Mr. Speaker, a good government always takes lessons, to try to achieve the best results for Canadians.
I have a question for my friend across the way. The Conservatives came out with this EI raiding plan. They are going to raid the EI fund again, which Canadians have seen, a fund that workers and employers pay into, not the government, to use it for their scheme, which gives a $200 incentive to hire somebody and a $2,200 incentive to fire somebody. If that is the Conservatives' math on how to create jobs, that is interesting.
Then the Liberals popped up with the motion we have today, which they cost out at $225 million—follow the math here—but if the plan actually does what the Liberals hope it does and creates the number of jobs they claim, it would actually end up costing $1.5 billion. We have seen this before. Math is difficult, and we know we have to go through it very slowly.
Here is my question for my friend. There was a proposal in the last election to create a small business hiring tax credit. We made this in conjunction, as he says, with the small business community, which very much liked it, and it tied tax relief to the creation of a job. I know that may be a radical proposal for some in this place, but New Democrats believe that in order to get something, one should give something, and the giving is the creating of that job, which we all want.
This was something the Conservatives picked up, adopted, and put into budgets for two consecutive years, and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business loved the idea. Small businesses loved the idea. I imagine those in the member's riding of Cariboo—Prince George did as well.
Why, for heaven's sake, would the government take a program that works and creates jobs, particularly jobs for younger Canadians, with the implicit connection to this tax break and, instead, cut it? It killed the program entirely and then created a program that dips into the EI fund yet again after billions have been raided to create a program that does not have any link at all to creating jobs, which is going to cost some hundreds of millions of dollars to the taxpayer.
Why, for heaven's sake, would the government take a program that works, kill it, and instead, replace it with a program that, at best, is a wish and a prayer to create the kind of economy we want?
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-2.
The subject of drugs is not always easy to address because it is still taboo. We put people who have used drugs in prison. We get rid of them. However, how long have drugs been around?
I do not know how our great-grandparents managed to deal with it all at the time when distilled alcohol was illegal. Some tough speeches must have been made in Parliament before it was legalized.
Today we are talking about drugs. We are not talking about legalizing heroin, but about a site that was established in Vancouver East and that distributes needles to people with drug problems.
The government has introduced a bill providing for restrictions so tough it will be difficult for that site to renew its licence and for other sites to open in Canada. This bill is a thinly veiled way of preventing supervised injection sites from carrying on their activities, which defies the Supreme Court's decision.
It establishes a long list of restrictive criteria that supervised injection sites will have to meet for the minister to grant them an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Those criteria will make it much more difficult for organizations to open a supervised injection site. That is the thrust of the bill.
The bill even comes in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling. We could consult that decision. It mentions, for example, that no one may prevent anything that may save lives.
In 2003, InSite was granted an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. That exemption was issued for medical and scientific reasons so that InSite could offer its services and the effectiveness of supervised injection sites could be assessed.
Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act gives the minister the power to authorize the use of drugs for medical or scientific purposes or if it is in the public interest.
In 2007, InSite opened the OnSite detox centre. The number of overdose-related deaths in Vancouver has fallen by 35% since that centre opened. The crime rate and the prevalence of communicable diseases and relapses have declined as well.
Earlier the member for Cariboo—Prince George asked where the statistics were. However, I would ask the same question: where are the statistics that warrant changing the act? I would like the government to show us the statistics that explain why they want to amend the act.
For example, the government could tell us that the number of deaths has risen by 35% since needles have been distributed. It is time we thought about this. Has the crime rate risen by 35%? That is a statistic. Before amending the act, the government needs to prove the opposite of what doctors and authorities are saying. However, the Conservatives' ideology is front and centre today.
According to the right-wing Conservative ideology and Conservative supporters, we should put drug users in prison. Above all, we should not give them needles, do prevention work or make contact with people who are helplessly addicted to drugs so that we can direct them to an institution that can help them get off drugs.
If you tell someone that drugs are illegal and not right, that person will still break the law, but he will not talk about it and he will be stuck with his problem.
We will be unable to help these people. The statistics gathered in Vancouver have shown that overdoses have fallen by 35%. In addition, crime has dropped and the number of HIV infections has also declined. Is it not our responsibility to ensure that happens?
The member for Cariboo—Prince George asked where the statistics are and said he would like to see the numbers. I am going to repeat it. We are not supposed to say he was not in the House, but I see him now. I think I was just not looking his way, but he is there and I want him to hear this. When he stood and said he wanted to see the statistics, the statistics are that there was a 35% decrease. Crime went down. HIV went down.
That is why I said that it is the government that should come to us and be able to say it is proposing the bill because it has statistics. The government should give us the statistics to show that crime and HIV went up after people were given needles, but that is not what the statistics are saying.
