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People make their way toward Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sept. 19, 2011, as the the House of Commons resumes sitting after the summer break. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
People make their way toward Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sept. 19, 2011, as the the House of Commons resumes sitting after the summer break. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

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Sweeping crime bill - and costly Tory cost-cutter - revealed Add to ...

The Conservative government takes the first step Tuesday toward passing a slate of justice bills that have died on the order paper – some of them more than once as a result of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s 2008 election call and decision to prorogue Parliament last year.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson will be joined by Immigration Minister Jason Kenny at the Peel Regional Police Association in Brampton, west of Toronto, to announce that the much-talked-about omnibus crime bill will be tabled in the House.

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The Conservative government says the majority mandate it received in the spring election was a signal from Canadians they are behind this bill. But it is likely to contain a number of measures opposed by criminal-justice experts who say they will makes streets less safe while costing billions of dollars.

Those measures could include, among other things, keeping young offenders in jail for longer periods of time, harsher penalties for drug crimes including a minimum six-month sentence for someone who is found with six marijuana plants for the purposes of trafficking, ending house arrest for property crimes and other serious offences, and a bill to eliminate pardons for people convicted of serious crimes including sexually assaulting children or three different charges.

The Conservatives have been working on a number of these legislative changes since they first came to office in 2006. And the majority they now enjoy in both the House of Commons and the Senate means the opposition will be all but powerless to stop them from passing the mega-law within the 100-day timeframe that Mr. Harper promised during the election.

But the bill is still likely to come in for much criticism – especially from those who point out that early proponents of similar measures in the United States are now backing away from them saying they were ineffective and costly.

The John Howard Society of Canada and the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies – groups that represent convicts – will hold a news conference on Parliament Hill Tuesday to ask the government to reconsider.

“Most people in jail are considered non-violent, by police and correctional authorities,” the groups said Monday. “In order to prevent more men, women, and especially children, from being marginalized, victimized, criminalized and imprisoned, Canadians are telling us and politicians that they would rather see their hard-earned tax dollars spent on public housing, child care, pensions, health care, mental health services, public education, victims and other social services.”

The Conservative government has the ability to pass the bill but it will have to run a lot of defence between now and then – especially as it battles a deficit in a tough economy.

A counterintuitive approach to cuts?

Speaking of the deficit, apparently you have to spend money to save money.

Documents obtained by the Canadian Press say the government is paying a high-powered management consultant firm almost $90,000 a day for advice on how to save money

A story on the newswire Tuesday by Dean Beeby says Deloitte Inc. was hired on Aug. 15 on a $19.8-million contract to advise the federal cabinet and senior officials on finding enough savings to balance the books by 2014.

The contract, which runs until March 31, is to advise “senior and elected officials on public and private sector best practices in improving productivity and achieving operational efficiencies.” There is also an option for a one-year extension.

The CP report also says the government invited a select group of 20 “pre-qualified” firms to bid on the work on July 11, rather than use a fully open tendering process. Documents describing the work required were supplied directly to the invited bidders, rather than posted on a tendering website for anyone to see.

Deloitte has been hired to advise the government on the Strategic and Operating Review, a year-long exercise announced in the March 22 budget that will eventually trim $4 billion from $80 billion in annual program spending.

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