April 4, 2008

CPC

Lynne Yelich

Conservative

Mrs. Lynne Yelich (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member concerning affordable housing and homelessness.

Is she aware of the $270 million investment in our homelessness partnering strategy to help those in vulnerable communities that have more poverty?

I also want to know if she is familiar with the housing trust, which is a $1.4 billion investment?

This government, working with the provinces, has invested over $1 billion in affordable housing. The member's province will benefit from all these programs.

To suggest that we are not meeting our commitments on affordable housing is misrepresenting our government. We have done exactly that. Annual funding for affordable housing and homelessness has never been higher than it is now.

The member might check her facts to get a better understanding of how much this government has done for those who are homeless and those who are looking for affordable housing.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2008
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NDP

Jean Crowder

New Democratic Party

Ms. Jean Crowder

Mr. Speaker, in 2004, the NDP worked hard through Bill C-48 to ensure that there was money for housing.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities said:

The main impediment to expanding these efforts is the scheduled expiry of all federal social housing funding programs in March 2009. This will mean the termination of $2 billion in funding available in the 2007–09 period. At the same time, ongoing federal subsidies for existing social housing are already expiring, and in the next 10 years, annual spending on assisted housing will decline by an additional $500 million.

The Conservatives are failing to implement a national action plan on housing and homelessness. They are playing a shell game with the money. They are using money that was often already allocated. They are not demonstrating leadership on this very serious issue.

We have been sanctioned by the United Nations special rapporteur on the housing crisis in Canada. This government's failure to act means more people will end up on the street or in inadequate housing.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2008
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LIB

Paul Szabo

Liberal

Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I did not speak to the budget but I did follow the debate and some of the issues fairly closely and I would like to make a couple of comments with regard to the housing issue that was just debated among members here.

Most of the homeless data and research is done in urban centres. A research study, which was actually funded in large part by the Government of Canada, was done on homelessness in Toronto. As the member has raised this issue, I tried to reflect on some of the numbers, which I think would exemplify why it is important for us to get the facts and to know them, rather than present issues as very simplistic and having simple solutions.

In the Toronto situation, and I think it was from the Anne Golden report, 35% of the homeless were people who suffered from mental illness. If we provide some sort of accommodation, whether it be a rent supplement or rent geared to income, they will not take it. A lot of this happened because we are not providing the mental health facilities for a very serious problem in Canada, and that is mental illness.

Twenty-eight per cent of the homeless in Toronto were youth on the street who had been alienated from their families. It was found that 75% of those youth who were on the streets of Toronto had suffered from physical or mental abuse in their homes. This does not have a lot to do with economics. It has to do with a serious social problem, and that is family issues and dealing with our youth. In fact, when 75% of these youth on the streets are suffering from physical or mental abuse, the problem is much more than providing a little box somewhere for them to live. We need to deal with the problem at the beginning.

Of the homeless in Toronto, and I am sure in Winnipeg, Manitoba it would be about the same, 12% were aboriginals off reserve. It is kind of interesting. A very significant number of aboriginals who are living off reserve are a significant number of the homeless in our country. This is a shame. I must admit that when the Kelowna accord was brought forward I thought there was hope for aboriginals, with the leadership as a starting role, to bring the dignity and assistance that was needed in our aboriginal communities, but the Conservative government decided that Kelowna just was not of interest to it.

Ten per cent of the homeless represent abused women on the street. We can only imagine that there are a lot of circumstances where women, who have been the provider for their families in terms of caring for the family homes and the children, do not have the economic independence maybe that their spouse has after a divorce or after a break-up because of abuse.

Therefore, what happens to women? Some in the shelters do their job but there is the mental duress of having a breakdown and of being an abused person. I know, having spent five years on the board of my own shelter for battered women, that there is a great deal of mental stress and duress with regard to that. We have people on the streets and just saying that we will give them a spot to live in a subsidized social housing unit or something like that will not solve the problem.

Finally, about 10% of the homeless were actually on the street for economic reasons.

Putting it all in context, it would appear that the solution to homelessness in Canada, particularly as it relates to urban centres, is not to provide subsidized homes to people. We need to deal with the root causes. When we approach problems, we need to demonstrate first that we understand the problem and then, second, apply solutions that deal effectively with the root causes of the problem.

If we take that as an approach to legislation and to budget making, if we look carefully at this budget, we will find that it has not identified a problem. It has not defined a problem. It has not identified a priority or an objective.

This budget has presented Canadians with a litany of gimmicks. It is trying to look attractive to a bunch of different disparate groups. It is called trying to appeal to voters that one wants to get for the next election.

Governing is not just about spending taxpayers' money to get votes, or buying their vote with their money which is what it really is all about. Why I can say that is because when the Liberals took over government in 1993 it inherited from the Conservative government a $42 billion deficit in that fiscal year. That was $42 billion more spent than what was brought in.

We could not just cut some expenses somewhere and get rid of $42 billion of overspending. It took some time. It took three years. It was not until 1997 that the Government of Canada finally boasted of a balanced budget. It was a lot of pain for everyone in the country. Cuts were made to things as fundamental as health care, social services and the operations of the Government of Canada itself took the biggest hit of all.

The good news was that after about three years the fiscal position of Canada was at least back in a balanced position. Then, with strategic initiatives, with investment in infrastructure, which we started in 1993 with the investment in science and technology and research and development, we invested in our future, and very slowly surpluses started to be developed.

Members will know that we paid down over $100 billion worth of debt. When we started, 42¢ or 43¢ of every $1 that was being paid by Canadian taxpayers to the Government of Canada to manage had to go to pay down the interest on the debt that we were carrying.

It was nothing like that any more. All of a sudden, as the fiscal health became stronger, more surpluses were being developed. It was not a matter of just paying down the debt. As we earned it, as Canadians earned it, as our economy started to grow, as we started to get more efficiency in the operations of the government, more and more dollars were there to put back into health care and into other issues that were the priorities of Canadians.

We had 10 years of balanced budgets. When the government across the way took over in January after the election, the House of Commons started the first session of the current Parliament in April. The year end of the Government of Canada is March 31. Therefore, before the government even did a thing, we reported for that last year a $10 billion surplus, which the Conservatives like to take credit for.

