May 11, 2004

NDP

Lorne Nystrom

New Democratic Party

Hon. Lorne Nystrom

What has happened is that we have had radical cutbacks by the Liberal Party to health care funding in Canada. Back in the 1960s, the NDP managed to force the Liberal Party to bring in national health care. I know that the member across is running in shame and hiding his head.

When the NDP managed to force the Liberal Party under Pearson to bring in health care, it was funded on a fifty-fifty basis by the federal government and the provinces, but there have been massive cutbacks by the federal government. Now the federal government funds only about 16% of health care and the provincial governments about 84% in terms of cash payments for health care in the country.

What we in the NDP are saying, and it is what Roy Romanow said as well, is that the federal contribution to health care should be brought up to 25% of the total costs.

What does that mean? In my province of Saskatchewan, which is one of the smaller provinces of the country, the health care budget this year was $2.69 billion. That is an increase of 6.3% in the last year. In other words, the Saskatchewan NDP government has been funding health care at a rate higher than the inflation rate, so it has been keeping up, but despite that, health care is underfunded in my province, just as it is in other provinces. If the federal government increased its share from 16% to 25%, it would be an additional $306 million per year for the province of Saskatchewan. That would be a significant contribution to the Saskatchewan health care system.

In British Columbia--the member for Vancouver East is here--if the federal government paid 25% of the costs instead of 16% there would be an additional $1.1 billion put into the health care system there. In Alberta, it would mean an additional $751 million. In Quebec, there would be an additional $2.15 billion in health care funding. In Newfoundland and Labrador, it would be an additional $175 million.

In New Brunswick--the member from New Brunswick is across the way--it would be an additional $214 million if the federal government paid 25% of the costs as opposed to about 16% of the costs. Imagine what that extra $214 million would mean for a province like New Brunswick. That is an awful lot of cash for the health care system in the province of New Brunswick. We should not forget that is at only 25%. In the 1960s when the health care system was brought in, the federal government paid 50% of the costs. Now it pays 16% of the costs and the NDP is recommending 25% of the costs. That would be an extra $214 million for the province of New Brunswick.

Prince Edward Island would get another $43 million if the federal government paid 25% of the cost of medicare for Canadian provinces. Manitoba would also receive a large increase and Quebec, as I mentioned, would receive another $2.15 billion.

In every province in this country there would be a large increase if the federal government were to pay some 25% of the costs of health care.

Therefore, one thing that has to happen is more federal health care money coming into the health care system. The other concern we have is the privatization of health care in this country. It has increased during the Liberal Party's term of office. The main reason for it is that they have starved and strangled the health care system. When we starve the health care system, we force the provinces to look elsewhere and we have seen the establishment of some private clinics, some private health care facilities, some for profit health care facilities.

I believe that health care in this country should be provided on a non-profit basis. It should be a public system, accessible to each and every single Canadian, regardless of the thickness of one's pocketbook or wallet.

That is not the way the government across the way is going. The health minister himself was open to more privatization in the health care system. I do believe that is absolutely and totally wrong. The Minister of Health, just a few days ago, made this statement:

If some provinces want to experiment with the private delivery option, my view is that as long as they respect the single-payer, public payer, we should be examining these efforts.

So the Liberals want to explore the private delivery of health care, and we do not have private delivery in health care unless we build in the profit motive. The profit motive has to be there to attract private investment and the minister is open to private investment. He is open to for profit health care. I believe that is the wrong way to go.

It is the way of the Conservative Party. The member from Penticton is leaving. I remember that his great leader Brian Mulroney talked at one time of greater health care. His friend in Ontario, Mike Harris, did exactly the same thing, and Grant Devine in my province of Saskatchewan. Now we have this other great conservative party, led by the Prime Minister from LaSalle—Émard--

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
?

An hon. member

Oh, oh.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
NDP

Lorne Nystrom

New Democratic Party

Hon. Lorne Nystrom

--that is also talking about health care, and now I am being heckled by the member from Vancouver.

With me I have a quote from the current Leader of the Opposition, from the Toronto Star of October 18, 2002, in which he was critical of the report on the future of health care and especially for its failure to call for privatization. He said:

Romanow virtually ruled out any new ideas for the provision of private-sector services within the public system, and even talked about expanding the existing system.

