save lives of children, an important component of Canada's G8 initiative to save the lives of mothers, newborns, and children.
Mr. Speaker, there is corporate welfare for profitable Vale while families are losing their homes as manufacturing plants in southwestern Ontario continue to close, the Bick's plant in Dunnville being the most recent example. Communities such as Hamilton, Chatham, Windsor and Dunnville need to know that their government cares about their future.
Where is the government's plan to bring highly paid, full-time jobs back to these communities?
Mr. Speaker, there is a plan. It is called the economic action plan. It is called everything that we do to focus on jobs and recovery and full-time jobs in our manufacturing sector and indeed in all sectors. That is why we are focusing on those issues. That is why we are reducing taxes for businesses, small and large, so they can grow jobs in our communities.
Why is the hon. member part of a party that wants to raise taxes on people who create jobs in our communities? Why?
Mr. Speaker, it has been 10 years since the people of Ontario said good riddance to the notorious Adams Mine garbage dump, but now we learn that an American, Vito Gallo, is trying to hit up the Canadian taxpayer for $355 million through a NAFTA challenge.
The funny thing is that nobody has ever heard of this guy before. He invested zero dollars in the site and he has never bid on any garbage contract, but his partners have given generously to the Conservative Party, and he quotes two cabinet ministers in his statement of claim against the Canadian people.
The question is, is the fix in? Will the government stand up for Canada or roll over for Vito Gallo and his buddies?
Mr. Speaker, our government has a very proud record of standing up for Canada and for Canadian workers throughout by taking advantage of the provisions that exist in our North American Free Trade Agreement. If the hon. member had been following it, he would have seen a number of very recent successes where Canada has won its cases in that forum. We continue to be successful in that forum.
We will continue to stand up for Canadian workers, for policies that are sound, and for jobs and prosperity in Canada as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Mr. Speaker, in her annual report to Parliament, the Privacy Commissioner criticized the Conservative government's lack of concern over protecting personal information. According to her findings, not one of the five departments and agencies audited adequately assesses the risks associated with using wireless communication devices. She also noted that 90% of the departments had not properly wiped their computers’ hard drives before donating the computers to schools.
Does the government realize that protecting personal information is not optional?
Mr. Speaker, the Privacy Commissioner has raised these concerns, and we agree with her. We were already aware of certain situations and have taken measures to protect the devices. We will follow her suggestions because we agree with her.
I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of Dr. Andrew Molozzi, a principal designer and so one of the pioneers of Canada's original space program, the Alouette satellite program.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table today two government responses to the Standing Committee on Health entitled “Promoting Innovative Solutions to Health Human Resources Challenges” and “The Way Forward: Addressing the Elevated Rates of Tuberculosis Infection in on Reserve First Nations and Inuit Communities”.
I would also like to extend my appreciation to the health committee for these two important reports.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday during question period my good friend, the Liberal official opposition House leader, requested that I table a document I referenced in question period and I am only too happy to comply.
I would also like you to note, Mr. Speaker, that during question period I may not have enunciated “Grassy Narrows” and perhaps the record could be changed to reflect that.
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the order the House made on March 3, 2010, and Standing Order 114, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 16th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding membership of the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan. If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the 16th report later today.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce a bill that would help seniors and young families across the country. I would like to thank the hon. member for Churchill for seconding this legislation.
The bill would provide free prescription and dental care for seniors and children under the age of 12. In my riding of Vancouver Kingsway, too many seniors are forced to choose between paying for medications and paying their rent. Many seniors and young families are unable to afford even basic dental checkups. The bill is an important way to strengthen our public health care system and make life better for those who built our country and those who are our future. It is also an affordable and practical idea to improve the health of seniors and children.
This is an important first step towards a universal prescription and dental care system for every Canadian, part of the original plan for universal medical care envisioned by Tommy Douglas and the New Democratic Party. I look forward to working with my colleagues from all parties to improve our public health care system and make prescription drugs and dental care affordable for Canadian seniors and children from coast to coast to coast.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I believe you will find agreement for the following. I move:
That the speech of His Excellency the Governor General, together with the address of welcome made by the Prime Minister in the Senate Chamber on Friday, October 1, 2010, be printed as an appendix to the official report of the Debates of the House of Commons and form part of a permanent record of this Parliament.
Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to present a petition signed by 1,249 people who are calling on the government to develop an agreement with the Government of Quebec so that employees subject to federal legislation have access to the full preventive withdrawal program, like all workers in Quebec.
Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege today to rise and present a petition on behalf of my constituents in the communities of Pinsent's Arm, Charlottetown, Port Hope Simpson, Mary's Harbour, and Red Bay. It calls for a common sense approach to EI by extending the pilot project which would enable five additional weeks of EI.
They also call upon the government to keep the pilot projects dealing with the best 14 weeks and enabling workers to keep 40% of their earnings. This is good for employers, it is good for employees, and it is good for our country.
Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today.
The first is in relation to the Hague Convention of 1961 Abolishing the Requirement for Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents. It has been entered into by Albania, China, Great Britain, the U.S., and other countries, but not by Canada.
The petitioners are concerned because it requires Canadians to endure a time consuming and expensive process to obtain authentications from foreign consulates and therefore they ask the Government of Canada to conclude negotiations with the provinces and territories to enter into that Hague convention.
Mr. Speaker, the second petition I wish to present is to introduce a new volunteer service medal to be known as “The Governor General's Volunteer Medal” to acknowledge and recognize volunteerism by Canadian troops.
This was issued from September 3, 1939 to March 1, 1947 and also from June 27, 1950 to July 27, 1953, but not since.
The petitioners would like it to be recognized for members of the regular and reserve military forces, the cadet corps, and support staff who were not eligible during that time but who have completed 365 days of uninterrupted honourable duty in the service of their country since that time.
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition containing the names of couple of hundred people from Manitoba. The petition mentions that there was a class action on behalf of cattle producers of Canada lodged in April 2005 claiming that negligence on the part of Agriculture Canada allowed BSE from imported British cattle to infect Canadian cattle. This class action has now been certified and is proceeding to trial.
These folks are calling on the Government of Canada to appoint the Hon. Mr. Justice Frank Iacobucci as mediator to facilitate settlement between the Government of Canada and the cattle farmers.
Mr. Speaker, my second petition is from British Columbia. The petitioners request that the House inform the Canadian public of the number of civilian casualties inflicted in Afghanistan, the number of military casualties, including serious injuries, and the cost of the war.
The petitioners call on the House to act to bring our troops home forthwith.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition on behalf of Mr. Gary Freeman, who was involved over 30 years ago in a racially charged incident in Chicago.
In 1974 he came to Canada. He has raised four children. In fact, I knew Mr. Freeman when he was an employee of the Metropolitan Toronto Library, and he has had an absolutely impeccable character and record of service in that position.
A few years ago, he was ordered for extradition and returned to the United States, where he stood trial on the charge that he was given over 30 years ago.
He made restitution. He served two months and he was on probation. He is not on the no-fly list, but he is unable to visit his family. After 30 years, the petitioners feel that justice delayed is justice denied. They are asking that the Minister of Immigration use his ministerial discretion under section 25 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to grant a temporary resident permit on humanitarian and compassionate grounds so that Mr. Freeman can be reunited with his family.
This bill was introduced on June 18, 2009, and it would help thousands of workers, businesses, families and communities affected by the forestry crisis in regions where forestry companies are located.
The bill sends a very clear message to the Government of Canada and to the public. We must pass this bill in order to increase domestic demand for softwood lumber in Quebec and Canada, and to reduce dependency on softwood lumber exports to the United States.
I am pleased to present this petition signed by several dozen people who support Bill C-429, calling on the federal government to give preference to the use of wood in renovating or constructing federal buildings. I am honoured to present this petition in support of Bill C-429.
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from citizens across many communities and all walks of life who wish Parliament to know that they genuinely support and value the contributions of our veterans, and that they regard a veteran as a veteran no matter where he or she has served.
The petitioners join the Veterans' Ombudsman and General Walter Natynczyk in condemning the new veterans charter and the Department of Veterans Affairs for creating barriers to serving Canada's veterans.
Petitioners also demand that existing services such as veterans hospitals be mandated to serve modern-day veterans, including the more than 200,000 members of the armed forces who have served in peacekeeping missions since the Korean War.
The petitioners want, first, a full hearing in the House of Commons in response to the issues of pensions, special care, programs, services, and the preservation of an independent Department of Veterans Affairs; and second, a commitment that Parliament will act to ensure that veterans and their families receive the support they have been promised and to which they are entitled as members of the armed forces, past, present, and future.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition regarding the liberation procedure.
Currently 75,000 Canadians live with devastating multiple sclerosis. They have the courage to battle their disease every day and now have the courage to take on a new fight, the fight for clinical trials for the liberation procedure.
We need evidence-based medicine here in Canada and that is why we need clinical trials. We do not need more correlational studies: Bulgaria, Italy, Kuwait, the United States, and Poland all show that most MS patients have venous abnormalities.
Today, over 2,500 procedures have been undertaken worldwide, and the world experts told the neurological subcommittee that the procedure is safe and needed. The government chose not to listen to this committee.
The petitioners are therefore asking for a nationwide clinical trial for the evaluation of venography and balloon venoplasty for the treatment of CCSVI and persons diagnosed with MS.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition from 26 members of my constituency of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.
The petition calls on the Government of Canada to appoint a mediator to facilitate the settlement between the Government of Canada and the cattle farmers in Canada in relation to the BSE crisis of 2003.
Mr. Speaker, my petition calls on the Canadian government to negotiate with the United States government to reduce the United States and Canadian passport fees.
American tourist visits to Canada are at their lowest level since 1972: they have fallen by 5 million in the last 7 years, from 16 million visitors in 2002 to only 11 million in 2009.
Passport fees for multiple-member families are a significant barrier to traditional cross-border family vacations, and the cost of passports for an American family of four can be over $500. In fact, half of Canadians have passports, but only one-quarter of United States citizens have passports.
At the recent Midwestern Legislative Conference of the Council of State Governments attended by me and 500 other elected representatives from 11 border states and 3 provinces, a resolution was passed unanimously that read:
RESOLVED, that [the] Conference calls on President Barack Obama and [the] Prime Minister...to immediately examine a reduced fee for passports to facilitate cross-border tourism;
...we encourage the governments to examine the idea of a limited time two-for-one passport renewal or new application; and be it further
RESOLVED, that this resolution be submitted to appropriate federal, state and provincial officials.
To be a fair process, passport fees must be reduced on both sides of the border. Therefore, the petitioners call on the government to work with the American government to examine the mutual reduction in passport facilities to facilitate tourism, and finally to promote a limited-time, two-for-one passport renewal or new application fee on a mutual basis with the United States.
Mr. Speaker, I want to say that about two months ago I met with a group from the Fish, Food and Allied Workers, the FFAW, which is the main union for fish harvesters and plant workers throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.
They were very compelling in the meeting. They talked to me about pilot project number two, best 14 weeks, which is essential to seasonal workers in that they use their best 14 weeks instead of their last 14 weeks, allowing them to get better benefits from EI.
This program is slated to expire on October 23. If it is not made permanent, which we would like, or at least temporary, then it will provide a disincentive for seasonal workers.
This is a petition with 75 signatures from people in Newfoundland and Labrador who want to see the program of best 14 weeks, which is scheduled to expire on October 23, made permanent.
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by a number of fellow citizens from the eastern Ontario region.
The petition calls on the federal and provincial ministers of health and the Government of Canada to discuss allowing hospitals, private clinics, and individual doctors to test for and treat CCSVI for all Canadians who so desire testing and treatment, and to plan and implement a nationwide clinical trial for the evaluation of venography and balloon angioplasty for the treatment of CCSVI in persons diagnosed with MS.
Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 359 and 360.
Question No. 359--
Mr. Fin Donnelly:
With regard to the development of a national aquaculture act: (a) is the government currently holding discussions with related industries regarding the possibility of drafting such an act; (b) what would the scope of any proposed act be; (c) what consultative process would be undertaken in preparing such an act; and (d) what are the reasons for developing such an act?
Hon. Gail Shea (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, CPC):
while Fisheries and Oceans Canada is aware of industry’s interest in having an aquaculture act that would define and regulate those aspects of the industry that are unique from the wild-capture fishery, the department is not holding discussions relating to the possibility of drafting such an act. As a result, the department has not defined the scope of any such act nor is it considering any consultative processes in preparation for such an act.
Question No. 360--
Mr. Fin Donnelly:
With regards to the National Aquaculture Strategic Action Plan Initiative (NASAPI), under the direction of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO): (a) what is the mandate of the project; (b) what is the implementation schedule (i) in the Atlantic region, (ii) in Central Canada, (iii) in the Prairies, (iv) in the West Coast region; (c) which department within DFO is managing NASAPI; (d) what consultations have been undertaken in preparation for the implementation of NASAPI; (e) what further consultations are planned before implementing NASAPI; and (f) what environmental assessments have been conducted to assess the impact of NASAPI?
Hon. Gail Shea (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, in response to (a),
the national aquaculture strategic action plan initiative, NASAPI, is not a Department of Fisheries and Oceans, DFO, initiative per se, but a sectoral initiative overseen by federal-provincial-territorial aquaculture lead agencies under the auspices of the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers, CCFAM, umbrella. Therefore, under the leadership of CCFAM, NASAPI has been launched to develop targeted action plans to facilitate economically, environmentally and socially sustainable aquaculture development in all regions of Canada. Three principal areas for action have been identified: governance; social licence/reporting; and productivity and competitiveness. The areas for action, and the plans themselves, were developed through discussions with federal, provincial and territorial, industry, fish feed suppliers, first nations groups, non-government organizations and others. The plans will include specific actions that will be taken under principal areas of aquaculture including east coast marine finfish, west coast marine finfish, east coast shellfish, west coast shellfish, and freshwater. The actions will be led by the industry, the provinces and territories and/or federal government departments including DFO, depending on the activity. The vision for NASAPI is to supply quality products and generating rural and coastal prosperity through environmentally, socially and economically responsible sustainable aquaculture development that upholds public confidence.