Doctors and nurses disagree as well. Two days ago, there were nurses in my office saying they were hoping there would be amendments to this bill, as it does not make sense and goes against the health of people.
Let me cite an example from Bathurst. Earlier my colleague from Scarborough Southwest talked about people who collect garbage. Bathurst, the community where I live, has a law prohibiting people from putting their garbage bags out at the curb. They have to be put in plastic containers. Workers said that they were being pricked when they picked up garbage bags and that they had caught infections.
One population group has health problems as a result of heroin, but we are prepared to leave them on the street.
I went to Vancouver East and I felt pity for the people living on the street. My colleague from Vancouver East says she supports the idea of distributing needles to people with drug problems.
As an ordinary person, I initially did not understand why we should give needles to people who use drugs. When I went to Vancouver East, however, I realized that it was the right thing to do. My colleague made me understand that when we can receive them in our homes, talk to them and direct them to a medical centre that can help them, we will have done something good.
However, if we abandon them, we will have failed to get the job done and discharge our responsibilities as Canadians and as politicians. The members of this House have a responsibility to pass legislation that helps the men and women of this country. People who live on the street are someone's children. They are citizens. They are human beings. We would not even allow animals to be treated this way.
Today we have before us a government bill that defies a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada solely because of the ideology of the government and its supporters. I forgot that this is the same government that does not believe in the court, in the opposition or in Parliament.
I hope that one day Canadians will make the right decision and get rid of this government once and for all, since it is not working for the welfare of Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I apologize for the interruption, yet I am compelled by circumstances to rise on a point of order related to the special order paper you just tabled in this place and specifically to government business Motion No. 2.
This highly unusual and complex motion puts 13 separate questions before the House, all of which are capable of standing on their own and all of which should be debated and voted upon separately. The omnibus motion is very lengthy, but I will mention just a few items to give a sense of the broad, sweeping nature of what is before us, and I will offer some argument of the rules that guide Parliament, along with the convictions that Conservatives themselves had when they sat in opposition.
The first part of the motion would allow the government to reinstate any and every bill it passed in the previous session to the last stage completed before the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament, essentially attempting to de-prorogue and return to the legislative agenda that his prorogation cancelled.
A second aspect is that the government would then link the remaking of the special committee on indigenous women that had been studying the critical issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.
It would also attempt to give direction to the procedure and House affairs committee to begin its vital work on making the members' expenses disclosure regime more open, mandatory, and consistent.
Last, it would direct the House to not sit on November 1 in order to accommodate the Conservative caucus and its upcoming policy convention.
The sponsor of this motion, the government House leader, is fully aware that the official opposition supports the last three aspects of this motion. To flip a now infamous quote on its head, the government simply will not take yes for an answer.
The government House leader is also fully aware that we are strongly opposed to the first clause that would allow for an across-the-board reinstatement of all government bills, a legislative carte blanche to attempt to undo the natural consequences of the Conservatives' own decision to shut down Parliament. We find it particularly offensive for the government to use a solemn, non-partisan study on missing and murdered aboriginal women as a playing card in its attempt to try to force the opposition to grant it the power to reinstate its old legislative agenda.
In addition to being ethically worrisome, the manoeuvre also runs counter to the rules of this House. Perhaps the government members are not swayed yet by my arguments, so allow me to use some of their own in support of my case.
The Prime Minister will remember what his House leader, Carol Skelton, argued in 2002, when the Liberals tried this exact same tactic. She said:
If this motion is allowed to stand as is, members will be forced to vote for the reinstatement of [bills] to ensure prebudget consultations and to save the good work of the special committee. The motion is wrong procedurally and is wrong ethically.
Given that O'Brien and Bosc's second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice had not yet been published, she quoted the following from page 478 of Marleau and Montpetit:
When a complicated motion comes before the House (for example, a motion containing two or more parts each capable of standing on its own), 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.
In 2002, Ms. Skelton referred to a case from June 15, when the Speaker concluded as follows:
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.
In 2002 we even heard from the current member for Vegreville—Wainwright, who said:
I would suggest that this is an opportunity for the government to demonstrate that it is serious about trying to make the House democratic by dividing this motion so that members of the House can vote on each motion separately. The current motion does not allow that.
The current members for Cariboo—Prince George and Central Nova, our new Minister of Justice, also made submissions in opposition to this kind of motion.
Eleven years later they seem to have learned nothing from the failures of the previous government. I would ask that you, Mr. Speaker, review the precedents on this, review the motion placed on the order paper that you have just tabled, and come back to the House, as quickly as you are able, to divide the motion for both debate and votes.
It is therefore your duty, Mr. Speaker, to rule on this kind of tactic. This is completely contrary to our rules and precedents and to the spirit of respectful negotiations that allows this institution to function properly.
