Governments spend more on justice as crime rate drops

Daniel Fontaine

By Daniel Fontaine, Dialogue with a Difference

Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page has been a thorn in the side of federal parliamentarians ever since he was appointed back in 2008. Page’s five-year term ended recently, but one of his last reports published last month touched upon how much money governments are spending on criminal justice, which includes policing, courts and corrections.

According to Page, “in 2011-2012, the federal, provincial and territorial governments spent $20.3 billion on criminal justice.” That is comparable to what Canadian taxpayers invest in the entire Department of National Defence ($20.5 billion).

Page’s report makes it painfully obvious that despite plummeting crime rates, Canadian governments at all levels continue to increase spending to protect ourselves from the bad guys. Per capita expenditures on criminal justice in real terms, the report says, increased 23% since 2002, while during the same period, Canada’s crime rate declined 23%.

His report deserves thumbs up and is well worth a read.

City bureaucrats valued over PM

Stephen Harper may be our nation’s top politician, but did you know Canada’s prime minister actually makes less per year than Vancouver’s city manager Penny Ballem? With his recent 1.6% pay increase, Harper pulls down $320,400.

That might seem like a big salary to the average taxpayer, but it is actually a smaller paycheque compared to some of our top regional and municipal bureaucrats. Ballem reportedly earns $334,000 plus benefits. The city manager for Surrey makes slightly less at $325,000. Even the head Metro Vancouver’s transit authority earns $329,000.

That’s why I’m giving thumbs down to a political system that places a higher value for city hall bureaucrats than Canada’s own prime minister.

Taxes keep going up

If you are an average homeowner in Port Coquitlam, your wallet will likely get $71 lighter this year. City council is looking at a 3.7% property tax hike to help pay to keep city hall operational for another year.

In New Westminster, the city is looking to jack up taxes and utility fees by $137 for an average home assessed at $696,000. Councillor Betty McIntosh was the lone politician who thought more could be done to limit the tax hike.

Thumbs down to Port Coquitlam for its tax increase, which managed to make the Royal City (2.9% tax hike) look like prudent fiscal managers by comparison.

Ex-mayor’s legacy lives on

Well-deserved tributes continue to pour in for Art Phillips, former mayor of Vancouver, who passed away recently. He was a visionary politician who helped to turn our small West Coast hamlet into one of the world’s most livable cities. Notably, he will be remembered for his efforts to redevelop the area around False Creek and oppose a highway running through Vancouver.

Daniel Fontaine is a local political commentator. Follow him on Twitter @Fontaine_D. Comment online at Vancouver.24hrs.ca/opinion.


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