Regarding the status of NASAPI, an overarching framework plus three sectoral plans, east coast finfish, east coast shellfish and national fresh water, have been drafted, with plans for the west coast to be developed during the fall of 2010.
In response to (b), NASAPI’s implementation schedule is over a five-year time frame in all regions. It is a mutual and inclusive exercise of aquaculture stakeholders to develop action plans that will facilitate meaningful, progressive sustainable aquaculture industry advancement. The action plans are being developed for each subsector of the Canadian aquaculture industry: east coast marine finfish, east coast shellfish, west coast marine finfish, west coast shellfish and national fresh water. Thus the national fresh water strategic action plan encompasses the Atlantic region, central Canada, the Prairies and the west coast region. The east coast marine finfish strategic action plan and the east coast shellfish strategic action plan covers the Atlantic region and Quebec; and the west coast marine finfish strategic action plan and the west coast shellfish strategic action plan include the province of British Columbia. The implementation structure for the NASAPI will make use of existing federal-provincial-territorial co-ordinating mechanisms for aquaculture governance and management already in place. NASAPI is proposed to be tabled for the consideration of the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers at the November 2010 ministerial meeting.
In response to (c), the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, DFO, is the lead federal department for aquaculture management. Under the leadership of the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers, the DFO Aquaculture Management Directorate of the DFO Policy Program Sector is guiding the NASAPI process.
In response to (d), to date, 13 meetings concerning finfish and shellfish have been held in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Ontario and the prairie provinces. Hundreds of participants attended these meetings with representation from federal, provincial and territorial governments, industry, fish feed suppliers, first nations and aboriginal groups, non-government organizations and others. A discussion paper, shared in advance with all participants, was developed to focus and stimulate discussions throughout the process. Moreover and in order to facilitate more intensive expert discussion, the issue of identifying priority species for diversification efforts was dealt with separately through five advance regional workshops in February and March of 2009. Steering committees with reps from all interested parties were formed for each of the subsectors and the steering commiteee members assisted in the development and subsequent review of the action plans. These plans were then discussed within the CCFAM Strategic Management Committee, comprising reps from federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions. In addition, a national workshop was held in May 2010 to bring representatives from industry and other stakeholder groups together to review the draft sector-based action plans.
In response to (e), west coast NASAPI discussions were deferred until the end of the 60-day comment period, which concluded on September 8, 2010, on the proposed Pacific aquaculture regulations. It is therefore planned to hold informational NASAPI meetings in British Columbia during the early fall of 2010.
In response to (f), environmental assessments have not been conducted as NASAPI is a plan, not an industry commercial aquaculture project, to facilitate sustainable Canadian aquaculture development based on the principles of sustainability, i.e., environmental protection, social licence and economic prosperity. However, obviously any new or expansion project, arising under NASAPI would need to meet any applicable provincial-territorial-federal environmental regulatory requirements.
Mr. Speaker, during question period, I asked the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development a question about the pilot project ending on October 23 that uses the best 14 weeks of earnings. The minister's response was very clear. She said that the government worked during the economic crisis to introduce employment insurance legislation to help workers, and that the NDP voted against their bills. However, she did not name the NDP, but she said, “the hon. member and his colleagues voted against these initiatives,” referring to the member for Acadie—Bathurst.
I would like to remind the minister that on November 3, 2009, the NDP voted in favour of Bill C-50, which added five weeks of employment insurance benefits for workers during the economic crisis.
The minister has therefore misled the House and the Canadian public. I am asking her to apologize to the House of Commons and to retract her comments.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue my presentation on Bill S-9, which was Bill C-26 last year. This is another bill that was killed when the House was prorogued. We will have to spend a lot of valuable parliamentary time going through the various stages to get it back to where it was when the government prorogued.
My files on all of these government bills are quite substantial now, as we have been going through these bills a second time and a third time in some cases.
I have in my files a press release issued on September 13, 2007 by the Manitoba government of the day with respect to Bill C-26 regarding its mission to Ottawa to press for tougher sentences with respect to auto theft. For the tough on crime Conservative government, it must come as a bit of a surprise to know that an NDP government was even tougher on crime and three years earlier.
On September 20, Premier Gary Doer, who has since been appointed ambassador to Washington, led the Manitoba mission to Ottawa to press for urgent national action on auto theft and tougher sentences for serious youth crimes. The Manitoba delegation included Attorney General Dave Chomiak, who has since been replaced by Attorney General Andrew Swan; Conservative opposition party leader Hugh McFadden, who is still the opposition leader; Jon Gerrard, the Liberal leader; and Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz who will be mayor for at least two more weeks. I am not familiar as to whether the rest of the members of the delegation are still in their respective positions. Nevertheless, this was a concerted effort on the part of a provincial government to lobby Ottawa politicians to do something about auto theft in this country.
The Government of Manitoba was not sitting back resting on its laurels and demanding another government to solve the problem, as so often happens in the political world. The province, simultaneously with the request, had a program of its own. The province's approach to reducing auto theft and youth crime focused on four broad areas, one being prevention, which is an important part of all of this. It provided lighthouse programs, friendship centres and education pilot projects, as well as initiatives like vehicle immobilizer, which I have spoken a lot about that in the House over the last two years.
The second area was intervention. The government provided programs, such as the highly successful turnabout program which involved intense supervision for repeat offenders.
The third area was suppression, with more targeted funding for police officers, corrections officers and crown attorneys dealing specifically with auto theft. In fact, Manitoba set up a task force that identified the top 50 level 4 offenders, the most serious offenders, and singled them out for special attention. They were watched on an hourly basis. In addition, there were consequences. Repeat offenders faced a possible lifetime suspension of their driver's licence.
In addition to all of this, the Manitoba government adopted a program that has been reasonably successful in Nova Scotia. It involved monitoring car thieves and forcing them to wear ankle bracelets. This initially was a one year pilot project but I believe it has been extended so it must be reasonably successful.
The Government of Manitoba also tried the bait car program. One of the government members in this House spoke positively about the bait car program in British Columbia. For whatever reason, however, the Manitoba situation did not mandate the bait car program.
I am not certain what the reasons were for that but I would suggest that perhaps it was because of all those days where the weather in Manitoba is minus 40, as opposed to the nice temperatures and moderate climate out in Madame Speaker's province of British Columbia. The British Columbian government chose to pursue the bait car program, and I do not fault it for that. If it gets results, that is what we want to see. In Manitoba, we decided to go with the immobilizer program and the gang suppression unit and we were able to reduce our car thefts very substantially over a very short period of time.
The point here is to look at best practices. That is essentially our entire criticism of the government when it comes to crime. We hear it with the speakers from the Bloc, the speakers from the opposition and the speakers from the NDP constantly. There is a recognition, at least in the opposition, that governments should look for best practices. They should look for what works in other parts of the world, and not just blindly follow ideology and implement programs, for example, from the United States that have a 25 year track record of not having the desired effect, of not working.
That is all we are telling the government. We are prepared to support the government in positive approaches to the problem but we want to ensure that whatever money we are putting into the program is well spent.
What we have here is that three years have gone by and still the government has not done what the Manitoba government delegation was asking for, which was to provide stronger penalties for youth involved in serious crimes, especially those involving auto theft; allow first degree murder charges for gang-related homicides; eliminate the two-for-one remand credits; classify auto theft as an indictable violent offence; and make shooting at buildings and drive-by shootings indictable offences.
Three years later, the government is now starting to get around to implementing some of the requests of the Manitoba government. So much for its tough on crime approach and its suggestions that somehow the NDP is soft on crime.
I will now deal with some of the macro issues here that should have been identified 20-some years ago.
As I had indicated yesterday, when I look around I see a lot of grey hair in this Parliament. There are people here with a lot of experience. In former careers, they were provincial members, city councillors and mayors. There is a lot of collective experience here. The fact is that most of us remember that in the 1970s and early 1980s, it was still possible to leave our cars unlocked on the street and find them still there when we went to look for them. Auto theft was not really a problem in those days.
There are two types of auto theft that we are dealing with here. In the larger cities, like Toronto and Montreal, the issue with auto theft is more criminal activity. Criminal gangs are stealing high-end vehicles, changing the VINs on the vehicles and chop shops tearing these cars apart and selling them for parts or exporting them out of the country. That is the type of activity that perhaps is growing but, if we were to look back, I think we would find that it was still a problem many years ago and probably much easier to do in the 1970s and 1980s.
Our problem here with the big numbers is the joyriders, the young people who steal the cars for no other reason than to just simply take them out and go from point A to point B. Another group of people steal a car with the intention of committing burglaries. They just steal a car whenever they feel like it and go and break into houses. Some other joyriders have been in races with the police. They have killed people, sometimes deliberately running people over. They have had car accidents with police. They have even put bricks on the accelerators and sent the cars into buildings just for fun. These are the types of activities going on, which makes it very hard for the police to deal with the problem.
Had we been on our toes 20 to 25 years ago, governments would have seen those statistics coming up each year and would have mandated the car companies to factory install immobilizers.
It was not until 1997 that the Ford Motor Company started to install immobilizers in its higher end vehicles. When I looked at the statistics a number of years later, at least in Manitoba, no vehicle with an immobilizer had been stolen. The proof is in the pudding. The more vehicles that have immobilizers the less cars are being stolen. Therefore, there is a lesser pool of cars for people to be stealing.
I need to correct myself. It was the Liberal government that announced the anti-theft immobilizer program in all new vehicles built after September 1, 2007 for sale in Canada in July 2003, but it was the current Conservative government that actually implemented that requirement. It is great that it did this but it should have been done years before and years before the Insurance Bureau of Canada indicated that the cost of requiring factory installed immobilizers was something like $30, $40 or $50 a car. Can we imagine the small cost that this would be given the huge cost that society has paid because this mushrooming problem?
Now it will take at least 10 years to get all these old cars off the road and the problem, of course, will solve itself. However, it will take another decade and it will take a lot more effort.
However, in Manitoba there is the exception. The Manitoba government initially offered an incentive for people to avail themselves of the optional immobilizer program but it changed the rules a couple of years ago to make the program mandatory. As of 2007, I believe, the registration of and insurance for all cars without immobilizers could not be renewed but the government paid for the immobilizer.
While we had a voluntary program, the uptake was very poor. As soon as the government mandated it, a few people complained about having to do it. Even though it was free, they still complained. However, as long as the government made it free, people could not renew the insurance or registration until an immobilizer was installed in the car. Starting with the highest theft vehicles, because we could identify them based on the type of car, we gradually mandated that all those be brought in. We worked group, by group, by group and now we find a smaller and smaller pool of cars on Manitoba roads.
Has that solved all of the problems? No, not exactly. It has certainly reduced the costs and the rate of car theft. The fact that we are using the gang suppression program to chase the level 4 offenders has also been very positive. We have had to fine-tune the program but most people agree that we are on the right track.
I do not know why more jurisdictions do not get on board with this idea. Simply waiting over the 10 year period to allow the old cars to be gradually phased out is not being proactive. It is just accepting the fact that we will have more carnage on the roads and more costs to society. The point is that all provinces should be moving equally to make immobilizers mandatory as quickly as possible.
Madam Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's speech on this. I was here yesterday when he spoke to this as well.
He talked about the Conservatives tabling bills and then proroguing the House. Now we are back to square one, wasting all the time in which we could have passed these bills.
I am sure my colleague will agree that the government loves to talk about how tough it is on crime. It also talks about building more prisons. The government just closed the prison farms. That cost taxpayers more because it was a lot cheaper to keep the prison farms going than to build new prisons without putting the resources in place. I would like my colleague to talk about that.
First, when legislation is put forward, we need to ensure it will withstand legal and constitutional challenges. Second, we need to ensure the proper resources exist, whether it is with police services or in rehabilitative processes. Maybe he could elaborate on how important it is to have those resources in place when such bills are tabled.
Madam Speaker, the closure of the prison farms is something that confounds even Conservative voters. I am familiar with many Conservatives in Conservative areas of the country who shake their heads when they hear it. In fact, they find it hard to believe the government would close down all six prison farms that have been active for many years in Manitoba and Kingston, Ontario. Rather than closing these farms, we should be looking at expanding the prison farm system.
I hope the government has learned a lesson from the last time it prorogued the House. I have suggested many times that the Conservatives look back to the six years of the Lester B. Pearson minority government and do some study of that period to see the many programs that were brought in, such as the unification of the armed forces, the Canadian flag, medicare and many other substantial things that were done in a minority Parliament, and quit the divide and conquer wedge politics issues they seem to practice, so far reasonably unsuccessfully. This practice has not given them a majority. Nor has it increased their polling numbers, which go up a little and then drop.
Perhaps the brain trust over there is in transition. Perhaps the Conservatives are looking at a longer period between now and the next election. Maybe we will see a new attitude on their part to try to work with the opposition and get some bills through. If they show some leadership in that area, they will see co-operation on our side of the House. However, members on this side are very reluctant and resistant to a government that simply yanks our chain whenever it feels like it and brings in bills with all its great speeches about being tough on crime, for example. Then on a whim it prorogues the House and everything goes back to square one again.
There is a price to pay for a government that acts like that, and it is paying it. Perhaps it is planning to go in a new direction, but time will tell whether it does.
Madam Speaker, the previous speaker is always so well prepared when addressing issues, and this was no exception. Still, there is an issue that I find intriguing, and I would like some answers. He has probably noticed the same thing that I did, even if he did not mention it.
