Federal crime bill will cost Ontario $1B, minister says

Ontario Correctional Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur says the federal omnibus crime bill will cost the province's taxpayers more than $1 billion in increased costs.

The Ontario government says the omnibus federal crime bill will cost the province's taxpayers more than $1 billion in increased police and correctional service costs.

Correctional Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur says there are about 8,500 inmates in Ontario correctional facilities, which are at 95 per cent capacity.

Meilleur warns the Conservatives' crime bill could add another 1,500 inmates to the system by 2016, pushing populations to 150 per cent of capacity at some jails.

She says the province now faces the very real possibility of having to build a new 1,000-bed facility to offset the impact of Bill C-10, with an estimated capital cost of $900 million.

"This afternoon I’m flying to Charlottetown to attend the federal-provincial meeting and I’ll be calling on the federal government to provide funding to cover their $1 billion piece of legislation," she told CBC News.

Meilleur also notes the federal legislation will increase the number of people on parole, adding to the caseloads for probation and parole officers.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak suggested the Liberal government’s demand that Ottawa pay for increased justice system costs was little more than a cash grab.

"I suspect this sounds like more language from the McGuinty Liberals to try to avoid their own problems by reducing costs and foisting it onto someone else," Hudak said Monday.

Julie Di Mambro, a spokesperson for the federal justice department, said it is the government’s view that the cost of fighting crime is far less than the cost of crime on society itself.

"Our experience shows that toughening sentences doesn't create new criminals, it simply keeps criminals in jail for an appropriate amount of time," Di Mambro said in an email sent to CBC News.

The federal crime bill passed its final vote in the House of Commons last month and is now in the hands of the Senate.

Quebec and Newfoundland also say Bill C-10 will overwhelm their already maxed-out court systems and create a costly influx of prisoners to provincial jails. Several other provinces, including British Columbia, Alberta and New Brunswick, support the federal changes.

With files from The Canadian Press