Tories to introduce crime bill on Tuesday
People make their way towards Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, September 19, 2011. The House of Commons resumes business today after the summer break. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
OTTAWA - The Conservatives say jobs are their top priority but crime is first on their legislative agenda as Parliament resumes this week.
An internal caucus memo circulating on Sunday says the government will introduce an omnibus crime bill on Tuesday.
A senior government official says the bill will be called the Safe Streets and Communities Act.
It follows through on a campaign pledge to pass a bushel of crime-crackdown laws within the first 100 sitting days of Parliament.
All of the laws in the new bill are expected to be among those on the table when Parliament was dissolved for the last election.
A political showdown over the cost of those laws was in part what triggered the May election that returned the Tories with a majority.
Among other things, the laws include measures to combat drug crimes, toughen jail terms for child predators and end house arrest for violent offenders.
Although criminologists and statisticians report the crime rate is at historic lows, the internal memo cited a raft of crime statistics and said more still needs to be done.
It says Canadians want and deserve to feel safe in their homes and communities.
Tying a number of different bills into one piece of legislation is a strategy the Conservatives have used before both with budget implementation bills and crime laws.
Critics say the tactic runs the risk of subverting the legislative process as parliamentarians may not have the opportunity to consider the full implications of the individual bills.
The introduction of the new crime legislation comes as Parliament resumes with a focus on cutting government spending in an effort to whittle down the deficit while at the same time creating jobs.
Prior to the last election, the Tories had told the Commons the 18 crime bills then on the table would cost an estimated $631 million on top of a $2 billion plan for prison expansion.
But those numbers were only revealed after the government was found in breach of parliamentary privilege by the Speaker of the House of Commons for failing to fully disclose the cost of its agenda.
The opposition didn't buy the figures and found the Conservatives in contempt of Parliament, leading to the historic non-confidence motion which toppled their minority government.