Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all my colleagues for being here this Thursday evening to discuss this very serious bill and the implications it will have on employees in the penitentiary system across Canada.
When the bill came about I reached out to the correctional workers in my riding and had a chance to actually tour the facility with them. I had a chance to see first-hand what they deal with. These are some of the most courageous people I know. With their mental ruggedness and physical stamina, their work is something I definitely could not do. I really appreciate the work they do, and how they are there to protect Canadians and deal with some of the worst of the worst in our society.
One of the things they brought to my attention right off the bat was the lack of consultation. They were not involved in the process, in the creation of what the requirements were to improve the facilities. We have to understand that these facilities are very old. They have been around for generations, built in the 1960s and 1970s. They have processes in place based on experience and knowing what they are dealing with.
I will give a good example of that. When I first started the tour in the facility they took me into one of the rooms and gave me an overview briefing. They talked about the different types of gangs and groups of criminals they have within their facility. They talked about how they worked with the RCMP and special crimes units to identify these people so that when these people are in the facility they know exactly where they are and who they are mingling with at all times. They know one group cannot mix with the other group. They also know that group three cannot mix with group four, but maybe with group two on certain days. They are aware of not only what is happening within the penitentiary among these different groups, but of what is going on outside the penitentiary with these different groups, which has implications for how they treat them within the facility.
One of the things that came to light in Bill C-83 was the change to get rid of voluntary solitary confinement. One of the safety issues they brought up right away was that there were some prisoners in their facility who have fallen out with their gang who really want this and need this. However, not having the ability to get it now will put them in a predicament. What they are concerned about, and I think it is a very real concern, is that they are still going to get it. They will just assault an officer or a guard to get it, because they know they need to do it for their own safety.
By taking this away, it sounds good on paper, but in practice it will create a situation that is even more unsafe for our officers and guards. There has to be some consultation when doing this so that we can see things like this brought to light. Then we can think of a different way to treat it and handle it.
However, the Liberal government does not like to consult. No matter what the Liberals said when they were elected, they do not do it, especially when the consultation does not give them the answer they want. They want to take the suggestions and solutions from Ottawa and shove them down on people who actually have to work with them. It is those people who will pay for these guys' mistakes. They will pay through financial costs, physical harm and their safety. That is not right.
That is why I am so disappointed in the government for not actually recognizing and understanding that, taking a step back and asking what it has to do to make sure it does it right. The Liberals want to ram it through because they know best: “We are Liberals. We know best.” With 30 years' experience what does one know? They have been elected for two years. “We know best” is the Liberal mindset, and it is wrong and they need to change it.
One of the other things that cropped up on the tour was that they are going to put body scanners in the facilities, which were built in the 1960s and 1970s. That sounds great. They are happy to have that. However, the first problem is where to put them. These are cement structures. They have solid walls. They cannot just take a sledgehammer and knock out a wall and away we go. This is a major construction problem.
The second problem is that they do not have the power requirements. These are older facilities. They do not have the wiring or infrastructure to handle something as simple as a body scanner. We look at that and say that obviously the government is going to put money aside to do that. However, there is nothing in the budget for that, so how are they going to do that? We do not know. There has been no game plan.
We heard the members across the aisle saying, “Just trust us”. We have heard that once too often from the government. Usually that means it does not know, it is not sure, it will do it anyway and Canadian taxpayers will pick up the bill no matter what it costs. If the Liberals would have just taken a step back and asked, “What do you guys think would be the best way to implement this?”, they probably would have gotten a reasonable, logical solution that would have had the same results, saved the taxpayers a lot of money and made it safer for our guards.
Here is one example of what the Liberals have not done. They talk about solitary confinement and the four hours these prisoners are going to be allowed outside the facilities mingling with each other. These facilities were not made that way. They were not made to handle that situation. If I go back to my original comments about how careful planning is done as to who is out in the yard mingling with who, for the safety of the guards and the prisoners, that is all structured and very carefully managed.
However, the Liberals are now regulating the fact that they have to break those groups up. All of a sudden, they could have the members of two gangs out in the yard together, who look at each other and just beat the crap out of each other. What would also happen is that two or three guards would intercept that, try to break it up and get hurt in the process. It is crazy. The lack of practicality from the current government is scary, yet it is going to ram the bill through because they are Liberals and they know best.
It is really disheartening when one goes to these facilities. I would never want to be in one. We joked about a cell for the current Prime Minister of Canada, because that is where he is going to end up after the SNC-Lavalin stuff. Nobody ever wants to be there, that is for sure, and the people who are there are bad people.
The other thing I have to mention is the fact that these guards go to work every day and a lot of them have not been paid or have not received their bonuses or increases in pay when changing shifts. They do not even get the shift differential when they go from one part of the penitentiary to the other. Instead of the Liberals looking for solutions and trying to find a way to fix that for these guards, they put their heads in the sand and just say, “Take it.” It is amazing. The disrespect they have for our public employees is phenomenal. It shows up in this piece of legislation, in the Phoenix pay system and in so many other ways the government has treated our employees and Canadian citizens. It has to change.
The good news is that on October 20 it will change. Then the guards will understand that there will be a Conservative government in power that will have their backs.