As a sign of good faith to my friends across the way, perhaps I can help speed up the passage of clause (m) of government business Motion No. 2, the one I have referred to. This is the part of the motion that changes the schedule of the House to allow the Conservative caucus members to get to their party convention in Calgary. This is a courtesy that is often extended, as you know, Mr. Speaker, to all major parties in the House when their conventions conflict with the sitting schedule of the House.
Therefore, I seek the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion, which is taken word for word from the government motion on today's order paper:
on Thursday, October 31, 2013, the hours of sitting and order of business of the House shall be that of a Friday, provided that (i) the time for filing of any notice be no later than 6:00 p.m., (ii) when the House adjourns it shall stand adjourned until Monday, November 4, 2013, and (iii) any recorded division in respect of a debatable motion requested on, or deferred to, October 31, 2013, shall be deemed to be deferred or further deferred, as the case may be, to the ordinary hour of daily adjournment on November 4, 2013.
The coupling of the government's attempts to ram together all of its previous legislative agenda to something as important as the study and the pursuit of justice for missing and murdered aboriginal women, we find offensive. The government has the opportunity to decouple these statements and allow for a free and fair vote that is in line with our rules and the ethics of this place. I put that motion before you now, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, once again the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George is standing up for his constituents.
The Forest Products Association of Canada has just created a new website looking for job applicants. It estimates it will need to fill 60,000 jobs over the next seven years. This is great news for those rural communities in Canada that were hard hit during the recession.
Our government is proud of the support we have provided that has helped produce a 1,000% increase in Canadian softwood lumber exports to China. Our government will continue to work with hundreds of communities across Canada that depend upon the forestry sector.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George.
As I said earlier today, I got into politics to, in my own small way, expand freedom so people could take responsibility for their own lives, earn success and own their destiny. To make space for this freedom, I believe governments should only do the things that people cannot do for themselves. It is therefore with great skepticism that I always approach any proposal that legislates government action within the economy. The question is this. Does this legislation represent an action that is needed but that people cannot do on their own? In analyzing the industry of which we speak, I believe it does.
Canada is the second largest with the eighth least dense population of any country on earth. There are 5,500 kilometres separating Cape Spear, Newfoundland from the Yukon-Alaska border. On these vast lands, with much of them thinly populated, the prospect of ubiquitous railway competition is almost impossible. It is not the result of human error. It is the result of physical geography and math. As a result, we have only two class A railways in the country and many communities that require for their economic lifeblood the export of products to far away markets often have only one choice to ship those products.
Seventy per cent of Canada's goods and services are moved by surface freight. However, as I have said, we have only two class A railways to move them and in many places there is only one option. This creates immense economic imbalances between the buyer and the seller of the service. As such, there is a consensus that some redress of this economic imbalance is justified in this rare circumstance. As a result, we have proposed Bill C-52, the fair rail freight service act, which is designed to do as I just described. Allow me to describe the practices that this law would codify.
The legislation would give shippers the right to a service level agreement with a railway. A shipper would now be able to ask their railway for an agreement and the railway would be obligated to provide one within 30 days. This statutory right to an agreement would be an important gain for all shippers, including small and medium-sized shippers. This right would allow shippers to initiate bilateral commercial negotiations with the railway and clarify in writing the service agreement the railway would provide.
These agreements could identify performance standards such as frequency of service, transit times and the number and type of cars that the railway would provide to the shipper. These agreements could also include recovery plans that identified the actions the railway would undertake to recover from service failure or the communication protocols for monitoring service performance and dealing with any service issues that might arise.
In most cases, shippers should be able to reach an agreement with their railway commercially, but when they cannot, the shipper should be able to go to the Canadian Transportation Agency and ask an independent arbitrator to establish service agreements for them. Furthermore, the shipper should now be able to trigger a fast and efficient arbitration process, thanks to the bill. All he or she has to do is demonstrate that an effort has been made to reach an agreement commercially and give advance notice to the railway before commencing or requesting arbitration.
Shippers get to control the timing of launching an arbitration process. The legislation allows shippers to frame the issues to be addressed in the arbitration process by identifying the services they need. This gives the shipper the ability and the flexibility to ask for what is important to them. Every shipper operates in unique circumstances and has unique needs, and that is why these agreements will take many different forms. Tailoring service agreements to suit circumstances of both shipper and railway will allow for the diverse nature of Canada's transportation economy to continue to flourish.
Let me be clear. The bill is not about forcing our railways into an agreement, but ensuring that their obligations are met. We want railways to continue to manage an efficient, low-cost network to meet the needs of all of their customers in their network. The arbitration will follow a very efficient process to make these decisions. In a market where time means money, shippers have repeatedly asked for a process that is quick and timely so they can focus on growing their businesses.
