Every so often, a constituent contacts my office to ask about a government-related rumour. “Is it true?” they usually begin. We are happy to seek out the truth.
The latest story arrived in an email containing pictures of a spectacular glass building. The photos included some of its attractions: a well-equipped weight room, designer landscaping, ping-pong courts and a potted palm sitting on a deck with very high railings, overlooking a grassy meadow.
The photos, the email claims, are of Canada’s newest prison, “just outside of Toronto.” Even better, apparently the inmates get to choose from the menu.
The rumour continues: “The prison was built by our current government. So if you’re still paying your taxes, shame on you.”
This photo and story are utterly false.
The Opposition has been claiming for years that our Government would spend billions of dollars to build mega-prisons. The opposite is true. Since 2006, our Government has not built a single new prison and has no plans for one, five-star or otherwise.
In fact, on April 19th, Minister of Public Safety, Vic Toews, announced that due to a lower than expected prison population, two prisons would soon close: Kingston Penitentiary (including the Regional Treatment Centre, in Kingston, Ontario) and Leclerc Institution in Laval, Quebec. The closures will save Canadians $120 million per year.
Our Government is committed to keeping our streets and communities safe. Rather than creating new criminals, our tough-on-crime measures are ending the revolving door of justice by keeping criminals in jail longer. So-called experts said that prison populations would rise by over 3,000 inmates as a result of those measures. In reality, the increase has been less than 1/5th of that.
The recent budget recognizes that new beds for both women and men will be necessary in the coming years. Mike Patton, spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, has stated that, “Our new units, on existing lands within existing budgets, will be coming on-line as they are constructed.”
Our Conservative Government has a mandate to keep Canadians safe. In doing that, we won’t spend one extra dollar on correctional facilities we don’t need.
For the record: My staff did some research on the fancy glass prison pictured in the email. It’s the Justice Center Leoben, a court and prison complex in Styria, Austria. With 205 inmates, the prison is fully booked.