Mr. Speaker, the Liberal motion is quite good and I am going to support it for sure. The member for Halifax West is always eloquent and well spoken, and he was logical today, and I thank him for that.
It is clear to most Canadians that the Prime Minister not only knew about this, but quite likely ordered the bribery and the cover-up. At least, that is the way it appears to many of my constituents. That is worrisome, to put it mildly.
However, I and many Canadians feel this is really a symptom of a more basic problem: an undemocratic electoral system; House and committee rules tailored to ensure undue control by the main parties; and especially since 1970, the requirement that party leaders basically choose the candidates and control them.
My question for the hon. member is this. Can he think of ways that we can reduce the power of the parties to control backbenchers, and even ministers, and increase democracy in Parliament?
With regard to spending in the federal riding of Halifax West, how much money was spent between 2007 and 2012: (a) through the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund; (b) through the Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund; (c) through the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund; (d) through the Infrastructure Canada program; and (e) how much money has the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency directed to businesses and projects in the federal riding of Halifax West between 2007 and 2012?
Order, please. The hon. member for Halifax West.
Mr. Speaker, listening to the government House leader, I was reminded of words said in this place in 2002, which he referenced often, by my friend from Halifax West, who was sitting in the Liberal government at the time, arguing exactly what I heard from the government House leader this morning. That is that there is a unifying argument, a principle, in what the Liberal government then had proposed, and that because they said the words “unifying argument”, it must have meant that everything that followed had to be cogent and contained in one motion.
Speaker Milliken did not find that argument true then. I suspect that given the precedence and also the practice of this place, it will be difficult for the Chair to find a unifying argument now.
I also recall that the person who argued against the Liberal government, Mr. Chuck Strahl, who would be familiar to many of my friends across the way, said during the debate, and I think this may be helpful:
However as far as the business of the House, the House leader's argument on the Liberal side that they just want to continue with business as usual is the antithesis of that.
The government decided that the business of the House had to stop, that it had to prorogue, clean the tables and start anew with new committees, new agendas and a whole new legislative package. For him say that all the business they want on the Liberal side has to also continue uninterrupted is simply false.
Prorogation stops some things and until the House agrees, it cannot continue as if nothing happened. Prorogation requires the decision of this House, if we are going to continue with an old agenda, a decision that each of us as parliamentarians has to be willing to take part in and vote on.
That was the point of the motion we raised yesterday, both in practice and in principle.
I will read from O'Brien and Bosc to remind my friend across the way of page 478 of Marleau and Montpetit, which existed at that time.
When a complicated motion comes before the House (for example, a motion containing two or more parts each capable of standing on its own)...
That is the test. Is each of these motions capable of standing on its own: the government's agenda to try to reintroduce all the previous legislation it killed due to prorogation, and on its other leg, coupling that with a study on murdered and missing aboriginal women? Can that vote stand on its own? Is that a distinct concept to continue?
...the Speaker has the authority to modify it and thereby facilitate decision-making for the House. When any Member objects to a motion that contains two or more distinct propositions, he or she may request that the motion be divided and that each proposition be debated and voted on separately.
Those are the rules that guide us.
Mr. Speaker, clearly the power is contained within your Chair to divide the motion as two separate issues, which we have argued.
I will remind my government House leader friend across the way that the Conservative House leader at the time, in 2002, Ms. Skeleton, quoted:
I must come to the conclusion that the motion before the House contains two propositions and since strong objections have been made to the effect that these two propositions should not be considered together, it is my duty to divide them.
That was in reference to Speaker Milliken as Chair to the intervention by the House leader.
It seems to me passing strange that the Conservatives have so consistently argued positions previously taken up by the Liberals and have forgotten all of the arguments they made when they sat in the opposition benches.
We see two clear, distinct proposals, one that we find objectionable, linked together: the government's effort to reinstate its agenda, which it shut down due to prorogation, its attempt to reset and renew, and the proposition to study the expenses of the members of Parliament, bringing further clarity and transparency; and even more objectionable, the work that had been started and initiated by this place to look into the travesty and the devastating effects of missing and murdered aboriginal women. Somehow those two are linked and must forever remain linked, and only one vote to sustain that idea or to reject it will be allowed in this place, causing members to be in opposition to their own values when voting just once.