The bill stipulates that the shipper can get an arbitrated service agreement within 45 days, although this could be extended in unique circumstances by an additional 20 days. In very complex service agreements with the shipper and the railways, the extension would be applied. The point remains that this is a fast process, to ensure we continue the operation of our rail network and get our supplies to where they are most needed.
I should note that the government acted with a great deal of meticulous care in setting up this process. We realize that in the last three decades the federal government has largely gone out of the rail business, through reduced regulation and obviously reduced ownership. This experience with a private sector railway system has been an unmitigated success. We should celebrate every day the success that our railways and their workers have created through this free enterprise system. We should congratulate them for the enormous improvements they have achieved in service standards, particularly when compared to their international peers. At the same time, without reintroducing excessive government intervention into the system, we are redressing a natural market imbalance that is inherent in most rail sectors around the world, and particularly so in a country with our geography and population.
We on this side of the House of Commons understand that a commodity-based economy, spread across vast distances, will require an efficient, effective rail system to move the commodities to their marketplace. That is why we have acted in this bill to provide a system by which our free market rail industry can continue to prosper and connect businesses with customers, and customers with the goods and services they need.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Cariboo—Prince George for his great work on this file. Canadians need to know that Nature magazine, the voice of the environmental scientific community and the most cited scientific journal in the world, has endorsed Keystone XL pipeline. It argues that the president should face down critics of the project and approve this important project. While this well recognized voice on environmental issues joins Canada's side, the NDP continues to oppose a project that will create 140,000 jobs for Canada.
Canadians know that we need to diversify our export markets. When will the NDP finally stop supporting foreign interests that want to destroy Canadian jobs?
Mr. Speaker, the member for Cariboo—Prince George said just now that the bill has been out for months. And also, the member has been here for 20 years. I do not know what he has done in those 20 years, but he does not realize that the bill came out last week. That is not months, that is a few days.
Again, we are discussing the time allocated for the bill. The Conservatives like to get up and say how good and fine the bill is and that we should support it. If the bill is so good and so fine, and if we should pass it, why do the Conservatives not want to talk about it and why are they trying to cut off debate?
Mr. Speaker, I have to thank the member for Cariboo—Prince George for his insightful question and his excellent work on this file. As the Minister of Industry pointed out so clearly, the NDP's dangerous carbon tax would increase prices for all Canadians. It would kill Canadian jobs in the resource sector. It would not just damage the west, as the leader of the NDP would claim, but all of Canada.
Ontario finance minister, Dwight Duncan, has this to say:
Alberta's oilsands are a valuable resource both here in Alberta and the entire country, a resource that helps fuel the Canadian economy.
When will the NDP abandon its reckless ideology, change its policies and join us as we create jobs for Canadians?
Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's point of privilege. There have been many cases in the past where it has been found to be a breach of a member's privilege when someone suggests that he or she is the member of Parliament when he or she is not, regardless of whether it is a former member of Parliament, some other constituent or a Canadian.
I would remind the Conservative Party that it did the same thing in my riding when the member for Cariboo—Prince George assigned a go-to person and inferred that the people in my particular riding should not go to their member of Parliament because they had chosen wrong in the last election. I am using his words not mine.
We need to be consistent in our application of this rule from all sides and that when a member of Parliament is elected he or she must be allowed to do his or her work with no cloud presented as to who the representative is.
This practice has been done previously by the government but it has stopped doing it, partly because of the public outcry. However, in this case, if what my friend from Labrador is saying is true, then we would seek those documents as well.
I think, Mr. Speaker, you will be urged to find a prima facie case of privilege because it prevents the member from doing his elected duties for the people there.
Perhaps the hon. member can wind up through questions and comments.
Questions and comments, the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George.
Mr. Speaker, there is a reason why for 19 years the constituents of the member for Cariboo—Prince George have trusted him to represent their interests in the House of Commons. It is because he understands something about the west that the Leader of the Opposition does not, which is that western Canada's economy is indeed contributing to all of Canada's economy. The energy industry in Alberta, the forest industry in British Columbia and the mining sector all across western Canada is employing Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
It is not about the west versus everybody else, like the Leader of the Opposition plays it as. Developing our natural resources, uniting Canadians, creating wealth and creating jobs is good for British Columbia and good for all Canadians. That is what we understand. That is what the NDP apparently never will.
Mr. Speaker, I adamantly oppose this bill, Bill C-316, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (incarceration).
This bill aims to amend EI qualifying provisions to deny those found guilty of an offence access to employment insurance. Current provisions already allow for the qualification period to be extended if the claimant has spent fewer than two years incarcerated. Those incarcerated for fewer than two years are not hardened criminals. These are people who can be rehabilitated. When they are released from incarceration, they have paid their debt to society. If one thinks about it, incarceration is the penalty levied by the court.