I do not care who takes credit for it but the fact is the Conservative government inherited a very healthy fiscal position. We had cut taxes and we invested in the economy. We invested in people and in our health care and in the services they needed. We believe that governments have a role to play in the lives of people, particularly those who are not in a position to help themselves.

Therefore, it was really important to get the fiscal house in order. It led to the appropriate investments. We took the opportunity to get our fiscal house in order and Canadians have been the beneficiaries.

Where are we now? The government is forecasting no more big $10 billion surpluses that can be invested or used to pay down debt. What is it talking about now? One SARS or one unforeseen circumstance will put this country back in deficit.

The bottom line is that the budget that the Conservatives have presented to Canadians has no vision and has no purpose other than trying to buy votes with Canadians' own money. It is bringing us back down to the old days of being back in deficit financing. That is what Canadians have to look forward to with another year of Conservative governing.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2008
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CPC

Peter Goldring

Conservative

Mr. Peter Goldring (Edmonton East, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, for the record, we should review and analyze. After 10 years of doing work in homeless situations and visiting shelters from coast to coast and throughout the United States, the most commonly accepted numbers of homeless people who are in the shelters and the conditions and reasons for being there are: approximately 25% because of addictions; 25% because of severe mental illness; and fully 50% because there is not affordable housing for them.

The member refers to the Anne Golden report for the city of Toronto. That report was done over 10 years ago. It identified the simple fact that singles housing had been torn down, removed and never replaced. It was identified, and the fact remains today. Singles housing is the largest need of those who are in the shelters. With affordable singles housing, the number of homeless could be drastically reduced.

The point being that over 13 years, the Liberal legacy is that the number of homeless people in the shelters is at a record all time high. Would the member explain why, after 13 years of Liberal management on the homeless file, the number of homeless is higher than it ever has been in the history of Canada?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2008
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LIB

Paul Szabo

Liberal

Mr. Paul Szabo

Mr. Speaker, first, the homeless are not in shelters. As the member knows, they have shelters for abused women. If he wants to provide statistics on abused women, that is fine, but I was not talking about that.

Therefore, I will not talk any further about the issue with the member other than to say there are root causes of homelessness, which involve all levels of government. The federal government also has a role to play.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2008
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NDP

Paul Dewar

New Democratic Party

Mr. Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, part of what my talked about was the priorities of the government in the budget. Our party happens to believe its priorities are wrong and are taking the country in the wrong direction. Working families are not going to be helped by this, particularly those who are being squeezed from what we have called the prosperity gap.

However, I want to get to where the Liberal Party is at. We had a debate in the House about corporate tax cuts. It seems to me that the Liberal line for today is that corporate tax cuts are good things because eventually the benefits will trickle down and there will be more jobs created and there will be a green and pleasant land.

What I am trying to understand from the Liberal Party, and maybe he can help me, is we changed the budget in 2005 to provide $4.5 billion in investments for infrastructure in cities, for housing and for key investments. We had to get the Liberals to change the budget because they wanted to give out corporate tax cuts. They seem to now believe that is the wrong direction, that corporate tax cuts are the way to go, and they support the government on that. We had the debate in the House on this.

I am confused because by the same token they take offence to the Conservative government pointing the finger at the Government of Ontario for not cutting corporate taxes further. I am trying to understand this. Do they believe in sweeping corporate tax cuts or key investments in our infrastructure?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2008
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LIB

Paul Szabo

Liberal

Mr. Paul Szabo

Mr. Speaker, no one who would have a responsibility to govern a country would say, “Do you want this or that?” The recipe for governing is to balance the needs of the nation based on the priorities and be dynamic enough to move forward.

Last October the leader of the official opposition gave a speech in which he said that tax cuts were important. Let us at the content of the speech. He was talking about providing R and D incentives to companies so they could invest in green technologies, just like Dupont, the company he and I visited that very week before. We found that by changing to greener technologies in the processes of its business, it was saving $300 million a year on fuel alone.

Again, as I said in my speech, we do not look at things in a linear basis. Everything we talk about has much more information. Let us inform ourselves and make right decisions.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2008
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BQ

Claude DeBellefeuille

Bloc Québécois

Mrs. Claude DeBellefeuille (Beauharnois—Salaberry, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this afternoon to join the debate on Bill C-50. First, I would like to state the position of the Bloc Québécois on this budget, which does not meet the conditions the Bloc set for giving its approval. You may have heard our position several times, but I want to state it for the people who are listening to us and watching us on television and who may not have heard it.

It is our position that the budget does not provide any direct, immediate assistance for the manufacturing and forestry industries, which are in crisis. It does nothing to help the workers and communities hit by the crisis. It contains no measures to reimburse seniors who have been shortchanged by the guaranteed income supplement program. It continues to take a polluter-paid approach rather than a polluter-pay approach, and it refuses to make a 180-degree turn on the environment.

Clearly, the budget makes no major investment in culture and does not undo the many ideological cuts made by the government in programs such as the court challenges program and the women's program. It also appears—the budget is clear on this—that the Minister of Finance is going ahead with his crusade to create a single securities commission for Canada. This plan has been criticized not only by the Bloc Québécois, but by the entire National Assembly and Quebec's finance minister, Monique Jérôme-Forget, who did not shy away from reacting publicly to the budget in the national media. And I am sure that she has made her views known to the Minster of Finance and the Premier of Quebec.

This bill covers a number of issues. As I have just 10 minutes, I would like to focus on areas I take a special interest in, such as natural resources. As a member of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, I paid special attention to this part of the bill.

The budget allocates $10 million over two years to help the forestry sector break into the international market as a model of innovation. The timing is good, because the committee has just completed a study of the sector. Many witnesses told us that $10 million is a nice gesture, but that it is not enough, given the crisis, and that more money is needed. We agree with the many witnesses who took the time to meet with parliamentarians during our hearings on the forestry crisis.

I am still wondering about this. We did not have a chance to talk to the Minister of Natural Resources because his agenda was too full to appear before the committee members and explain things to us. Apparently, however, he will soon come and tell us about the $300 million in the budget for nuclear energy, most of it earmarked for the new CANDU reactor and for safety upgrades at the Chalk River lab in Ontario.

Naturally, we would not oppose making a facility safer. You all know about what happened recently at the Chalk River lab. The reactor was shut down last winter for safety reasons. Unfortunately, that resulted in the president, Ms. Keen, being dismissed. The Bloc Québécois still believes that the minister engaged in political interference by removing her from her position on the eve of her appearance as president of the facility before the Standing Committee on Natural Resources for a specific study.

