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Poilievre blames rising violence in Alberta, Canada on his political opponents

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While sirens blared in the background, Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre read aloud a list of violent crimes in Alberta at a last-minute news conference in Edmonton Thursday.

After providing one hour of notice to journalists, he spoke about a shooting on a bus and two homicides in Calgary.

He said the name of a recent homicide victim in Edmonton, talked about a teenager assaulted at a shopping mall, and brought up a stabbing at a bus stop in the Alberta capital that morning.

Poilievre then blamed "woke Liberal, NDP" mayors and premiers across the country for causing a "wicked crime spree across this country."

"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 after reading the list of crimes from a sheet of paper.

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

Violent crime incidents have spiked 75 per cent at Edmonton LRT and transit centres between July 2022 and January 2023, according to numbers recently announced by the province.

The average crime severity index in downtown Edmonton has also increased 29 per cent, from 90 in July 2022 to 116 in December 2022.

The violent crime severity index across Canada has also risen sharply since 2020 reaching levels not seen since 2009, according to Statistics Canada.

Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta had the highest violent crime severity indexes among Canadian provinces in 2021, stats show. All have conservative governments. 

When asked why crime is also up at transit centres in a province run by the United Conservative Party, Poilievre shifted his aim west to blame politicians in B.C.

"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," he said.

The conservative leader said criminals are "laughing at police" because of bail rules that he then promised to make tougher as part of a three-part plan.

"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."

"And sue the big pharmaceutical companies that caused the drug crisis so that we can recover billions of dollars to pay for that treatment."

When asked if more gun control is needed in Canada, he said hunters are not the ones causing crimes and therefore are being wrongfully targeted by the Liberal's Bill C-21 legislation.

Instead, Poilievre supports more border security to target the illegal gun trade and mandatory jail time for repeat gun criminals.

He said bail reforms made in 2019 to address overcrowding in Canada’s prisons, as well as the overrepresentation of minorities in those prisons, have not worked 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," Poilievre said.

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

Last month, after meeting with his provincial counterparts, federal Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti committed to making changes to the Criminal Code and Canada’s bail system.

But Lametti would not say whether he’s promised the provinces those reforms will include a reverse onus at bail hearings for certain firearms charges, something the premiers have been calling for.

On Thursday, Poilievre said Alberta's provincial government is doing the right thing by focusing on treatment and recovery for people with addictions.

In response to spiking violence in Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta is also hiring 100 police officers for transit, spending $10 million to clean up property and investing $8 million to expand Police and Crisis Teams (PACT).

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi was unavailable for an interview Thursday about Poilievre's comments, but his spokesperson provided a long list of what the city is doing to address transit safety and the root causes of crime.

It included: $3.9 million for a transit safety plan, $15.2 million for the Healthy Streets Operations Centre, $10.8 million over four years for 24/7 Crisis Diversion, a $7 million increase to the Edmonton Police Service budget and $7.5 million to increase temporary shelter spaces.

CTV News Edmonton also reached out to the office of federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino for a response to this story.

With files from The Canadian Press

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