Provinces hoping to get some signal that Ottawa is considering their calls to foot the costs of implementing the omnibus crime bill were disappointed on Thursday after a meeting of justice ministers in Charlottetown.
Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson told his provincial counterparts that Ottawa has already committed to increase transfer payments by $2.4-billion.
Earlier this week, the Ontario government said the legislation would add more than $1-billion in increased police and court costs, and reiterated its calls for Ottawa to pay.
During a news conference wrapping up the three-day meeting, Mr. Nicholson made it clear Ontario wouldn’t get what it was asking for.
“I have no cheque for $1-billion for Ontario,” said Mr. Nicholson. “But that being said, we’ll continue to give more money to the provinces as we do every year.”
Mr. Nicholson said Ottawa was also committed to holding up its end by paying for federal drug prosecutions, which he described as a “major component” of the bill.
Mr. Nicholson’s position didn’t satisfy Quebec’s justice minister, who said the province faces a $500-million increase in spending because of the bill.
“We will not be the bankers of their actions,” said Jean Marc Fournier.
“It is their initiative and they’ve got to think about how to pay for that. They must enter into discussions on that.”
Mr. Fournier said the provinces and territories agreed to press Ottawa for consultation on the bill to identify costs and to look at implementation time frames.
Provinces such as New Brunswick, British Columbia and Alberta have been more supportive of the federal changes and struck a more conciliatory tone following the meeting.
Alberta Justice Minister Verlyn Olson said Bill C-10 contains things that some provinces had asked for.
“We want to talk about costs but in a context that touches many other subjects, not just one and on one piece of legislation,” Mr. Olson said.
Passed in December, Bill C-10 combines nine different pieces of legislation that include a host of measures from toughening drug sentences to increasing penalties for sexual offences against children.