Now the government wants to make them pay twice. I find it is a bit of an overkill. It is a bit cruel and punitive. Many of those incarcerated for fewer than two years are often incarcerated for “poverty related crimes”. For instance, approximately 40,000 Canadians are in provincial corrections facilities at any given time for failure to pay a fine. Imposing fines under provincial acts does not take into account people's ability to pay, and often leads to reoffending and doing more time for the same crime. It becomes a vicious cycle. People cannot afford to pay, so they go into jail, they lose their job, they come back out and they cannot afford to pay fines again.
Three per cent of all people in custody in provincial or territorial institutions, in 2008-09, were incarcerated for failure to pay a fine, women and first nations in particular. According to the 2011 National Council of Welfare report, The Dollars and Sense of Solving Poverty, 80% of incarcerated Canadian women are there for poverty related crimes; 39% of those for failure to pay a fine.
Seventy per cent of incarcerated women are single mothers struggling with the high cost of living and trying to feed their families. As a result, crimes of desperation are often committed. Many of them have families for whom they are the sole breadwinner. Many have absolutely no choice because they do not have the skills and education to find well-paying jobs.
The United Way of Calgary, in a report in 2008, called Crimes of Desperation, said that,“Incarcerating a woman for a poverty-related crime does punish her”. The report points out that the punishment is for being poor and trying to cope “by using a socially inappropriate but readily available means”. Such means would include stealing or doing whatever she needs to do to get some food on the table. The report suggests that, “Given this, the rates of re-offence are significant and costly”.
The hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George noted in committee that he does not understand how people cannot afford to pay a fine. I think this really only underscores a fact about how out of touch the government and the hon. member are with people who actually live in poverty and who commit crimes of desperation.
It is likely that these individuals, who already have limited incomes before they went into prison, have a hard time getting a job when they come out because of the stigma attached to being in jail. That is a double whammy for these people. Again, researchers found that ex-prisoners who are able to find legitimate jobs are less likely to reoffend than ex-prisoners who do not find jobs.
Employment insurance is not a perk. It is there to assist in the transition to employment. It is not a handout. EI is something one has to pay into in order to be eligible. We are therefore only speaking of people who are eligible who should have access to EI when they get out of prison. Without this insurance, these individuals may end up on welfare. I want to stress this: EI benefits are currently only payable to ex-prisoners upon their release if they are eligible.
This bill is a penalty on top of a court-ordered penalty. Our correctional institutions are not, as the government thinks, the answer to housing, mental illness, homelessness and addiction. They are rehabilitation centres, particularly for those offenders who are incarcerated for fewer than two years. If one believes prisoners can and should be rehabilitated to become positive contributors to our society, then one will agree that support programs both inside and outside the prison system will help them be able to live meaningful lives again.
Finding a legitimate productive job is one of the best ways to ensure an ex-prisoner does not reoffend because of poverty. EI is that bridge that helps them to get there.
I want to say that I oppose this bill. I think it is punitive and unnecessary. I am really sorry to see that it is even being discussed here in the House.
Mr. Speaker, I believe the member for Cariboo--Prince George was well intentioned in trying to fill what he thinks is a loophole in the EI system, but he failed to dig deeply into why the extension was first created and why it serves a purpose today, even for only that small handful of people it impacts.
Before I get to the why though, I want to start with the who. The who is Michael Starr. For the benefit of the House, Michael Starr was a Progressive Conservative member of Parliament, first elected in 1952 for the riding of Oshawa. He served under Prime Minister John Diefenbaker as labour minister from 1957 to 1963. He ran for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party in 1967. Bob Stanfield won the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party and while he waited for a byelection, Michael Starr served as the leader of the official opposition.
After politics, he had a great career. He was chairman of the Ontario board for workmen's compensation. He has a collection of civilian citations. There is an Ontario provincial building that is named after Michael Starr. This week, which by the way has been deemed Michael Starr week in Oshawa, people gathered in the Michael Starr building to celebrate Michael Starr's induction into the Oshawa Walk of Fame with all proceeds going to the Michael Starr scholarship fund.
I mention Michael Starr's name for a purpose. It was this Progressive Conservative minister of labour, the Hon. Michael Starr, who introduced this particular change that this private member's legislation would delete. He introduced this in 1959. I want to read from Hansard what he said at that time:
Ordinarily a person who had spent up to two years in penitentiary, would lose the benefit of unemployment insurance contributions, which would impose a further punishment in addition to those levied by the court. This disability is now removed and it will help a great deal in the rehabilitation of [our citizens].
That is what the Progressive Conservatives thought then. I am very interested in what progressive Conservatives think now. As Liberals, we do not base our decisions on ideology. We base them on evidence and sound reasons for doing or not doing something.
