The federal politician who has stage managed some of the biggest changes in the federal prison system in its 178-year history is calling it quits. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews (inset) announced he’s quitting the federal cabinet and politics “in order to focus on my family and to pursue opportunities in the private sector.” (his full statement after the jump). Under Toews, the budget of Corrections Canada has swollen by more than 50%, from roughly $2 billion in 2006-07 to an estimated $3 billion in projected spending in 2012-13. Toews legacy likely will be that he permitted the creation of a dysfunctional, tax-sucking system more like the repressive penitentiary regime of the 19th century – a system that spews out angrier, more violent and embittered ex-convicts who are just as likely to commit more crimes. (UPDATE: July 15, 2013 Prime Minister Stephen Harper named Quebec MP Steven Blaney as Toews’ replacement)
Here’s the full announcement by Toews, posted on his website:
Statement by the Honourable Vic Toews – Resignation
July 8, 2013
Statement by the Honourable Vic Toews, Member of Parliament for Provencher, Minister of Public Safety, and Regional Minister for Manitoba [STEINBACH, MB] July 8, 2013
Today, I am announcing my resignation as Member of Parliament for Provencher, Minister of Public Safety, and Regional Minister for Manitoba, effective tomorrow, Tuesday, July 9th. It has been an honour to represent the people of Provencher for the past 12 and-a-half years in the House of Commons. I would like to express my gratitude to my constituents for placing their trust in me. It is a responsibility I took very seriously and a privilege I will never forget. I would like to thank Prime Minister Stephen Harper for giving me the opportunity to serve in his Cabinet as the Regional Minister for Manitoba since 2006 and, concurrently, in turn, as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the President of the Treasury Board, and as Minister of Public Safety. Our Prime Minister is a man of great character and integrity. His leadership has seen our country through very difficult economic times. Canada is recognized as a global leader and is the envy of nations around the world. I know that Canadians will continue to benefit from this government’s ongoing work. I would also like to thank all of my parliamentary colleagues for their friendship and support. Specifically, I would like to thank the members of the Manitoba Federal Conservative Caucus. I could not be more proud of you and the work you do on behalf of our Province. I would not have been able to do my job if not for the competent and talented staff members who worked beside me over the years. Thank you to all of my staff in my riding offices, my regional office in Winnipeg and to my political and departmental staff in Ottawa. You have always been extremely dedicated and hard working. You have had a very positive impact on my life and for that I will always be grateful. The lifeblood of any political organization is its volunteers. Over the years I have met many volunteers who have worked hard on my campaigns and in many other capacities between elections. You have made all the difference. Thank you for your tireless efforts and enthusiasm. I would like to thank my spouse Stacey, my children and my extended family and friends for their patience and understanding. There are tremendous sacrifices made by family members so that elected officials can serve in public office. It is not an easy life for family and words alone cannot describe my gratitude for your unyielding support. When I entered federal politics in 2000, I did so with the intention of making a positive contribution to Canada by being a part of the movement to unite conservatives across the country. Looking back, I believe I accomplished what I did because of my desire to work with other like-minded people. Teamwork is the best way for individual Members of Parliament to accomplish the long-term goals of their constituents. I leave public office at a time when I believe our country is more sensitive to the needs of victims, more fiscally sound and safer for citizens and future generations of Canadians. I am proud of the achievements of our government over the last seven years. In addition to the numerous steps we have taken to rebalance the criminal justice system to ensure that criminals are held accountable to individual victims and Canadian society as a whole, we were able to renew Canada’s physical infrastructure. My home province of Manitoba received support for hundreds of important projects, including funds for the completion of the Red River Floodway Expansion Project. During my time as Minister of Public Safety, I was honoured to support the Prime Minister in the negotiation and implementation of the Beyond the Border Action Plan. I was also particularly proud that our government created Canada’s first Counter-Terrorism and Cyber-Security strategies, implemented a Human Trafficking Action Plan, and began a discussion with all levels of government on the economics of policing in Canada. These accomplishments are just some of the ways our government has made Canada a stronger, safer and more prosperous country. It takes a great deal of deliberation on the part of those who decide to enter politics. It takes an even greater amount of consideration and effort to step out of office when one still enjoys the support of those who elected them. However, for me, the time has come to step aside and begin the next chapter of my life. I am leaving public life in order to focus on my family and to pursue opportunities in the private sector. I leave with a store of many wonderful memories, lifelong friendships and a sense of having accomplished many of the things I set out to do when I first began my political journey. To all who made this possible, thank you.
I’ve written often at this site about Toews because he has presided over monumental changes in Canada’s federal prison system. Read about some of those changes here. Under Toews, the cost of our penitentiary system, now 57 prisons across the country, ballooned to $3 billion and yet, things inside are getting worse, though the government and Corrections Canada have often obfuscated when it comes to conditions inside or they have refused to answer. The truth is: There have been more assaults on staff, more violence among prisoners, thousands of convicts are not getting vital programs that could help them go straight after release (fulfilling the often-touted Tory promise to make communities safer), there’s been little little progress in bolstering the mental health system and therefore little to no progress in preventing deaths behind bars, and there’s been more convict unrest, the result of repressive conditions and overcrowding.
The government’s response to all of this, under Toews leadership, has been to make prison conditions more repressive, to lengthen sentences for many crimes, introduce more mandatory minimums, and build many more cells to house thousands more convicts – though, not surprisingly, that process is plagued by problems.