As the natural resources critic for the Bloc Québécois, I look forward to hearing what the minister has to say and asking him questions. For now, we have no way of knowing how that $300 million is going to be distributed, how much taxpayers will be asked to pay for the development of the advanced CANDU reactor, or how much of the $300 million will be used to make the Chalk River site safer.

It is rather worrisome. They have started to think—and the Minister of Natural Resources comes right out and says so—that nuclear energy is an energy of the future, a clean energy. But my political party and I do not believe it is a clean energy. Although with this energy there are no greenhouse gas emissions, there is still work to be done before it can be considered clean, since it generates waste, and we are still unsure of the long-term effects of this waste, or how it will be managed.

It is natural that debates are being held in the provinces, since energy falls under provincial jurisdiction. The fact remains that the current Conservative government is promoting nuclear energy in Canada and all over the world. The Bloc Québécois and I do not think this is a good sign. We see that nuclear energy would perhaps cut down on greenhouse gases in the short term, but it also brings about major problems related to the management of nuclear waste, the safety of citizens who live near nuclear facilities, and the possibility that terrorists could use the waste to create weapons.

Now, I will talk about the environment. In the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, we did a study on the oil sands and we came to understand the significance and size of such operations in Canada in terms of the future and the potential of these operations.

Obviously the oil companies, the explorers and the beneficiaries are investing a lot, but in exchange, they make huge profits. One thing is certain, people in my riding have written to me to ask why oil companies, which make huge profits by operating in areas such as the oil sands—the royalties, after all, go to the Province of Alberta—and which have received so much assistance from the taxpayers of Quebec and Canada, are receiving more assistance in order to generate less pollution.

I would point out that $240 million was allocated in the budget for carbon capture and sequestration pilot projects. I truly believe that oil companies and other producers of fossil fuels have the means to invest in green technologies. In fact, I believe that it is their responsibility to do so. It is not up to taxpayers to once again dig into their pockets. The budget already forces them to do that. The money in the budget is not government money but taxpayers' money. More taxpayer's money is being put on the table to help this industry develop green technologies. I believe this is a corporate responsibility they can afford.

In addition, in the last budget, there was a gradual withdrawal of the accelerated capital cost allowance for oil sands operations. We would have preferred that this measure be eliminated altogether, but it was nevertheless a step in the right direction. In this budget, the allowance has been reinstated for carbon dioxide pipeline developers. That means more money in support of polluters, who make large profits, so they can continue their exploration.

This responsibility should be shouldered by producers.

In closing, I will say that the budget allocates $12 million to national parks. There is a federal wildlife reserve in the riding of Beauharnois—Salaberry which could use a great deal of money for its operations and to improve programming so as to become more accessible to the public and provide an appreciation of nature.

Unfortunately, programming for reserves was neglected. We would have liked to have seen a bit more financial support in the budget for federal wildlife reserves.

This bill ignores many groups and issues including seniors, older workers, the homeless, social housing and—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2008
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CPC

Royal Galipeau

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Royal Galipeau)

It is with regret that I must interrupt the hon. member, but she has already mentioned that I gave her notice.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2008
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CPC

Lynne Yelich

Conservative

Mrs. Lynne Yelich (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, before I ask my question, I want to mention that in 2006 the oil and gas sector paid over $5.5 billion in corporate taxes. Therefore, she should not tell the House that it has taken more from the government than it has given. It has given a great deal through corporate taxation.

The member brought up seniors issues. She also brought up the tax dollars that we are to guard. Retroactivity is something we have looked at carefully and it cannot be done for seniors. However, we have done more for seniors than any other government in history. We have increased the guaranteed income supplement by 7% and we have increased the earned exemption. These are things that were asked for by the House and delivered.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2008
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BQ

Claude DeBellefeuille

Bloc Québécois

Mrs. Claude DeBellefeuille

Mr. Speaker, just a quick reminder: the last tax cuts that the government gave will benefit oil companies and will prevent the government from redistributing several million dollars to various programs like social housing and homelessness. For instance, there is no amount actually set aside in the bill to address homelessness.

I am not sure if you are aware, but the HPI program will be ending soon, in March 2009. There is no money set aside, no vision in this budget that would indicate that the Conservative government is concerned about homelessness and that it has a vision for the future and a plan to help the homeless.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2008
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CPC

Royal Galipeau

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Royal Galipeau)

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

When we return to the study of Bill C-50, the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry will have 3 minutes left for questions and comments.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2008
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The House resumed from March 10 consideration of Bill S-203, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals), as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.


LIB

Charles Hubbard

Liberal

Hon. Charles Hubbard (Miramichi, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, today we again bring before the House further discussion and debate on a bill dealing with animal cruelty. It has been a long journey. In fact, between the House of Commons and the Senate, this legislation has been debated over and over through different bills for more than a decade.

We are really dealing this afternoon with Bill S-203, a bill that was presented in the Senate by Senator Bryden and which I introduced in the House some weeks ago. Basically we are dealing with amendments to the Criminal Code in sections 444 to 447.

The debate of this has been long. It has affected many people. In fact, many members of Parliament are receiving emails from different groups who stand on different sides of Bill S-203.

Today, I would like to present my argument in terms of the bill that has come from the Senate, a bill that reflects the need for changes in the Criminal Code which would place greater emphasis upon animal cruelty and to those who might be accused or involved with cruelty to animals.

Many people are affected. In fact, when we looked at other bills in terms of Bill C-10 and so forth, we began to realize how broad our constituency was in dealing with those involved and affected by animals. We found in fact that one of the largest jurisdictions is with people who have family pets, but of course the livelihood of many people involved in farming is also affected by what we might do in the House in terms of legislation.

We found that universities and university researchers, and those involved in research for humans dealing with animals, have great concerns of what legislation might produce. We have minor groups such as those who maintain zoos and those who are involved with circuses. In the previous legislation, we were also involved with fishermen because fish became part of the debate on previous legislation.

Above all, we have hunters and trappers, many people in our first nations communities who historically depended upon wildlife for their livelihood.

When we look at all these different groups, we look at what proposals come forward, what animal rights groups say to us, what pet owners say to us, and above all, those in our farming communities. It is interesting to note that in terms of pets, many Canadians have tremendous affection for the cats, dogs, horses, birds and those pets which they maintain in the vicinity of their homes.

