Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Provinces pay bulk of cost of Tory crime laws: report

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OTTAWA'S tough-on-crime stance is costing taxpayers more than they bargained for, a Manitoba social agency says

Commenting on a new parliamentary budget study out Wednesday, the John Howard Society says the worst predictions it made back when the Harper government loaded anti-crime bills into the Commons are now coming true -- and the taxpayer is stuck with the bill.

The new study says spending on criminal justice climbed 23 per cent during the last decade, just as crime rates fell 23 per cent.

The first-of-its-kind report took a comprehensive look at criminal justice costs over time and put the price tag at $20.3 billion in 2011-2012.

"The report shows that spending on criminal justice increased 23 per cent while crime continued to fall," the Manitoba John Howard Society said in a statement.

A year ago, the society, which advocates on behalf of inmates and justice issues, said the tough-on-crime policy courts hidden costs to taxpayers.

Manitoba executive director John Hutton said the vindication is bittersweet because the report bears out every warning the society made when Bill C-10 worked its way through Parliament. The mandatory minimum-sentence laws were enacted in October, further crowding overburdened provincial jails, he said.

"They hoodwinked us," Hutton said.

The report shows 75 per cent of the costs of the new federal crime bills are being off-loaded to the provinces.

Provincial incarceration rates were also on the rise while federal rates fell, the report said.

That was political sleight of hand that allowed the federal government to conceal the bulk of the cost from taxpayers, Hutton said.

"It's important information because it's the taxpayer who pays, and the federal government was hiding 75 per cent of the cost.

"They weren't talking about these costs to the provinces. They were only talking about 25 per cent of the costs to them.

"They were able to hide 75 per cent of the costs," Hutton said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 21, 2013 A6

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