The precedence is here. The rules are here. The Conservatives argued this very case when they were in opposition to the Liberals. It seems clear to me that they find this cumbersome, as they so often find democratic values and institutions an annoyance. However, the fact remains that members of Parliament need to be able to stand in this place and cast a free and fair vote clearly on the issues before the House. To couple things together in these omnibus motions and omnibus legislation further erodes the connection between members of Parliament and their constituents and the views that we seek to represent when we stand in this place.
Again, my friend says that there is no passionate debate going on here. I would argue quite the contrary, both on the principle of members of Parliament being able to conduct themselves in a way such that they can go back to their constituents and inform them as to what the vote was and on the substance of the matter, which is that work into missing and aboriginal women is an important enough issue to stand on its own.
Finally, my friend across the way said that if there were any recommendations to improve the motion, they should be presented forthwith. He maybe was not listening yesterday, because I did offer one. It was plucked word for word from the omnibus motion allowing the Conservatives to have their convention in November in Calgary. I have other motions available to hive off the pieces placed together that we find objectionable. If my friend across the way is looking for those recommendations, we have them already. He rejected one yesterday. If the government House leader is now open to them, we can make those submissions and divide this motion properly so that members of Parliament can freely and clearly express their views, and then the House can get on it with its business.
Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. As the member would know, and I would be the first to say, the committees are the masters of their own destiny. I can speak to the committees that I am on, and we work fairly well with the opposition in trying to get things done, most of the time.
From my standpoint, the desire for this bill has existed for quite some time. There have been a number of things embedded in it from previous reports and committee reports. They are now in this bill. We have achieved a lot of things. With regard to a number of the questions I have heard tonight from the member for Halifax West and others, questions with respect to the cost, it is already in the bill. Therefore, some of the things that individuals were talking about needing to be amended I do not think need to be amended.
As for the protracted discussion on the costing and the idea that we should put another $140 million back into CBSA, that is not the right answer. It is a matter that CBSA is committed to carrying this out within its existing mandate. I am not going to argue about the numbers, but net there are more border services officers than there were in 2006, and they have more tools. They are using tools like e-manifest and other things for bills of lading and those types of things that go through borders now, which make their process much more efficient. Simply because there are new processes does not mean there must be new money and new people.
Mr. Speaker, I heard the comments made by the hon. member for Halifax West, and clearly transshipment and education were critical elements of his concerns.
I would like to state that the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology is a committee that, from my perspective as a relatively new member, works very well. It is a committee that respects the opinions of those on opposite sides and works in a more harmonious environment in order to achieve positive results.
I would say that when we get to committee with this bill, we will have a good opportunity to address these issues, and I think that reasonable amendments with reasonable discussion will be well considered.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Halifax West for his comments on the bill. It is a very important bill, and he brought up some of the very good things in it with respect to the trafficking of goods and the pirating of goods.
One of the things he commented on was the compensation for goods that have been seized, or the storage or destruction of those goods. In the context of the government being open to amendments, proposed section 44.07 of the bill does talk significantly about the cost. The licence holder is the person who is responsible for the costs, and they are able to be compensated, for example, if a court action deems they were not seized legitimately.
I am wondering what he sees might be missing in the compensation of costs that is not in proposed section 44.07 now?
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-478.
As my colleagues have already said, this bill amends the Criminal Code to provide that a person convicted of the abduction, sexual assault and murder of one victim is to be sentenced to imprisonment for life without eligibility for parole until the person has served a sentence of between 25 and 40 years as determined by the presiding judge after considering the recommendation, if any, of the jury.
As my Liberal colleague, the member for Halifax West, stated during the last debate on the bill, we Liberals will be supporting this matter at second reading. We support the principle behind the legislation—that is, we agree that those who are convicted of abduction, sexual assault and murder of one victim should not easily receive parole.
Many community organizations, including the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, also support this bill.
While we are fortunate that such brutality is rare in Canada, we know all too well that this evil does exist. Just this time last year, the nation was gripped with headlines of Luka Magnotta, who is alleged to have killed, raped and dismembered his victim. He is presently awaiting trial on charges including murder and committing an indignity to a body.
Also at this time last year, a sentence was handed down in the case of Michael Rafferty of Woodstock, Ontario, who along with Terri-Lynne McClintic was arrested and charged in the abduction and murder of eight-year-old Victoria Stafford. Both are serving life sentences with no chance of parole for 25 years, Rafferty having been found guilty of first degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping.
