Mr. Speaker, today I am going to be sharing my time with the hon. member, a very capable member, I might add, for Medicine Hat.
I rise today as a former police officer and as a person with five institutions in my proximity: Millhaven, the former Kingston Penitentiary, Joyceville, Warkworth, and Pittsburgh. Today I rise with some personal knowledge about the very challenging issue of drugs in federal prisons.
Our government has worked diligently to establish Canada as a country where those who break the law are held accountable for their actions and where the rights of victims are respected. This ensures that we have a strong correctional system that actually rehabilitates prisoners. To this end, we have taken strong action to tackle the problem of drugs in prison, which is, obviously, a significant roadblock to correcting the behaviour of prisoners and to the safety, of course, of correctional officers.
The reality is that prisoners should not have access to illegal drugs or substances while serving their sentences. While the NDP seems to disagree, unfortunately, and would have us provide needles to prisoners, Canadians agree that drugs have absolutely no place behind bars.
The Correctional Service of Canada has a wide range of interdiction measures in place to search out, seize, and detect drugs in institutions, and it has had some successes. However, we can certainly always improve, and that is why our government is drawing a firm line with this bill.
Almost 1,500 drug seizures take place in prisons each year, and more than 1,700 institutional sanctions have been imposed on prisoners for positive drug tests or a refusal to take drug tests. These numbers underscore the drug problem in prisons. It cannot be underestimated. Not only does the sale and use of drugs in prisons adversely affect our chance of correcting criminal behaviour, it certainly poses a threat to the safety of the staff. That is why our government, in its 2011 election platform, made a strong commitment to do even more about this problem.
We set the bar very high when we made three key promises. Number one was that every federal inmate would undergo drug testing once yearly. Is that too much to ask? Number two was that prisoners in possession of illegal substances would face additional and appropriate charges. Is that too much to ask? Number three was that parole applicants who failed these drug tests would be denied parole. They should not be rewarded for illicit, illegal actions.
We have moved forward with these measures to help us achieve these ambitious goals. We have made much progress, particularly with respect to addressing the first two promises.
We have invested heavily in broader interdiction measures. In 2008, we provided $122 million over five years for interdiction efforts, efforts that included drug detector dogs, security intelligence capacity, and perimeter security. Obviously, institutions are less safe and secure when there are drugs and other contraband, so this has turned out to be a very smart investment.
More recently, we complemented this investment with important changes under the Safe Streets and Communities Act that enshrined in law the role of the prisoners' correctional plans. The Safe Streets and Communities Act also introduced two-year mandatory minimum penalties for trafficking drugs in prisons or on prison grounds.
The CSC has recently brought in a number of vital institutional measures that are under way at present. It has increased random monthly urinalysis testing of prisoners. That is amazing. That is one of our most effective detection measures, by the way, and it has increased from 5% to 10%.
CSC is improving data collection on drug use in prisons. It is preparing regulatory amendments to increase fines for inmates possessing or using illicit drugs, with further increases for repeat prisoners. It has also introduced mandatory reporting of all serious incidents of drug possession to the appropriate law enforcement agencies in those jurisdictions.
In an effort to augment CSC's interdiction efforts, Bill C-12, the drug-free prisons act, proposes an important legislative change, another step in our improvement, one that will allow us to fulfill the third of our 2011 platform commitments, which is to deny parole to those prisoners who fail drug tests.We want to provide members of the Parole Board of Canada with additional legislative tools to deny prisoners parole in cases involving failed or refused urinalysis tests. Two changes are required to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act in this regard.
The first is an amendment to add specific authority to cancel parole based on failed or refused urinalysis tests. This means that between the time a prisoner has been granted parole and is released, the CSC would be required to get information on urinalysis to the Parole Board. The Parole Board would then have an opportunity to change or modify its decision and to change or cancel the parole should the new information alter its assessment of the prisoner's risk to the community.
The second is an amendment to include specific authority for the board to impose a special condition requiring the prisoner to abstain from drugs and alcohol. This would apply to prisoners for whom substance abuse had been long identified as the leading factor in that prisoner's criminal behaviour. This would focus the board's attention on this factor, and when the condition was applied, it would create an opportunity for parole to be revoked if the condition was violated.
By striving toward a drug-free environment, we hope to create a number of beneficial outcomes that contribute to successful rehabilitation, that ensure the safety and security of Canadian institutions and communities, and that further support our commitment to hold prisoners accountable for their actions.
We are taking the necessary steps to equip the Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada with the tools they need to tackle drug use in our prisons. We are proud of the substantial progress we have made in respect of our 2011 commitments. We are confident that the drug-free prisons act would take us another step even further down the road in addressing this significant societal problem.
