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Minister of Justice Rob Nicholson speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons. (Sean Kilpatrick/Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Minister of Justice Rob Nicholson speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons. (Sean Kilpatrick/Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Conservatives' tough-on-crime bill goes to Senate Add to ...

The Conservative omnibus crime bill passed third reading Monday night and will go to the Senate for approval.

After limiting debate on the legislation in committee and the House of Commons, the Conservatives used their majority status to move the legislation through third reading Monday night and send it to the Senate.

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The controversial bill includes new mandatory minimum sentences and tougher sentencing for young offenders, among other changes.

But as the bill moves another step closer to becoming law, Canada’s provinces and territories say the federal government has left them in the dark about how much of the bill’s cost will fall to them.

The legislation is expected to significantly increase the number of prisoners in jail, ratcheting up the cost of administering justice at both the provincial and federal levels.

Madeleine Meilleur, Ontario’s Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, sent a letter to the federal government recently saying it will require significant new spending that the province has not budgeted for.

“In our view, it is not appropriate for one level of government to create financial burdens for another without discussion and an appropriate financial offset,” she wrote to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.

The federal government says its share of the bill will cost $78.6-million over five years, a figure opposition MPs say underestimates the true cost of the legislation. The estimate does not include added costs that will fall to the provinces and territories to pay for new jails and programs for inmates.

A spokeswoman from Minister of Justice Rob Nicholson’s office said transfer payments to the provinces and territories have increased by 30 per cent since the Conservative government took office, but declined to say what the payments would be in the future.

“The fact is that the cost of crime on society far exceeds the cost of fighting crime,” Julie Di Mambro wrote in an e-mail.

The bill passed with 157 MPs in favour and 127 against.

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