In other words, the Conservative Party is upset that Romanow did not talk about more private sector health care. It is upset that Romanow called for the expansion of public health care.

We know exactly where the Conservative Party stands. The Conservative Party wants two tier health in this country, a private system, a for profit system of health care in this country, where the rich can afford to pay for it and the poor line up at second-rate hospitals.

That is exactly where the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar stands in support of her leader: for more private health care. I will be very interested when the people on the doorstep in Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar hear this from this party. People are watching this today. I will quote from the Toronto Star once again. The Leader of the Opposition is saying that he is critical of Romanow because of his failure to call for privatization of health care. He said:

Romanow virtually ruled out any new ideas for the provision of private-sector services within the public system and even talked about expanding the existing system.

Is it not a horror show that Mr. Romanow and the NDP want to expand public health care in this country? Here we are with the Conservative Party, which wants more private, for profit health care, that party of Brian Mulroney.

The people back home are interested in this too. The Conservative Party now has been endorsed by Brian Mulroney. In Moncton, Brian Mulroney, the great hero of western Conservatives, endorsed the Conservative Party. The current leader was happy to have that endorsement. The current leader is saying that history will judge Mr. Mulroney very well. Of course: this is coming from a Conservative about another Conservative. They are proud of Mike Harris, the Mike Harris who wanted to set up private hospitals and privatize health care and privatize everything in the world. They are proud of Grant Devine, another Conservative premier of my province of Saskatchewan.

That is the Conservative Party. The people of this country will not be fooled when they go to the polls and see this party of Brian Mulroney that wants to privatize health care. That is exactly where they are. I wonder where the old-fashioned, populist Reform Party has gone to. Those members get to Parliament for a few years and enjoy their salaries and their pensions, and then suddenly there is a metamorphosis and they come out as Brian Mulroney's Conservatives.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
?

The Deputy Speaker

I just wanted to seek assurance from the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle that in fact he was splitting his time with a colleague. If he is splitting his time, I would have to inform him that his time is up and we will go to questions or comments.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
CA

James Moore

Canadian Alliance

Mr. James Moore (Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I certainly agreed with one thing in the comments of my friend from Regina—Qu'Appelle. That is the idea that the fiscal reality that came from Ottawa that choked off health care spending in the mid-1990s was certainly a detriment to the delivery of health care services in this country.

There is a flip side to that coin which is that the delivery of health care services in Canada is provided by the provincial governments. We all know that. One side of this equation is that on the one hand the cut in transfers to the provinces by the Liberals in Ottawa certainly damaged health care delivery services.

As a member of Parliament and a citizen of British Columbia I have to say that the NDP has far from solid ground to stand on when it comes to chiding other levels of government about responsible fiscal management and what that means to the delivery of health care.

The member talked accurately about the $250 million sponsorship program and how that money might have gone to help health care. I agree with him on that but what was missing from his rant was his equal condemnation of the $500 million wasted on the fast ferry project in British Columbia. That money could have gone a very long way to helping the people who are dying while on waiting lists in the province of British Columbia. The quality of life and standard of living is being damaged in the province of British Columbia because of the dramatic fiscal mismanagement of his own party, the NDP.

The cutbacks that came from Ottawa did not help, but it is utter hypocrisy for any New Democrat to stand in the House and say that the NDP has solid ground to stand on. The NDP has utterly no ground to stand on when it comes to proper fiscal management, when it devastated my province of British Columbia and caused a total financial meltdown, that caused people's lives to be in jeopardy in British Columbia.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
NDP

Lorne Nystrom

New Democratic Party

Hon. Lorne Nystrom

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the Mulroney Conservatives are applauding that comment.

The member from British Columbia must be deaf in his left ear because I never even mentioned the sponsorship program in my remarks. He was complimenting me on my comments about the sponsorship program but I never mentioned it at all.

If is funny if the people of British Columbia are that upset with the NDP because the NDP is now skyrocketing to the top of the polls. His friend Gordon Campbell now is trailing the NDP in British Columbia, or he is darned close to trailing. I have seen polls in British Columbia that are tied with the NDP slightly ahead. At any rate the NDP is skyrocketing in British Columbia.

