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Alberta UCP leader would throw out justice triage policy, hire 50 prosecutors

EDMONTON — United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney says if he were premier he would throw out an NDP policy that directs Alberta’s Crown prosecutors to abandon some criminal cases to make sure more serious ones get to court.

Kenney says the policy flies in the face of justice and could be rectified with more resources and better planning.

“We will shred the triage memo,” Kenney said Wednesday at a campaign stop in Lac Ste. Anne County, west of Edmonton.

The Alberta election is April 16.

Kenney said a UCP government would hire 50 more prosecutors and support staff and would use alternative measures such as more drug treatment courts to move people through the system.

“The NDP seems to be able to find money for all sorts of things to waste it on — low-flow shower heads and light bulbs — but they are telling prosecutors to drop criminal cases that are ‘less important’ because they can’t afford to deal with them,” said Kenney.

“It basically means letting criminals go scot-free.”

Two years ago, Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley gave triage guidelines to prosecutors because some serious cases were being tossed out for taking too long to get to trial.

Ganley’s memo urged prosecutors to consider plea deals or to abandon some minor charges or protracted white-collar crime prosecutions to make sure serious crimes didn’t fall through the cracks.

Ganley, running for re-election in Calgary, responded to Kenney in a statement. She noted that her office had to act quickly in 2017 because of a Supreme Court ruling known as the Jordan decision. It directed that cases be tossed out if they dragged on for more than 18 months in the lower courts and 30 months in superior courts.

“Court backlogs have been building across Canada for decades,” wrote Ganley.

“The Jordan decision represented a marked change in the law. When someone is caught shoplifting nail polish, jail time is not always the best solution. The triage protocol goes a long way to ensuring our criminal justice system is focused on serious and violent matters.

Ganley said that Kenney and the UCP have voted against funding for dozens of Crown prosecutors, more provincial court judges and more RCMP officers.

“Since 2015, (NDP Leader) Rachel Notley has added more than 50 Crown prosecutors across Alberta, and in each instance, the Opposition has voted against it.”

Kenney’s announcement is part of a UCP package of reforms to address crime and clogged courts.

He promised $10 million for new prosecutors and $20 million over four years for the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams, a consortium of police agencies that fight organized crime and other serious cases.

Kenney also said the United Conservatives would create an Alberta parole board for criminals serving provincial sentences of under two years.

“We’re tired of so many repeat offenders going through the revolving door of the justice system back out on the streets creating new victims.”

He said a UCP government would also lobby Ottawa to appoint more superior court judges and to change the Criminal Code to make crimes against rural residents an aggravating factor in sentencing.

He said that would address the reality that people living in rural area are more vulnerable because police are usually farther away.