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Picking up the bill

For a government supposedly bent on fiscal prudence, the Tories have spared no expense when it comes to unnecessary and wrong-headed legislation.

For a government supposedly bent on fiscal prudence, the Tories have spared no expense when it comes to unnecessary and wrong-headed legislation.

The Safe Streets and Communities Act, the latest incarnation of the government's plan to get tough on crime, promises to draw hundreds of millions of dollars from federal coffers with nothing to show in return.

Crime in Canada is at its lowest ebb since 1973, having decreased year on year for the past 20. Young adults commit more crimes than other age groups, meaning that our aging population has naturally driven down criminal behaviour -- and will continue to do so -- at no cost to taxpayers.

Ignoring this, the new legislation calls for beefed-up mandatory minimum sentences and an elimination of house arrest for certain crimes in the mistaken belief it will achieve the same objective.

But mandatory minimums do little to deter crime. What they do is cause those facing such sentences to fight long and hard in court. That can only add to the burden of an already-taxed system, resulting in more delays -- and ironically, more cases being tossed out.

The proposed measures haven't worked in other places, like the United States, and they won't work here. Those who write background documents for the Justice Department have said as much, but the Tories have put politics ahead of their sound policy advice.

This bill won't make us safer, but that was never really its intent; rather, it aims to make us feel better about an imaginary crime wave.

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