Three auto theft convictions should mean three years in prison: Poilievre

Three auto theft convictions should mean three years in prison: Poilievre © Provided by The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Auto thieves should not be allowed to serve their sentence “in their living room watching Netflix,” Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said Monday.

Ending house arrest as an option for people convicted of auto theft by indictment — meaning those guilty of a more serious offence — is one of several new policies for auto theft Poilievre said he’ll enact if he wins the next election.

He also says he would increase the mandatory minimum sentence for a third offence from six months to three years and make the involvement of organized crime a specific aggravating factor in sentencing for auto theft.

“Today I’m announcing that a Pierre Poilievre government will go after the real criminals by restoring jail, not bail, for repeat violent offenders and career car thieves,” he said at a news conference in Brampton, Ont.

His plan comes days before the federal Liberals are set to hold a national summit on combating auto theft with police, border agents and industry executives.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada says auto theft has become a national crisis, with more than 200 vehicles stolen on average every day.

In the first half of last year, auto theft jumped 31 per cent in Ontario and 17 per cent in Quebec. That came after a 50-per-cent jump in both provinces in 2022 compared with 2021.

In Toronto alone, 9,600 vehicles were stolen in 2022, 300 per cent more than in 2015.

Poilievre blames Liberal policies under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the uptick, including amendments made to the Criminal Code in 2022 that allowed more room for conditional sentences — often referred to colloquially as house arrest — for people sentenced to less than two years behind bars and who aren’t considered a risk to public safety.

“Police are powerless to stop career car thieves,” said Poilievre.

“And even after those thieves are convicted, Trudeau’s Bill C-5 allows them to serve their sentence in their living room watching Netflix — until they open their front door and go out and steal yet another car.”

Poilievre said he will repeal what he called the “catch-and-release rules” in Bill C-5.

House arrest was not available for auto theft offences convicted on indictment before that legislation passed.

Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc said last month, when announcing plans for the auto theft summit, that the rise in car theft is concerning, and particularly the increase in thefts that involve violence.

In a statement Monday, LeBlanc’s spokesman, Jean-Sébastien Comeau, said the government is committed to finding solutions to tackle auto theft.

But he said it is a complex problem that requires collaboration by all governments, police forces and industry.

“There is no single solution to this complex problem,” Comeau said. “Beyond slogans, it’s only through co-operation that we’ll find solutions and achieve results.”

Source: Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press