In Canada, auto theft varies greatly from region to region. It is rather difficult to determine if it is more common in rural areas or in urban centres. For example, since 1999, Manitoba's rate of vehicle theft has been the highest in the country. In 2006, 1,376 thefts were reported. During the same year, 507 thefts were reported in Quebec, 303 in Ontario and 187 in New Brunswick. In Western Canada, the rate is somewhat higher, with 725 thefts in Alberta, for example.
I think that shows that passing legislation does not necessarily change behaviour, but enforcing it does.
Does the member have any idea why the rate is so high in Manitoba and why it varies so much across Canada?
Madam Speaker, the fact is there has to be a comprehensive approach to the problem and I see this legislation as designed toward the criminal gangs and organizations. Statistics show that criminal gangs largely operate out of the bigger centres, Toronto and Montreal, where they are entrenched and where they deal in high-end vehicles.
In Manitoba, for example, in most auto thefts the cars are recovered. The indication there is that these are just joyriders if we find the cars. Thieves take them from point A to point B and drop them. Then they steal another car.
It is like in Holland years ago where thieves could pick up a bicycle whenever they needed one. A person would use the bicycle to get from point A to point B, drop it off and leave it for the next person. Then when a person needed another one, he or she simply picked it up. That seems to be the attitude.
We have less statistics as far as professional organized crime dealing in high-end vehicles. I have the statistics, but I do not have them at my fingertips. However, it is almost the reverse. In Manitoba it is more like 70% for joyriders and 30% for high-end vehicle theft versus Montreal and Toronto where it would be 70% for professional gangs and criminal organizations dealing in the theft of high-end vehicles for export perhaps and 30% for joyriders.
In Manitoba it is more of an urban issue than a rural issue. That is reflected in the insurance statistics that we have. Being a government-run insurance corporation, our statistics are kept separate. I know Quebec has a limited government program as well. However, when we look at the Insurance Bureau of Canada statistics, they do not reflect British Columbia, Saskatchewan or Manitoba because they are government-run schemes in those provinces.
Madam Speaker, I am sharing my time with my colleague from Charlottetown, and I am pleased to do so.
I am pleased, once again, to speak in support of Bill S-9, but I have to admit it is somewhat in frustration that Parliament is yet again debating this important legislation.
We have heard from others here today that Bill S-9 is identical to Bill C-26 from the last session of Parliament, which was killed when Parliament was prorogued last year. I am struck by the fact that it was May 5, 2009, when I spoke in favour of Bill C-26, which was, as of yesterday, 17 months to the day since that bill had been introduced.
We on this side have consistently supported legislation to effectively reduce crime and to enhance community safety, including motor vehicle theft. We have heard from the previous speaker that this is an issue of particular concern to those who live in Winnipeg and Manitoba. It is a very serious issue.
Some may recall that in September 2007 a delegation from Manitoba came to Ottawa, met with members of the government and the opposition party. It was a very significant delegation, made up of the mayor of the city of Winnipeg, the mayor of Brandon, members of the aboriginal community, members of the police force, leaders of the opposition parties in Manitoba and several victims of crime. They asked for motor theft to be made an indictable offence.
As a result of that, I introduced my private member's bill on motor vehicle theft in March 2008, which was originally known as Bill C-526, and in the last Parliament I reintroduced it as Bill C-237. While I support the bill, I am somewhat saddened that it has taken so long for the government to act and to move forward on what is a very pressing issue for Manitobans.
After the delegation was in Ottawa, I made a point of doing a broad-based consultation within my riding and within my community on the issue of property crime and, most specifically, auto theft. I had several meetings with the police in district 6 in Winnipeg. I met with young people, some of whom were in the process of rehabilitation. I also met with victims of crimes, with business owners and with a broad-based representation in the community to understand what had been done. I heard of some of the initiatives that the provincial government had undertaken to reduce the number of auto thefts. We heard earlier about the immobilizer prevention programming, the intervention programming, suppression programming and the consequences for young people, which often includes a lifetime suspension of a driver's licence for repeat offenders.
I also heard very clearly that there was a role for the federal government to act, and that is why I introduced Bill C-526. Unfortunately my name was further down on the list and we did not have the opportunity to debate it in the House. The bill proposed that a person who committed a motor vehicle theft for a second or subsequent offence would be guilty of an indictable offence and liable to a prison term not exceeding 10 years and would require a mandatory minimum sentence of a year.
I am not, for the most part, someone who endorses mandatory minimums. I think prevention in all its various manifestations is equally important. However, there has to be consequences for the offence. There also has to be prevention programming. The provincial government does it, but it is also incumbent upon this federal government to undertake more support and resources both for the provinces and what they do and for the community groups directly in the work that they do.
I am struck by the irony of the government putting forward tough on crime legislation while at the same time not providing the supports to communities that deal with young people in distress, or reducing the supports, or narrowing the criteria of the support so that the violence is not curtailed.
This bill is not perfect, but it is indeed an important start in taking this issue seriously by updating the Criminal Code. Significant reductions in crime will indeed occur if we also invest significant resources in evidence-based prevention programs, and I underline evidence-based prevention programs. We need to see what works and build upon it, not decide on an ideological basis that we want to do x or y and then make the program fit the criteria.
If the government were truly serious about tackling auto theft and property crime, the Prime Minister would not have killed Bill C-53 when he broke his own fixed election date in 2008, and he would not have prorogued Parliament last winter, killing Bill C-26. Seventeen months later, I am speaking to the same issue.
This is the third time the government has introduced the bill. It took the government five months to reintroduce it in the exact form after the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament. We tried to expedite it in the past and we on this side will continue to do so again.
We are glad that this bill is more robust than Bill C-53 and that the government chose to make auto theft a unique offence in the Criminal Code. The separate offence did not exist in Bill C-53.
We know that according to Statistics Canada the rate of motor vehicle theft has declined almost every year since 1996. Data for 2006 confirms that motor vehicle theft has fallen by 20% since 1996, but motor vehicle theft has a major effect on vehicle owners, third party victims, indeed law enforcement agencies and certainly the insurance industry. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, it costs insurers and the public close to $1 billion a year.
Statistics Canada numbers show that Manitoba has the highest rate of auto theft, which is nearly three times the Canadian average. We also know that Montreal has the most stolen vehicles and the fewest recovered in any city.
When I speak to this issue, while I support and want to see this bill implemented, this time in a timely fashion, I also want to underline once again the importance of prevention programs.
When I met with a group of eight young people in Winnipeg who had been in trouble with the law, they expressed to me the absolute importance of having prevention programs available. That week, while we were meeting, community clubs in the city of Winnipeg were being closed down for lack of resources, lack of infrastructure.
We cannot give with one hand and take away with the other hand. It is important that there be a coordinated policy of prevention that will reduce overall the auto theft in the city of Winnipeg, provide opportunity for young people and provide opportunity for the residents of the city.
Having said that, it is important that this bill be implemented and moved through this House and through the Senate in a timely fashion. I would ask all colleagues to co-operate in doing so.
Madam Speaker, we are dealing with auto thefts here and perhaps the member could explain why this particular legislation is needed. I know that with auto theft generally and the trafficking in stolen vehicles, there are plenty of elements of the Criminal Code that already deal with these matters, such as the conspiracy to steal, organized crime and all of the other provisions that are available.
Would the member comment on why this particular bill is needed and how it will better address the problem, particularly as we see that the number of auto thefts have been going down considerably in the last 15 years?
Madam Speaker, the importance of this bill is that it is specific to auto theft. There are provisions in the Criminal Code, but this bill is specific to auto theft and very much responds to the requests of the leadership in the province of Manitoba and in the city of Winnipeg.
The police very clearly identified a bill of this sort as what the police determined to be one of the biggest deterrents for young people.
I talked to young people who were in a rehabilitation program about auto theft, and it was one of the more interesting things I have done as a member of Parliament. Their response was that they were in the rehabilitation program and were taking the training program in order not to go to jail. Obviously the prospect of incarceration was certainly a deterrent for them, and it resulted in their making a real effort to turn their lives around.
The bill also gives powers to the Canada Border Services Agency, which I think is important in this case so that it can identify and track down stolen vehicles.
Madam Speaker, my colleague just mentioned the Canada Border Services Agency. I think it is important for us to look at legislation that will actually change laws in order to deter violations such as this one. Car theft is a big one.
All too often we see bills being put forward and passed without any thought to how we actually ensure that there are proper resources in place.
I worked for the Province of Ontario. We saw Mike Harris change the legislation and put nothing in place in the interim to help protect the most vulnerable.
On this note, and given the fact that she did mention the Canada Border Services Agency, if we are going to provide such legislation we also need to make sure that there is more money available for the Canada Border Services Agency so that its agents can do their job. Maybe the member could elaborate on the importance of that.
Madam Speaker, the member raises an important issue.
If one is going to provide the powers to the Canada Border Services Agency, it is equally important that the government provide both the financial and human resources to do what is required.
In the case of auto theft, this bill will allow the Canada Border Services Agency officers to investigate, identify, detain imported vehicles or vehicles about to be exported, and to search databases to determine whether or not said vehicles are indeed stolen.
It is important that the databases be maintained and kept up to date, and that there be the important resources available to do what is required in this instance.
Madam Speaker, let me say at the outset that, like my learned friend, the member for Winnipeg South, I will be supporting the bill when it comes before the House for a vote.
However, I am disappointed because I have supported the bill before, and before, and before. It has come to a point that I feel like that mouse on the treadmill; I am just going around and around. Sometimes we think if we go faster we will get off the treadmill. I am hopeful that the bill may see the light of day, but I am certainly not sure of that.
The bill came before the House three or four years ago. At that time I indicated to the House, as did my colleagues on this side, that we would support the bill. Our hopes and our desire was that the bill would be enacted into law and it would be now in full force and would have been in full force now probably for two or three years.
That was not to be because at that time, which was in October 2008, the Prime Minister called an election. He violated his own fixed date election legislation, which is somewhat ironic. It is cynical that people watching us see that we are imposing legislation to tell people not to steal automobiles but the Prime Minister had no problem at all in violating his own fixed election dates act .
When an election is called, everything is cleared from the table. We are back to square one. The bill dies on the order paper. It is as if it never had been before Parliament.
We had the election and Parliament resumed sitting, but the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament when he faced a non-confidence motion. He did not have time to reintroduce the bill. After the first prorogation, which was in late 2008, Parliament did resume and the bill was reintroduced. I believe it was Bill C-53. At that time I indicated to the House, as did my colleagues, that we would be supporting the bill. At that time we were hopeful that the bill would become law.
However, that was not to be because in January of this year, the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament. Things were getting wobbly on some of the Afghan detainee issues. Instead of facing the House and answering questions, he decided that he would prorogue Parliament. He would shut Parliament down. When the Prime Minister does that, everything on the order paper disappears. All the bills that have been introduced, debated and gone to committee all disappear from the order paper and we start again.
We came back in March of this year and on June 10 the bill was introduced for the third or fourth time. Again we are here debating it. We can see the unproductivity of the House, which is why I sound somewhat cynical. However, such being the case and as disappointed as I am, I am perhaps for the fourth time supporting the bill. Hopefully the bill will be enacted and become the law of this country.
It specifically relates to car theft which is a serious issue in certain parts of the country. It more or less deals with organized crime in some of the major urban centres. It specifically targets those groups, especially when we are talking about the sentence, when we are talking about the tampering of the VIN, the vehicle identification number. We are giving more powers to the officials at the Canada Border Services Agency when it comes to dealing with people who traffic in stolen automobiles.
It tightens up the law. Car theft is a problem, although I should point out as previous speakers have pointed out that car theft has actually decreased in Canada. I believe it has gone down approximately 20% since 1996, which is a good thing. That does not suggest that we do not have a real problem. We do have a real problem in certain areas of the country. That is why this bill will give the police officers and crown prosecutors more powers as they deal with car theft generally.
I have reviewed the bill carefully. We have to be careful that it really goes after either the organized element that is out there, which it does, or repeat offenders, the people who have had their first, second or third chance.
We do not want to imprison those I call first-time teenage joyriders, and most of the car theft in my community is of that nature and most of the cars are recovered. When it does happen it is very unsophisticated. Someone leaves the keys in the car and somebody takes it, usually for a joyride. When the car is recovered it is sometimes badly damaged, sometimes not. Sometimes that is done by a first offender, sometimes a very young offender. Those particular cases deserve some leniency. Cases involving an organized ring that takes cars and removes their VINs or strips them altogether do not deserve leniency. Neither do people who have done this three or four times and, for the protection of society, should be put behind bars.
The bill is specific. A few changes have been made in this bill from the previous bill, so it has been refined and improved.
I would like to give one message to the House today. Let us get the bill enacted. Let it become part of the law of Canada. I do understand that it has general support in the House, but it had general support before. I hope that in 18 months' time I will not be up speaking in the House on the very same legislation, whatever the new number will be, dealing with the same issue because it never was enacted into law.
I have a couple of specific points.
I believe the alteration of the VIN is important. It is a significant issue in the bill. It is really not covered now, or at least not that I am aware of. It would create a separate offence. Anyone who alters a VIN is a very sophisticated operator. This is not done by the unsophisticated element in our society. It is organized crime, and it usually involves high-end vehicles in urban centres. The VIN is stripped down and the car is moved out of the country. In some cases the car is stripped down altogether for parts. That is a serious offence in my mind and is one that should receive serious punishment under the law.
The bill would give additional powers to the Canada Border Services Agency, and this is important. It deals specifically with the theft of automobiles. As one of the earlier questioners rightfully indicated, there is provision in the Criminal Code for theft over $5,000. This bill deals with auto theft with specific sanctions.
We have been dealing with a lot of crime bills, but we do not seem to get them through the House, because of the actions of the Prime Minister. Hopefully we will not have prorogation in the next month. We would like to see this legislation become law.