While members of the other parties have pushed for relaxed laws on drugs, on needles in prisons, and promoting drugs in schools to our youth, we will continue with these common-sense measures. Canadians expect absolutely nothing less.
I am thankful for the opportunity today to express what is not only a platform and a party policy but a personal passion. I live and work in the areas where these kinds of illegal activities certainly contribute to the decline of what it means to be a respected Canadian who respects our laws, our challenges, our traditions, and the health and safety of our citizens.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Medicine Hat, Alberta, for her excellent question.
We accept the Supreme Court's decision, and we will continue to put in place measures to make our streets safer. We will also respect our hunters, farmers and sports shooters.
We will vigorously defend our legislation, which was passed by the elected members of this Parliament and the Supreme Court.
Mr. Speaker, just as the hon. member for Medicine Hat has shared with us, that is the kind of input we want.
We want to hear what people have to say about it. We want to include text in the memorial. We want to make sure that it is reflective of everyone who has something invested in democracy and freedom, and that is every Canadian.
Hopefully we will have lots of input and we will design a memorial that we can all be proud of.
Mr. Speaker, Communities in Bloom is a Canadian non-profit organization committed to fostering civic pride, environmental responsibility and beautification through community involvement and the challenge of a national program with a focus on the enhancement of green spaces and communities.
I would like to congratulate the city of Brooks in my riding of Medicine Hat for having won this prestigious award in the 10,000 to 35,000 people category for 2013.
I have had the honour of representing the great people of Brooks since first being elected some five years ago. The Brooks Commemorative Forest received special mention by the national Communities in Bloom committee as Brooks Mayor Shields said, the Brooks Communities in Bloom committee is “so much more. They have worked at greening up Brooks with more than just flowers.”
Brooks is a smaller community with a very big heart. It has had its share of setbacks over the years but it has always rebounded, stronger than ever.
I salute the people of Brooks and wish them the best with the beautification of their city.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to talk about one of my constituents, who saved the life of a young boy.
Kirby Shafer, operations superintendent with the electrical department of the City of Medicine Hat, ran over to a young boy who had been playing with friends at an ice rink. The boy was clearly unable to breathe due to the fact that he had swallowed a large candy. When Kirby asked if the boy was choking, he gestured yes. Kirby did not even think twice. He immediately began to administer the steps of the Heimlich manoeuvre to the boy.
Thanks to his first aid training from the City of Medicine Hat, Kirby's actions meant that the boy made a full recovery in hospital.
I salute his bravery and his tenacity with this outstanding act. Kirby will be awarded with the Lifesaver Award from the Canadian Electricity Association, which is awarded to utility employees whose actions directly result in saving lives.
Congratulates to Kirby. He has done us all very proud.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and privilege to stand here today to talk about Canada's economic action plan 2013, a plan for jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity.
Bill C-4 will allow us to continue with the implementation of our economic action plan 2013. With that in mind, I would like to remind my colleagues of the many great things contained in the budget this year. I encourage all of my constituents, and indeed all Canadians, to visit the website at actionplan.gc.ca, where they will be able to find all of the pertinent information regarding the budget, including Bill C-4.
Let us start with the new building Canada plan, which would provide funds of over $53 billion over 10 years. Part of that is the new building Canada fund. Economic action plan 2013 would provide $14 billion over 10 years. Of that, $4 billion will be found in the national infrastructure fund, which will support investments in projects of national significance. There is also a $10 billion provincial-territorial infrastructure fund that would support projects at the regional and local level.
The new building Canada plan also contains a community improvement plan, which consists of an indexed gas tax fund and an incremental GST rebate for municipalities. All of this would equal over $32 billion.
Last but not least, the new building Canada plan contains a P3 Canada fund, which would renew a project that already exists. We strongly believe that P3s are a good way to accomplish great things while saving taxpayers money.
I would like to talk about another major item in our economic action plan 2013. That is our plan to create high-paying jobs and help businesses succeed. This one contains many things that will be important to my riding.
One of the biggest items is the two-year extension of the accelerated capital cost allowance for new investment in machinery and equipment in the manufacturing and processing sector. As we all know, Alberta is Canada's beating heart when it comes to growth of industry in the energy sector. In my riding, I know that some of the local firms are looking at expanding their operations, and I think the accelerated capital cost allowance will be a major factor in encouraging them to make that decision. That means more jobs for the people of my riding of Medicine Hat. That is a good thing.
Economic action plan 2013 continues to build on what we have already worked on for some time with continuing investments in world-class research and innovation.
One of the most important items contained in the plan is that we would extend the temporary hiring credit for small business for one year. That is encouraging, and I know it will be beneficial to small businesses in my riding.
