Vic Toews

Vic Toews

Infobox CanadianMP
honorific-prefix = The Honourable
name = Victor Toews
honorific-suffix =

office1 = Member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba for Rossmere
term_start1 = 1995
term_end1 = 1999
predecessor1 = Harry Schellenberg
successor1 = Harry Schellenberg
office2 = Minister of Labour with additional responsibilities [Toews was also styled as Minister responsible for the Civil Service Act, the Civil Service Superannuation Act, the Civil Service Special Supplementary Severance Benefit Act, the Public Servants Insurance Act and the Workers Compensation Act.] in the Government of Manitoba
term_start2 = 1995
term_end2 = 1997
predecessor2 = Darren Praznik
successor2 = Harold Gilleshammer
office3 = Minister of Justice and Attorney General with responsibility for Constitutional Affairs in the Government of Manitoba
term_start3 = 1997
term_end3 = 1999
predecessor3 = Rosemary Vodrey
successor3 = Gord Mackintosh
office4 = Member of the Canadian House of Commons for Provencher
term_start4 = 2000
term_end4 =
predecessor4 = David Iftody
successor4 =
office5 = Minister of Justice in the Government of Canada
term_start5 = 2006
term_end5 = 2007
predecessor5 = Irwin Cotler
successor5 = Rob Nicholson
office6 = President of the Treasury Board in the Government of Canada
term_start6 = 2007
term_end6 =
predecessor6 = John Baird
successor6 =
birth_date = birth date and age|1952|09|10
birth_place = Filadelfia, Paraguay
death_date =
death_place =
profession = Counsel, lawyer
party = Conservative
otherparty = Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba, Canadian Alliance (2000-2003)
spouse = Lorraine Toews
residence = Steinbach, Manitoba
religion = Mennonite [ [ "Mennonites won't lose citizenship over 80-year-old glitch: Toews"] , Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 26 January 2007, 9:18 report, accessed 14 June 2008.]
footnotes =|

Victor "Vic" Toews, PC, MP (pronEng|ˈteɪvz) (born September 10, 1952) is a Canadian politician. He has represented Provencher in the Canadian House of Commons since 2000, and serves in the cabinet of Prime Minister Stephen Harper as President of the Treasury Board. He previously served in the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba from 1995 to 1999, and was a senior cabinet minister in the government of Gary Filmon. He is currently seeking re-election in the 2008 federal election. Toews is a member of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Early life and career

Toews was born to a Mennonite family in Filadelfia, Paraguay, and moved with his family to Manitoba in 1956. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the University of Winnipeg (1973), and a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Manitoba (1976). [ [ Mary Nersessian, "Key players who may form a Conservative cabinet", CTV News report, 2006.] ] He joined the provincial Ministry of Justice in 1976 and became a Crown attorney the following year. He was promoted to Director of Constitutional Law for Manitoba in 1987, and advised the Manitoba government on the Meech Lake Accord. [Peter Bakogeorge, "Cracking down on drunk driving", "Toronto Star", 8 April 1990, B1. He also presided over an expansion of police powers in matters relating to drunk driving offenses.] He was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 1991. [ [ "About Vic"] ,, accessed 5 October 2007.]

Toews became a lecturer at the University of Manitoba in 1987, and taught classes in labour law and employment law. He left the civil service in 1991 to become an associate counsel for Great-West Life Assurance, and was given a leave of absence in 1995 to enter politics. [Jim Carr, "Mostly they dance with NDP", "Winnipeg Free Press", 21 April 1995, Editorial.]

Toews spoke against a decision by Ontario's New Democratic Party government to prohibit protests outside abortion clinics in 1994. He described the decision as "almost unbelievable" and argued that the government was "challenging ... a constitutionally held right" in a manner "consistent with their social agenda". ["Ontario move stuns pro-lifers", "Winnipeg Free Press", 9 January 1994, City Page.]

Provincial politician

Toews joined the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba in 1989, and ran for the party in the northeast Winnipeg division of Elmwood in the 1990 provincial election. [Glen MacKenzie, "Labour pains", "Winnipeg Free Press", 6 October 1996, B4.] He placed second against incumbent Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Jim Maloway. He ran again in the 1995 election, and narrowly defeated NDP incumbent Harry Schellenberg in nearby division of Rossmere.