I am being somewhat repetitive when I say there are whole elements missing in this debate. That has been stated by previous speakers. We have seen time and again cutbacks made to programs that deal with crime prevention.
The primary deterrent to a person who commits a crime is whether or not that person thinks he or she will be caught. That goes right back to resources, police, prosecutors and others.
We are talking about spending $9 billion to build new prisons for those convicted of an unreported crime. I do not know how an unreported crime can become a crime, because a crime is a crime when a person is convicted. I know that there are victims who do not report crimes, but a crime does not become a crime until there is a conviction. That is a whole other issue. We are talking about spending $9 billion of taxpayers' money for new prisons for unreported crime, but we are talking about doing it at a time when we have a $54 billion deficit, which is a serious issue.
Madam Speaker, I want to respond to an earlier question from the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, because I did not have the exact numbers when I was answering. In fact, it is more extreme than I thought.
In Manitoba, the recovery rate of stolen cars is 80%. That means that eight out of ten cars are recovered within a day or two, which would indicate joyriding as the motivation. Only 20% then, it is assumed, would be expensive vehicles that are being sold through criminal organizations. However, in Montreal it is even worse, in the reverse. The recovery rate is only 30%. That means 70% of auto thefts in Montreal are more than likely professionally done by criminal organizations.
I want to point out something else as well. Manitoba had been a dumping ground for used cars, and when the government changed the rules a few years ago to stop odometer rollback, that solved the problem by making it impossible to register a vehicle without the mileage on the odometer. It stopped the problem. So having tough laws is good, but I agree with the member that there has to be enforcement as well.
I really do not have much to add, Madam Speaker. Those statistics are interesting, but what the member did not state is the condition of the 80% of vehicles recovered. Are they recovered at the bottom of a lake? If that is the case, it is relevant too.
Madam Speaker, the hon. member rightly talked about the number of times this bill has come into the House and how we have heard the same speech from the government over and over again. It is a colossal waste of House and committee time to do the same bill over and over again.
I thought the hon. member would be interested in commenting on the fact that this is an S bill, S-9, a Senate bill. The Senate, an apparently unelected, unaccountable institution, started with first reading of this bill on May 4 and had second reading May 6. The bill went to committee on June 3 and it was reported on June 3. Third reading was on June 8 and it was reported to the House immediately after. That is pretty efficient on the part of an unelected, unaccountable Senate.
I would be interested in the hon. member's comments on how it is that the institution across the way, as it is euphemistically known, can proceed with a piece of legislation that pretty well everyone in the room agrees with in such an expeditious fashion, yet the justice minister and the Prime Minister do not seem to be capable of moving a piece of legislation forward in any kind of expeditious fashion. They seem to prefer to make the same speeches over and over again.
I believe the short answer to that question, Madam Speaker, is that the Prime Minister and the justice minister are probably not taking this issue as seriously as they ought to.
The member is right that it did go through the Senate in two weeks, which is unusual. Usually justice bills would originate in the House, but this is somewhat different. This bill came from the Senate and once it got through the Senate came to the House as Bill S-9. Hopefully that means that it will become law. Let us all roll up our sleeves and get this bill enacted so that we will not be talking about it anymore.
Madam Speaker, this is the fourth time that this bill has been introduced in Parliament. I do not know if anyone said it was an urgent matter at the time, but they were ignored.
It started out in 2005 as Liberal Bill C-64. They were stopped short because an election was called, which they did not appreciate. It then became Bill C-53, and was shelved by an election or prorogation. It then became Bill C-26 and we now have Bill S-9, which was introduced by the government in the Senate in order to speed up its passage.
I believe that everyone recognizes that the government is responsible for the recent delays. That contradicts what we hear on a regular basis from the Minister of Justice in this Parliament, who says that the opposition is dragging its feet and that the opposition systematically opposes the legislative program it wants to present.
First, that is not true; second, the opposition's philosophy about some matters is diametrically opposed to that of the current Minister of Justice. We do not want our country to follow the example of the United States and become a country with one of the highest rates of incarceration. We know that half of all inmates in the world are found in U.S. prisons and it is obvious that this has not produced the desired results. There is a considerable difference in our philosophies. When a criminal justice bill that will really improve things and address an urgent problem is introduced, we are ready to collaborate. The minister knows that. Why did he not move more quickly before?
That said, now that he has introduced it, we will get the bill passed quickly because I note that there are no objections from the other two opposition parties, nor do we have any.
Nevertheless, I would like to make some comments. First of all, I must point out that auto theft has declined since 1996. I think the members who spoke before me said it is down by 20%. I think that corresponds to the statistics I have. Clearly, the nature of auto theft has changed somewhat over the years and now our legislation requires certain adjustments.
For instance, one thing that really surprised me when I consulted the most recent Statistics Canada data on the subject is that the incidence of auto theft varies considerably across the country. For example, Newfoundland and Labrador reports only 131 auto thefts per 100,000 inhabitants. Prince Edward Island reports 115. Nova Scotia reports 263, which is very high for the Maritimes. In New Brunswick, the number is 187. Quebec reports 507 thefts per 100,000 inhabitants, which is quite high. The number of auto thefts per 100,000 inhabitants in Ontario is 303, and in Manitoba, it is 1,376.
We have heard some reasonable explanations so far. I can come back to some and add to them, in order to understand. Personally, I do not say this to humiliate Manitoba—as we have been unfairly humiliated—because in Quebec, we do more to tackle corruption; we tolerate it less and we prosecute the offenders. Therefore, it is in our newspapers more often than in other places, but it does not mean that we have more corruption than other places, nor does it mean that the entire population is corrupt. In any case, we can look at it hypothetically.
In Saskatchewan, the number of auto thefts per 100,000 inhabitants is 663, in Alberta it is 725 and in British Columbia, it is 682. As we can see, the incidence is higher in western Canada. Once again, this clearly shows that the Parliament of Canada, which creates legislation for the entire country, does not necessarily have the power to make the changes needed to address crime. It was my experience, as a member of the Quebec government, that crime must be fought locally first, with local police forces and our own policies.
It is our duty to amend legislation when needed and that is what we are doing.
Statistics vary a great deal according to the province and the size of the city. I am all the more sympathetic to Manitoba when I know that the city in Quebec with the highest theft rate is the one that I have the honour of partially representing. Part of my riding is in Laval. In Laval, there are 852 car thefts per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to Montreal where there are 723 thefts per 100,000 inhabitants. That is quite high.
I understand that the rate is higher in Toronto than in Montreal because of Montreal's port. In Montreal, there are orders from foreign countries for four-wheel-drive luxury vehicles with air conditioning and other accessories. These vehicles can be shipped out of the country quickly through the port of Montreal, something that is not an option for car thieves in Toronto. This certainly plays a role in organized crime, which makes crime prevention more difficult, but not impossible.
Another significant number: the stolen vehicle recovery rate is 75% in Toronto and 56% in Montreal. This also clearly illustrates that organizations that steal luxury cars are able to offload them quickly because of the port, or so I am told by the police.
When I was young, another common reason for stealing a vehicle was joyriding, which is far less common today. Cars were not stolen for the thrill of stealing, but to cruise around and try it out. We all need to understand that boys are fascinated by cars. At least, that has been my experience. Young girls think about the utilitarian side of a car, but young boys think about how much fun it would be to drive one. That is why, quite often, the only crime a young person ever commits is having helped steal a vehicle. Young men are fascinated by them.
How do we combat this? I think that we have done it over time. It is far more difficult to steal a vehicle now. We have taken measures to make it more complicated to start a car. In earlier days, among young people, both delinquent types and those not overly involved in crime who had never committed a violent act and who were respectful, it was a source of pride to know how to start a car without the key and things like that. That is another explanation.
Perhaps the members from Winnipeg can tell me if they agree. When there is a large population of youth from not-so-rich families, there are perhaps more youth who are tempted and fascinated by automobiles, as are all young boys. If their fascination is not satisfied by their family's vehicle, they will be more tempted to steal vehicles simply for the joy of riding around in a car, being in control and driving it.
We are taking advantage of the opportunity to change the legislation. First, a minimum sentence of six months has been added. People may think that the Bloc Québécois has an ideological stance against minimum sentences. We are not against minimum sentences, but we recognize the circumstances under which a minimum sentence can be effective. Most of the time, the minimum sentences that have been proposed are not effective. I am sure that not even 10% of the members in the House know how many minimum sentences there are in the Criminal Code. If I gave them a test and asked which offences have a minimum sentence associated with them, less than 2% of them would pass. And I am being generous.
So how can we expect criminals to know what the minimum sentences are? These sentences have no impact on criminals' behaviour because they do not know what the minimums are. I have always said so. The most striking example is the importing of marijuana in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when I began practising law. Marijuana was starting to spread. It all came from outside the country, because the marijuana that grew here was not hallucinogenic at all. The minimum sentence for importing marijuana was seven years. This was when marijuana use went up the most, so someone had to import it. We found that this minimum sentence, which was the longest in the Criminal Code after the minimum for murder, did not deter anyone. Minimum sentences generally have no deterrent effect, except under certain circumstances. The minimum sentence in this case is smart because it is for subsequent offences and because the offender is informed.
As a lawyer, I always informed my clients that if they were caught a second time, a minimum sentence would apply. That can act as a deterrent. If I had been appointed as a judge, I would have made a point of informing offenders when I had to sentence them for a crime for which a minimum is provided in the event of a subsequent offence. That way, an individual who might commit the same offence again is aware of the minimum sentence. That acts as a deterrent.
That is what we are talking about here. There is a reasonable minimum sentence of six months for a second offence. The minimum sentences that the members opposite come up with are always paradoxically flawed. Logically, a minimum sentence should apply to the least serious form of an offence, so that the maximum sentence can be handed down for the most serious form of the offence. But the people who come up with minimum sentences think about the most serious cases, which is why they want a minimum sentence. However, because they are motivated by the most serious cases, they set very long minimum sentences.
We have seen this in the United States, where there are many minimum sentences. Moreover, this is one of the problems with minimum sentences. In this case, there is no such problem. I feel that a six-month sentence for a third offence is reasonable. It can certainly act as a deterrent. As hon. members can see, the Bloc's objections are not ideological, but are based on rational knowledge, experience and criminology.
A new offence has been created—tampering with the vehicle identification number. I am surprised it is not already an offence. Someone who alters a VIN obviously does not have honest intentions. I really believed it was prohibited. No matter, it will be in the future.
A presumption is created: if an individual owns a vehicle with an altered VIN, he is presumed to have obtained it illegally. I believe that this is a reasonable presumption, but it does not always hold true. One can always provide a defence, if it is a good one. If it raises a reasonable doubt in the judge's mind, he will not accept the presumption. It seems to me that something is amiss if we own a car with an altered VIN, unless we dealt in good faith or were victims of the person who stole the car, changed the number and sold it to us. We apparently bought the car lawfully, and went to register it with the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec. That is a good change.
There is another new offence concerning trafficking in stolen vehicles. I have always thought that there could not be trafficking in a stolen car without possession of a stolen car. However, this is not a bad change—
Madam Speaker, how humiliating. I thought I was interesting enough for them to pay attention. Fortunately, others are listening to me.
It is impossible to traffic a motor vehicle without also being in possession of stolen property. It is true that trafficking may be worse than simple possession, for example, purchasing a stolen television. The crime of trafficking is much worse. I have no objection to adding it as an offence, because that makes more sense. In practice, judges handling cases of trafficking in stolen vehicles would take into account the fact that the criminal was in possession of stolen property.
The bill also adds the offence of importing and exporting. This is the same thing. When we understand the purpose, it is clear that it is a good idea to add it, because it enables the Canada Revenue Agency and customs officials to intervene.
I think it would be a good thing if the bill contained a provision to supply border crossings with a list of stolen vehicle registrations so that it would be easy to check. Technology should make this relatively simple. It could be very useful.
We will probably never put an end to these types of crimes, but we could considerably reduce the prevalence. Changing the legislation is 10% of the work. The rest must be done at the local level by police forces or the industry.
The industry has tired of asking us to create tough legislation to prevent its products from being exploited or stolen. That said, the industry is responsible for making these crimes more difficult to carry out and for making it easier to find stolen vehicles.
Now, thanks to GPS, it is easier to find stolen vehicles, so the cost should go down.
In Montreal, a company launched a new initiative. Vehicle owners could pay a fee to have a device installed in a secret place in their vehicles. Stolen vehicles could be found using the cellular phone system.
GPS, a rapidly evolving technology, has become standard in luxury cars. I think that this technology should be used as widely as possible, especially since we know which models are the most commonly stolen. Oddly enough, the incidence of luxury car theft is lower, probably because there are fewer of them. The Honda Civic, Dodge Caravan, Acura Integra, Audi TT—a more unusual and luxurious model—and Dodge Shadow top the list. These are very common models, and they are the most popular with car thieves.
I believe that prevention and enforcement by police are two important aspects. I also believe, and I say this with all due respect to those who prepared it, this bill is much more balanced in terms of what it is proposing, much more comprehensive also, and much more responsive to the problems it is designed to address than the bills that the Minister of Justice regularly brings forward, in which I always detect an undercurrent of propaganda and sensationalism.
I am being very candid in saying this because that is not my party, but it is clear to me that, originally, this was Bill C-64, which was introduced by the Liberals. Very often, we have a meetings of the minds on legal issues, even though we definitely do not on other issues. Our approach to fighting crime is not about grandstanding; it is about taking meaningful, productive action.
Madam Speaker, as has been mentioned many times here, we have been through this drill a couple of times on this bill and the government keeps getting in the way of progress.
The member from the Bloc went through the list of the most popular vehicles and talked about having manufacturers onside. Could he give me his thoughts on improvements in standards in terms of this bill and what the government can further do?
