Poilievre wants 'jail not bail' for repeat violent offenders amid calls for bail reform

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre continues to sound the alarm over violent crime in Canada — this time, he emphasized recent incidents in Alberta during a Thursday press conference in Edmonton.

Poilievre wants 'jail not bail' for repeat violent offenders amid calls for bail reform
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Poilievre prefaced his "jail not bail" stance by discussing a recent shooting on a bus and two homicides in Calgary.

On Tuesday afternoon, Calgary Police discovered a body found stuffed into a suitcase in a southeast industrial area. They've since ruled the death of 62-year-old John Sidney Taylor as 'suspicious' and are seeking the public's help on information related to the incident.

On Wednesday, a shooting in front of the downtown public library left one person in serious condition on a Calgary Transit bus. Police arrested two people in that incident.

Later that evening, one person died after being shot, and another was injured at the Kensington Safeway near the Sunnyside LRT station.

In addition, a fatal shooting occurred in downtown Calgary Wednesday night outside the Chinese consulate — the city's second shooting that day — followed by reports of gunshots in a northwest residential area. Police said they had identified a suspect and vehicle but did not provide more details. 

Poilievre also added the name of a recent homicide victim in Edmonton and talked about a teenager assaulted at a shopping mall and a stabbing at a bus stop that morning.

The Tory leader blamed "woke Liberal, NDP" mayors and premiers nationwide for causing a "wicked crime spree across this country."

Between July 2022 and January 2023, violent crime incidents increased by 75% at Edmonton LRT and transit centres, according to provincial data. The average crime severity index in downtown Edmonton also jumped 29%, from 90 in July 2022 to 116 in December 2022.

"That is a normal day in an average Canadian city after eight years of Justin Trudeau and a costly coalition with the NDP," he said

A spokesperson for Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said the city continues to address transit safety and the root causes of crime, including $3.9 million for a transit safety plan and a $7 million increase to the Edmonton Police Service budget.

According to Statistics Canada, the country's violent crime severity index reached its highest in over a decade in 2020, with Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta having the highest violent crime severity indexes among Canadian provinces in 2021.

"Trudeau and the NDP have caused this crime wave with policies that allow the same repeat violent offenders to lose on our streets to terrorize innocent people," added Poilievre.

When asked about rising crime in Conservative-led provinces, he pivoted to attack the B.C. NDP.

"The biggest crime problems are in places run by an NDP government. Over in British Columbia, where you have NDP, Liberal mayors, premiers and a prime minister in charge of public safety," said the Tory leader.

"Jail, not bail for repeat violent offenders," he said. "Ban hard drugs and stop giving out taxpayer-funded drugs. Instead, invest in rehabilitation and treatment."

In Vancouver, law enforcement arrested the same 40 offenders 6,000 times in 2022. "That's 150 arrests per offender per year," continued Poilievre.

"You don't have a lot of criminals in Canada," he claimed. "[A] very small number does the vast majority of crime."

Poilievre said the solution is to end catch-and-release and introduce "jail not bail" for repeat, violent offenders.

He criticized the 2019 bail reforms that failed to address prison overcrowding and resulted in more criminals on the streets.

"The only change is that they get to come out for a few days to stab someone, to slit someone's throat or to beat someone with a baseball bat," said the Tory leader.

"That doesn't reduce incarceration rates. It just allows criminals to have a day pass to go out and kill someone."

During an April 4 press conference, Counter Signal reporter Keean Bexte questioned Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek over her support for defunding the police amid a violent crime rampage in the city.

"Just a handful of months ago, you were fighting tooth and nail against increasing the police budget and actively supporting and defunding the police rhetoric. I'm just wondering when you realized that police forces were not optional?" posed Bexte.

In 2021, Gondek, then-councillor for Calgary's Ward 3, and eight of her colleagues on the City Council voted to remove $20 million from the Calgary Police Service budget.

"Did it take the random stabbings and police officers getting killed to realize it was important to fund police departments?" asked Bexte. "How can Calgarians trust you when you flip-flop on basic issues like public safety?" 

Gondek disregarded his questions and walked away from the podium.

In response to greater violence in Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta committed to hiring 100 police officers for transit and investing $8 million to expand Police and Crisis Teams (PACT).

"I have made it clear to the Administration that I expect immediate action and additional resources to be deployed," said Gondek on March 30. "We cannot wait for the next tragedy to occur before something more is done."

The city has since been hit with a wave of violent, sometimes fatal crime, despite law enforcement claiming that shootings are down 37% compared to the same period in 2022.

Last month, federal Justice Minister David Lametti committed to changing Canada's bail system after meeting with premiers nationwide. However, he did not say whether that would include a reverse onus at bail hearings for certain firearms charges.

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