;Minister of Labour

Toews was appointed to the cabinet of Premier Gary Filmon after the election, becoming Minister of Labour on May 9, 1995. [He was also given responsibility for the Civil Service Act, the Civil Service Superannuation Act, the Civil Service Special Supplementary Severance Benefit Act, the Public Servants Insurance Act and the Workers Compensation Act.] In his debut speech to the legislature, he said that his political philosophy was partly influenced by leaders of Canada's social democratic movement, as well as his own Mennonite upbringing. [ [ Manitoba Hansard, "Orders of the Day", 36th parliament, Second day of Throne Speech Debate.] Toews was quoted as saying, "Having been influenced by the social concerns articulated by leaders in the social democratic movement and by my late father, Reverend Victor Toews, a minister of the Mennonite Brethren Church in Rossmere, my political philosophies may not square in all respects with what political scientists consider to be within the mainstream of Progressive Conservatism."]

Toews's tenure as Labour Minister was marked by a difficult relationship with organized labour. [Paul McKie, "Labour leaders withhold judgment", "Winnipeg Free Press", 28 January 1997, B9.] His first major legislative initiative was Bill 26 (1996), which required unions to disclose the salaries of their officials and indicate how membership dues were spent, mandated union certification votes to take place within seven days of an application, and granted employees the right to prevent their dues from being donated to political parties. [Paul McKie, "Strike funds secret", "Winnipeg Free Press", 27 May 1996, A4; Alice Krueger, "PCs plan to raise pay veil", "Winnipeg Free Press", 6 December 1995, A1.] Several labour leaders described the bill as anti-union. NDP leader Gary Doer argued that the provision regarding donations unfairly targeted his party, and suggested that corporate shareholders should be given the same right to shield their investments from party donations. [Alice Krueger, "Union workers can say no", "Winnipeg Free Press", 13 April 1996, A4.] Toews rejected these criticisms, and argued that Bill 26 provided greater autonomy to individual workers.

Toews's department proposed the privatization of home-care delivery services in 1996, drawing opposition from many in the field and triggering an extended strike. [Alice Krueger, "Home care plan deserts workers", "Winnipeg Free Press", 18 April 1996, A1.] He was also forced to deal with strikes at Boeing, Inco, and the Manitoba Lotteries Corporation, leading one journalist to describe 1996 as "the busiest year for picketing since the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike". Toews blamed unions for provoking the strikes, saying they were conducted "for political, not economic, reasons." ["Tories agenda for '96", "Winnipeg Free Press", 31 December 1996, A8.]

Toews canceled the provincial Payment of Wages Fund in July 1996, argued that it was not achieving its purpose. The stated intention of the fund was to allow workers to collect revenues from employers who entered bankruptcy or receivership. [Paul Samyn, "Tories kill wage life raft", "Winnipeg Free Press", 3 July 1996, A1.]

;Minister of Justice

On January 6, 1997, Toews was promoted to Minister of Justice, Attorney General and Keeper of the Great Seal, with further responsibility for Constitutional Affairs.

;;Approach to crime and the judiciary

As Justice Minister, Toews earned a reputation for focusing on "law and order" issues. One of his first ministerial decisions was to grant jail superintendents the right to institute complete smoking bans, impose random drug tests, and monitor prisoners' calls. [Alice Krueger, "Corrections crackdown called minor tinkering", "Winnipeg Free Press", 29 January 1997, A4.] Soon after, he introduced measures targeting prison gangs and the drug trade. ["Man correctional staff provided with more tools to enhance safety, security", "Canadian Occupational Health & Safety News", 10 February 1997, Volume 20 Number 5.] In August 1998, Toews announced that his ministry would hire more Crown attorneys and construct more than seventy new beds for the Headingley Correctional Institution, in an attempt to incarcerate more dangerous offenders. [David Kuxhaus, "Tories to keep more offenders behind bars", "Winnipeg Free Press", 15 August 1998, A3.]