Often the government talks about cracking down on crime. Could I hear his thoughts on how we are going to make a dent on the mitigation of crime in general, other than just cracking down on it, as the government likes to do, and putting people in jail? Could the member talk a bit about prevention when it comes to auto theft?
Madam Speaker, the hon. member knows my favourite subject.
I support the prosecution of criminals and putting convicted criminals in prison when necessary, for a period of time that will make them less dangerous and rehabilitate them as much as possible in preparation for their release.
I would point out that it is not the severity of the law that discourages or reduces crime, but rather something else, specifically, police action and prevention. We have so many examples when it comes to motor vehicles. It was really easy to steal cars when I was 20 or 25. Certain protective measures have been added, such as locking the steering wheel and adding all kinds of things to vehicles that make them harder to steal, which has reduced the number of auto thefts.
In my opinion, if something could be added that would allow authorities to track down vehicles quickly, we would get better results. I would like to be clear on that. It is frustrating for us, as federal legislators, because it is not up to us.
Madam Speaker, I have a great deal of respect for my hon. colleague who speaks on behalf of the Bloc. He is certainly quite knowledgeable and he has spent a fair bit of time on the justice committee.
He spoke briefly about minimum mandatories, the numbers of minimum mandatories and whether members of Parliament, let alone criminals, knew about minimum mandatories, et cetera. One of the truisms of minimum mandatories is it increases the prison population, not to any discernible effect on the rate of crime. It would be reasonable to anticipate that this bill would increase the prison population.
In his capacity as the justice critic for the Bloc and as a long-standing member on the justice committee and as a former practising lawyer in Quebec, has he any idea whether the government has shared any data as to what the impact of this bill might be on an increase in the prison population?
Madam Speaker, in this case, no, I do not anticipate an increase, because I think it will actually be used to discourage the right people from continuing. So it should not have much of an impact on prison populations.
The main reason that minimum sentences increase prison populations is very simple. It is because judges are forced to hand down prison sentences, even though they know in their hearts and in their consciences, and after examining 24 or 25 criteria in the law for sentencing, that certain individuals should not go to prison.
All kinds of people who should not go to prison are sent there anyway, and that is why the United States has 730 or 732 prisoners for every 100,000 inhabitants. In Canada, that number is about 100 to 115 per 100,000 inhabitants, as it is in all civilized countries like ours, such as those in western Europe, for example.
But in this case, the law is well targeted. I hope it will be applied with the same professional conscience that guided me when I was a lawyer. I think judges need to think about this. I have seen it. The judges were not saying that, but they should have. If they say so, there will be fewer auto-related crimes and therefore fewer people in prison for such crimes.
Madam Speaker, I would like to know what my colleague from the Bloc Québécois thinks about prevention. We have to find out how to punish people who commit the type of crime we are talking about today, but we also have to recognize who they are. For the most part, they are young people.
In my province, Manitoba, a large number of these young people are victims of fetal alcohol syndrome. They come from underprivileged neighbourhoods in Winnipeg or elsewhere, where they go through traumatic experiences that make them more likely to become involved in this type of activity.
A number of my colleagues and I feel it is important to adopt an approach that recognizes the characteristics of the people involved in this type of crime. I would like the hon. member's opinion on that.
Madam Speaker, these characteristics are quite diverse. Young boys will always be fascinated by cars. Boys are eager to get their hands on a steering wheel. When they live in a family where they will never have that opportunity, they are tempted—with their friends—to find a way to drive a car. In that case, the best prevention is to make it difficult to steal a car. Young people take pride in beating the system.
In the Montreal area, there is a more serious problem. There are fewer young people. This phenomenon still exists among young people, but there is also a problem of organized crime. These are people who receive stolen vehicles and dispose of them quite quickly. There are other measures we should be using in those cases.
I think the hon. member is right when she says we should work on the root causes of crime. Education and fighting poverty can help. To get people out of poverty, we have to give them hope. A host of measures is needed to tackle all kinds of crime. We cannot address this issue in 30 seconds. Nevertheless, everyone knows what we are talking about. Better education and promoting physical activity such as sports can have a positive effect on reducing poverty.
Madam Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to comment on the bill. Other speakers have commented on the repetitive nature of the speeches given by the government and by the minister. I imagine they are putting the photocopier in overdrive, given the essential sameness to these speeches and the vacuous content to them.
Pretty well everyone in this chamber, including my party, will support sending the bill to committee for further study. I do not propose to get into much in the way of the details about this study, but I would have preferred that the minister, when supporting and advocating the bill, would have come forward to the House with some costing of the anticipated increase in the prison population by virtue of a bill, which has both minimum mandatories and also increases the number offences. It stands to reason that the courts will be busier.
I note in the stakeholder reaction, the Insurance Bureau of Canada supports that. Why would it not support that? I support it, as a person who pays insurance on a regular basis for my vehicles and had my car stolen a number of years ago and returned intact five or six days later. This seems to be a particular problem to Winnipeg and to Montreal. I noticed that the Manitoba justice minister and the Winnipeg mayor, Sam Katz, support this bill, as do the Winnipeg police and, I dare say, as do most police forces.
I thought, however, that Rick Linden, a professor at the University of Manitoba, made an interesting observation. He noted that the bill was a good step forward and hoped that it would reduce crime. However, he makes note that it will only occur if we invest significant resources in police tactics, numbers and in implementing evidence-based prevention programs.
The Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers is opposed to the bill because of issues of judicial discretion. They think, rightly in my judgment, that a judge should be given maximum discretion as to the allocation of sentencing.
The Crown Counsel Association is opposed to the bill. It thinks it will add to the workload of an already overwrought system, without any mention or apparent mention of adding resources to support the legislation.
Hence my concern with the way in which these bills come forward to the House with, frankly, no costing of any kind whatsoever. There is no costing on police resources, on prison facilities, on custodial facilities, no costing whatsoever. We are supposed to simply take this on faith that this is a good thing, that our streets will be safer and that this will be, in effect, a cost-free exercise.
I hear various Conservative members say “what price justice?” There is always a price.
I want to spend some time talking about the evidence given by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Mr. Page, before the government operations committee yesterday with respect to the bill, truth in sentencing, which passed through the House. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has tried to establish the costs to the system if the bill is fully implemented. He is receiving no co-operation whatsoever from the government.
This was in response to a request from the member for Ajax—Pickering, where he tried to meet with the corrections officials. As he said in his testimony:
Over the course of this project, PBO encountered a number of challenges. Other than the initial communication between PBO and Correctional Service Canada, which is available on PBO's website, the PBO was unable to secure a single meeting with CSC officials in spite of repeated requests. Moreover, the PBO was unable to verify the government's own estimates, assumptions, or methodology for the various figures presented publicly. Much of the data used for the PBO report was sourced from the annual surveys by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada, and from provincial and territorial correctional departments themselves.
In other words, the Parliamentary Budget Officer is our officer. He is the person who is charged by Parliament to cost the various initiatives put forward by the government and to fully inform members of Parliament as to the real cost of any initiative whatsoever.
In my judgment, we are looking at something similar here. In response to a question, the previous speaker said that there may be no cost whatsoever. He may well be right. I hope he is right. On the other hand, there may be significant costs.
In my view, if there is a minimum mandatory initiative put forward, the prison population is going to be increased. The prison population may well be increased significantly with no real impact on the actual rate of crime. It is not as if the people who are stealing these cars are the sharpest knives in the drawer. In fact, if they heard the phrase “minimum mandatory”, I dare say that pretty well 10 out of 10 would ask what we were talking about. I dare say that most of the population in Canada would have no idea what a minimum mandatory sentence is.
For those of us who do pay some attention to justice issues, a minimum mandatory is simply an elimination of a discretion on the part of a judge to make an appropriate sentence under all of the circumstances. It circumscribes his or her ability to fashion a sentence that he or she thinks is appropriate having heard all the evidence.
The more minimum mandatories there are, the more realistic it is to assume that this person will end up spending custodial time. Over a period of time, with the pileup of these bills, one after another after another, circumscribing and further circumscribing the discretion of judges, we will end up with an increased prison population.
What does that actually mean in terms of an increased prison population? The first thing it means is that there may or may not be any reduction in crime. The rate of crime generally goes up and down independent of whether there is an increase or decrease in the prison population.
Frankly, crime is, in and of itself, something where people who are committing crimes do not think they are ever going to get caught. They think that somehow or another they will be exempt from the possibility that if they steal this particular car or this particular vehicle, regardless of whether it is a Honda or a Dodge, they are not going to get caught.
The police are efficient in this country and they do catch a significant number of people. Therefore, those people end up in the justice system, having convictions, and frequently in a custodial situation.
This is a not a cost-free exercise. To wit, my point is that if a prisoner is incarcerated in a provincial system, the rough cost is about $85,000, and if a prisoner is incarcerated in a federal system, the rough cost is about $147,000 per person per year. That is a lot of money.
So even if the number of people who find themselves in a custodial situation is bumped by 1%, 2%, or 10%, the cost is actually bumped up rather significantly with no provable reduction in the actual rate of crime. That was the Parliamentary Budget Officer's core piece of testimony yesterday.
The truth in sentencing bill, like this bill, was not costed. We really have no idea as to how many more people will end up in jail. It seems reasonable to assume that more people will end up in jail. It seems reasonable to assume that more people will be bumped from the provincial system into the federal system. That was the point that the Parliamentary Budget Officer was making.
Since the Parliamentary Budget Officer could not actually get a meeting with Correctional Service of Canada, he could not get a meeting with the minister, he could not get a meeting with the departmental officials or the minister's officials, he therefore had to take documentation and material that was in the public realm. Based upon that information, he said that at a very minimum, that one bill alone, Bill C-25, the truth in sentencing bill, would cost $620 million on an annual basis.
Madam Speaker, $620 million is a lot of money. It is half a photo op, for goodness' sake. That is just on the basis of an increase. That is with no capital increase whatsoever. It is $620 million, give or take, increasing year after year, based on the assumption that the increase in the prison population is double-bunked. More people will have to be jammed into less space. The Parliamentary Budget Officer was working on the current occupancy rate of 90%, which are public figures put forward by Correctional Service of Canada.
If, however, the prison population is literally bursting at the seams by virtue of not only the Truth in Sentencing Act, but possibly this bill and other bills that the government wishes to put forward, we therefore are going to have to start building new prisons.
On building new prisons, the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated a building program at something in the order of $300 million or $400 million a year. His estimate on what is currently passed, the truth in sentencing bill, is that the cost to the taxpayers of Canada would be increased by a minimum of $1 billion a year.
It actually gets worse than that. It is $1 billion a year for the federal government. However, the prison population would actually be increased on the provincial side of the equation as well, and the rough figure again is another $1 billion for the provincial authorities. So what do we have? We have an increase in the cost to the taxpayer of roughly $2 billion a year to put away more folks in prison, and that is on one bill alone.
That may or may not be true. I am perfectly prepared to accept my learned friend's argument here that this may not increase the prison population. However, both he and I, and everyone in this chamber, have not been told by this government what the actual cost might be. We have no costing. We have no figure as to how much more this will cost.
I want to emphasize again the point that this is an increase in a custodial population. More people would be put in jail. For some people, that is greatly satisfying, but the crime rate is not necessarily being reduced and we may or may not be achieving any form of justice.
Inevitably, with Winnipeg being a unique case, and certainly Regina as well, the populations represented in prison are the most disadvantaged, the most vulnerable. There are aboriginals, minority groups of some kind or another, and frequently people with disabilities, whether those are learning disabilities, behavioural issues, mental issues, or things of that nature. We would be housing more of these kinds of people.
Again, that is a gross generalization. Certainly it is subject to challenge, but the government is not prepared to put forward the basic data that parliamentarians need in order to be able to assess the validity and viability of the bill.
The question was asked, why should we be concerned about this? In respect to the Truth in Sentencing Act, the Parliamentary Budget Officer said it will have significant impact on the correctional system, which is one reason we should be concerned about it. Parliamentarians should be concerned about how this will impact the fiscal framework and whether the budget actually reflects the cost pressures arising out of the bill.
The taxpayer is not an unlimited tap. We cannot just keeping going to this well. The taxpayer has limits. So if there is a limit and if this is the limit, we are going to have to start shifting resources. Where is the money coming from in order to increase Correctional Service of Canada's budget?
It is increasing the budget. It is one of five departments that are actually increasing the amount of money available for staffing resources and for facilities improvement. So where is it coming out of the fiscal framework? That is a perfectly legitimate question to ask and I encourage my colleagues on the justice committee to ask that very question.
Parliamentarians should be concerned about the lack of transparency to Parliament in the cost and by the Government of Canada. Parliamentarians should be concerned about the operational cost on the provincial-territorial issue.
During the Parliamentary Budget Officer's speech, his point was that at this stage it is roughly 50:50. If we are spending $1 billion in extra costs on truth and sentencing from the federal fiscal framework, we are going to be spending another $1 billion under the provincial framework. There is no indication we know of that the provinces are going to get an extra $1 billion in order to be able to house the inevitable increase in prison population.
However, it actually gets worse than that, because over time the federal share of the cost of this initiative reduces to roughly 44% and the corollary is that the provincial share increases to about 56%. If I am a provincial premier and I am looking for every dollar that I can find and I am trying to contain costs on health, education and the other appropriate responsibilities of provinces, I am going to be a little upset that I have to take a pro-rated share of $1 billion and find it for an increase in the prison population for which I had no say whatsoever.
In the case of my province, Ontario, if the number is an increase of $1 billion because of the increase in prison population, I am stuck with roughly 40% of that. So that is $400 million that the Premier of Ontario has to find, that he has no resources for, and he is receiving nothing from the federal government.
