New Brunswick's Justice Minister offered support for the Conservative government's omnibus anti-crime bill Thursday, adding an eastern voice to the list of provinces backing the proposed federal legislation.
“Police and prosecutors require tools to protect the public and this act provides them those tools,” Marie-Claude Blais told the Commons justice committee.
The legislation would impose mandatory minimum sentences for some drug crimes and toughen punishments for violent young offenders, among other changes.
Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia have all said they are in favour of the bill, while Ontario and Quebec have joined forces to fight it, arguing its tough-on-crime measures would put more people in prison for longer – and force the provinces to spend much more on prisons.
“It’s easy to sit on high in Ottawa and pass laws,” Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday. “But if there are accompanying costs, we’re not prepared to accept those in Ontario.”
He added that he didn’t think premiers in other provinces would accept extra costs either.
Ms. Blais said New Brunswick intends to have a dialogue with the federal government on how to cover the cost of the bill if it passes, but declined to specify what proportion of the new costs Ottawa should cover.
She added money shouldn’t stop the provinces from embracing the new bill, which she said would help victims and their families find justice.
“We certainly don’t look at costs. We don’t say, you know, we won’t prosecute in this murder case because it’s going to be too costly,” she said after the committee meeting. “Cost can’t be an impediment to delivering justice in New Brunswick.”