The Conservatives have spent more than $4.7 million fighting 15 losing court cases, including more than $1 million on tough-on-crime measures, according to figures released this week.
The cases range from the Conservatives' $426,529 battle to shut down Insite, Vancouver's safe-injection site, to $347,271 on the Supreme Court of Canada reference regarding Marc Nadon, whom Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried to name to the top court, but who was ultimately found to be unqualified.
Liberal MP Ralph Goodale tabled a written request for the costs of the court cases through the House of Commons' order paper questions process, which allows MPs to request information from the government.
The most expensive fight for the Conservatives is the continuing dispute over health care for refugee claimants, which totalled $1,062,187 according to the costs released this week. The government lost a Federal Court case last July, which it plans to appeal, and refugee advocates have returned to Federal Court to argue the government is ignoring the original decision.
The response to an order paper question tabled by the NDP earlier this year put the cost of the refugee health-care battle at more than $1.4 million. The question was phrased differently and included a request for an estimate of the cost of the appeal.
Tough-on-crime fight pricey
The court process to keep mandatory minimum sentences for a variety of gun possession crimes and to keep a measure that abolished early parole has cost $1,076,992. The government lost one mandatory minimum case at the Supreme Court that combined two appeals, lost another at the Ontario Court of Appeal, and lost the appeal to the Supreme Court over early parole abolition.
The list of costs also shows the government spent:
- $626,681 on two cases against Omar Khadr.
- $852,911 to fight an allegation it unlawfully withdrew diplomatic services from Ronald Smith, a Canadian on death row in Montana.
- $332,771 trying to force lawyers to turn over some client information to FINTRAC, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada.
Liberal Party justice critic Sean Casey compared the government's austerity budgets to the amount it is spending "trying to defend charter violations."
"It's entirely consistent with the personality and the soul of the government," he said, adding that the costs wouldn't matter if the government was guaranteeing less crime.
But, Casey said, the facts are exactly the opposite: studies suggest mandatory minimum sentences don't deter crime and that safe-injection sites reduce harm.
A spokeswoman for Justice Minister Peter MacKay said the government has instituted several efficiency measures at the Department of Justice, and has cut the number of hours spent on litigation files by two per cent.
"It is worth noting that while the government, at any given moment, is involved in some 50,000 litigation files, about 85 per cent of those were not initiated by us," Clarissa Lamb wrote in an email.
"I would also note that last year we were successful in nearly 75 per cent of cases."