When we look at American statistics, this industry, the industry of providing health resources to pet owners, approaches $40 billion U.S. a year. So it is a growing industry. We have to respect and certainly pay great thanks to those who love their animals, those who care for them, those who maintain them, and those who are so interested in any legislation which the House and Parliament would provide.

I am not sure that the Criminal Code is the right place. Probably in future parliaments, we will see special legislation outside the Criminal Code. In terms of animals and cruelty, and respect for animals, the care for animals, we also have our provinces who have a vested interest in some of this because in terms of our wildlife, most wildlife species are protected under provincial legislation.

However, I would like to answer a few of our critics who have called upon some members of Parliament not to support Bill S-203. I personally have some difficulty with that logic because Bill 203 does not preclude the necessity or the fact that further legislation could be brought to the House which would improve upon this legislation. It would tend to see that the various groups that I mentioned are not seriously and adversely affected. It would indeed demonstrate that all of us as Canadians can enjoy the fact that we as a Parliament and as a nation can see that our animals are properly protected and that we can find joy, warmth and comfort in the relations that we have with them.

Bill S-203 basically deals with any person who kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures cattle, or kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures dogs, birds or animals that are not cattle and are kept for a lawful purpose.

If people were to commit offences under the Criminal Code with that description of it, they could be charged with an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years. That is a very serious penalty for those who would be convicted. Furthermore, if the court should decide it is not an indictable offence, there could be fines of up to $10,000.

This cruelty, in section 445.1, says that anyone who wilfully causes or, being the owner, wilfully permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird or anyone who assists at the fighting or baiting of animals or birds, or promotes, arranges, conducts, assists in, receives money in such circumstances, can be convicted of an indictable offence and receive up to five years in prison.

Section 446 goes on to state that anyone who, by wilful neglect, causes damage or injury to animals or who is involved with a domestic animal or a bird or an animal, whether it be wild in nature or in captivity, who abandons it in distress or wilfully neglects or fails to provide suitable and adequate food, water, shelter and care, would be committing an offence.

Furthermore, Bill S-203 also attempts to preclude from ownership of animals people who are guilty of these offences. The court, under section 447.1, may make an order prohibiting the accused from owning, having the custody or control of, residing in the same premise as an animal or bird during any period that the court considers appropriate, but in the case of a second or subsequent offence, a minimum of five years.

What I am advocating today is that the House could approve at report stage and third reading this legislation. I know it is not perfect, but it is a tremendous improvement upon the present legislation which was put in place almost a century ago.

There is another bill, in fact, that is before the House. It is further down than my own. However, there will be an opportunity in the future for another government or another member to bring a private member's bill before this assembly that can be debated.

I hope that as time progresses we as Canadians can develop legislation which is valuable to all, protects our animals, birds and fish and, above all, does not cause harm or unjustness to our farmers, fishermen, and those who rely upon these species for their livelihood.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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CPC

Steven Fletcher

Conservative

Mr. Steven Fletcher (Parliamentary Secretary for Health, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to rise to speak to Bill S-203, a bill introduced by Senator Bryden that would amend the animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code. Bill S-203 has passed the other place and has been reported back to the House by the justice committee, without amendment, and is now before this House for report stage and third reading.

We have before us a private member's bill that has one simple objective, improving the law's ability to deter, denounce and punish animal cruelty and make offenders take greater responsibility for their crimes.

In stating my support for Bill S-203, I recognize that some hon. members have expressed the view that they cannot support the bill because it does not address some limitations in the current law. It is true that Bill S-203 does not amend current offences or create new ones. However, as members well know, none of the bills introduced by the previous government over the course of about seven years ever pass both chambers.

I would like to take this opportunity to speak to two motions to amend Bill S-203, which were recently tabled by the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh.

The first motion proposes to delete the long title of the bill. This motion is irrelevant to the objective of Bill S-203, which is to increase penalties for current offences. Therefore, I will be opposing the motion.

The second motion is to delete clause 1 of the bill. The bill only has one clause and so that obviously is not warranted either.

Thus, the combined effect of both motions would be to completely gut Bill S-203 of its title and substantive provisions. I, for one, support Bill S-203 and anyone who does obviously will not support either motion.

Hon. members are well aware that if Bill S-203 is passed by this House with any amendments, the amended bill will have to go back to the other place for reconsideration. The report stage amendments tabled by the opposition are an obvious tactic to obstruct or delay any progress that we can make in strengthening our animal cruelty laws. I really have to question the logic and intent of this.

Let us face it, Bill S-203 is a step in the right direction, which in no way prevents any future legislation from being brought forward.

Again, I have to question the motives of anyone who would want to prevent us from moving forward and strengthening our animal cruelty provisions today.

Sending the bill back to the other place raises the prospect that it will join a long list of previous formulations of animal cruelty amendments that were not supported by both Houses. This is unproductive and unnecessary.

Some hon. members of the House have voiced criticism of what Bill S-203 does not address. It is important to consider whether the increase in penalties in Bill S-203, coupled with the current animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code, would provide more protection to animals than if the bill had not been passed. I believe the answer to this question is a resounding yes. Moreover, increasing penalties with regard to animal cruelty has been one of the issues that all proponents of stronger animal cruelty legislation have been able to agree upon over the years.

Currently, the Criminal Code provides a number of distinct animal cruelty offences. Some offences prohibit very specific forms of conduct and others are more general in nature. The offences are set out in sections 444 to 447 of the Criminal Code. The two most frequently charged offences are those of wilfully causing unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal and causing pain, suffering or injury by neglect.

These types of actions are in fact what most Canadians think about when they think about animal cruelty. Cruelty can be intentional, meaning the result of conduct that a person knows will or would likely cause harm, or it can be the result of gross negligence or severe inadvertence.

With respect to maximum available penalties, all offences, except those concerning cattle, are summary conviction offences only. This means that the maximum sentence an offender can get is six months in prison, a $2,000 fine, or both. This maximum applies no matter how heinous the act of cruelty may be.

By contrast, offences in respect of cattle are pure indictable offences and subject to a ma maximum of five years imprisonment.

One question raised by the law and addressed by Bill S-203 is whether this distinction is still justified. I will return to this point in a moment.