Let us look at some of the people who could be affected by the bill. First, it only affects in almost all cases people who are confined to provincial jail for a period of less than two years. We are not talking about hardened criminals. We are talking about those in jail for under two years. Seventy-five per cent of these people have been sentenced to less than three months. There are no murderers, no rapists, no child molesters, no crime bosses. We are not talking about their receiving EI benefits, getting any money; this is just about the grace period.
I could talk about several aspects of the bill that are going to undoubtedly deny other people because of the bureaucratic red tape and federal-provincial black holes that will be created, but I want to focus on the one main reason our party is against the bill.
Many people who end up in jail are there because of poverty. We could argue that it does not absolve them from their crime. However, if we are changing legislation that affects them, we need to understand the reasons they are in jail.
I am sure the Conservatives would like everyone to think they are cracking down on the Charlie Mansons in the world. Let us look at the one group that is most affected by the bill, and that is single mothers.
The National Council of Welfare's 2011 report, “The Dollars and Sense of Solving Poverty”, had a shocking statistic that almost sums up the position on this bill. Eighty per cent of incarcerated women are in there for poverty related crimes. Thirty-nine per cent are there for failure to pay a fine. Seventy per cent of incarcerated women are single mothers struggling with the high cost of living and as a result, crimes of desperation are sometimes committed.
United Way of Calgary issued a report in 2008 called “Crimes of Desperation”. It said this regarding women in jail for their failure to pay fines:
Incarcerating a woman for a poverty-related crime does punish her, but the punishment is for being poor and trying to cope by using a socially inappropriate but readily available means. Given this, the rates of re-offence are significant and costly.
When the member for Cariboo—Prince George appeared before the committee to testify about the bill, he said that he could not believe people would be in jail because of a fine. This is what he said:
I'm surprised, given our justice system, that people are thrown in jail for not paying parking tickets or fines.
Maybe my colleague would be surprised if people were thrown in jail because he is from B.C. which has a very low incarceration rate. However, since B.C. is one of the lowest, maybe he should talk to his colleagues next door whose rate of incarceration because of non-payment of fines is 60% higher.
According to a National Council of Welfare report in 2000, “Justice and the Poor”, in 1997 and 1998, over 40,000 people were in jail in Canada because of failure to pay fines. The same report showed that between 1984 and 1988 the major crime that was charged, accounting for 42% of all charges, was theft under $1,000. The number of charges for theft under $1,000 started to increase in August, when children are going back to school, and peaked in December, just before Christmastime.
The 1995 National Council of Welfare report, “Legal Aid and the Poor”, reported the fact that thousands of low-income Canadians are imprisoned routinely because they are unable to pay fines. The report found that people are still being sentenced for failure to pay fines because of traffic tickets and the Liquor Control Act because it does not take into account people's ability to pay. This report also stated:
The vast majority of people admitted to prison because of fines are there because they have no money to pay, and a disproportionate number are Aboriginal people.
Let us consider a scenario. A woman who is on EI is riding the C-Train on Thursday morning and is caught riding without a ticket because she is too cheap and did not want to pay the $2.50. For this she is fined $150. She goes to court and pays the $150 fine because she has the means to do so. She receives no jail time and her EI eligibility period is not affected.
Let us look at another woman, a single mom on EI who is having an extremely hard time making ends meet. She rides the C-Train and is caught without a ticket because she cannot afford to pay the $2.50. She is fined $150. However, unlike the woman in the previous example, she cannot afford to pay. She may have been charged with previous offences. She may not qualify for community service and therefore will be incarcerated at the Calgary Remand Centre. She could be there for a week and as a result not only would lose a week's EI benefits, but she could also lose her job and a week from the grace period.
The cost to incarcerate this woman at the Calgary Remand Centre is somewhere between $410 a day and $690 a day. Even without that, the cost would be about $1,400. Add in on top of that the cost for the state to look after her children while she is incarcerated. It would be $1,400 in incarceration costs to cover a $150 fine ,all for a $2.50 train ticket.
Maybe for my colleagues on the other side losing a week of EI may not be a big deal, but to this woman it is devastating.
In 1938 a royal commission investigated the penal system in Canada. It said, “Imprisonment for non-payment, when the convicted person has not the means or ability to pay, is, in fact, imprisonment for poverty”. That was in 1938. Therefore, I say to the progressive Conservatives on the other side, as much as it was right then, I still believe it is right now. I would hope that the progressives on the government side of the bench would move to make sure that this bill does not pass.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity I have to share a few words on Bill C-19.
No other issue raises people’s blood pressure in my riding as much as the long gun registry does. This is an important issue in my riding, Tobique—Mactaquac.
I appreciate the opportunity to rise today. It is especially interesting to follow my colleague for Cariboo—Prince George. He has given us a nice history lesson on how we got to where we are today from 1995. Here we are 17 years later still dealing with this issue. Hopefully we will be done dealing with it very soon.