I am glad he also raised the question of fiscal responsibility. The record in this country shows that the NDP provincial governments in Saskatchewan and Manitoba over the years have been leading examples of fiscal responsibility. When there was a Conservative government led by his friend Grant Devine in my province, he almost bankrupted the province of Saskatchewan. His Conservatives also had 16 criminal convictions of fraud in Saskatchewan.

That great conservative hero of the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, George Bush, is running one of the biggest deficits in the history of the world. We could go back to the 1930s and who had the great debts were the Conservatives under R.B. Bennett. All over the place it is the Conservatives who are fiscally irresponsible with taxpayers' money.

Here we have the Conservative Party--

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
CA

James Moore

Canadian Alliance

Mr. James Moore

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I do not believe that George Bush is actually the premier of British Columbia. Perhaps the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle could address his answer to the question about the province of British Columbia for once.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
?

The Deputy Speaker

I do not think that is a point of order so let us get back to the debate.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
NDP

Lorne Nystrom

New Democratic Party

Hon. Lorne Nystrom

Mr. Speaker, I did and I said that in British Columbia the NDP is skyrocketing in popularity. We will see on election night the great loss of Conservative seats in British Columbia federally as people react against the Conservative Party.

The member also asked about fiscal responsibility and about what social democrats do. I told him what happened in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the record of Tommy Douglas and Alan Blakeney and Roy Romanow right up to the current day, or Ed Schreyer in Manitoba and Howard Pawley and Gary Doer in Manitoba. These are examples of governments that are fiscally responsible compared to the Conservatives.

The Conservative Party of Grant Devine, they worship people like them. They are their heroes. The Conservative government of Grant Devine almost bankrupted Saskatchewan. We could look to their great leader Brian Mulroney and the great debts that he had. Mulroney was the leader of the Conservative Party.

It is going to be very interesting in Blackstrap for example, to ask the ordinary people what they think of Brian Mulroney and the Conservative Party. There are some people here who fought really hard against Brian Mulroney and now all of a sudden he has endorsed the party, he is the former leader and they worship this guy. It is the same old party once again.

George Bush is running up a huge deficit in the United States and yet they worship him. They want us to go to war in Iraq. They want to send young people to Iraq who would be killed there. George Bush is the guy who lied to the world and lied to Congress about weapons of mass destruction, yet they support George Bush all the way.

People do not want that kind of extremism in our country. That is why the NDP is now the alternative to the government across the way. That is why the NDP is on the march. That is why that extremist republican party north is going to be marginalized after the next campaign.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
NDP

Dick Proctor

New Democratic Party

Mr. Dick Proctor (Palliser, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague from Regina--Qu'Appelle. We are debating, as we wind down, that the House condemn the private for profit delivery of health care which the government has encouraged since 1993, and of course I am delighted as always to have the opportunity to speak.

I have the opportunity to speak, and for that I want to thank the Conservative Party, because it has managed throughout the course the day, a full day of debate on this important topic, to put forward one speaker all day long, a handful of hecklers and people who would have questions and comments, but one speaker. It has 75 members and purports to be the government in waiting, the official opposition that is ready to take over. By any public opinion poll, health care is the issue in Canada. We have a debate on private for profit health care and it has managed to put up one speaker all day long.

The New Democratic Party has carried this debate from start to finish, as admittedly it should because it introduced the motion. It is absolutely mind boggling and bewildering that the so-called official opposition has been able to put up only its health critic to take part in a significant and important way in a very important debate. Presumably the Conservatives are suggesting that their leader said everything that needed to be said yesterday on the topic when he introduced that party's platform on health care. Of course there would be no need to add or embellish perfection, if that were the case, except that the leader of that party has over the years said many things on the topic of health care and the private delivery thereof. I would like to note one or two of those.

In the House in October of 2002, the current leader of the Conservative Party said:

Monopolies in the public sector are just as objectionable as monopolies in the private sector. It should not matter who delivers health care, whether it is private, profit, not for profit, or public, as long as Canadians have access to those services...regardless of their financial needs.

