Expenditure Analysis of Criminal Justice in Canada

20 Mar, 2013

The mandate of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) is to provide independent analysis to Parliament on
the state of the nation’s finances, the government’s estimates and trends in the Canadian economy and, upon
request from a committee or parliamentarian, to estimate the financial expenditure of any proposal for
matters over which Parliament has jurisdiction.

Over the course of the last few years, Parliament has made it clear that criminal justice is one of its major
legislative priorities. PBO has responded to this by providing expenditure estimates of various pieces of
criminal justice legislation. This report follows from these prior reports, looking at the total expenditures
associated with criminal justice over the past 11 years.

This is the first multi-year study to be undertaken of the aggregate expenditures on criminal justice in Canada.
While the Department of Justice and Statistics Canada have published estimates of criminal justice
expenditures, they provided only point in time estimates (2008 and 2001, respectively).

By contrast, this report estimates criminal justice spending in Canada for the federal, provincial, and territorial
governments for the period of 2002 to 2012. Furthermore, this report is comprehensive in that it includes
police capital and full youth justice (not just corrections) expenditures.

This analysisserves as a starting point to support an understanding of the expenses of Canada’s criminal justice
system and its components over time. It aims to equip parliamentarians with the information needed to better
scrutinize planned expenses.

Significant work remains to be done to strengthen understanding of criminal justice spending in Canada. It
involves further improving the data available for all levels of government. Public accounts do not fully
differentiate expenditures associated with criminal justice. For example, the court costs are not broken down
between criminal and civil. Methods to better collect and capture expenditure data relating to criminal justice
at the federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal levels ought to be considered. Governments ought to
consider presenting their public accounts in a way that allows a clear understanding of whether figures are
attributable to criminal justice.

Prepared by: Rod Story and Tolga R. Yalkin

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