This criminal defence lawyer wonders if toughening Canada’s criminal laws will do anything other than improve the Conservative government’s image with the law and order constituency.
Six of 10 provinces that were surveyed by the Globe and Mail newspaper this week fear that the Conservative government’s proposed tough crime bills will cost them billions. The financial toll will be the result of the influx of prisoners they are anticipating, and they believe the federal government should help shield the cost.
Specific dollar figures for the cost of the bills have not been released by the government, however, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, has said that current government estimates are too low.
Opposition critics have been able to use the fact that the bills will cost billions – with no guarantee that they will have a positive net effect — to justify opposing the bills.
The fact that crime rates are falling is another strong reason to query wisdom of the government’s intention.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has not yet confirmed that the government will be assisting provinces in paying for more prisons. According to the government, provincial costs may be trimmed because of a decrease in people in provincial remand centres and more people in federal prisons. This argument is unlikely to prove true as there are 10 individuals sentenced to provincial penitentiaries for every person who is sentenced to a federal prison. Longer sentences lead to federal time.