Also in 2002, the leader's website--and I cannot remember which party he was running for at that time; he has been in so many leadership campaigns--stated:

Favours diminishing the Canada Health Act to allow provinces to “experiment with market reforms and private health care delivery options. [The leadership candidate] is prepared to take tough positions including experimenting with private delivery in the public health system”.

The point I am driving home is the Conservative position is that it does not matter who delivers health care or how it is delivered, as long as it is accessible. That is the point they make repeatedly.

The for profit health care folks deny the same level of care. People have pointed out that where they have made comparisons, the death rate in the for profit health model is significantly higher. The point has been made by the Canadian Health Coalition that 2,000 more Canadians per year would die under a for profit system than under a not for profit system.

Mr. Mazankowski, a well-known former Conservative cabinet minister and deputy prime minister, asked at the Romanow commission hearings a couple of years ago why everyone is afraid of private provision of health care; if the customers are not satisfied they will go out of business. There was a similar comment from Senator Michael Kirby who did that institution's report on health care. He said, “We do not care if health care is privately delivered. Frankly we do not care who owns the institutions”.

I want to refer to somebody who does care about how health care is delivered and who pointed out the difference very clearly and very eloquently. I am referring to Dr. Arnold Relman, professor emeritus of medicine and social medicine at Harvard Medical School. He was on Parliament Hill a couple of years ago to tell a Senate committee about the U.S. experience on health care. Dr. Relman said:

My conclusion from all of this study is that most of the current problems of the U.S. system--and they are numerous--result from the growing encroachment of private for-profit ownership and competitive markets on a sector of our economy that properly belongs in the public domain. No health care system in the industrialized world is as heavily commercialized as ours, [referring to the United States] and none is as expensive, inefficient, and inequitable--or as unpopular. Indeed, just about the only parts of U.S. society happy with our current market-driven health care system are the owners and investors in the for-profit industries now living off the system.

Dr. Relman went on to say:

Private health care businesses have certainly not achieved the benefits touted by their advocates. In fact, there is now much evidence that private businesses delivering health care for profit have greatly increased the total cost of health care and damaged--not helped--their public and private non-profit competitors.

He pointed to the example of the failure of the commercial HMOs in the United States, an insurance system that was seen a few years ago. Senior citizens covered by medicare in that country were encouraged to obtain their care from private for profit HMOs that would be paid by the government. It soon became obvious that the costs of care out of the private system were much greater and that senior citizens were dissatisfied with the care they received. A wholesale exit of senior citizens from the private system ensued. They voted with their feet, in other words, for the public system. He concluded by saying:

--the U.S. experience has shown that private markets and commercial competition have made things worse, not better, for our health care system. That could have been predicted, because health care is clearly a public concern and a personal right of all citizens. By its very nature, it is fundamentally different from most other good[s] and services distributed in commercial markets. Markets simply are not designed to deal effectively with the delivery of medical care--which is a social function that needs to be addressed in the public sector.

We submit that there is a very significant difference in how health care is delivered. We want to see it delivered in the public domain. Our party's point is that there is really very little difference between the Liberal and Conservative parties on this subject. I know the government and the Prime Minister have been trying to suggest that there is a vast difference between what they would do and what a Conservative Party in power would do on the delivery of private for profit health care. We know there is very little difference.

Over the weekend and yesterday it was interesting to hear some comments by Tom Kent who has played a very significant role in this country, particularly in the federal government and in the Liberal Party over many years. He was talking about Paul Martin Sr. and the role that he played in health care after the Prime Minister's apparent outburst in caucus last week about how his father's party was not going to give up on this. Mr. Kent's recollection, as substantiated by Paul Hellyer who was in cabinet at the time, was that Paul Martin Sr. had a relatively minor role to play in all of that.

More important and in regard to today's debate, Mr. Kent was passionate in his complaints about what he felt the present Prime Minister did to undermine medicare when he was finance minister between 1993 and 2002. Mr. Kent said:

[The] 1995 budget...ended all pretense of a commitment [to medicare] and substituted just the [Canada Health and Social Transfer], which is an arbitrary amount...as distinct from a commitment to a share in provincial costs.... The contract for medicare was already tattered. In 1995, it was unilaterally and unceremoniously thrown out.

