Transparency remains an issue with crime bill: OUR OPINION
Editorial: The Barrie Examiner
Canada's provinces should be asking how much the federal omnibus crime bill will cost them.
And Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government should be answering.
Because Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act, should be relatively well-known to Canadian politicians of all stripes.
It includes tougher laws for sexual predators, drug offences, violent youths, sentencing, offender accountability, pardons, international prison transfers, terrorism and protecting foreign nationals.
It was part of the Conservatives' election platform, one that helped Harper win his majority government last spring.
What has been a mystery, of sorts, is how much it will cost and who will bear that cost.
The PM has promised Bill C-10 would become law within 100 sitting days of this Parliament, so mid-March is the target.
It could pass through the House of Commons this week -- majority governments can get things done quickly. The details need to be made public.
On CTV's Nov. 27 Question Period, Dean Del Mastro, the PMs parliamentary secretary, was asked about the omnibus bill's cost. There will be more prisons, more guards, so it will cost more.
Del Mastro priced it at $76- million, although that figure is being disputed by the opposition.
Ottawa has also said some of the cost will be borne by the provinces, although there are no details. Quebec and Ontario are reportedly balking at the expense.
"We think the cost is negligible when you compare the cost of crime on our communities," Del Mastro said on Question Period.
The point can be made, however, that crime is decreasing right across Canada. So why do we need more prisons and more guards?
Ostensibly because Bill C-10 would create that need. More people will end up incarcerated in our prison system, and they will stay there longer.
There's little point arguing about crime rates and whether the omnibus bill is necessary.
The Conservatives have a majority government and it will become law. This does not mean, however, that provincial governments in this country should automatically have to bear a portion of the cost.
Del Mastro says the price is negligible? It probably isn't to Ontario's Liberal government, facing a $16-billion deficit in this fiscal year. Premier Dalton McGuinty is trying to hold the line on costs (in theory), not spend more.
And if provincial governments have to spend more money on federal crime bills, there will be less money for municipalities.
Because the money has to come from somewhere, and there's only so much of it.
Harper supporters can, and probably will, argue that the tradeoff is worth the money, because it will mean safer communities.
Opponents will argue that our communities are already safer, as crime rates fall.
What this really needs to be about, for the 111th time, is the transparency.
Why has it taken so long for Bill C-10's costs to be known, and why has there been such disagreement about the cost? Why weren't the details out long ago?
Last March, it should be remembered, a Commons committee found Harper's government in contempt of Parliament for stonewalling on the full costs of Bill C-10.
Granted, that committee was dominated by opposition MPs -- but they were some of the politicians who wanted to know what the crime bill would cost.
These should not be difficult questions. That Harper and the Conservatives won't adequately answer is worth noting.