These names and these cases, like those of Paul Bernardo, Russell Williams and Clifford Olson, clearly prove that this evil does exist in Canada and force us to evaluate the need to amend our Criminal Code accordingly.
Of course, the question might arise as to whether the existing regime is sufficient. All these individuals I have named have been punished, and many will not be out for parole for quite some time.
The answer is that this bill, as the mover noted, is not about punishment. Indeed, it does not increase penalties for any of the associated offences. What Bill C-478 does, however, is extend the period of parole ineligibility to relieve grieving families of the burden of having to relive their awful torment every two years once the offender becomes eligible to seek parole. Indeed, the bill is about ending the re-victimization of families.
It should be noted that the 40-year period that the bill speaks to is not a requirement. Judges are given necessary discretion on this particular point.
That is not to say that the bill is a flawless piece of legislation. These being private members' bills produced with the limited resources that we have as members of Parliament, there are going to be some flaws. Hopefully, at committee we will work hard to make sure that these are perfect bills when they come out of committee.
My colleagues from the NDP have raised concerns regarding its compliance with the charter and with the Rome statute. I am sure these will be questions put to the technical witnesses at the justice committee for which they will undoubtedly have well-researched answers. Surely amendments could then be moved if needed to clarify both our desire to comply with our domestic and international obligations and our desire to achieve our aim of a longer period of parole ineligibility for certain types of offenders.
It is not often that I am able to address the House on matters of criminal justice policy. I am delighted to do so today and I am delighted that the bill before us is not one of the usual mandatory minimum penalty bills that the Liberal Party opposes on policy grounds.
Much of the discussion in the House on justice policy of late has focused on the idea of victims' rights. I am proud to be part of a party that takes the rights of victims seriously and has matched this commitment in word and in action.
On November 1, 2005, the Government of Canada established the National Office for Victims at Public Safety Canada. This office is a single point of contact for victims who have concerns about offenders and questions about the federal correctional system and Canada's justice system.
The office provides victims with information and provides input on policy and legislative initiatives. It also attempts to educate members of the criminal justice system about victims' issues.
Further, although it has perhaps been overlooked in the current debate over Bill C-54, the Liberals proposed the initial amendments to the not criminally responsible regime that permitted a victim to read a victim impact statement at a review board hearing and required courts or review boards to advise a victim of his or her right to submit a victim impact statement at the initial disposition hearing for the accused.
Before closing, I must address one troublesome aspect of the bill as it is before us, not in substance but in form; namely, it is a piece of private member's business that has been endorsed by the Prime Minister and Minister of Justice as a worthwhile and necessary change to the law. Yet, it is something that would have been adopted much faster had it been introduced and advanced as government legislation. Indeed, why was this not part of the crime omnibus bill, Bill C-10? Or, more pertinently, why was this amendment not included in 2011 when Parliament debated Bill S-6, the serious time for the most serious crime act? Surely the government will agree these are serious crimes that deserve serious time.
My point is that the government has had ample opportunity to make this change to the law without having to use private members' hour to advance its agenda. It is a troubling trend because the use of private members' bills limits debate and circumvents charter review, something which is completed by the Department of Justice for only government bills and not private members' bills like Bill C-478.
Another troubling trend is that the Conservatives' justice agenda focuses on punishment without bearing in mind as well the need to adopt preventative measures designed to reduce the number of victims in the first place. Wow. For some types of offences, we should focus on root causes of crime, such as poverty, lack of education, and lack of access to affordable housing. For other types of crime, we should be looking at mental health initiatives for early screening and detection such that individuals may be diverted into the treatment programs they need.
Regrettably, changing sentencing and parole rules, however welcome some changes may be, does not prevent victimization. We must ensure a holistic approach is taken to justice, one that seeks to prevent crime, one that seeks to adequately punish the offender, and one that seeks to better reintegrate offenders into society once they have served their sentences.
In short, there is much more to be done, and Bill C-478 is not a magic bullet to solving the problem of crime in this country. However, as I stated at the outset, I believe the principle behind this bill has merit and thus I will be voting to send it to committee for further study and review.
The electoral district of Halifax West (Nova Scotia) has a population of 88,756 with 69,960 registered voters and 170 polling divisions.
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