In conclusion, our position in this party is that there is very little difference between those two parties on the issue of private for profit delivery of health care. We think it is the New Democratic Party that will stand to speak on this issue and to benefit from the lack of direction from the government and the official opposition on this very important matter.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
LIB

Jeannot Castonguay

Liberal

Mr. Jeannot Castonguay (Madawaska—Restigouche, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I listened with a great deal of interest to the presentations of the two hon. members who just spoke. I think we can agree that currently in Canada doctors are providing excellent services.

We also know that the majority of these doctors are private entrepreneurs. They are paid a fee for service, and if they do not work, they are not remunerated. If they do work, they are. It is up to them to take care of their own fringe benefits.

My colleague is simply suggesting that we stop this type of practice in Canada and that all doctors should be salaried public workers. I wonder if we would receive better care that way. Would the cost be any different?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
NDP

Dick Proctor

New Democratic Party

Mr. Dick Proctor

Mr. Speaker, I certainly think people who work in the profession feel that if we had doctors paid on a salaried basis, it would help matters. I worked in the department of health in the province of Saskatchewan before coming to this place. One thing the department was working on was exactly that. It was trying to get doctors off of a fee for service arrangement and onto an annual salary.

I am pleased to say that I belong to the Regina community clinic on Winnipeg Street in Regina. There are roughly half a dozen doctors there and they are all on a salaried basis. Progressive governments that are looking for choices on this would like to see more doctors on salary rather than on a fee for service basis so we can try to reign in some of the costs.

When Mr. Romanow was the premier of the province of Saskatchewan, he used to say that the province could spend 100% of its money on health care and it still would not be enough. Of course there had to be money to pay down the debt left over from Grant Devine and for education, roads and a number of other things. However, this has become a juggernaut over the last 10 years that has grabbed provinces like Saskatchewan and most others in the country, and it will not let go because of the rising costs.

I have less concern overall about the doctors on a fee for service basis than I have on private MRIs. Inevitably, built into those private MRIs will have to be a profit motive. That is our concern. We want to limit and reduce the for profit delivery rather than see it escalate in the years to come.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
CA

Lynne Yelich

Canadian Alliance

Mrs. Lynne Yelich (Blackstrap, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I really have to wonder if the two members who spoke before are really from Saskatchewan. What I heard was incredible. They are talking about trying to debate health care. Health care is what we should be debating. All I heard was a rant. I do not believe they are really concerned about health care one iota. If they were, they would go home and try to access our health care. It is not always accessible to those with real health problems.

I can tell about a person who went in for a knee operation. He was quite healthy and was told to have both knees operated on at the same time. He had both done at the same time and never came out of the hospital. I can tell about a person who had to go back into the hospital to have a limb re-broken. What about the workmen's compensation patients who go to Calgary for MRIs because our province does not have an MRI machine available for Saskatchewan workmen's compensation clients?

That is why nobody wants to participate in this debate. It is sickening.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
NDP

Dick Proctor

New Democratic Party

Mr. Dick Proctor

Mr. Speaker, one hardly knows where to start on that. I would just repeat what I said a minute ago. When provinces are carrying 84¢ of the dollar and the federal government is only putting in 16¢, it is very difficult for provinces like Saskatchewan, with a million people and a small taxpayer base, to do all that.

However, perhaps the member for Blackstrap could make some of those approaches to the health minister across the way and point out some of the realities with which governments are dealing.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
?

The Deputy Speaker

It being 5:30 p.m., it is my duty to inform the House that proceedings on the motion have expired.

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink

The House resumed from March 24, consideration of the motion that Bill C-452, an act to amend the Criminal Code (proceedings under section 258), be read the second time and referred to a committee.


CA

Lynne Yelich

Canadian Alliance

Mrs. Lynne Yelich (Blackstrap, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to speak to Bill C-452, an act to amend the Criminal Code (proceedings under section 258).

The bill presents an important opportunity to strengthen the laws surrounding the investigation and prosecution of impaired driving and related offences. Too often individuals who choose to drive while drunk or otherwise impaired face no consequences. Even when they are caught, they can take advantage of technical loopholes to avoid justice.

My colleague's bill would eliminate some of these loopholes by giving the courts the ability to use blood or breath sample results as proof of the accused's blood alcohol content at the time of the alleged offences. The span of time during which a sample could be taken would also be increased to three hours from the current two.