Toews also introduced legislation to make parents legally responsible for the crimes of their children. Members of the opposition New Democratic Party argued that the plan would be ineffective, citing past experiments in the United States of America as evidence. ["Law holds Manitoba parents responsible for kids' crimes", "Toronto Star", 23 September 1997, A2.] [In early 1998, the Filmon government proclaimed a Victims' Rights Act. See "Victims' rights better protected with proclamation of new Act", Manitoba government publication, 11 January 1998. Both the Justice Ministry and the opposition New Democrats subsequently endorsed the principle of a Victims' Bill of Rights, which was passed into law later in the year. See David Kuxhaus, "NDP pushing for victims' bill of rights", "Winnipeg Free Press", 3 March 1998, A7. See also "Victim Impact Statement Program introduced", Manitoba government document, 22 September 1998.]

Toews criticized some criminal justice initiatives brought forward by the federal government of Jean Chrétien. In 1997, he announced that Manitoba would not enforce or administer the Canadian gun registry. [Alice Krueger, "Manitoba blanks gun-control law", 25 April 1997, A3.] Two years later, he described changes to the federal Young Offenders Act as both ineffective and too expensive. [David Kuxhaus, "New YOA ineffective, too costly, Toews says", "Winnipeg Free Press", 9 June 1999.] Toews nonetheless cooperated with the federal government on several issues. In March 1998, he stood with federal cabinet minister Lloyd Axworthy to announce a plan discouraging court sentences for non-violent aboriginal offenders. Toews said that the proposal was "sensitive to the needs of the aboriginal community", and that it would reduce the number of repeat offenders. [Kevin Rollason, "Natives get new justice", "Winnipeg Free Press", 10 March 1998, A1. He later supported a proposal for the integration of an aboriginal healing lodge into the provincial prison system. See John Lyons, "Justice minister likes idea of aboriginal healing lodge", "Winnipeg Free Press", 16 October 1998, A6.]

Toews's relationship with the judiciary was sometimes difficult. In May 1998, he asked a judicial appointment committee to add two names to a list of proposed judges. Some argued that this was improper interference, while Toews stated that he acted to ensure the appointment of more bilingual judges. [David Roberts, "Manitoba bar raps justice minister", "Winnipeg Free Press", 8 May 1998, A17. The appointment ultimately went to a bilingual judge with connections to the Progressive Conservative Party. See Paul Samyn, "War with judges no-brainer for Toews", "Winnipeg Free Press", 12 November 2006, A9.] In 1999, he delivered a speech to the Alberta Summit on Justice that criticized judges for intervening in political matters. He was quoted as saying that judges, unlike parliamentarians, "are not well-placed to understand and represent the social, economic and political values of the public". Some attendees criticized his speech, and a representative of the Legal Aid Society of Alberta described it as "inflammatory and sensational". [Carol Harrington, "Manitoba minister riles justice conference", "Globe and Mail", 30 January 1999, A16.] Toews stated on another occasion that judges have a relatively light workload. A provincial judge described this as "misleading and inaccurate". [Paul McKie, "Top judge takes shot at justice boss", 10 June 1999, City Page.]

;Opposition criticism

The New Democrats argued that Crown offices were underfunded under Toews' watch, and suggested that the Justice Department's prosecutorial duties were compromised. [Doug Nairne and David Kuxhaus, "Manitoba crushing Crowns", "Winnipeg Free Press", 7 June 1998, A1.]

During a legislative debate in June 1999, Toews accused NDP Justice Critic Gord Mackintosh of mischief for repeatedly calling the province's Street Peace gang hotline only to hang up before leaving a message. Calls to the hotline were meant to be confidential and anonymous, but Toews later acknowledged that calls from government buildings had been tracked and that he received Mackintosh's name from an employee in his department. Premier Filmon described Toews's conduct in the matter as inappropriate. During the fallout from this controversy, Toews was forced to admit that the hotline had gone unanswered for several months. [Douglas Nairne, "Filmon calls Toews' actions 'inappropriate'", 22 June 1999, City Page.]

;;Other policy decisions

In May 1999, Toews announced that Manitoba would accept a Supreme Court of Canada decision granting spousal benefits to same-sex couples. [Paul Samyn, "Manitoba to follow same-sex", "Winnipeg Free Press", 21 May 1999, A1.]

