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Speech in support of passage of Bill C-2 Tackling Violent Crime

 

 Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, the primary responsibility of a government is to protect its citizens from criminals who threaten our lives and our property. Conservatives understand that.

Two years ago, my party promised to attack crime with tougher sentences and more police. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, this government is delivering. Our government cracked down on speed racing, a crime that too often kills. We restricted the use of house arrest sentences for serious crimes, and we invested in 1,000 new RCMP personnel and an anti-drug strategy.

These accomplishments are real. We are making progress toward safer streets and safer neighbourhoods, and we must do more.

Last year, the other place passed Bill C-2, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, with multi-party support. Bill C-2 is a single comprehensive bill that tackles four distinct areas of violent crime: serious gun crimes; impaired driving; sexual exploitation of youth by adult predators; and dangerous and repeat violent offenders.

Prime Minister Harper supports Bill C-2. So does Ontario's Liberal premier, Dalton McGuinty. Premier McGuinty is concerned about gun violence in Toronto, and he had this to say about Bill C-2 last month:

Now it's winding its way, in a very slow fashion, through the Senate. The Liberals have some influence over that. We want that to receive passage.

Prime Minister Harper and Premier McGuinty are not the only people who want us to pass Bill C-2; so do Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The National President of MADD, Margaret Miller, recently wrote: "We plead with the Senators in the Committee and in the Chamber, don't delay passing C-2."

I agree with Margaret Miller. Let us not delay the passage of this bill any further. Some honourable senators say we should take our time, and some honourable senators say we should take an undetermined amount of time to study Bill C-2. That is fair enough but this bill is urgent. There has been plenty of time for this chamber to study it. There is a difference between time and urgency and it is time for this bill. The committee could have met during December, or the week previous, when we invited the Liberal committee to meet, or during the recess.

No matter how the Liberals try to disguise it, the issue is not time. We have had plenty of time. Honourable senators, the issue is urgency. To prove that, after the resolution was passed in the House, all of a sudden, the next week, we have ample time.

Honourable senators, Canadians deserve safer streets, not more excuses for inaction. Bill C-2 has been before this chamber since November. The bill is composed of measures proposed in previous legislation.

For example Bill C-22 would have raised the age of consent to protect our young people from adult predators, but that bill died in the Senate. Bill C-10 would have imposed mandatory minimum penalties for firearms offences, but that bill died in the Senate. My point is that this legislation has been studied and probably in greater detail than Sheila Fraser's report on the sponsorship scandal.

Members of the other place did their job last year and now it is time for us to do our job. Honourable senators, I believe in the Senate. We do some important work for Canadians. I want the Senate to continue to perform that important work.

We passed this bill in November. Debate could have started then. The subject matter of this bill is urgent. The other side could have agreed to sit right after that, but no, they delayed the bill. We could have sat the week before we came here for a whole week and worked eight hours a day, five days a week. We asked the Liberal members to come and sit that week but they refused to do so. The question is not a matter of time; it is a matter of urgency.

This bill was passed by democratically elected members of Parliament. The proposed legislation is designed to protect Canadians from criminals. When Canadians see the Senate blocking such proposed legislation that has been passed by a democratically elected government — a bill designed to protect Canadians from criminals — I fear that it diminishes our credibility in the public eye. I fear that it strengthens the hand of those who would abolish this chamber. Honourable senators, I do not want that.

I ask my Liberal friends in this chamber to reject the politics of obstructionism and to reject Mr. Dion's "hear nothing, say nothing, do nothing" approach to tackling crime. We have an opportunity to vote for safer streets. It is time for us to act. It is time for us to make a difference for Canadians. It is time for us to pass Bill C-2, the tackling violent crime bill.