Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre says the responsibility for addressing violent and unprovoked crime in cities across Canada falls on the shoulders of the federal government, and that the criminality is a result of a broken bail system.
Mr. Poilievre made his remarks during a campaign-style speech on Wednesday in Calgary, his hometown. He criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s handling of the criminal justice system, which he said has failed to keep prolific offenders behind bars and is leading to more dangerous streets.
The day before his speech, Alberta’s United Conservative government announced that it would be redeploying sheriffs to downtown Calgary, as part of a strategy to improve public safety in Alberta’s largest cities amid growing concern about social disorder and crime.
Many cities across the country are grappling with similar issues, and governments at all levels are devoting additional resources to community safety. On the topic of crime, Mr. Poilievre told reporters after his speech that “everything feels broken,” and that communities are “coming apart” across the country.
“This is a problem from coast to coast. So, we can’t blame a local police force, municipal government or even [the] province. It’s just as bad, if not worse, in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. Obviously the problem is national in nature,” he said. He argued that the rising cost of living in Canada is driving homelessness and drug use.
He criticized safer supply programs, which have been funded by the federal government. Such programs provide drug users with pharmaceutical-grade alternatives to street drugs. Mr. Poilievre said Alberta’s recovery-oriented model of care, which emphasizes treatment, is the direction he would take as prime minister. He said he would also reform the bail system, echoing recent calls for change made by premiers across Canada.
Mr. Poilievre, who has been criticized for avoiding the media, took only five questions from reporters, but covered a range of topics, including the suspected Chinese spy balloon, his thoughts on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the federal government’s recent health care funding deal with the provinces and territories.
He told reporters he has spoken with Alberta Premier Danielle Smith about public safety, health care and defending the energy sector, and that he shares her concerns over the federal government’s “Just Transition” legislation, which Ottawa is billing as a way of helping oil and gas workers adapt to the green economy. Ms. Smith alleges the federal government is out to kill the province’s energy sector and force workers out of their jobs.
“He attacks Western Canada with a carbon tax and a so-called ‘Just Transition,’” Mr. Poilievre said of Mr. Trudeau. “But we know what he means by just transition. He wants to shut down entire industries that are the backbone of this country.”
When asked about the suspected Chinese spy balloon, which was downed by the United States Air Force earlier this month, Mr. Poilievre said Canadian universities should be banned from engaging in research projects with any foreign dictatorships.
Ottawa announced this week that it would end federal funding for projects with Chinese military and state security institutions, after The Globe and Mail uncovered collaborations between Canadian academics and Chinese military scientists.
Mr. Poilievre said Mr. Trudeau has been “asleep at the switch” when it comes to national security, and that he wants to see Canada increase its involvement in the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
Amid a continuing clash between Mr. Poilievre and the CBC, the Conservative Leader said on Wednesday that he believes “media should win the support of viewers, readers and listeners in order to pay their bills, rather than by sucking up to politicians.” The public broadcaster’s president, Catherine Tait, has criticized the Tory’s Leader’s past calls to defund the CBC, calling them a tactic to solicit donations to his party.