Federal-provincial justice price tag climbed as crime rate fell: PBO report

OTTAWA – A new report says per capita spending on criminal justice — including federal and provincial jails, court costs and policing — has climbed 23 per cent over the past decade even as Canada’s crime rate fell 23 per cent.

The federal Parliamentary Budget Office report is a first-of-its kind look at all the costs involved for criminal justice, determining the price tag was $20 billion in 2011-12.

The PBO found that almost three quarters of that cost was carried by the provinces, although it is the federal government that sets justice policy.

Provincial security and court costs, as well as federal corrections costs all climbed by more than 40 per cent between 2002 and 2012, while federal security costs rose 53 per cent.

The Conservative government has been on a seven-year push to increase sentences and introduce new laws, citing its own internal study that claims crime costs victims $100 billion a year in Canada.

The PBO report is one of the last to be released under the watch of Kevin Page, Parliament’s first fiscal watchdog whose eventful five-year term ends Monday.