The Criminal Code also contains what is called a prohibition order. This mechanism allows a judge to order a convicted offender to refrain from owning an animal for up to two years.

Prohibition orders are mostly preventive; they actually work to keep animals away from animal abusers. In this way they are aimed primarily at preventing future cruelty toward animals. Prohibition orders are imposed relatively often in animal cruelty cases. The courts clearly feel that the prohibition order is a valuable tool at their disposal in dealing with the people who abuse animals.

Bill S-203 proposes three changes to the current animal cruelty regime, all in the nature of penalty enhancements.

All of the measures address concerns that have been identified with the existing law. There is strong agreement across all sectors that the low maximum penalties for cruelty are inadequate, both to denounce animal cruelty as unacceptable and to punish acts of cruelty when they do occur. Bill S-203 responds to this concern and does so in the following three ways:

First, Bill S-203 would increase maximum terms of imprisonment. It would make all offences hybrid, meaning that the prosecutor may choose to proceed by way of summary conviction procedure or by way of indictment, depending on the seriousness of the case.

Currently, all the offences, except those in relation to cattle, are straight summary conviction offences. These would be hybridized by Bill S-203.

Bill S-203 makes the distinction between penalties for two categories of offences: one for injuring animals intentionally or recklessly; and the second for injuring animals by criminal neglect, to which I have already alluded. This is an important distinction. Some people commit cruelty on purpose. Others commit cruelty by extreme neglect.

Under traditional criminal law principles, knowingly or intentionally doing something is more blameworthy than doing the same thing by gross neglect.

Bill S-203 would introduce a new power to allow the sentencing judge to order the offender to repay the costs of medical care and other forms of care that another person or organization spent caring for the animal that was abused. This new power would be a means of holding the offender financially responsible for the costs of their crime.

Those are the three principal amendments. Unfortunately, I was not able to elaborate on the second major one, but together they constitute a significant improvement to the current law and one with which all Canadians would agree.

I encourage all hon. members to support Bill S-203 and to oppose the two motions currently before the House.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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BQ

Carole Lavallée

Bloc Québécois

Mrs. Carole Lavallée (Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, true to its reputation, the Bloc Québécois carefully read Bill S-203 when it was before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. It listened with interest to the various witnesses and is well aware of the limitations of Bill S-203.

We are aware of the importance of properly protecting animals from cruelty, so we proposed a series of amendments to improve Bill S-203. Among our proposals was the idea of introducing a clear definition of what an animal is. We also sought to protect stray as well as domestic animals. We also wanted to clarify the criterion for negligence, thereby making it easier to prove. Finally, we also proposed an amendment to formally ban training cocks to fight. Unfortunately all the Bloc's proposed amendments were rejected and the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights agreed on February 14, 2008, to report the bill without amendments.

That is not stopping the Bloc Québécois from supporting Bill S-203 in that it is, in fact, a small but real step in the right direction and does not prevent the possible study and adoption of a more complete bill in line with Bill C-50.

The Bloc Québécois does oppose the amendments proposed at report stage by the NDP. These amendments seek nothing less than to kill the bill. Their first amendment would remove the title and their second amendment would remove the rest. The NDP's logic in all this is especially twisted. Instead of voting in favour of an improvement to the legislation, even though we know a lot remains to be done—it is true—the NDP prefers the status quo that it nonetheless vehemently criticizes. Where is the logic in that?

If the NDP truly had animal protection at heart, it would act differently. It would follow the Bloc Québécois' example and act responsibly. Although the Bloc Québécois is aware of the limitations of Bill S-203, it finds that this bill is a small but real step in the right direction, and does not hinder the possible study and adoption of another bill I will speak about shortly. The Bloc Québécois is making no secret of this. It is in favour of a real reform of the animal cruelty provisions and will seriously study this matter again, unlike our colleagues, apparently.

Introduced by the Senate, Bill S-203 is the result of a long legislative process. Indeed, in recent years, six bills were introduced by the Liberal government of the day, specifically, Bill C-10, Bill C-10B, Bill C-15B, Bill C-17, Bill C-22 and Bill C-50. To those we can add those proposed by the Senate, namely, Bill S-24 and Bill S-213, the two predecessors of Bill S-203.

All those bills sought to modify the offences set out in the part of the Criminal Code that deals with cruelty to animals. Some of the bills went even further, however, and proposed real reforms to this bill. The Bloc was particularly in favour of the principle of Bill C-50, which would have created a new section in the Criminal Code to address cruelty to animals, removing this topic from the sections of the code that deal with property.

However, since that reform raised a number of problems, Bill S-24 was introduced in the meantime, to allow much more modest changes. Bill S-203 is a copy of Bill S-213, which was itself a copy of Bill S-24—I hope people are able to follow me.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill S-203, even though we are aware that it does not go far enough. But it is better than nothing. Such a bill will send a message to anyone who mistreats animals. Protecting animals against certain despicable actions will always remain a concern of the Bloc Québécois. The current maximum sentences under the Criminal Code are too lenient for the seriousness of the acts committed.

The bill does not jeopardize legitimate activities involving animal death, such as agriculture, hunting and fishing. This bill, however, is less comprehensive and therefore does not replace Bill C-373, which is a revival of Bill C-50. However, we are not here to discuss that bill today.

The bill amends the Criminal Code to increase the maximum sentences in cases of cruelty to animals. For prosecution by indictment, the maximum sentence is five years. For summary convictions, sentences can range from six to 18 months, along with a possible $10,000 fine.

In the past, judges could prohibit those found guilty from owning or residing with animals for up to two years. Now that ban can be for life. The judge can now require the offender to reimburse costs arising from his or her actions.

Obviously, the bill does not solve all of the existing problems. As I said earlier, this is a baby step, but these new penalties will provide better protection for animals until such time as animal cruelty provisions can be reformed significantly.

By increasing the penalties, we are sending a message to criminals as well as to the judges who have to take this into account in sentencing. The seriousness of a crime is determined in part by the maximum penalty that can be imposed on an offender.

We are also hoping that by making the ban on owning animals indefinite, we will be able to prevent some animal abuse from taking place.

The bill we are considering this afternoon has three major advantages. First, it corrects an anachronism. When the Criminal Code was first drafted back in the 19th century, society did not regard animals the way it does now. The relationships between people and animals have changed, so it makes sense for the Criminal Code to reflect that. Everyone agrees that the current penalties are not severe enough. Bill S-203 goes a little way toward correcting the old-fashioned, weak penalties. The old penalties were based on how people interacted with animals in the 19th century.