I also want to give a tremendous amount of credit to my colleague, the member for Yorkton—Melville, who has carried the lunch can on this for a number of years. He is a tremendous advocate on behalf of our heritage activities in the country.
I will focus my comments on three major areas based on information and feedback from my riding since I started running for office back in 2004. I have heard this in every election and on every weekend. It is about public safety, respect for our traditions and protecting taxpayer dollars.
It is important to put this into context and I will provide a little background on the riding of Tobique—Mactaquac.
To look at some of our western ridings, it is not one of the biggest, but it is somewhere around 17,000 square kilometres, so it is a fairly large riding for Atlantic Canada. It extends along the border with Maine in the U.S. It has a tremendous amount of traditional industries such as farming and forestry as well as tourism, which includes hunting and fishing. In this riding there are a lot of outfitters, guides and people who entertain sports and come in at various times during the year for hunting and fishing. This is an important aspect in my riding.
I did a poll a number of years ago and I received about 1,400 responses back. Of the constituents of Tobique—Mactaquac, over 90% said that we had to get rid of the long gun registry. I did another poll recently. Again, those numbers are staggering, still up over 90%.
I am not in denial of the challenges that violent gun crime presents to people. It is an issue. At the same time, I can point to two instances a couple of weeks ago of armed robberies in two small community stores in my riding. The people came in with a handgun. At the end of the day, people were scared and intimated. However, mandatory minimums for serious gun crimes are about that. This is what our legislation is intended to do. This is why we put those policies in place for, not a gun registry that unfairly targets the folks who are in our traditional industries.
On the other side, we have also invested in policing, helped communities with their policing and crime prevention strategies to help our youth understand that it is important they stay away from gangs. Also, our flagship representation and bill going through now, the safe streets and communities act, is very important in addressing some of those issues.
Bill C-19 is a pretty simple bill. First and foremost, the new legislation would remove the need to register non-restricted firearms such as rifles and shotguns. This provision is directed at all the farmers who need to protect their livestock, all the sportsmen and women who hunt wild game and all the other rural residents who use long guns to make a living. However, as it has been emphasized here a number of times, I do not think we want to forget that individuals will still need to have valid licences to possess a firearm.
We have had a number of people come to our offices to talk about the process used to obtain a licence, and it is onerous. There is a number of hours of training. Some people in my riding provide the training to those folks. They go through the background checks that are required to determine safety. The bill would preserve these public safety aspects, but it would strike a balance with what gun owners need. Owners of non-restricted and shotguns would no longer have to register these firearms. That is great news to all the long gun owners who have waited so long to see this registry eliminated.
At the same time, owners have talked to us about their personal information. I am pleased to say that clause 29 of the bill also includes the destruction of the records related to the registration of rifles and shotguns. Unless the data is destroyed, there is still a long gun registry and there is still the ability for someone to come down the road and recreate it. It is important for us to ensure that those records are gone.
The second point is about respect. I want to refer to a committee that I put together back in 2006 to talk about the long gun registry. It was interesting how the folks on that committee started it out as a long gun registry committee, but then decided they wanted it to be called a public safety committee. They wanted to address firearms legislation from the standpoint of the proper controls of licensing.
Some of the people on that committee were Mr. Cormier from Saint-André, who does training and gives the course to long gun owners; Mr. Kierstead, who is the coach of the national shooting team; Bill Ensor and Ray Dillon, sport guides in the region of my riding; a doctor who was a gun enthusiast; Mr. Ray Tibbits, a member of a local gun club, who respects and teaches our young kids in the proper use of firearms; and Mr. Dale Clark, former president of the New Brunswick Trappers and Fur Harvesters Federation. Those people had great input to where we could go with the bill.
I know I am getting to the top of the hour, but I will quickly note that the previous bill, Bill C-68, and the long gun registry did not respect our traditional pursuits and did not respect seniors, who were being harassed by the long gun registry, and other seniors who might have had their long guns handed down to them through the generations. They were being harassed by police forces and the long gun registry, which is just despicable.
Seeing no one rise, the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George for his right of reply.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Cariboo—Prince George.
It is with considerable respect for the people of my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke that I rise today to speak in support of this legislation that will finally scrap the long gun registry. Of all of the issues I am called upon to stand up for with regard to the people of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke no issue produces a more emotional reaction from constituents than the Liberal long gun registry. I am pleased to acknowledge the many farmers and hunters who have stood by my side on this issue. We never doubted that one day we would be successful. This legislation is their victory.
The issue has been a long road for me since I sat down for the first time at the Buckhorn restaurant in Calabogie and had all of the faults of Bill C-68, which is now referred to as the Liberal long gun registry, clearly explained to me in detail. For those members who have been on the front lines opposing the long gun registry in Parliament, our leader has always been the member for Yorkton—Melville in Saskatchewan, who is helped by his very capable assistant Dennis Young.