;1999 election

The Progressive Conservatives were defeated in the 1999 provincial election and Toews was personally defeated in Rossmere, losing to Harry Schellenberg by 294 votes. Redistribution had added a number of NDP-leaning polls to the division, and likely contributed to Schellenberg's victory. [Douglas Nairne, "Boundary change puts Rossmere up for grabs", "Winnipeg Free Press", 15 September 1999, A12.] Toews returned to work with Great-West Life Assurance in 1999 and 2000. [Glen MacKenzie, "MLA to moonlight with investment firm", "Winnipeg Free Press", 13 November 1999, A10.]

Federal politician

;Party alignment

After leaving provincial politics, Toews turned his attention to the federal scene and Canada's "unite-the-right" movement. He had previously called for cooperation between the right-wing Reform Party of Canada and the centre-right Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, although he did not endorse the United Alternative initiative when it was first announced in 1999. [Bud Robertson, "Toews decides to play wait-and-see with unite-the-right movements", "Winnipeg Free Press", 15 February 1999, A6.] He expressed interest in working with the Canadian Alliance, a successor to the Reform Party that sought to build support among Blue Tory Progressive Conservatives. Toews endorsed Tom Long's bid for the Alliance leadership in June 2000, and approved of Brian Pallister's efforts to bring the Progressive Conservatives into cooperation with the new party. [Paul Samyn, "Long borrows Tory office for mailout", "Winnipeg Free Press", 18 June 2000, A1; David Kuxhaus, "Pallister continues hunt for way to unite the right", "Winnipeg Free Press", 27 July 2000, A8.]

Toews formally joined the Alliance in the buildup to the 2000 federal election, and defeated four other candidates to win the party's nomination in Provencher, a rural riding in southeastern Manitoba. [Helen Fallding, "Ex-PC Toews wins Alliance bid", "Winnipeg Free Press", 31 October 2000, A1. The other candidates were Roy Rempel, Calvin Vaags, Denis Simard and Henry Beaumont.] He then defeated Liberal Party incumbent David Iftody in the general election. The Liberals won a national majority government, and Toews was appointed as Justice Critic in the opposition shadow cabinet. [Greg Joyce, "Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day announces shadow cabinet", "Canadian Press", 5 January 2001, 17:57 report.]

The Canadian Alliance was weakened by internal divisions in mid-2001, with several MPs calling on party leader Stockwell Day to resign. Toews did not take a strong position for or against Day's leadership, but issued a call for party discipline pending a formal review. [Paul Samyn, "Alliance revolt escalates", "Winnipeg Free Press", 16 May 2001, B1.] When Day resigned, Toews worked on Grant Hill's unsuccessful campaign to become the new party leader. [Bruce Cheadle, "Day stepping down as Alliance leader", "Canadian Press", 11 December 2001, 18:24 report.]

In 2003, Toews recommended that Alliance members purchase Progressive Conservative membership cards to support the leadership bid of Jim Prentice. He denied this constituted interference, and said that members of the two parties should be encouraged to work together. [Bill Curry and Sheldon Alberts, "MP calls on party to join with Tories", "National Post", 8 March 2003, A12.]

;Conservative MP

The Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative parties merged to form the Conservative Party of Canada in 2003. Toews joined the new party, and was a Manitoba organizer in Stephen Harper's successful bid to become its first elected leader. [Daniel Lett, "Stronach firing up the right", "Winnipeg Free Press", 22 January 2004, A1.] He was easily returned in the 2004 general election as the Liberals were reduced to a minority government, and was retained as Justice Critic in the parliament that followed.

On January 25, 2005, Toews pleaded guilty to the charge of exceeding his personal campaign expense limits in the 1999 provincial election. [Helen Fallding, "Toews charged in election financing", "Winnipeg Free Press", 5 December 2001, A3.] He claimed that the overspending resulted from a miscommunication between his campaign and the provincial party as to how some expenses were to be accounted. [David Kuxhaus, "Toews guilty of overspending in provincial election", "Winnipeg Free Press", 26 January 2005, A3.] There were some calls for him to resign as Justice Critic, but nothing came of this. [Alexander Panetta, "Liberals demand resignation of Tory critic who broke election rules", "Canadian Press", 26 January 2005, 21:36 report.] Toews received a $500 fine, and the charge remained on his record. ["Toews fined for breaking election rule", "Winnipeg Free Press", 5 February 2005.]