I thought the Parliamentary Budget Officer did us all a great service yesterday when he made a very sincere attempt to try to cost a previous piece of legislation, and I would draw a parallel between that legislation and this legislation. Whether it is greater than Bill C-25 or less, and I suspect that it is less, the principle still applies that members of Parliament should be given a fully costed analysis before they are asked to vote on the legislation.
At this point, we are all being asked to take things on faith. We are being asked to believe that this bill would make things safer and better for Canadians. On the face of it, it seems like a good idea. On the other hand, it would be appropriate that members of Parliament, whether they are from government or opposition, actually know what the cost might be.
Is there something wrong with asking the question and expecting the minister and his department to be fully transparent on these kinds of initiatives?
As I say, our party will support the bill. This is potentially good legislation but it would be nice to know the cost.
Madam Speaker, in the end our objectives are the same and we are very close to considering the same means of attaining the same objectives, that is reducing crime. However, in this case, we have a minimum sentence for a third offence.
I believe that the member acknowledges that there are two types of car thieves. There are those who steal for fun, such as young people who love cars and riding around in them. Then there are those who steal cars to resell them or hand them over to a criminal organization. A youth on his third joy ride needs a serious warning and a stint in jail. It is important that he realize that there is a short six-month prison sentence with the possibility of parole. That is also the role of prisons. No matter the cost, I think we should pay it.
The other type of thief is the one who works for organized crime. It is another type of crime, where the perpetrator is a hardened criminal and the car is the object of the crime. He definitely needs to serve a longer sentence and a prison term is justified in this case as well.
There are two reasons why the government does not want to calculate the sentence. First, it is very difficult to establish the parameters. For example, how many people would be deterred if they knew about the minimum sentence? I think that most, if not all, young people would be deterred. The data is inconclusive and makes it difficult to establish the sentence.
There is another reason why the government does not want to give us figures. If it starts providing figures for all the prison sentences it has established, they will be appalling and people will be discouraged by its program. That is exactly what happened in Europe. The majority of European countries talk about the cost of incarceration before imposing minimum sentences and very harsh sentences.
The hon. member makes an excellent point, Madam Speaker. His distinction between kids caught joyriding versus organized crime, chop shops and so on is a perfectly legitimate point and I agree with him completely.
With respect to organized crime initiatives, in some respects we cannot be too harsh.
He makes an additional very good point, which is that these bills are piling up. He does not know the cost, I certainly do not know the cost and, I dare say, there is no one in the chamber who actually knows the cost. Perhaps if they did know the cost they might reshape some legislation initiatives to reflect other forms of societal punishment.
However, at this point, we are operating in the dark because the government wants Parliament to be operating in the dark. It does not want to say.
I agree with the member in the sense that the cost parameters of this bill and any other bill are difficult to calculate but there is sociological and criminalogical material that does give us some working presumptions.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer, basically without co-operation from Correctional Service Canada, took the material from Statistics Canada and Correctional Service Canada and used the methodology the Department of Finance uses, i.e. there will be no behavioural changes, therefore, we calculate on the basis of, I think he said, 3,800 increased prisoners.
It seems to me that unless Parliament insists on a costing no one else will insist on a costing. All we have are cheesy headlines from the government where apparently we are going to get tough on crime and the crime operates independently of all of the cheesy headlines and boring speeches put forward by the government and, in particular, the Minister of Justice.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased once again to speak to the issue of auto theft in this country. I say “once again” because I, quite frankly, do not remember how many times I have been on my feet in the House speaking to bills on auto theft. This is the third incarnation. There was Bill C-53 after the 2006 election; Bill C-26 before the 2008 election because of the prorogation at that time; and now we are on Bill S-9.
There is such a lack of credibility on the part of the government on this issue and on crime bills generally. We have been going at this for over four years. The issue actually preceded that back in the Liberal tenure because there was a bill at that time dealing with the issue of playing with VIN numbers.
With the present government, we had one prorogation and the bill went down, one election and the bill went down and then we had the spectacle of the justice committee not being able to meet because of elections and because the chair of that committee was thwarting the activities of the committee for months at a time. Those things delayed the passage of these bills. In April 2009, it finally went before the committee, which was the first time in a year the justice committee actually dealt with a bill. It sat idle a whole year because of both the actions of the chair thwarting the work of the committee and the election in 2008.
Finally, in 2009 the committee was finally working again and we were dealing with the bill before us today, which, if I have time today, I will actually get to. The committee did a lot of work and extensive evidence was taken. It then went back to the House with all party support and then on to the Senate. When we got to the end of 2009, we all know what happened. We had another prorogation. We had three prorogations, one election and dirty tactics by the chair of the justice committee.
Here we are, four-plus years later, and the bill still has not been passed, a bill that has widespread support in the House from all parties. However, it is because of, quite frankly, the indifference of the government to what is a significant issue in the country and a government much more concerned about protecting its political stature than it is about dealing realistically, effectively and efficiently with a major crime problem in the country.
We already have a backlog in the justice committee because so many other bills have been impacted exactly the same way. This bill will probably go through the House tomorrow and get to committee, which is backlogged significantly. If it is dealt with in its proper order, it is highly unlikely that this bill will get out of the justice committee in 2010. It almost certainly will not be, given the other bills before the committee. It has been my forecast for some time that we will have an election in the spring and that this bill will never become law before the next election. We need to be very clear that the responsibility for that lies entirely in the hands of the government.
All three of the opposition parties have dealt responsibly with the bill. When it was before committee, we did our proper work. We analyzed the problem, saw that the bill would work the way it should work, passed it, and then we see this again and again.
That is the reality of what we are dealing with. It is almost frustrating to say, “Why am I bothering to stand here today, because we are going to have an election before this bill becomes law?”. We will then start all over again and it will be another couple of years before we get it into the books as law.
The bill, as I see it, has only one significant problem, which is where I take some issue with what my colleague from Scarborough said. The mandatory minimum in the bill is only after a person has committed his or her third offence. As my colleague from the Bloc has raised, we are not quite sure what that would do. One of the reasons we should not be supporting mandatory minimums in some cases is that it sets the standard and judges feel compelled to work to that standard.
We can think of any number of scenarios. When a person has been convicted for the third time, six months is a ridiculously low sentence, especially if it involves individuals who are involved in organized crime in the theft of autos. Six months is a joke in those circumstances after a third offence. However, that happens because it is sometimes easier for judges who are overworked to say that the legislature has said that six months is the target after the third offence, so that is what they will invoke, when it should maybe have been two years or a penitentiary sentence, especially if it involved organized crime.
At the end of the day, my friend from Scarborough may be right, we may see an increase in the number of people incarcerated for this theft but it is also possible that we will see a reduction in the amount of time that they spend in our provincial jails.
The member has a very good point, though, in that the government does not know. Its simplistic solution is that everything can be solved by a mandatory minimum penalty. It just throws it at the problem. It has absolutely no idea what the consequences will be of that provision. Will it dramatically increase the prison population? It is building all those jails to the tune of $9 billion and there was another announcement for more jail cells. For those crimes that are not being reported, so we cannot put those people in jail because they will never get to court, we can maybe increase the population here to justify spending that $9 billion. The bottom line is that the government does not know. It has absolutely no idea what the consequences will be of that mandatory minimum in this situation.
The other point of significant concern, which came out of the work done by the justice committee, is that the bill would empower, which is necessary and we are supportive of it, the Canada Border Services Agency to take additional investigative methods to deal with the illicit importing and exporting of mostly autos and auto parts. The CBSA does not have enough jurisdiction right now and it is the agency that is on the front line.
When that was explained to us as we heard the evidence on it, we understood the necessity of it, but what was corresponding to it was that there were no plans by the government to provide the additional resources. This will be a significantly increased workload for the Border Services Agency but there were no plans in the last two budgets to provide additional funding to that agency. I am sure we will hear again, when this issue comes before the justice committee, that the government still has not planned for it. By that, I mean doing a basic business plan. How much more will we need? How many additional staff will we need? How much more equipment and investigative tools will we need? The government has no idea of that at all.
We are seeing this in terms of complaints coming back from governments at the provincial and municipal level, where these additional burdens are being put on our police officers, our prosecutors and our judiciary with no additional resources being provided by the federal government.
In this regard specifically, this is a federal government agency and this responsibility is entirely ours. We do not have any analysis of how much it is going to cost, how many more people, how long it is going to take to get it fully staffed. Are funds going to be available to fully staff it, or are we going to dump this responsibility on the officers who will have no ability to carry it out because they are under-resourced? They are under-resourced now. If we had additional staff at the Windsor-Detroit border, we could be doing much more, for instance, in the illicit import of guns. There is no capacity to do it. Now these officers are going to be forced to do more work with no particular ability to carry it out.
I am not a great fan of making auto theft a separate offence, although there is nothing wrong with doing it. It just does not add anything to the front-line police officer who enforces the law.
I want to acknowledge the work we saw in Manitoba. It came up with a solid, practical solution that dramatically reduced auto theft rates, particularly in the city of Winnipeg. In 2007 Winnipeg was the auto theft capital of the country by a long shot, running at about 1,700 thefts a year. The next closest city was Abbotsford at just under 1,000. Montreal, which traditionally until about 2000-01 had been the auto theft capital in the country, was only at 550 thefts a year.
Those numbers have altered somewhat in the last two years, since the last study available from Juristat. Winnipeg has dropped dramatically. It is no longer the auto theft capital of the country. Abbotsford still is and Edmonton is right behind. Montreal is running fairly close.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to comment on Bill C-511, introduced by the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence, which proposes amendments to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act with respect to its notice of defect provisions.
To help provide some context for the changes it proposes to the act, I feel that it is important to provide some background on the act itself.
The Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which is the object of the hon. member's bill, regulates the manufacture and importation of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment in order to reduce the risk of death, injury and damage to property and the environment.
The Motor Vehicle Safety Act came into effect in 1971 to establish comprehensive safety standards for the design and performance of vehicles and equipment manufactured in, or imported into, Canada.
It is important to note that since 1971 there have been many Canadian motor vehicle safety regulations established under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act that have contributed extensively to the safer operation of vehicles.
Examples of noteworthy Canadian motor vehicle regulations that were introduced as a result of research carried under the auspices of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act through the decades include crash tests in the 1970s on fuel system integrity and windshield zone intrusion; the introduction of three-point seat belts in front and rear seats in the 1980s; the introduction of stringent crash test requirements for occupant protection, including new seat belt designs and air bags in the 1990s; and, in the last decade, more efficient means for installing and securing child restraint systems, which have contributed to safer transportation for children.
Even though we strive for harmonization with the United States, our largest automotive trading partner, I must caution that full harmonization with U.S. vehicle safety standards is not always possible because of the complexity of the individual safety programs and the different needs of each country.
The Canadian driving environment and vehicle mix is different from that of the United States. Our safety standards were developed to meet national requirements, while harmonizing to a large extent with those of the United States. For example, the decreased daylight levels in winter necessitate the use of daytime running lights on vehicles in Canada. We have a requirement for speedometers to have kilometres per hour instead of miles per hour. There is also the makeup of the vehicle fleet in Canada, as compared with that of the United States. Smaller and more fuel efficient vehicles account for a greater part of the vehicle fleet in Canada than in the United States, and this requires attention to safety standards that affect the smaller, lighter vehicles.
We are continually striving to increase the level of road safety and to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries related to road collisions.
Continued regulatory improvements are planned for the next decade. It is hoped that even more effective child restraint systems, which would allow children to use them longer, will be introduced.
In addition, electronic stability control will become mandatory on all new vehicles manufactured in, or imported into, Canada, and more stringent occupant-protection regulations are planned.
I think we would all agree that it is important to maintain our level of vehicle safety, as the consequences of allowing unsafe vehicles are significant.
The cost of collisions in Canada has recently been estimated at $62.7 billion per year. This estimate of the cost of motor vehicle collisions includes direct and indirect costs.
Direct costs relate to property damage, emergency response, hospital care, other medical care and insurance administration, out-of-pocket expenses by victims of motor vehicle collisions, and traffic delays resulting in lost time, extra fuel use, and environmental pollution.
Indirect costs relate to human consequences of collisions, such as partial and total disability of victims, productivity and work days lost, as well as the pain and suffering of victims and their families.
The notice-of-defect provision in the current Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which is the subject of this bill, is an integral part of the act, aimed at reducing the risk of death and injury associated with vehicles and vehicle use.
The notice of defect provision mandates and establishes criteria under which a company must inform the minister and owners of affected vehicles and equipment when a defect in the design, construction, or functioning of the vehicle or equipment that is likely to affect any person's safety has been identified by the company.
Transport Canada receives on average 1,700 complaints a year from the public, and each complaint is reviewed and actioned as warranted. This year, with the increased media activity, there have been approximately 1,000 public complaints to date. During the same time, approximately 35,000 complaints were received by the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The number of recalls recorded and monitored by Transport Canada has increased significantly in the last 10 years to approximately 400 recalls per year. The volume of vehicles recalled over the last ten years averages two million vehicles per year. It is estimated that approximately 10% of the recall notices occur as a result of investigations carried out by Transport Canada inspectors. It is also estimated that the recalls resulting from Transport Canada's actions account for approximately 50% of the total volume of vehicles being recalled annually.
It is difficult to attribute the increase in the number of recalls to any single factor. The industry and the world economy have evolved significantly over the last decade and a number of conditions have to be taken into account.
First, with the population increase and the rising standards of living, the total number of vehicles sold has increased. There are also more makes and models of vehicles being imported and sold. Furthermore, there has been a significant increase in the technological complexity of vehicles. As well, a number of new entrants are involved in the international commerce of vehicles.
This government remains committed to addressing road safety by exercising its powers and authorities under the act. By supporting Road Safety Vision 2010, a joint initiative between the federal, provincial, and territorial governments and other partners, we can contribute to achieving this vision and set a standard of leadership for our road safety partners by maintaining the integrity of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.
