November 2, 2005

CPC

Mark Warawa

Conservative

Mr. Mark Warawa (Langley, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to ask the government what it is going to do about auto crime.

Approximately 450 vehicles per day are stolen in Canada. Over the last decade this has grown dramatically. We are now one of the highest countries in the world for auto theft. We actually have more vehicles stolen per capita than the United States. It is a huge problem that is often linked with organized crime. The proceeds of auto theft directly fund crime and terrorism.

As I have been involved with different panels, town hall meetings and knocked on numerous doors, this is a common occurrence and people want something done.

My previous vocation was as a loss prevention officer for the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. I dealt with auto crime. The common denominator of the problem is that auto thieves, high risk individuals who are addicted to illegal drugs like crystal meth, are released back into the community. They are high risk and the courts know they are high risk, but they are not being dealt with in a way that is appropriate. Typical sentencing is probation. If they reoffend, they get probation for breaching their probation.

Because of that, I am honoured to be here to represent my community of Langley. I came up with a private member's bill, Bill C-293. Through consultation with other members, I thought it was a very good bill. It gave direction to the courts that there had to be minimum sentencing involved with this.

I am expecting the parliamentary secretary to answer in a moment and I am going to ask him not to read from a prepared speech, but actually share with us what the government is planning to do in tangible ways to come up with an attack against auto crime. It is a problem. My private member's bill dealt with it, I believe, but the government voted against it. It does not support minimum sentences.

What is the government going to do about it? Chuck Cadman had a bill. He had a similar background to myself, being in insurance. He had an important private member's bill. The government voted down Chuck's bills and reintroduced a watered down portion of Chuck's bill, Bill C-64. Bill C-64 is not what Chuck wanted.

I pushed and got Transport Canada to invoke the immobilizers starting in 2007. Actually, for the last five years I have been working on that. It is one of the things I am very happy about.

In tangible ways, how could we direct the courts to come up with sentences that are practical and proportionate? Releasing high risk people back into the community is not the answer. What is the government's answer to come up with practical solutions to auto crime?

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Parliament of Canada Act
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LIB

Roy Cullen

Liberal

Hon. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to prove to my hon. colleagues the Government of Canada's commitment to fighting auto theft.

I would agree with the hon. member for Langley that auto theft is a serious issue in Canada. The statistics for this type of crime revealed that Canada had a rate of roughly 531 vehicles stolen per 100,000 people last year. That is why in January 2005 federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for justice asked their officials to examine the issue of auto theft and to determine whether our current Criminal Code provisions respond appropriately to this form of crime.

In this regard, I am pleased to report that last week a very important federal-provincial-territorial auto theft forum was held here in Ottawa, which involved federal and provincial justice officials, co-chaired by the Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia. This forum also included representatives from the national committee to reduce auto theft, a multi-stakeholder group made up of law enforcement personnel and insurance industry representatives.

This forum was a success. It involved an open discussion of potential legislative and non-legislative responses. These officials will be reporting back to federal, provincial and territorial justice ministers on their progress and will continue working collectively on this issue.

It is essential that our provincial and territorial colleagues are involved in the examination of this issue as the provincial Crown prosecutors are the ones who normally prosecute auto theft offences. In the meantime, the Government of Canada has shown its commitment to addressing a particular form of auto theft, namely, organized auto theft, with the introduction of Bill C-64, as my hon. colleague from Langley cited.

Government Bill C-64 would make it an offence to wholly or partially alter, remove or obliterate a vehicle identification number without lawful excuse in circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the act was committed in order to conceal the identity of the motor vehicle.

The punishment for this offence would be, if proceeded with by indictment, a five year maximum term of imprisonment or, if proceeded with by summary conviction, a six month maximum term of imprisonment and/or a $2,000 fine.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Association of Police Boards, the Insurance Bureau of Canada and the National Committee to Reduce Auto Theft have all called on the Government of Canada to bring forward a VIN tampering offence. We have answered that call.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Parliament of Canada Act
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CPC

Mark Warawa

Conservative

Mr. Mark Warawa

Mr. Speaker, I hope the hon. member across will answer the next question not from a prepared speech, but actually from his heart. It was yesterday at justice committee that he endorsed the concept of minimum sentencing.

We are dealing with a very high risk individual. If my private member's bill were to deal with just indictable offences, the most serious offences, would the member's government support having mandatory minimum sentences--maximum sentences are never used--as a guideline to the courts for the most serious indictable offences?

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Parliament of Canada Act
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LIB

Roy Cullen

Liberal

Hon. Roy Cullen

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-293 introduced by my hon. colleague from Langley provided for the use of mandatory minimum sentences.

It is inconsistent. That is the problem with the bill. It is inconsistent to provide for a mandatory minimum penalty, presumably justified by the seriousness of the offence, while at the same time lowering the maximum available term of imprisonment for its commission. That is the fundamental flaw with respect to the position that the member has taken with this bill.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Parliament of Canada Act
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CPC

Brian Fitzpatrick

Conservative

Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick (Prince Albert, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I intend to address an issue that arose in my riding, the closure of a pulp and paper mill at Prince Albert. Once that plant closes, there will be 700 people out of work.

From what I can gather we have approximately 300 forestry communities across the country that are suffering from various problems associated with the forestry industry. Clearly, one of the major causes of problems in the country is the ongoing softwood lumber dispute with the United States and the $5 billion that has been stripped out of the books and the revenues of our forestry producers in Canada. It is making it very difficult for those employers to weather the storms that exist in that industry.

It is quite apparent that for the past four or five years since this problem began, the government has been hoping the matter would just go away. It has had no action plan to assist communities with the troubles they are facing.