A "Winnipeg Free Press" poll taken in late December 2005 showed Toews as the most popular choice to replace Stuart Murray as leader of the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives. He declined to contest the position, and was returned without difficulty in the 2006 Canadian federal election. [Mia Rabson, "Toews, Pallister for Murray's job: poll", "Winnipeg Free Press", 27 December 2005, B2.]

;Policy views

As Justice Critic from 2001 to 2005, Toews frequently accused the Liberal government of being unfocused on crime issues. [For example, Tonda MacCharles, "Liberal bill to reform Young Offenders Act", "Toronto Star", 6 February 2001, p. 1.] He supported the Chrétien government's decision to create a national sex offender registry in 2002, but criticized the government for not making the bill retroactive to include the names of previously convicted offenders. [Mia Rabson, "Convicted pedophiles will have to enter their addresses", "Winnipeg Free Press", 14 February 2002, A5; Sue Bailey, "Sex offender registry law introduced", "Canadian Press", 11 December 2002, 18:53 report.] The non-retroactive approach followed the model of previous legislation in the United Kingdom.

Toews criticized some Supreme Court decisions, and on one occasion accused former Chief Justice Antonio Lamer of overseeing a "frenzy of constitutional experimentation". [Janice Tibbetts, "Lamer attacks Alliance 'yelping'", "National Post", 14 April 2001, A01.] He also called for official reviews of judicial appointments, arguing that the policy views of judges should be known before they take office. [Nahlah Ayed, "Charter at 20 still brews a storm in Canadian politics as it did at birth", "Canadian Press", 11 April 2002, 16:07 report.] In September 2004, he delivered a speech to the National Pro-Life Conference entitled "Abuse of the Charter by the Supreme Court". In this speech, Toews criticized judicial implementation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, suggested that judges were implementing social policy, and called on his audience to build organizations to challenge the courts. [Frances Russell, "Toews is Conservatives' weak link", "Winnipeg Free Press", 8 February 2006, A13.]

Toews spoke favourably of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on its twentieth anniversary in 2002, describing it as "a powerful check on the power of government to unreasonably intrude on our rights and freedoms". He also called for governments to demonstrate more willingness to use the Charter's Notwithstanding Clause to overrule court decisions. Toews specifically argued that the clause should have been used to overturn a court decision that weakened Canada's child pornography laws. [Luiza Chwialkowska, "Charter's anniversary stokes familiar debate: Courts v. Parliament", "National Post", 18 April 2002, A04.] (The Liberal government brought forward remedial legislation to address this decision, without resorting to a Constitutional strategy.)

Initially considered a moderate within the Canadian Alliance, Toews later became known for endorsing socially conservative causes. He was a vocal opponent of Bill C-250 (2003), which made sexual orientation a protected category under Canada's hate crime legislation. Toews stated that the bill could restrict freedom of expression and religion, and was quoted as saying that a "homosexual activist" could sue a hotel chain to remove Bibles as hate literature. [Sharon Boase, "Protection of gays pits the Bible vs. Bill C-250", "Hamilton Spectator", 8 February 2003, A01.] He later emerged as a prominent opponent of same-sex marriage, and suggested that changing the definition of marriage in Canada could result in polygamy being legalized. [Sandra Cordon, "Gays, lesbians slam Ottawa for appeal of same-sex marriage ruling", "Canadian Press", 29 July 2002, 16:31 report.] In 2005, he launched an extended filibuster to delay committee work on the issue. ["Parties may unite to end Conservative same-sex filibuster", "Edmonton Journal", 30 May 2005, A5.] Despite his efforts, same-sex marriage was legalized in the summer of 2005.

During this period, Toews also argued that religious organizations should be permitted to deny gay organizations the use of their facilities, supported increasing the age of sexual consent in Canada from fourteen to sixteen, and opposed the decriminalization of cannabis. [Paul Samyn, "Pot bill fate confronts lethal mix of dissent", "Winnipeg Free Press", 29 May 2003, A11; Helen Fallding, "Camp should have right to deny gays: Alliance MP", "Winnipeg Free Press", 22 November 2002, A5, "Drawing the line at 16", "National Post", 11 March 2005, A18.] He continued to oppose the federal gun registry.