The second good thing about this bill is the fact that, as penalties become more severe, there is a good chance that the courts will become stricter with those who are found guilty of crimes against animals, such as mutilation, slaughter, neglect, abandonment, or failure to feed them.

This bill would change the minimum sentence. From now on, if a case is tried as an indictable offence, the minimum sentence will be five years in jail. The fine will go up to $10,000. As it happens, both of these provisions are in the member for Ajax—Pickering's bill, Bill C-373.

There is another excellent change. Henceforth, a court may ban an animal owner for life—or I should say a former owner—from having an animal in his possession. Bill S-203 will now allow a court to impose a prohibition order for life on this owner, whereas the current legislation provides for a two-year prohibition.

The third and last advantage of this bill is that it provides for restitution mechanisms through which the courts can order an individual to pay the costs if an animal has been taken in by an animal welfare organization, for example. Individuals who committed offences of negligence or intentional cruelty could be forced to pay the organizations that have taken in mistreated animals.

These three benefits alone represent a considerable improvement and warrant our support of this bill.

A number of our constituents have written to us comparing this Senate bill and the bill introduced by the member for Ajax—Pickering to be debated later. The Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of a step in the right direction rather than sticking with the status quo denounced by all. In other words, it is better than nothing.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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NDP

Paul Dewar

New Democratic Party

Mr. Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak against Bill S-203, and to do so very strongly.

Before I begin my comments as to why our party is opposing this bill, I want to pick up on a couple of points that have been stated in debate and, I hope, provide a responsible refutation of those points.

For my Conservative friend from Winnipeg who said that the amendments brought forward by my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh are not plausible or reasonable, I would just confirm for him that they were done with very direct intent. It was to delete the bill simply because the bill is wrong. He put the amendment forward because this a bill that does not deserve to be passed.

My friend from Winnipeg should know that the member for Windsor—Tecumseh did not fall off the turnip wagon. He knew exactly what he was doing. He was ensuring that this bill would not go further.

It is strange that, at the same as the Liberals have one of their members putting forward a progressive piece of legislation that is a private member's initiative, they would even think of supporting Bill S-203. Why would the Liberals settle for half measures?

I hope the members of the Liberal Party will take stock of the bill and the juxtaposition between Bill S-203 and Bill C-373, the private member's initiative from the member from Pickering.

I have a comment for my friends from the Bloc. The point that has been made time and again is that this is not good enough. In fact, the Bloc knows that when my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh brought forward amendments at committee to replace this bill with what is progressive legislation, which was actually Bill C-50, that was the time for us to change the bill. However, sadly, that did not get the support of all the members of the committee.

What is wrong with the bill? I guess I will start with the people who, day in and day out, advocate for more responsible animal welfare. These people are not extremists. These people are responsible citizens. They are looking at the proposition that was brought forward by one of the members of the Liberal Party, which we support, as being the way to go. They believe that Bill S-203 will only take us half way. What is the problem with that? The problem is that this issue has been languishing since the 1800s. It puts Canada at the bottom of the list in terms of progress on animal welfare globally in progressive circles.

In fact, if we adopt Bill S-203, it says that it is as good as we could get. Every member who has spoken today has said that it is okay because it is the best we can do for now.

That is not good enough. It is not good enough for this House because this House, before, passed progressive legislation that was much better than this, which is a cut and paste, so to speak, from the member from Pickering's bill, and that was Bill C-50.

What happened to Bill C-50? It went to that other place and got done in, which is part of our problem with the other place. It has decent people there but the institution has absolutely no right to take a bill that has been passed by consensus here and gone through committee and then let it sit there. It is wrong, and most Canadians feel that way about it.

In fact, I was honoured to join people this past weekend in my riding of Ottawa Centre just down the street from here. I joined in with everyday people who asked all members of Parliament to vote against Bill S-203 because it is the wrong way to go. They say that very deliberately, with conviction and with great intelligence.

In fact, Simone Powell and Beth Greenhorn from my riding, who helped organize a rally this past weekend, said just that. They wanted to know why members of Parliament were going to pass a bill that is inferior when we have progressive legislation right in front. I told them I had no idea why.

The NDP has been very clear. We will be supporting Bill C-373 but we will be voting against Bill S-203 because it is the wrong way to go.

We have a party that says that this bill is the best that can be done at this point. We took the content from Bill C-373, which was Bill C-50, and put it into committee as amendments so this bill might have a chance of working but members from the other parties did not want to do that. They did not want to be responsible for animal welfare.

I will explain some of the problems with the bill. We are taking laws from the 1800s and basically moving a nanosecond in terms of progress. We do not understand that it is wrong to have this kind of protection in property rights. It reminds me of the time in Canadian history when women were not considered persons. We now have animals considered as properties. The problem with the law is that it is wrong.

For anyone to suggest that we just torque up some of the fines and pass a law that will suggest that judges have a little more in their toolkits to extend the sentences is troubling and strange, particularly for the Conservative Party, which is saying that we need to be very deliberate with judges and tell them exactly how it is.

My friends in the Liberal Party should know that in making laws in legislation we must be deliberate. We must categorize them. Nomenclature is extremely important. If we are not able to properly define animals, animal welfare and understand where it belongs in terms of the law, then we should not bother trying to fix something that is not fixable because that is the problem with Bill S-203.

The bill says to Canadians that we can only do a little bit, that we cannot actually do the right thing. We can only do a little bit and we will eventually get to it and fix it down the road, maybe with Bill C-373, if it comes on the order paper later, or if it is a matter of having others put proposals forward.

Why is it that with each proposal that has been put forward since 1999, all of them have died on the order paper? Why do they die when they go to the other place? Canadians want to know that. People who work for the protection of animals want to know why that is.

This is something that has been pointed out to those who are looking to have more progressive legislation and are 100% against Bill S-203. They have said the following:

It is shameful that, in 2008, our parliament is considering entrenching animal cruelty offences from the Victorian days.

Further to that, they say:

This bill is simply 19th century legislation adjusted for inflation and we must put a stop to it.

I could not agree more. If we do not address the loopholes that exist in Bill S-203, we are admitting that we cannot fix the problem. It means that either we do not understand the problem or we do not care to fix the problem.

