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The Real Cost of New Tough on Crime Laws
G. Shawn Swarts
G. Shawn Swarts
G. Shawn Swarts
Shawn graduated with a law degree from University of Western Ontario. Shawn articled in Ottawa, specializing in criminal defence work. Since his call to the bar in 1991, he continues to practice in this area.

April 2011-We are now entering a Federal election in part because the Federal Conservatives refused to give parliament the information about the actual costs of implementing their tough on crime agenda. The speaker of parliament on March 9, 2011 issued a scathing rebuke to the Conservative party over their failure to provide this information to parliament. On March 21, 2011 parliament for the first time in history found a government in contempt for their failure to produce the information on this very issue, which is one of the reason this election has been triggered.

The Conservatives love to trumpet legislation that is "tough on crime", it is their favourite tactic to attempt to scare the electorate to get votes, but what is the cost? Information has come to light that the cost is substantial. Estimates on correction spending are predicting an increase of $521.6 million which is an increase of 21.2% over last year even though the crime rate in Canada has continued to go down. Of that $521.6 million, $458 million are the direct result of Harper's tough on crime agenda. Further, when this election was called the Conservatives had an additional 24 tough on crime bills working their way through the system which would have costs many millions more.

Rather than spending the money on crime prevention by assisting people in poverty that are most likely to commit crimes, the Tory government seems hell-bent on spending money on jails and keeping people in them. In the last year the Tories have slashed $4.1 million of funding for programs focusing on stopping youth gang activity and $13.1 million in cuts in effects on helping Canadians build safer communities.

Canada needs a government that is smart on crime, not one that is simply thinks punishment is the answer to all criminal issues.

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