Newfoundland and Labrador Justice Minister Felix Collins says he doesn’t know how much planned changes to federal law will cost the province.
In pending legislation, the Harper government will eliminate house arrest as a possible sentence for more crimes. Ottawa says that option should end for crimes that carry a maximum sentence of 10 years or more.
But that will cost money, because it will mean more people in prison.
At the request of the federal NDP, the parliamentary budget officer crunched some numbers. He estimates that the move will cost the provinces about $137 million annually.
Collins says Newfoundland and Labrador’s government hasn’t done any number-crunching of its own.
"Certainly when you see these figures, they're alarming, but at the same time, we haven't done the analysis of what that means for this province," Collins said. "And the figures are somewhat confusing, and we’re still not sure what they all mean. I think most of the provinces are in that boat."
With Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John's often full, the new rules could mean more cell space is needed.
"We have to make major changes and improvements in our correctional system to accommodate our own needs in the next few years," Collins said. "This will certainly be factored in as part of the equation."