Costs bulge for feds’ tough-on-crime agenda

The federal Conservative government has offered up costs associated with its tough-on-crime agenda, and the $2.7-billion price tag over five years has opposition MPs steaming mad.

“We need new rooms and new beds in hospitals, not prisons,” Bloc Quebecois MP Pierre Paquette told The Toronto Sun.

The largest cost taxpayers will be on the hook for is $2 billion on account of Bill C-25, which gets rid of credits for time served prior to sentencing. The bulk of those costs will come from building new jails to house the larger prison population.

Toughened parole standards though Bill C-39 are expected to cost about $386 million, while the elimination of early parole will cost an extra $200 million. Overall, the crime bills are now estimated to cost about $650 million more than first estimated.

The feds are getting a bit of push back from provincial governments over the expenditures.

“The data are telling us that crime is going down,” Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has said. “If they intend to proceed, notwithstanding, with more prisons, then, notwithstanding the fact that that is not a priority for the people of Ontario, they should foot that bill.”

Meanwhile, Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page told the Commons public safety committee that Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has not offered “sufficient fiscal transparency” in relation to the costs. He said the government failed to offer up its estimates until the new laws took hold, and did not explain how it arrived at the estimates.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews stuck by the initiatives.

“We understand there’s a cost to keeping dangerous criminals behind bars. It is, however, a price we are willing to pay,” Toews told the Toronto Star.

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