These are positive changes that would correct earlier parliamentary oversights and make drunk drivers less likely to get away with their crimes. This is particularly important, because without intervention, impaired driving tends to be an oft-repeated crime with tremendous potential for tragic results. For example, impaired driving is the number one criminal cause of death in Canada. Approximately 1,350 people die each year in alcohol related motor vehicle crashes. That is a death rate two to three times higher than the national murder rate. Another 200 people are injured each day in impaired driving related incidents.

Over the last 20 years, alcohol has been a contributing factor in 30% to 50% of fatal crashes. The social and human costs are staggering. From an economic perspective, Transport Canada estimates the annual cost associated with health care, damaged property and lost wages resulting from crashes involving alcohol in Canada exceeds $5 billion.

The need to implement legislative changes that could reduce the number of impaired drivers on our roads is particularly important to the people in my home province of Saskatchewan, which has a higher rate of drunken driving than any other province in Canada.

Given the figures hon. members have just heard, it is clear that we have a responsibility to do what we can to ensure that authorities have the resources and legislative backing needed to successfully identify, charge and prosecute impaired drivers.

The member for Lakeland's bill addresses some important steps in achieving the goal. As I mentioned earlier, Bill C-452 would extend the time allowed for the taking of breath or blood samples from an accused in the investigation of an alleged offence from two to three hours. This would allow authorities more time to collect samples and could reduce the number of cases thrown out because the Crown chooses not to expend the resources necessary to have a toxicological expert verify results of samples not taken within the two hour timeframe.

The bill would also allow a court to use the results of the analysis of the sample, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, as proof that the concentration of alcohol in the accused's blood at the time of the alleged offence was not less than the concentration shown in the results. In cases where the accused challenged those results, he or she would face the eventual burden of establishing, on a balance of probabilities, factors that affect their reliability.

Finally, the bill would require a court to consider other evidence in deciding whether the accused had discharged the burden of proof. The courts have interpreted the Criminal Code in such a manner that breath or blood tests are often thrown out based solely on the accused's own testimony. Without the test results, the charges are usually dropped or the accused is acquitted.

Two of the main defences used by the accused are the Carter defence and the last drink defence. Hon. members may have heard these described in the House before, but they bear repeating.

The Carter defence is that the accused testifies that he or she had only a small amount to drink prior to the offence. The defence would call a toxicologist to confirm that the accused's blood alcohol content would definitely have been below the legal limit if such a small amount were consumed. If the court accepted the accused's evidence, the test results would be completely disregarded, even if they were administered properly, were consistent with the reading on the roadside screening device and were supported by the officer's evidence that the accused showed signs of intoxication.

The second is the last drink defence. The accused testifies that he or she consumed a large amount of alcohol immediately after driving. The contention is that this alcohol would not yet have been absorbed into the bloodstream when stopped by the police.

The accused argues that his or her blood alcohol content was below the legal limit when driving, and only rose above the limit in the interval between being stopped and being tested. Again, the breath results are rejected and the accused is acquitted.

What is the result? Despite an estimated 12.5 million impaired driving trips every year in Canada, the majority of offenders are not stopped by police and, even when they are stopped, officers do not press charges. Police officers do not believe their work will result in convictions because the laws are not strong enough.

A recent letter from MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice suggested that this group, who sadly know too well the potential consequences of impaired driving, supports the changes put forward by the member for Lakeland.

MADD National Executive Director Andrew Murie wrote: “It is now almost 20 years that the Carter defence has made a mockery of the Criminal Code's elaborate provisions designed to curtail the grave social problem posed by drinking drivers. Parliament's failure to respond meaningfully condones the undermining of the statutory provisions. Surely it stands as an indictment of the present government that amendments shown by experience to be necessary have been shirked to the extent that a private member must take it upon himself to fill the gap”.