Again, why is it that when this place, through consensus in committee back three parliaments, passes a bill and sends it to the other place, the other place decides that it is not good enough? With all due respect, the Senate does not represent my constituents. The Senate should be saying that this is what the House has given to it and it needs to ensure it gets through and that it is responsible. Its decision to kill the bill was not only reprehensible but it was anti-democratic.

At the end, our party will stand with those who want better legislation, progressive legislation, which is why we will vote against Bill S-203 and, in doing so, will vote to protect animal welfare and not go backward.

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

Paul Szabo

Liberal

Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, as the member in our caucus who coordinates private members' business, I have followed this bill very carefully.

It is a bill by Senator John Bryden, who was successful in having the bill move through all stages in the Senate. It has been passed in the Senate and has been referred to the House of Commons and is now being sponsored by the member who tabled the bill here.

It is a very simple bill. It increases penalties, I believe up to 10 years.

Having spent all the time working on private members' business, in my experience private members' bills should not try to do government business, because our rules simply do not provide sufficient debate in Parliament to properly scrutinize any private member's bill.

Private members' bills that come before this place are usually a paragraph long. They are simply trying to make a very specific, focused change.

Under our rules, only two hours of debate are allowed at second reading. That might be 12 speakers. Of the 308 members, only 12 people could even speak.

Then the bill goes to committee. Committees are busy. Private members' business items are a nuisance and they very rarely get a lot of attention there, but let us assume the committee spends a meeting on one. That is another couple of hours. Then the bill is referred back to the House, if it passes at committee, and it gets another two hours at report stage and third reading. In grand total, a private member's bill at all stages in the House may only get six hours of debate. It is ridiculous to think that one could do very much at all stages in just six hours.

Senator Bryden was aware of that. He knew that the only way he could demonstrate the importance of updating animal cruelty legislation was at least to take one step, one step that everybody would understand and that people would be able to take a position on without a lot of debate, because there is not a lot of debate. That is where we are today.

Interestingly enough, there is another private member's bill, Bill C-373, by the member for Ajax—Pickering. That bill was Bill C-50 from a prior Parliament. The justice minister of the day, the member for Mount Royal, had this bill. It was a comprehensive bill but a controversial bill nonetheless. It was quite controversial. There was a lot of debate. There were a lot of issues and a lot of changes were being proposed.

That is going to happen again with a full, comprehensive bill to update this archaic piece of legislation in the manner in which it is needed. We cannot possibly deal with it during private members' business. There just is not enough time to properly consider the bill.

I am speaking in favour of Bill S-203 for the reason that Senator Bryden proposed it, and that is to say, I do not see the government having an appetite to do this. It should be a government bill. It should have the broadest possible and necessary debate within the House to make sure when we correct this that we do the job right, and we cannot do it right in a private member's bill.

The possibility was suggested that maybe we could do this by getting a private member's bill into committee and then making all of the amendments to almost overlay this other bill into the small bill. I have a feeling that probably would not be possible, only because it would be beyond the scope of the bill and it probably would be out of order. There may be some problems.

There also have been some myths about Bill C-373. Many people have written to me saying that I have to vote against Bill S-203 because if that passes, then nobody will have any incentive to make any changes in the future, that it will have been already dealt with.

That is not right. Any piece of legislation can be amended at any time and from time to time. This is one demonstration of the importance of this issue. I hope that the House as a whole would agree that we need to have changes to the animal cruelty legislation.

This bill should in fact be the catalyst to get the government to propose legislation. I encourage and sincerely ask the government to please come forward with legislation which emulates Bill C-50 and any other improvements in there that would make the bill even better. Give that bill to the House and let us work with it. It has to be a government bill. If it is not a government bill, it will never get the proper time for debate and the scrutiny that will be necessary to make a good piece of legislation.That is the real problem.

To suggest that if we passS-203 it is going to stop anything, that is simply not the case. It is incorrect. There will be changes in the future, but unless the House is going to have a piece of legislation in front of it that members can properly address, I do not think it is going to happen.

I can say for sure that if the Liberals form the next government, it will be part of our platform to introduce comprehensive legislation to bring it up to date, into the current realities, on animal cruelty legislation. It is an important piece. We had it the last time we formed government. The then minister of justice, the member for Mount Royal, had Bill C-50 and it will come back.

Bill C-373 is in front of me. It is quite a long bill. These are just the amendments to the existing legislation. There are six pages of amendments. No one is saying that six pages of amendments even in themselves are going to be enough. We need to have comprehensive debate on this legislation when it comes before the House. It needs to go to committee. We need to hear from stakeholders from across the country, those who represent the agricultural industry, farmers, fishermen, anglers, pet owners and those who just understand that we have legislation right now on which it is very difficult to get prosecutions and convictions.

It is a serious problem and Parliament should deal with it. The only way it can deal with it right now is either to have the government table a bill at least covering the items in Bill C-50 from a prior Parliament or at least to pass Bill S-203 to send a signal to Canadians that this is an issue that is important enough to Parliament that we will set the stage for the government to take action. And if it does not, then another party forming government will in fact bring it in. We had it before.

The NDP members are against everything these days. I do not know what it is. I know they have talked about maybe asking the Liberal member to give up his bill, give it to the NDP and one of its members will do it, but it is not going to work.

We all have to understand that with a private member's bill we are not going to get unanimous consent to do the kinds of things we have to do. It is not going to happen in this mix of the House. We need to have a bill that has that full and comprehensive debate, to make sure that all the questions that people have from coast to coast to coast are answered and that the legislation reflects the priorities of Canadians with regard to animal cruelty legislation. We have to hear that and we will not hear that on a private member's bill.

I acknowledge 100% that S-203 takes one small step. It is not that it does not want to do more, but that is all that is possible using a private member's bill.

I am going to support the bill and I am going to continue to fight on behalf of all those who want current, updated and effective animal cruelty legislation.

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

Peter Julian

New Democratic Party

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to the role the member for Windsor—Tecumseh has played in parliamentary committee.

Bill S-203 is opposed by every humane society across the country. It is opposed by the International Fund for Animal Welfare. It is opposed by the World Society for the Protection of Animals. Whether Ontario humane societies, local human societies, the Prince George Humane Society or the Toronto Humane Society, all are opposed to it.

