Pubdate: Mon, 19 Mar 2012
Source: Chilliwack Progress (CN BC)
Copyright: 2012 The Chilliwack Progress
Author: Robert Freeman, Chilliwack Progress


Flexing its majority muscle, the Tory government has delivered the
get-tough crime bill promised in the last federal election.

But when those laws will be enforced - and at what cost to B.C.
taxpayers - will be the subject of complex negotiations between
federal and provincial officials.

Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP Mark Strahl said he hopes the effect of
the stronger laws, especially those that better protect children from
sexual predators and that end the practice of house arrest for serious
crimes, will be seen "immediately" in B.C. courts.

"The measures contained in this legislation crack down on those who
exploit children, traffic in illegal drugs and commit acts of violence
and terror," he said. "This bill will keep dangerous offenders off our
streets and make our communities safer."

But NDP Leader Adrian Dix, speaking after a Rotary Club lunch in
Chilliwack, said the BC Liberals had not taken into account in the
recent budget the costs of implementing the federal crime

"There's no question the cost will be in the hundreds of millions of
dollars," he said.

"What's problematic here is the vast increase in mandatory minimum
sentences under two years, which will lead frankly to huge costs in
our justice system," he said.

The federal government is responsible for inmates jailed for over two

Dix said the federal government "needs to step up and pay" for the
increased provincial costs.

"We need to ensure especially that violence is dealt with in our
society ... but it's not good enough to just pass a law and talk tough
on crime," he said.

Mandatory minimum sentences for possession of small amounts of
marijuana, he added, "are going to clog our justice system" which is
already seeing backlogs that result in judicial stays of charges
against convicted criminals.

B.C. Attorney-General Shirley Bond said in an email to The Progress
that the provincial government supports the federal government's
commitment to tackling crime and improving public safety.

But she said B.C. has "led the discussions on the need for the federal
government to consult with us on proclamation dates."

"B.C. has also expressed its concerns about potential costs, and we
have agreed to work constructively with the federal government to
ensure that implementation occurs over a sufficient amount of time,"
she said.

"With respect to costs and overall impacts to the system, this is
complex and challenging to calculate," she continued. "The factors
that need to be considered, and are subject to fluctuation, include
crime rates at any given time, the availability of police, daily
inmate counts, and client counts, for instance."

But she said B.C. is "probably better positioned than most provinces
to accommodate" the new legislation because the province is in the
midst of a $185-million capital expansion - "the largest in BC
Corrections' history."

"Over the next two years, it will add 340 cells across the province to
hold more than 600 offenders," she said.

The Quebec provincial government has vowed it will do everything in it
can to limit implementation of the new legislation because of the
anticipated costs. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.