POLITICS

Ottawa won't give $1-billion cheque to Ontario for crime bill: Nicholson

01/26/2012 02:42 EST | Updated 03/27/2012 05:12 EDT
CHARLOTTETOWN - Provinces hoping to get Ottawa to help pay the cost of implementing the federal omnibus crime bill were disappointed Thursday after a meeting of justice ministers in Charlottetown.

Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson told his provincial and territorial counterparts they should have no problem covering the costs because Ottawa has already committed to increasing social transfer payments by $2.4 billion.

Earlier this week, the Ontario government said the legislation would cost the province more than $1 billion in increased police and court bills, and it reiterated its calls for Ottawa to hand over more money.

Nicholson rejected the request Thursday as the three-day meeting wrapped up.

"I have no cheque for $1 billion for Ontario," he said.

Nicholson's position rankled Quebec's justice minister, who said the province faces a $500-million increase in spending.

"We will not be the bankers of their actions," said Jean Marc Fournier.

"It is their initiative and they've got to think about how to pay for that. They must enter into discussions on that."

Fournier said the provinces and territories agreed to press Ottawa for consultation on the bill to identify costs and to look at implementation time frames.

Provinces such as New Brunswick, British Columbia and Alberta have been more supportive of the federal changes.

Alberta Justice Minister Verlyn Olson said Bill C-10 contains things that some provinces had asked for.

"We want to talk about costs but in a context that touches many other subjects, not just one and on one piece of legislation," Olson said.

Passed in December, Bill C-10 combines nine different pieces of legislation that include a host of measures from toughening drug sentences to increasing penalties for sexual offences against children.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has estimated the cost of the omnibus bill would cost $78.5 million over five years, but hasn't estimated how much the provinces will have to pay.

The Charlottetown meeting discussed a wide range of issues, including amending the Criminal Code to address car-jacking, the unlawful use of body armour and mandatory minimum penalties for premeditated knife crimes.

The ministers also expressed their support for continued federal, provincial and territorial funding for drug treatment courts as an alternative for drug addicted offenders.

They also released the final report from a working group on murdered and missing women, and asked that the group forward a plan for the recommendations.