A few days ago, I predicted that a battle between the federal and provincial-territorial governments w0uld emerge in lieu of the forthcoming Parliamentary Budget Office study which reportedly attempts to forecast the financial impact of Bill C-25 (see 29 April 2010 post). Preliminary information suggests that the provinces and territories will be absorbing most of the cost.
The Ontario Minister of Community Safety and Corrections Rick Bartolucci already stated on Wednesday that his government would be looking for money from the Feds to help implement Bill C-25 (view CBC's Power & Politics, 28 April 2010, minutes 1:38:00 to 1:39:40). An article published today written by Bruce Owen of the Winnipeg Free Press (read here) noted that "[a]lmost every provincial jail is jammed with inmates beyond the capacity of the facility was built to handle, according to figures released by Attorney General Andrew Swan".
I suspect that there will be more interventions such as these in the coming weeks where subtle and not-so-subtle hints from the provinces and territories will be dropped that if the Government of Canada's punishment agenda continues they will want compensation to support the construction of new prisons to absorb the influx of prisoners serving longer sentences. However, it should be noted that it often takes years to plan new prisons. Thus, should the prison population rise quickly in the next year or so, interim measures said to be temporary will be required.
As an alternative, federal politicians should seriously consider a moratorium on the passage of legislation that will lead to increases in our prison populations. Also, given what we know about the failures of imprisonment, a moratorium on prison construction and legislation that will reduce our reliance on incarceration should also be considered. Other approaches to conflicts and harms in our communities are available, and should be seriously considered in discussions on how to make our neighbourhoods safer for all.