I thank the House for the opportunity to provide some background information on the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, and to suggest how, with modifications, we can strike the right balance so that the act continues to be a strong anchor for road safety in Canada.
From the outset, I can tell the sponsor of this bill that the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of the proposed legislation. We are in favour of referring the bill to committee. Every member in this House is concerned about road safety.
Over the past few months, several recalls have shocked the collective psyche, perhaps because they received more media attention or they involved manufacturers that were generally thought to be road safety conscious. I think for instance of the recall affecting some Toyotas. We should not focus on that make of car, because other car manufacturers have also recalled products.
Updating the Motor Vehicle Safety Act is totally appropriate. We are for making changes to it, so that the reporting of certain critical information between car manufacturers and the regulatory body, namely, Transport Canada, is improved.
The Bloc Québécois is also in favour of hearing from various witnesses and stakeholders from the industry about the technical aspects that could strengthen safety standards for these vehicles. We would be very happy to see this bill sent to committee.
The sponsor was surprised by the fact that automobile manufacturers, who were known for their dedication to safety, who had built their reputations and had gained significant market share in North America and throughout the world, were heavily criticized for their inability to manage problems that were identified.
Initially, experts at Toyota denied that there was a problem with the accelerator pedal in the Toyota RAV4. I do not know if that was the only model with that problem, but I am very familiar with the problem, because I experienced it myself. A dealer's first reaction, even if it is not directly responsible, will be to deny the problem. Unfortunately, it is the law of supply and demand that prevails: the person selling a product always has more information than the person buying it.
Over the years, legislation has been passed to protect consumers—car buyers, in this case. It makes sense to extend this protection, given that problems are increasingly complex because of the sophisticated technology that goes into cars today. It used to be that we would take our car to any garage, where any mechanic could look at the problem and say whether it was a common problem and what caused it. Now, we need computers to do that. Sometimes, the mechanic even needs to have technical knowledge that not every garage operator we take our car to can necessarily afford.
Although certain protections in the act once met the technology and consumer protection requirements, new realities mean new needs. The Bloc Québécois is very open to referring this bill to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities for review.
The bill would make four major amendments to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. First, it would introduce the concept of safety-related defect. As I said, because of new technology, this is something that needs to be done. The bill would also give the minister new powers to recall vehicles and equipment if he makes a preliminary determination that they contain a safety-related defect.
Unfortunately, automobile manufacturers—and I do not want to target any specific one—are in business to make a profit, and safety concerns, while they do exist, are often somewhat secondary. And this does not happen solely in the automobile sector. We have seen it in the financial sector with the financial crisis we have just experienced.
A third element is to create an early warning system, which requires manufacturers to provide the minister with quarterly updates on potential safety-related defects based on data from domestic and foreign sources. One final element is the mandatory installation of a brake-override system in vehicles that employ an electronic throttle control system. This is in reference to the recent problems that we have seen with certain Toyota models.
For all of these reasons, I believe that this is completely normal, and I imagine that all of the parties in this House want this bill to be studied in more detail and would perhaps like to improve it. However, it certainly would meet an essential need regarding safety on our streets as well as the consumer's right to purchase a product over which they have little control and in which they have a great deal of confidence.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to debate and support Bill C-511.
The NDP also has Bill C-513 from the member for Elmwood—Transcona, which would enhance the bill if we could get some amendments made to it. Some key elements are missing from the bill, but this is a good start and an important one.
I want to note a statement, and it is important to put this in context. As things currently stand in Canada, there is very little protection for consumers and public safety under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act as it currently stands. Basically we allow decisions in Washington and Tokyo to decide what vehicles are on the road in Canada and what can be recalled, as we really have very little enforcement power.
We have also seen, through the Toyota case, Canada being treated as a second-class citizen. The government's behaviour in this action has been rather troubling. Quite frankly, it has been ignorant of this issue and has not been willing to move forward with changes to legislation. I do not understand, when there has been support offered by myself and others to move on this, why we have not done so.
The result has been the treatment of Canada by Toyota as an example. In the United States, it was fined the largest fine possible under its act. It promised the United States over $100 million for a new research training and safety centre. Canada is getting nothing. It provided its citizens with different recall supports than in Canada. Therefore, Canadian consumers were treated differently.
In fact, when the original recall took place, I wrote Toyota Canada and asked it to at least treat Canadians the same. I wrote Toyota on November 26 for the first time. Although it contacted the American customers individually, it refused to do so for Canadian customers.
There is a history that is now backed up with facts. Later today I will discuss how some of Toyota's investors are now suing it because they believe it withheld information.
The one case that I want to talk about, and a statement I am going to read, is from Mr. Ron Eves, whose partner is Lori Eves. They lost their son Christopher in a car accident in Washington. This is Mr. Eves statement about the situation that took place in 2007.
The minister told the Eves family that he would investigate this matter, but he has yet to do so. Members will hear the circumstances, which are very important, as well as the credibility of the witnesses.
This is what Mr. Eves has to say:
As a Canadian my experience the past three years has been appalling. One would expect the federal government whose responsibility it is to ensure the public's safety with regards to motor vehicles would take seriously a potentially suspicious single-vehicle accident that resulted in the death of the driver. The fact that the manufacturer has gone out of its way to obfuscate and ignore examining in detail the vehicle, the electronic data recorder, and the possible issues the accident raises should be alarming and initiate an immediate comprehensive investigation by the regulator, Transport Canada. This has not been the case which should be extremely troubling to all Canadians, drivers or not, since we all are affected by the vehicles on our roads. Before I continue, I would like to make one thing perfectly clear, my family is not suing Toyota and we are not involved in any litigation for monetary compensation. We only seek the truth of what happened to our son and to ensure that the reforms needed take place actually happen so that all of us are protected.
My son Chris was killed in a mysterious single-vehicle crash in Washington State when he drove off a highway and hit a tree on October 26, 2007. As a former police officer I examined the vehicle and found hair and scalp tissue near the gas pedal which would indicate he was reaching down there to potentially release the gas pedal or floor mat when the accident occurred. I had a veteran accident investigator with more than 25 years experience examine the scene. His analysis raised more questions.
I asked Toyota to reveal the contents of the electronic data recorder and the company refused. Earlier this I asked then [minister of transport] for help and he said that he would. To date he has not.
I reached out to the United States Senator from the State of Washington, Maria Cantwell. She agreed to help me. During committee hearings in Washington in front of the U.S. Senate Commerce committee in March of this year she asked Yoshimi Inaba, President of Toyota Motor North America, to provide that readout from the electronic data reader to our family. He agreed to do that.
The results, taken by Toyota in early April, indicated that the truck was travelling at roughly 75 miles per hour, but somehow accelerated by 177 mph after hitting a tree.
William Rosenbluth, an expert in electronic data readers, the “black boxes”, who has been assisting our family, has stated that the readout from Toyota was flawed and incomplete. Even with this incorrect or flawed readout Toyota refused to examine the situation further.
Then in August a strange turn of events took place. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a rare subpoena to William Rosenbluth to obtain the electronic data reader of our son's vehicle.
Finally, on September 15, Toyota Motor Corporation admitted publicly that they had a software bug in the device used to read the electronic data readers. This exposed the fact that Toyota cannot be trusted to use data from these recorders in regards to sudden unintended acceleration. This is the opinion of Clarence Ditlow, the Executive Director of Centre for Auto Safety, an expert in the field.
Our family's situation demonstrates a few facts:
1. That we did not get the assistance needed or the protection we should have from our government.
2. We were helped by U.S. regulators and politicians. During the entire Toyota recall episode there are many others including the general public who found out more from U.S. sources, regulators, and government agencies than from our own Canadian government or our Canadian regulator, Transport Canada.
3. This inadequate and unacceptable circumstance demonstrates the need for reforms to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act to modernize the tools and enforcement powers of the regulator Transport Canada. We have to change the law.
4. Also we have to put more resources, money and personnel, into the regulator. Having the best laws on the books does not mean anything if we don't enforce them and that takes funding and people.
I thank Ron and Lori Eves for this gift to the country and their advocacy, because if they had not done so, their case would be diminished for sure. They are doing this as good Canadian citizens. Sadly, this took place in 2007 and there has been no action from the government. Chris' vehicle, although it crashed in Washington state, could have crashed as well in Canada because the Toyota Tundra was made in one factory but it has the same elements across the world. This is a serious issue.
What is sad about this issue is that when I asked Toyota why it was treating Canadians differently with regard to this matter, it simply fluffed it aside. I received a letter back on December 1 from Toyota and it basically brushed this under the carpet, so to speak. What is sad is that our government said, on November 26, 2009, after it had been providing uniquely better service and provisions to the United States already, that Transport Canada applauds Toyota's actions to protect consumers.
What we found out later was that the list of vehicles and some of the problems with those vehicles, especially in the letter that Toyota wrote back to me, would grow exponentially and recalls would grow exponentially. What is sad about this situation is that the government and the department have a cozy relationship with Toyota. Maybe it has it with others, I do not know, but that is not in the interest of public safety. It is well documented that it is short on staff. What this bill attempts to do is bring some greater accountability to it.
We also want to explore other issues in the bill, which I will highlight in a couple of minutes. However, I want to again note the way things stand right now in this country. Despite everything we have gone through, Toyota had several ways to correct the situation along the line and it refused to do so, and we say that is wrong.
What do we want to do? The member for Elmwood—Transcona has a great bill that would enhance this bill, Bill C-513, which has elements in it that would create more of a balance in this bill. In particular, it deals with the black boxes, which is why I read the Eaves' story. It gave some public as well as some consumer rights advocacy for the black box information and ensure there are industry standards to which people can actually get access and can prove whether their accident was the fault of the vehicle manufacturer or the driver, which is a critical element in this.
I have other important issues but I know I must wrap up right now. I do, however, want to say that the government has failed Canadians. A famous line used in the United States was that Toyota was safety-deaf. The Conservative government has been voiceless on this issue. We are hoping--
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak this evening to Bill C-511, introduced by my colleague the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence.
The name of the bill is proactive enforcement and defect accountability legislation (PEDAL) act and it was tabled as a direct response to the legislative shortcoming revealed by the Toyota recall issue earlier this spring.
My hon. colleague, who was a member of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities during the Toyota hearings, quickly recognized that there were significant gaps in Canada's legislative framework when it came to vehicle safety.
First, recall responsibility is vested in the automakers. It is a bit like leaving the fox to guard the chickens. These companies decide if they have a safety related defect and they determine if it merits a recall. The federal government can only watch from the sidelines. The government can only see what information the automakers provide to it. There is no mandated requirement to pass all safety related information to the Department of Transport.
As legislators, we have a responsibility to correct this flaw in the system. There are millions of cars in this country and ensuring that they are built in a safe manner is critical to protect all Canadians.
I would like to take a moment and describe the four major proposed changes to this law. First, the PEDAL act would create a definition for a safety related defect. This would prevent automakers from classifying problems as non-safety related when they ought to be clearly labelled as related to safety. This change was recommended in 2002 during a review of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act by the Department of Transport and it would remove the ambiguity that has allowed automakers to skirt the current recall provisions of that law.
The second change in the bill would require automakers to provide the minister with quarterly reports detailing foreign and domestic information related to potential safety related defects. This would allow the department to create an early warning system for detecting serious recall-worthy safety issues. This reporting system would allow the Department of Transport to monitor safety trends and work proactively to issue safety related recalls. This is perhaps one of the largest holes in the current legislation.
Right now, all the department has to operate from is customer complaint data directed to Transport Canada. The department receives approximately 1,000 complaints every year. However, it does not have access to the tens of thousands of complaints that dealers and automakers receive annually.
By giving Transport Canada access to the more robust data that automakers have, it will be better able to predict the existence of a safety related defect.
All this data is meaningless, however, unless the minister also has the power to issue a recall, which brings me to the third aspect of the PEDAL act.
Currently, the minister does not possess the power to formally issue a safety related recall. Under the current version of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, only automakers issue recalls and only on a volunteer basis. The PEDAL act would correct this omission and provide the minister with the power to issue mandatory recall if the minister becomes aware of a safety related defect.
The final amendment made by the PEDAL act is a direct response to issues raised during the joint industry and transport committee hearings into the Toyota recall. The bill, if enacted, would require the installation of a brake override system on any vehicles that use electronic throttle control.
Bill C-511 is good legislation and it deserves the support of all members of this place. The safety of Canadians is something that we all take seriously in the House and the bill would help ensure that Canadians are protected from serious safety related defects in their vehicles.
As the Liberal transport critic, I am supporting the bill and I encourage my colleagues to ensure that this important legislation passes second reading and gets the in-depth study that these issues deserve.
I know I have only been in this job a short time but I have had brief discussions with the minister and I do think it is possible to get all party support for the bill.
I understand there are concerns about the implications for government liability in these matters, but I am hopeful that when the bill gets to committee ways will be found to ensure that the four principal points contained in the bill can be passed while at the same time dealing in a satisfactory way with the issue of liability. That remains to be seen. I am hopeful we will be able to do this.
In closing, I would simply like to congratulate my colleague from Toronto for all of his hard work and his focus on consumer safety.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in this place and to thank, first of all, hon. colleagues who have intervened in the debate. The first among them is my colleague from Westmount—Ville-Marie who seconded my bill just before the summer recess. He had the foresight to recognize the four points that are important and are presented in the bill.
I think government members as well have been supportive in this exercise and debate. The critic for the Bloc Québécois has also given an indication that the Bloc is seized with the issue and will be supportive. I want to thank my colleague from the NDP as well who sat with me on the joint committee that dealt with the issue of consumer safety. Although it focused primarily and almost exclusively on Toyota, it generated a series of decisions, questions and investigations by the transport committee that led to the deficiencies in our Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Those deficiencies are what the bill hopes to address.