This is an important bill that could save lives. By improving the odds that an impaired driver will face consequences for his or her actions, I believe we can reduce the number of drivers willing to take that chance. With impaired driving affecting so many Canadians each day, I encourage all members in the House to support this bill.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink
CA

James Moore

Canadian Alliance

Mr. James Moore (Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I notice an irony here. The NDP were chiding the official opposition, the Conservative Party, for not having speakers on a supply day motion that is non-votable, just a rhetorical gabfest in here right before an election campaign. Here we have Bill C-452 that will actually save lives if it is put in place and there is no New Democrat here to speak about it.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink
?

The Deputy Speaker

I must remind the hon. member that any mention of the absence of any member or members is not acceptable as a practice of the House.

Knowing the full pressures and responsibilities members have outside the Chamber, I would ask him to draw on that experience. I know the respect he has for the Chamber.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink
CA

James Moore

Canadian Alliance

Mr. James Moore

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I do appreciate the rules and I did not want to allege that any New Democrats were not here but that the NDP are not going to put up any speakers in reference to the point that was made earlier.

I rise in support of this bill. I want to laud my colleague from Lakeland and certainly my colleague from Blackstrap who just spoke to the bill. Bill C-452 deserves the support of all members of the House because I am saddened to report that according to statistics, drunk driving is the number one criminal cause of death in Canada.

I am saddened in part because the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was made law in 1982 and yet one of its most commonly cited sections, subsection 24(2), deals with the exclusion of evidence at, among others, drunk driving trials.

Approximately 40% of all traffic fatalities involve alcohol. Every day 4 Canadians die and another 200 are injured because someone had too much to drink and acted irresponsibly. Canadians know that drinking and driving is illegal; however, they also know that there are a surprising number of ways to get out of a drunk driving charge.

The last time this bill was discussed in Parliament, on March 24, 2004, the member for Provencher spoke of the tremendous difficulty in successfully prosecuting someone for drunk driving. I think that Canadians should know more about the member for Provencher because it is important to understand his background and the leverage with which he speaks to the issue.

Before ever setting foot in the House, the member for Provencher was a criminal prosecutor, the director of constitutional law for the Province of Manitoba, and later Manitoba's attorney general and minister of justice. When he talks about the Criminal Code, we should all listen.

When he spoke on Bill C-452 on March 24, he said that as a prosecutor he would rather have prosecuted a murderer than a drunk driver. He told us how frustrating it was to deal with the technical defences on how to avoid convictions under the Criminal Code. Quite frankly, he said it was easier to prosecute a murderer than it was to prosecute a drunk driver.

How difficult is it? In opposing Bill C-452, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, the Liberal responsible for this bill, told the House that “It is better that 99 people who committed the offence go free than one innocent person be convicted”.

If that is the Liberal vision of justice, we are nearly there. A recent B.C. study showed that only 11% of impaired drivers taken to hospital were ever convicted. Think about this. In what kind of circumstances is a drunk driver taken to hospital? There are only three that come to mind. One, he hit another vehicle; two, another vehicle hit him; or three, he hit an obstacle like a tree or a wall.

In situations one and three, one would think that if the drunk driver was drunk enough to hit another vehicle or an obstacle like a wall or a tree--drunk enough in order that he would have to go to hospital because of the injuries--that he would likely be drunk enough to be found guilty of drunk driving.

The fact that only 11% of these people are convicted of drunk driving tells us that there is something seriously wrong with our system. Clearly, we need to do something about it and I wish that the government would stop sending mixed signals to my generation.

Young Canadians are very aware of the “Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk” campaign. Those of us who are under 30 do not typically have a drink with lunch on a workday. The idea of a designated driver is common practice. We are opposed to drinking and driving, and we want to keep drunks off our roads.

When we hear the government has tabled legislation to deal with drug impaired driving, we are encouraged. We are happy to hear that Alberta has asked its prosecutors to seek dangerous offender status and long term offender designations for habitual drunk drivers. At the same time when we see the government's members of Parliament here in this place fighting against Bill C-452, and when we hear that convicting a drunk driver is tougher than putting a murderer behind bars, we become concerned.

Then we read that Daniel Bert Desjarlais of Edmonton has been convicted 19 times of drunk driving including one offence that killed his uncle or we hear of Robert James Dornbusch, recently stopped by police staggeringly drunk, nearly three times over the legal limit, who is to be convicted for the 17th time of impaired driving, partly because his own lawyer described him as incorrigible.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink

May 11, 2004