People who are listening to the debate today need to know that the legislation is being opposed for extremely credible reasons. It does nothing to address the egregious cases of cruelty and negligence that we see across the country. It is a smoke screen for politicians to vote for, pretending they are doing something to address this problem.

Through you, Mr. Speaker, I would like to address the people who are concerned about this issue and who are listening today.

The NDP is going to force the vote today. That means there will be no vote in the House of Commons today. The vote will take place next week. The wide viewers who are listening today have the weekend to email their members of Parliament, the Bloc, the Conservative and the Liberal members of Parliament, who support the bill. They can pick up the phone now and phone the offices of those MPs.

The vote will not take place until next week, so there is still time for those who are concerned about the complete absence of real protection. There is nothing to stop what is happening now with respect to the cases of cruelty against animals across the country. For people who want to see the bill gutted, so we can force the government to bring in real meaningful legislation, the time is now.

The NDP has provided a fully array of amendments so some real change would take place.

We have heard case after case of animal cruelty. We heard about the 27 horses in Alberta, the cat that was microwaved to death and the puppies that were thrown down the outhouse pit. All these egregious cases of cruelty in the past few weeks can only be resolved by meaningful parliamentary action. That action comes from Canadians picking up the phone or emailing their members of Parliament now.

I know a lot of people listening to the debate this afternoon care profoundly about making these changes. They can make a real difference by picking up the phone, by sending in those emails, by talking to their neighbours, friends and family members concerned about this issue and getting them to phone their local MP.

Conservative MPs are going to vote against the NDP amendments and try to force Bill S-203 through the House. Even though the Quebec Humane Society is opposed to the bill, Bloc members are going to try to force this through. Liberal members are going to try to force the legislation through. It takes Canadians speaking up to make a difference.

I will mention some Canadians who are speaking up in my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster.

I would like to pay tribute to Ms. Rose Nadon, the president of the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce. Last Sunday she organized a huge rally in Vancouver to oppose Bill S-203. She has taken an active role on this issue.

Barbara Yaffe, a nationally renowned columnist, has written about this issue and spoken out on it as well.

I will quote from three letters I have received from my constituents.

Ms. Simpson from Burnaby, British Columbia writes:

The biggest problem with the current legislation is that it is difficult to enforce. In fact less than 1% of animal cruelty complaints lead to successful convictions. Bill S-203 maintains these inadequacies and loop holes which means that animal abusers will continue to get away with their crimes. As if this weren't bad enough, Bill S-203 also continues to leave wild and stray animals virtually unprotected, makes it nearly impossible to punish crimes of neglect and continues to legalize breeding animals to fight each other.

Another constituent, Ms. Denofreo from Burnaby, British Columbia, writes:

It is suggested that Bill S-203 was introduced to improve protection for animals yet not a single animal protection group in this country supports it. I oppose this bill too—because it is not an effective improvement to the current animal cruelty provisions of the Criminal Code, which haven't been significantly revised since first enacted in 1892. We should be ashamed that our country lags behind the Philippines and other developing countries when it comes to protecting animals from reckless acts of cruelty. Bill S-203 would hardly improve our ranking.

Mr. Schonfeldt from New Westminster writes:

Bill S-203 does not fix the problems in the current legislation which allows so many animal abusers to slip through the cracks unpunished. Less than 1% of animal abuse complaints in Canada lead to a conviction. While Bill S-203 increases the penalties for crimes against animals, I do not believe this to be very useful if law enforcement officers are unable to prosecute animal abusers in the vast majority of cases.

Canadians from coast to coast to coast, from communities like Burnaby and New Westminster and other communities across this country, the Calgary Humane Society, the Edmonton Humane Society, the Alberta Humane Society, and the Canadian Humane Society, experts in this area, they are all say that adopting Bill S-203 would make an already bad situation even worse.

All it would do is increase penalties for offences that police cannot prosecute now. It is a meaningless smokescreen and a meaningless attempt by members of Parliament who are trying to address what is a legitimate concern in the minds of Canadians, given the many abuse cases we have seen in the past few weeks. It is a way of simply trying to stop cold any meaningful changes.

The only way for Canadians to see some real meaningful legislation put into place is for folks to make those phone calls. Canadians have to send in those emails over the course of the weekend, so that we can force members of Parliament to stop the Bill S-203 debacle and not to send it back to the Senate for ratification.

The second step is to force the government to take meaningful action. Most Canadians do not believe in this bill. Over 90% of Canadians who were most recently polled, when they see the appalling cases of cruelty and negligence that we have seen, do not want simply some sort of smokescreen around this issue.

Canadians do not want increased penalties for cases that police officers can never prosecute. The people who support this include our law enforcement officers. When they see cruel neglect and appalling violence toward animals, they know that many of these individuals then move on to provide that same kind of egregious abuse to human beings.

Law enforcement officials are also supporting the NDP's stand to stop Bill S-203 and to put in place meaningful legislation. There is absolutely no way to justify Parliament adopting this bad bill. It is not being voted on today.

Canadians who are listening in now, along with their friends, neighbours and families, are hopefully making those phone calls. The Conservatives do not like this. They do not like public pressure. Of course they are reacting negatively. They are saying to Canadians, “don't phone, don't make your point of view known”. That is essentially what they are saying. They do not want Canadians phoning MPs' offices. They do not want emails or letters to come in. It is obvious that every single member in this House has received emails and phone calls. Every single member of this House already knows what is the right thing to do.

What I am saying is that Canadians need to increase that pressure over the course of the weekend because the vote does not take place until next week. I can say that a member of Parliament, whether it is a Bloc member, a Conservative member or a Liberal member, who will hear from 100 constituents over the course of the next three days is not going to vote for this bad legislation. It will stop those members cold.

I am going to allow a couple of minutes for my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan, who also feels strongly about this issue. I am saying that the jig is not up. If Canadians respond over the course of this weekend, they can stop this bad bill from being enacted.

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

Dick Harris

Conservative

Mr. Richard Harris (Cariboo—Prince George, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, I believe, did everything but drop to his knees and beg people to phone in, in opposition to this bill. I would say to that member that his pleading, his begging, his imploring for people to phone in, in opposition, is not necessary. People are already phoning in. In my riding of Cariboo—Prince George, my offices, both here and in the riding, people are phoning in. I have listened to them. They have overwhelmingly been telling me to support this bill, which I will.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink

April 4, 2008