Conservative government / cost of prison / Criminal Justice Policy / prison / prison expansion / social justice / Stephen Harper

Liberals ask budget watchdog to estimate cost of Tory crime bill

Liberals ask budget watchdog to estimate cost of Tory crime bill

from Canada.com:  Politics and the Nation – Postmedia News

Written by Andrew Mayeda

___________________________________________________________________________________________

The Liberals have asked Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page to review the costs of another crime bill introduced by the Harper government.

The bill, known officially as An Act to Amend the Correction and Conditional Release Act, would end accelerated parole reviews for offenders and allow victims to make statements at parole hearings, among other things.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, in a 2008 file photo Credit: Reuters

Liberal MP Mark Holland on Friday released a letter, published in its entirely below, asking Page’s office to do the review.

In June, Page released a report estimating that another government crime bill, known as the Truth in Sentencing Act, would cost taxpayers $1.8 billion over five years in new facility construction costs. The June report came in response to a request from Holland similar to the one the Liberal MP made Friday.

–Andrew Mayeda

Text of Holland’s letter

Open letter to Kevin Page on the real cost of Conservative prison bill

October 8, 2010

Mr. Kevin Page, Parliamentary Budget Officer
Library of Parliament
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6

Dear Mr. Page:

I am writing to you to request that you carry out a thorough investigation into the ongoing and future costs to the federal treasury of Bill C-39, An Act to Amend the Correction and Conditional Release Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. This request falls within your mandate, laid out in section 79.2 (d) of the Parliament of Canada Act.

The Harper government has consistently refused to supply Parliament with the total costing for its crime legislation.  According to the study published by your office on the funding requirement and impact of the Truth in Sentencing Act, this one bill alone is expected  to cost Canadian taxpayers upwards of $10-13 billion – a far cry from the $90 million estimate the government provided when it asked Parliament to vote on the legislation.


Liberal MP Mark Holland in an election handout photo

The Harper government continues to force Parliament to vote on crime legislation without advance knowledge of the total cost to taxpayers by failing to provide Parliament with the corresponding estimates, as well as grossly misrepresenting the total cost of implementing the legislation. Such underhanded manoeuvring is a violation of public trust and cannot continue. Furthermore, given Canada’s declining crime rate, Canadians have the right to engage in an informed debate on whether or not the new legislation is cost-effective and necessary. The Public Safety Minister recently stated that the billions of dollars his government proposes to spend on prison expansion “is a cost that Canadians are willing to pay” for their safety. How can the Minister possibly know that, given that his government has consistently refused to tell Canadians the truth about the cost of their plan to taxpayers?

The Conservative government needs to be reminded, as they download costs onto the provinces to pay for their legislation, there is only one taxpayer and that the money for their proposed billion dollar prison expansion comes from the same pot as money for health care, job training, pensions and other pressing needs. With the government negating its duty to provide us with these costs, your office is the only one Parliamentarians and Canadians can trust to supply us with reliable costing figures.

I would ask that, upon completion of your study, I receive your report for two business days, following which, it may be posted on your website.

On behalf of Canadians, I would like to thank you for your time and consideration of this very important matter.

Sincerely,

Mark Holland, M.P.
Ajax-Pickering

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