Cost of crime law worries provinces
B.C. still working out implications; Ontario, Quebec take a harder line
VANCOUVER — Canada’s three largest provinces are concerned there will be increased costs from the Conservatives’ tough-oncrime legislation to be introduced in the next 100 days.
The tougher rules could mean more court time and increase the number of people in jails.
Both Ontario and Quebec are taking a hard stand against the potential cost of the new legislation, saying if the federal government wants the new law they will have to pay for it.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark said she has cost concerns, but the province has not taken a position.
“We are still working through those numbers and I know the solicitor general has some concerns about what that could be,” Clark told reporters Tuesday.
“Until we have a final number, though, I don’t have a final answer.”
The Conservatives have promised to have the Safe Streets and Communities legislation written into law within 100 days of the start of the current session of parliament.
The legislation contains new mandatory minimum sentences for drug offences — including marijuana. Although mandatory minimums don’t apply automatically to young offenders, there are tougher measures planned against young people accused of certain crimes, including incarceration before trial and publicly naming young offenders.
Crown prosecutors across Canada have already said mandatory minimums will mean more trials by defendants who have nothing to lose and that those trials will add a massive financial strain to the judicial system.
Although the federal government enacts crime legislation, it is largely the responsibility of the provinces to enforce it and house defendants sentenced to serve time — or be incarcerated before a trial — in provincial jails.
B.C. Solicitor General Shirley Bond said while she has cost concerns, her government supports many of the principles contained in the new crime bill.
“Anytime you impose minimum sentences there are going to be downstream impacts for us just, in terms of capacity and cost and we need to be really thoughtful about doing our homework and having that discussion with the feds,” Bond said.