I want to reiterate once again what some of my colleagues have mentioned, that this is driven by a desire to introduce an element and a culture of consumer safety, consumer protection and the government's responsibility to ensure that all manufacturers and all vendors of products that will impact on consumer safety and security, especially on the roadways or those who share the roadways, keep that first and foremost.
After a year or more of public hearings that took place not only in Canada but elsewhere, as my colleague from Windsor has indicated, and that prompted greater concerns internationally, we came forward with proposals. It is one thing to criticize and to critique, but it is another to come up with alternatives. It would be very easy to slam the companies. As our colleague from the Bloc has indicated, it is easy to name one company today, but we will have to pick on another one tomorrow and maybe a third and a fourth the day after. If we can establish a culture of consumer first, protection and security then we do not have to name a company; we have to establish a process whereby the culture prevails that the ultimate responsibility will be with the government.
The bill says that the Government of Canada is completely implicated in ensuring that that culture of consumer protection and consumer safety on the road system is part and parcel of the obligation which it already, as others have indicated, exercises but cannot fully implement.
The Motor Vehicle Safety Act has some drawbacks, some weaknesses that we hope to address. One of those weaknesses is, as my colleague from Markham has indicated, that the minister cannot effect a recall. He can receive advice. He can receive complaints. Those complaints will come from customer, but not necessarily from the manufacturer or vendors. They will come from a restricted geographic area.
We propose that in the globalized market environment the information come from all over the world, as in one case, one of the companies has already provided to the American authorities. If it is good for them, it is good for us. It is what we do with that information. We require reporting on a quarterly basis by the companies. We require a publicizing of the information that relates to defects. Of course we require a definition of “defect”, a definition that has been there and that the courts have indicated. We require an immediate safety mechanism, which is the brake override in those vehicles that already have an electronic throttle system.
It being 7:10 p.m., the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 7:08 p.m.)
Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada
on the installation of
the 28th Governor General of Canada
Professor Johnston, on behalf of the Government of Canada, and of all Canadians, it is my honour and privilege to express our heartfelt congratulations. In a few moments, when you have been formally sworn in, you will hold our country's highest and oldest office, which dates back to that held by Governor Samuel de Champlain on behalf of the Crown that he represented in Quebec City, over 400 years ago.
Canada has always been a monarchy, and it has always had a Governor, styled Governor General since Confederation. For Canada’s Monarch today, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Professor Johnston you will become her 11th Governor General, just as I am her 11th Prime Minister and Madame McLachlin, is her 9th Chief Justice.
Such constitutional milestones remind us all that Elizabeth II has reigned as Queen of Canada, our Head of State, for almost 60 years, an epitome of stability, continuity and service, for which, as was evidenced once again during the most recent Royal Tour, Her Majesty is held in great respect and affection by Canada and its people.
Professor Johnston, I know that you are conscious of all this, of the institution you will be called upon to represent, and the Sovereign who has graciously appointed you. And I do believe that in just over a year, you will take special satisfaction from leading Canadians in celebration of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee.
On this historic occasion, I am especially pleased that all of Her Majesty's other representatives, from throughout Canada, are in attendance. So today, we are all celebrating the Canadian crown together, just as we plan to pay tribute to you for the services you have rendered and are yet to render to this magnificent country of ours.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate your predecessor, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, for her dedication and her exemplary term of services to Canada, both home and abroad.
Through her remarkable story, her extraordinary personal qualities and her tenure in office Michaëlle Jean has earned the lasting respect and gratitude of her country. She will be remembered with affection and admiration.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here today to honour a great Canadian. David Johnston will represent the Crown not only with remarkable intelligence, but also with exceptional character.
All through his life, David Johnston has been driven by the intense belief that service is not merely an option. It is a duty, an obligation of the heart that honour compels a man to accept. He holds it to be so, whether the beneficiaries are his large and devoted family, the institutions at which he has worked, the wider communities in which he has lived or the country that he loves. And, as he believes, so he has lived.
We know this with certainty, because, for the first time, an expert and non-partisan advisory committee was entrusted with the search for a person in whom the important constitutional powers of this office and its dignified character could be well combined. From their inquiries we are assured that many government agencies and business organizations have been strengthened by David Johnston’s wise counsel. That the halls of academia have been enriched by his learning, and have acknowledged their debt through the granting of no fewer than 13 honorary degrees. And that his neighbours, in the widest sense of the word, have been favoured through decades of exemplary and often demanding public engagement.
As a Companion of the Order of Canada, David Johnston has earned the respect of his peers and the recognition of thousands of people.
And, while this son of Sudbury has an all-Canadian heart, I cannot let this moment pass without mentioning that in his youth, he left his mark at one of the world’s great learning institutions. In the early 1960s, he captained Harvard’s hockey team and was twice elected first-team All-American. So, I guess when it comes to hockey, the best all-Americans are actually Canadians. David Johnston is a true all-rounder.
Ladies and gentlemen, unfortunately I cannot list all of his achievements today. They are too many and too varied. But there is one constant: he embodies a fully Canadian ethic.
Canada is a land inhabited by people who set aside their diverse origins and decided, out of a rough and unforgiving wilderness, to build a home, a community, a country that enjoys freedoms and the protection of the Crown.
By accepting our responsibilities, by assisting those in need and by working together, Canadians have built a society that is the envy of the world. Service to family and community sustains us. And service to country has shaped us, as we are reminded on every Remembrance Day. This tradition of service will carry our beloved country forward into the future. And tradition, ladies and gentlemen, is the rope that binds the generations, past and future, the threads that form the fabric of society. Sir, you have a great role to play as guardian of those traditions and of all that makes our country great.
On behalf of all Canadians, I thank you for accepting this office.
You will be supported by your wife Sharon, upon whom the burden of office will also fall, and to whom will therefore be due a generous portion of our gratitude and affection.
May you make it your first official duty to convey to Her Majesty a message of our enduring loyalty and the warmth reserved for her in her Canadian home.
And, may the God upon whom we call to keep our land glorious and free, lead you and inspire you in your service to Canada.
Installation Speech from His Excellency
the Right Honourable David Johnston,
28th Governor General of Canada
Service, whether it is to family, community, or country, is the highest, most noble of callings.
I begin by saying thank you to Her Majesty the Queen, the Prime Minister and the Canadian people for this call to service. My wife and I accept it with joy — as we contemplate the role of Canada in the years ahead — and with gratitude at the opportunity to serve as the Queen's representative in Canada. Less than a month ago, Sharon and I visited Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh at Balmoral, Scotland, for an amazing visit. And we were treated — so warmly — like family.
I would also like to pay tribute to my predecessors, including the remarkable women The Right Honourable Jeanne Sauvé and The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, who won the love and respect of all Canadians as they carried out their duties. On behalf of the Canadian population, allow me to warmly thank my immediate predecessor The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean for her remarkable work.
Finally, I salute the women and men in our Armed Forces. I am honoured to become your Commander-in-Chief. I would also like to recognize the efforts of those military women and men who are working so hard to help the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to rebuild their communities after the recent hurricane.
As we look forward to celebrating our 150th birthday seven short years from now, what will our nation look like and how will we get there?
Two Latin words capture our challenge succinctly—Contemplare Meliora—to envision a better world. They mirror the motto of the Order of Canada—“they desire a better country”.
To help us with our vision for 2017, turn back the clock 400 years to the first Governor of what we now call Canada — Samuel de Champlain. David Fischer, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, has written a book called Champlain’s Dream. In it, he contends that Champlain was misunderstood. Champlain is remembered as a great explorer and a warrior. But Fischer portrays him as a man of peace, tolerance, inclusiveness and innovation, and a builder of permanent societies. This was Champlain’s dream for a new order in a new world. So many of those characteristics are present in the Canada of 2010. We are a Smart and Caring Nation.
A nation where all Canadians can grow their talents to the maximum.
A nation where all Canadians can succeed and contribute.
But there is much work to be done to fully achieve our vision of a Smart and Caring Nation. I believe it is essential
• To support families and children,
• To reinforce learning and innovation, and
• To encourage philanthropy and volunteerism.
As many of you know, I have spent much of my career in the university world. As an educator and administrator, I have been privileged to spend much of my life around students, and I’ve often felt that I have learned from them. In my new role, I hope to work to serve as a bridge to the next generation.
My first pillar will be supporting families and children.
I would like to first tell you a bit about my own family.
I was Sharon’s first date when she was 13, in her first year at Sault Ste. Marie Collegiate Institute. Forty-six years of marriage later she is my best friend, my inspiration, and the wind beneath my wings.
We have five daughters, Deb, Ali, Sharon Jr., Jen and Sam, and all of them are in public service. And we have seven grandchildren, our miracles, who bring us great happiness.
All the important things in life I have learned from my children. And now I am following them into the public service.
Let me add that we lived in Montréal for two decades. We have come to love the French culture and language and we consider them a national treasure.
We are looking forward to meeting Canadian families from all walks of life, all backgrounds and hearing their stories about what Canada means to them and how they see Canada in 2017 and beyond.
We are looking forward to meeting families with sons and daughters who have served in Afghanistan. And we join in the sorrow of those families whose loved ones have made the ultimate sacrifice in serving their country. Our veterans have paid heed to the call to service, and have made our country proud. And my wife and I intend to be with them every step of the way.
We are looking forward to meeting Aboriginal families and children and learning from them. We all have much to learn from First Nations, Inuit and Métis cultures. We are excited about being able to share in this vital part of our collective history.
And we are looking forward to meeting families who have chosen Canada as their home, determined to provide a brighter future for their children.
We know that Canada will be one of the most diverse countries in the world by 2017.
And I am firmly convinced that all of these families, no matter where they live or what their background is, will have more in common than not. Each family brings new patterns to the varied Canadian tapestry and enriches it by their presence.
My second pillar will be reinforcing learning and innovation.
We need to ensure that all Canadians have equal access to education and the opportunity to reach their full potential.
These opportunities must be available in both of our official languages. Our linguistic duality is a precious asset and contributes to our strength as a nation. I salute the Francophone and Acadian communities who continue to innovate, and find ways to ensure that French continues to thrive across the country.
I look forward to learning from Canadians as I visit their communities.
Anyone who has achieved any degree of success and been placed in a leadership position can point to dozens of teachers, mentors and coaches who have made them better persons along the way. In my case, they number in the hundreds.
During my term, we will find ways to properly recognize our teachers who are responsible for our intellectual development. If there is one trumpet call from my remarks today let it be “Cherish Our Teachers”.
I have always had great admiration for the teachers and educators of this country.
As we consider our vision for 2017, I ask “Can we have equality of opportunity and excellence too?” I believe that no nation in history has worked harder than Canada to ensure equality of opportunity. How do we square that with excellence as well? For me, the answer is through our public educational system which is the most inclusive in the world.
How do we ensure accessible education for all so that all Canadians can realize their full potential? And how do we reconcile universal access with stellar achievement? And how do we continue to innovate in order to compete with the world’s best? Innovation at its simplest is crafting a new idea to do things better. Innovation embraces both technological and social innovation. We want the same continuing commitment to excellence in our learning and research institutions that we saw in our Canadian athletes who brought us a record 14 gold medals at the 2010 Winter Games, we need the kind of innovation that has made “BlackBerry” a household expression. We want to emulate our Olympic and Paralympic athletes by constantly striving for excellence in all that we do.
We want to be the Smart and Caring Nation; a society that innovates, embraces its talent and uses the knowledge of each of its citizens to improve the human condition for all.
When we set our sights together, we can do better and inspire each other to achieve great things.
My third pillar will be encouraging philanthropy and volunteerism.
Canadians have a long history of coming together and helping one another. The importance of community can be seen across the country, in our rural communities, and in our cities and towns, such as the ones I grew up in, Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie.
I see examples of this “coming together” in the farming neighbourhood where we live. A Mennonite barn-raising with people gathering on the scaffold of a new barn bringing their diverse talents and energy to help a neighbour in need.
I think of Rick Hansen, who this past March marked the 25th anniversary of the day he began his Man in Motion World Tour, and he continues to inspire Canadians everywhere.
And just two weeks ago, millions of Canadians across the country came together to honour the spirit and the achievements of Terry Fox, and the 30th anniversary of his run underscores how Canadians have embraced his cause. In his introduction to his book Terry, Douglas Coupland recalls seeing the thousands upon thousands of names of everyday Canadians in the Fox archives and writes “Collectively, those names testify to something divine—our nation, our home and our soul.”
Examples of generosity and charity abound across this great land.
We create our families and promise a better life for our children, we energetically develop our individual talents, collaborate to magnify them and improve the health and prosperity of our families and communities across the land, and we care about our neighbours.
We will continue to foster and instil the importance of being a generous and caring nation, an idea cherished by Canadians of all backgrounds and all ages.
The 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017 will reinforce Canadians’ sense of pride and engage all citizens.
Service to country shaped us, service to family and community sustains us, and this tradition of service will carry us forward into the future.
I am looking forward to meeting and serving Canadians, coming to their communities. I am truly honoured by this call to service.
I recall the closing lines of my predecessor, General The Right Honourable Georges P. Vanier’s inaugural address: “In our march forward in material happiness, let us not neglect the spiritual threads in the weaving of our lives. If Canada is to attain the greatness worthy of it, each of us must say, ‘I ask only to serve.’”
In Canada where we work together, putting aside our differences and assisting those among us who needed a helping hand, we have built a society that is the envy of the world.
I see my role as a bridge in bringing people of all backgrounds and ages together to create a Smart and Caring Nation, a nation that will inspire not just Canadians but the entire world.
Let me end with a quote from George Bernard Shaw:
“Some people see things as they are and wonder why. We dream of things that ought to be and ask why not.”