In 2003, the member for Yorkton—Melville shared the stage with me at a meeting held at the Renfrew Armouries where over 900 farmers and hunters came to show their support for our efforts to scrap the long gun registry. Some say that the meeting was so hot that the heat spilled over to the outside when a vehicle spontaneously burst into flames in the parking lot. All Canadians owe him a great debt of gratitude. On our behalf, we thank the member. The end to this odious registry is almost near and in no small part due to his efforts.
In my home riding I have been assisted in the fight for freedom and the right to own private property by people such as Donald Broome of Cobden, who has been one of the most articulate opponents of the Liberal long gun registry in my riding. Mr. Broome early on identified the highly undemocratic deficiencies of Bill C-68 that raised the ire of all reasonable Canadians. His treatise The Nation of Sheeple, listed for publication the 11 violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms inherent in Bill C-68, such as the constitutional rights pertaining to unreasonable search and seizure, self-incrimination and to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Like Mr. Broome, people in my riding recognized that the opposition to Bill C-68 was about more than just the long gun registry. I sincerely thank Mr. Ron Wilson from Westmeath. Like Donald Broome, Ron Wilson's thoughtful analysis of the faults of the Liberal long gun registry was powerful ammunition to use against our detractors. Ron opposed misinformation from our opponents with facts so he never lost an argument.
I thank all of the members of the Pembroke Outdoor Sportsman's Club as well as all sportsmen in clubs across Renfrew County for their unwaivering support. Their trust was well placed. Over the years many more would enlist in the fight to get rid of the Liberals and their long gun registry.
I also thank international champion marksman Scott Murray from Arnprior; Frank Green from Combermere; Al Groves and the recently deceased Carmen Greer from Beachburg; Larry Gaffney, who has also passed away, from Deep River; Calvin McLaughlin from Haley Station; Ray Brisebois from Chalk River; Ken O'day and our dearly departed Harry Haley from Eganville; Norm Lentz from Palmer Rapids; Ian Fidler from Petawawa; Stan Pecoskie and all of the members of the Renfrew County Private Landowners Association; Graham Faught, who we know as Fuzzy, from Pembroke; Phil Conway from Barry's Bay; the folks who run the Eganville gun show; Kellard Witt from Alice and Fraser; and Garnet Kranz from Killaloe. I hope Garnet does not think his number is going to be deleted from my speed dial because we still have much to do. I could go on and on.
On a very cold winter night, word went out that the Liberal long gun registry minister was making a visit to support a provincial candidate from my riding and from his party. A few phone calls later and in short order a welcoming committee of sportsmen was assembled outside the hall the minister was attending. They intended to make sure he got the message that they wanted the long gun registry scrapped.
For days afterwards I received calls from across eastern Ontario from disappointed hunters who would like to have joined the protest.
Sentiments against the Liberal long gun registry spread across rural Ontario. I can state without a doubt that the crescendo of the first campaign in which I was elected as the MP for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke was that night at an all candidates meeting at the Pembroke Outdoor Sportsman's Club. My opponent, who was the local representative for the Liberal long gun registry, told the packed crowd that had jammed into the meeting that the long gun registry would remain in effect so they had better get a life.
Everyone in the room that night and, as it would turn out, the majority of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke voters resolved to give the Liberal long gun registry and all its supporters a taste of defeat.
In a later election, on that very same stage when one of our country's finest veterans, George Tompkins, asked a question about the gun registry, the Liberal candidate told him he should move to Texas.
In a riding that had not voted Conservative in almost 70 years through the Diefenbaker and Mulroney sweeps, a beachhead of freedom, as it was characterized at the time, was established in Ontario in Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.
Along with my colleague in the riding of Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, we represented a grassroots movement for private property rights that is now represented across the province and in the legislature of Ontario.
I am proud to confirm that the landowners' movement started in Renfrew county and spread across the province. Who knew of the role that would be played by a group of hunters and farmers, the rural people who built this country, who were fed up with big government telling them what they could and could not do or the pivotal role they would have in restoring the true representative democracy of the people of Canada?
We were told we were wasting our time and that the Liberal long gun registry would never be eliminated. Opposition candidates in the five federal elections in which I contested continually attacked my support for the people of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke who wanted to see the Liberal long gun registry scrapped. They never wavered in their opposition to the registry and I never wavered in my support for them.
That brings us to today. The long gun registry has to go. When it does I will be celebrating with my constituents. The time has come for us to get on with it.
Questions and comments.
The hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George.
The electoral district of Cariboo--Prince George (British Columbia) has a population of 106,382 with 75,516 registered voters and 219 polling divisions.
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