The Conservative Party and its predecessor the Canadian Alliance, back in 2002, proposed a plan to assist these communities and the employees affected by backstopping the industry through the export development agency to turn these accounts receivable, the duties collected illegally in the United States, and have that cash flow into the books of the companies. Then they would have the cash to deal with the many problems and challenges they are facing.

The Liberal government has refused to accept that proposal. It uses Export Development for the aeronautics industry and other things to backstop an industry, but it refuses to stand up for an industry that is responsible for employing a million people directly and indirectly in the country. I find that disturbing.

What is even more disturbing is the recent announcement that the two negotiators, Mr. Ritchie and Mr. Tellier, are now resigning as negotiators. They are saying that the government is not serious about trying to resolve this matter and that it is not going to get resolved until after the election.

The clear implication of that announcement is that the government wants to use the problems of the forestry industry to conjure up its core of anti-American sentiment that it caters to. It wants to use that as an election issue. That is very unfortunate.

I have a very specific question. On October 21 the government announced a $50 million program to assist forestry communities. There was one slight problem. The program was restricted to forest communities in the province of Quebec. There are hundreds of communities outside of Quebec. My community of Prince Albert cannot access that fund.

Tonight I am asking the parliamentary secretary to explain how this NDP-Liberal coalition government could design a forestry program to assist communities that basically leaves communities like Prince Albert and hundreds of other communities on the outside looking in.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Parliament of Canada Act
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LIB

Jerry Pickard

Liberal

Hon. Jerry Pickard (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, during question period on October 5, the hon. member for Prince Albert linked the recent announcement of the closure of the Weyerhaeuser pulp and paper mill in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, to the softwood lumber dispute with the United States.

Since the hon. member has raised the softwood lumber issue, allow me to speak to the issue now.

The Government of Canada is exploring every possible option to resolve this dispute, including litigation, high level political intervention and advocacy. To do this, we are working closely with industry, provincial governments and other stakeholders. We expect the United States to live up to the NAFTA obligations, revoke the duty orders and refund the duties. We will continue to defend the interests of Canadian industry and workers in our WTO and NAFTA litigation.

The Canadian forest products industry is one of Canada's most important sectors. Approximately 300 communities across Canada and hundreds of thousands of workers depend on it. The government has a sensitivity to the impact of the lumber dispute and, as a result, has made available over $400 million in federal assistance to forestry workers, communities and industries.

However, as was stated in the House when this question was first raised, the Weyerhaeuser mill in Prince Albert is a pulp and paper mill. Consequently, it is not directly involved in the softwood lumber issue.

Worldwide, the pulp and paper industry has been rapidly changing in recent years. New technologies have increased optimal mill size. New low cost sources of wood fibre have developed offshore and begun exporting to Canada's traditional markets. North American markets for paper products are not as strong as they once were. As a result, the North American pulp and paper industry is in the process of rationalizing its capacity.

Given these and other factors, Weyerhaeuser made the business decision to close the Prince Albert mill, despite the company's significant investments to upgrade and modernize.

The federal government is concerned about this decision and the potential impact on the 690 workers and the hundreds of additional indirect workers and their families. The Prince Albert region is heavily dependent upon the forest industry and the Weyerhaeuser pulp and paper mill is the region's largest employer.

Prince Albert is the major regional centre for northern Saskatchewan and serves a number of smaller communities. First nations play an important role, both in the forest industry and the regional economy, and rely on Prince Albert for a number of essential services. It is important to the region as a whole that Prince Albert remain a viable, vibrant economy.

We view as very positive Weyerhaeuser's plans to keep the pulp and paper mill operating through the coming winter to ensure that the cold weather does not damage the equipment. The company says it plans to explore all viable options, including identifying possible purchasers.

The province of Saskatchewan has a significant forest resource and is hopeful that investors and new forest industries can be attracted to this region. The federal government has been contributing $4.5 million over the past years, funds which have been matched by the province, to support the Saskatchewan forest industry.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Parliament of Canada Act
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CPC

Brian Fitzpatrick

Conservative

Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick

Mr. Speaker, I will ask this question for the fourth time because it is relevant. This government, on October 21, announced a special program of $50 million to assist forestry communities in the province of Quebec in dealing with problems that are being caused for the forestry communities.

I am not criticizing a program that would help forestry communities, but I am absolutely amazed by this. What really bothers me and my constituents is why this government would design a program for only one province in the country.

There are hundreds of communities in Atlantic Canada, northern Ontario, the prairie provinces and B.C. that are dealing with major, profound problems in the forestry industry. They cannot access funding under this program. The task force that the NDP government set up in Saskatchewan cannot access funding under that program.

Why does this NDP-Liberal coalition government design programs that leave hundreds of forestry communities on the outside looking in?

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Parliament of Canada Act
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LIB

Jerry Pickard

Liberal

Hon. Jerry Pickard

Mr. Speaker, there are two points that I would like to reiterate. We have set up a program. We have $400 million that are available to the forest industry. We have contributed money to Saskatchewan and have worked with the Saskatchewan government in that case.

We need to focus on our communities, workers and their families and the Canadian industry to improve what has happened.

In 1993 the government did much to foster a vibrant economy. The Government of Canada has eliminated the deficit and paid down some of the debt. We are putting money into ensuring that companies and people in each region of Canada can operate in a very efficient way.

It is clear in my mind that what is being related as a border issue, one that has been a problem between Canada and the United States, is not the issue that is occurring in this community.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Parliament of Canada Act
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?

The Deputy Speaker

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:33 p.m.)

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Parliament of Canada Act
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November 2, 2005