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Marjolaine Boutine-Sweet, a newly-elected NDP MP for Hochelaga, Que., looks over a booklet during a orientation program for new MPs in the Reading Room on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Sunday September 18, 2011, one day before Parliament is set to resume after a summer break. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press/Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)
Marjolaine Boutine-Sweet, a newly-elected NDP MP for Hochelaga, Que., looks over a booklet during a orientation program for new MPs in the Reading Room on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Sunday September 18, 2011, one day before Parliament is set to resume after a summer break. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press/Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

Crime bill first on the Tory agenda Add to ...

Of the Conservatives’ many priorities when Parliament returns Monday, the first is the omnibus crime bill, which House Leader Peter Van Loan will introduce Tuesday.

The Safe Streets and Communities Act, as it is called, will toughen parole requirements and minimum sentences for some crimes, restrict house arrest and generally limit judicial discretion in the treatment of offenders.

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Critics – and they are many, from the opposition parties to organizations that work to rehabilitate the convicted to the Canadian Bar Association – warn the bill will cost billions, overcrowd prisons and, worst of all, turn frightened young men and women into career criminals through prolonged exposure to a prison environment.

But for the Conservatives, none of this washes. “It is clear that there is still far too much crime in cities and communities across Canada,” reads an internal caucus document made available to the media.

Though Statistics Canada reports the crime rate generally decreasing, the caucus memo refers to more than two million crimes in Canada – including 440,000 violent crimes – committed in 2010, with only one in three victims of crime bothering to report the offence to police.

“Canadians want and deserve to be able to feel safe in their homes and communities and that means that dangerous criminals need to be off our streets,” the caucus concludes.

By introducing the legislation this quickly, the Conservatives are moving to keep their election promise of passing all of the law-and-order measures thwarted by the opposition parties during previous minority parliaments within the first 100 sitting days of the new government,

If they meet that commitment, the new measures should become law some time in the spring of next year.

Follow on Twitter: @JohnIbbitson

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