The Medicine Hat District Chamber of Commerce's executive director, Lisa Kowalchuck, said our budget is a well-thought-out budget because we want to reduce the deficit and there are no tax increases, and from a business standpoint, that's positive. She went on to praise the extension of the temporary hiring credit. It has helped local small businesses and has contributed to their hiring of new workers.
I am proud of our government's continued support. After all, thanks to our economic action plan, we have seen the creation of over one million net new jobs in Canada since 2009. The majority of those, 90%, are full-time positions, and nearly 80% of those are in the private sector. If we want to talk about good news, that is one great piece of news.
We also have a record to brag about when it comes to supporting families. Our record of tax relief means savings of over $3,200 for a typical Canadian family of four in 2013. My colleague from Manitoba just expounded on that as a mother of four. Certainly she was pleased to have that $3,200 in her pocket to spend on her children.
Since 2006, we have cut the lowest personal income tax rate to 15%. We reduced the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%. We established the tax-free savings account. We introduced the children's fitness tax credit. We introduced the family caregiver tax credit. We introduced the universal child care benefit. We introduced the volunteer firefighter tax credit. I know some of my constituents are quite pleased with that one.
Continuing with our plan, I know that this year's phase includes many things that would assist farmers in growing their operations. I have a lot of farmers in my riding; those who grow wheat and barley are quite pleased with the fact that they can now sell their wheat to whomever they choose, including the Canadian Wheat Board. I think those farmers have seen record returns on their products since that change, but I digress.
Economic action plan 2013 contains many important points that will help farmers, and I would like to take a moment to enumerate a few of those things.
First, we are going to increase the restricted farm loss deduction limit. This measure in particular will help families that engage in part-time farming. We will raise the limit to $17,500, meaning that part-time farmers would be able to apply that much money against their income from other sources. This limit has not been raised in 20 years, so that is definitely due.
Another item in the budget that I think will be good for my farmers, and indeed farmers all across Canada, is the increase in lifetime capital gains exemption. Budget 2013 proposes an increase of $50,000 so that it would apply to capital gains up to $800,000. Also, the lifetime capital gains exemption would now be indexed to inflation for taxation years after 2014. That is another thing that will assist them. I am sure my farmers are tickled pink.
In terms of clean energy, our government remains committed to that industry. With that in mind, we will provide an accelerated capital cost allowance for those who have invested in specified clean energy generation and conservation equipment. In a time when we are looking for innovation in the energy sector, I believe that this will help spur it on.
Another measure in this budget that will be beneficial to my constituents is the section on tariff relief for Canadian consumers. This measure is extremely important for young families, especially in my riding. I know that it can be a hassle, so economic action plan 2013 would give tariff relief to Canadian consumers. Specifically, we are cutting tariffs on all baby clothing and on sports and athletic equipment. I believe that this is good news for young families who have active kids.
On a final note, I would like to enumerate some of the budgetary measures that will help us face our labour shortages, which are an issue for many Albertans and Canadians. I receive letters all the time from constituents concerned about finding skilled people to fill their job openings in their small businesses. It is an ongoing issue, and I am glad to see that with this budget our government has addressed some of the problems.
First, we are creating the Canada job grant, which should provide $15,000 or more per person, including the federal contribution and matching provincial-territorial portion and employers' portions, to ensure that Canadians are getting the skilled employees they are seeking. As a former employer, I know that employers know what skills their people need. I know a number of small business owners in my riding personally who will be investing that $5,000 to get more trained employees. They would get an employee who can get the training that they need, whether it is a community college certificate, an apprenticeship, or training by a trade union. They would have a job at the end of it, and it would be a win-win. Who could argue with that? This is a win-win situation for all involved, and what is not to like about that?
We are also creating opportunities for apprentices by making it more practical and easier to get the experience needed to make the leap to journeyman status.
We are also aiming at assisting persons with disabilities to have an easier time accessing the labour market. That is an ongoing task, and it is one that I am proud of. This budget would create the Canadian employers' disability forum. The forum would be led by a number of Canadian businesses, like Loblaws, and would be managed by employers. It would be a place where they could come together to share ideas about the hiring and retention of persons with disabilities.
Finally, we are bringing reform to the immigration system with programs such as the new expression of interest immigration management system. It would allow for Canadian employers, provinces, and territories to select skilled immigrants from a pool of applicants that best meet Canada's economic needs. This is crucial to my constituents. Many of them rely on hard-working new Canadians as the backbone of their workforce.
I know you have given me the signal, Mr. Speaker, but I encourage all of my colleagues to vote “yea” for Bill C-4 so that we can continue to implement our action plan 2013.
I look forward to any questions from my colleagues.
The electoral district of Medicine Hat (Alberta) has a population of 113,085 with 82,528 registered voters and 206 polling divisions.
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