Tories pledge to now ‘space out’ crime measures
OTTAWA—The Conservative government that rushed to pass a massive crime bill by curtailing debate in the House of Commons and Senate now says it will take its time making the new measures a reality on the street.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s majority easily passed Bill C-10 yesterday evening by a vote of 154-129, sweeping aside a procedural delay by the NDP that stalled the bill’s curtain call for five days.
Working the changes through the justice system will take considerably longer.
“We’re going to space a number of them out,” Justice minister Rob Nicholson said outside the Commons before the final vote yesterday.
“I indicated to my provincial colleagues when I met with them about a month ago now that, you know, we’ll proclaim them into effect in consultation with them.”
Nicholson didn’t provide an order of precedence.
The bill increases sentences for drug and sex offences, reduces the use of conditional sentences such as house arrest, provides harsher penalties on young offenders, makes it more difficult to get a pardon, gives crime victims more say in parole hearings, and allows victims of terrorism to sue.
Supporters, including victims’ rights groups and some police organizations, say the bill helps correct a justice system that has swung too far toward the rights of criminals.
Critics have said the changes will do nothing for public safety but will cost literally hundreds of millions of dollars from increased jail populations, much of it borne by provinces and territories.
The changes also are expected to clog the courts as many offenders will opt for trials rather than agreeing to a plea deal for a crime that carries a mandatory minimum sentence.
The government has never even tried to answer what exactly the justice changes will achieve in terms of the overall crime rate, number of victims, the cost of crime to the community, or the incidence of violent crime.
“This sends the message out to people if you get involved with this kind of activity, there will be serious consequences,” Nicholson reiterated yesterday.
Nor has the government ever provided a credible, detailed costing of the legislation.
Parliament’s independent budget office spent six months researching one small aspect of the bill—curtailing the use of conditional sentences—and found it will cost the provinces about $750 million over the next five years, mostly for increased jail time.
New mandatory minimum jail terms for growing as few as six pot plants were panned internationally in an open letter to Harper that pointed out the war on drugs has been a repeated, dismal failure across the globe—fuelling the very violence and organized crime it is supposed to combat.