;Federal Minister of Justice

The Conservatives won a minority government in the 2006 election. On February 6, 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Toews to cabinet as Canada's Minister of Justice and Attorney-General. In this capacity, he introduced several bills relating to Canada's criminal justice system.

;;Criminal justice

;;;Gun-related crimes

Toews introduced two bills in May 2006, requiring mandatory minimum prison sentences for persons convicted of gun crimes and eliminating house arrest as an option for various offenses. [Scott Deveau, "Crime bill sets mandatory minimum sentences", "Globe and Mail", 4 May 2006 (breaking news); See Jeffrey Simpson, "The real crime's the Tories' take on sentencing", "Globe and Mail", 5 May 2006, A25; Dan Gardner, "Tories have 'faith' in get-tough gun sentences, but no evidence they'll work", "Ottawa Citizen", 11 May 2006, A1. See Jim Brown, "New sentencing rules will put more criminals in jail, at hefty cost", "Canadian Press", 4 May 2006, 13:14 report [Day] .] Opposition parties amended the second bill in October 2006, retaining the ban on house arrests for serious violent and sexual offenders but permitting it for non-violent property offenders. NDP Justice Critic Joe Comartin argued that this change addressed the legitimate concerns of Canadians, while removing what he described as "the radical, extreme over-reaction" of the Conservatives. Toews called for the bill to be passed in its original form. [Jim Brown, "Tory crime-fighting bill gutted by combined opposition forces", "Canadian Press", 24 October 2006, 16:11 report.]

In November 2006, Toews introduced a bill to toughen bail conditions for persons accused of gun-related crimes. The bill included a "reverse-onus" clause requiring the accused to demonstrate why they should not be held in custody. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Toronto Mayor David Miller indicated their support for the bill. [Janice Tibbetts, "Harper to announce gun-crime bill in Toronto", "National Post", 23 November 2006, A16.]

;;;Age of consent

In June 2006, Toews introduced a bill to raise the age of sexual consent from fourteen to sixteen. The bill included an exemption for adolescents who have relations with persons no more than five years older than themselves. [Janice Tibbetts, "Tory bill makes exceptions for teen romance", "Montreal Gazette", 2 June 2006, A1.] Under Canadian law, "sexual consent" covers all activities from kissing to intercourse. Liberal MP Irwin Cotler argued that the Conservative Party was misrepresenting the issue to the Canadian public, and noted that the sexual exploitation of persons under eighteen is already illegal under Canadian law. Toew's proposed changes were supported by other interested parties, including Manitoba Justice Minister Gord Mackintosh. ["Tory government to raise age of consent to 16 to target sex predators", "Canadian Press", 7 February 2006, 21:31 report. See also Kate Heartfield, "Age, sex, consent -- and the facts", "Vancouver Sun", 21 February 2006, A11; "The age of consent" [editorial] , "Globe and Mail", 21 April 2006, A20.] The bill became law in February 2008, over a year after Toews left the Justice portfolio. [Mia Rabson, "New crime bill is now law, after 2 years", "Winnipeg Free Press", 29 February 2008, A8.]

;;;Dangerous offender status

Toews introduced a "three strikes" bill to the House of Commons in October 2006, stipulating that persons found guilty of three sexual or violent crimes will be automatically categorized as dangerous offenders unless they can convince a judge otherwise. Persons labeled as dangerous offenders under Canadian law may be kept in prison indefinitely. [Janice Tibbetts, "Three-strike law will start Tory attack on crime", "Montreal Gazette", 21 September 2006, A12; Chris Wattie, "PM pushes three-strikes law", "Montreal Gazette", 13 October 2006, A1.] Critics argued that the proposed law was too broad in its scope, and included vaguely-defined categories in its list of serious offenses. [Jim Brown, "Three-strike legislation draws heat from critics", "Toronto Star", 18 October 2006, A8.] Civil libertarian groups also argued that the bill threatened the constitutional principle of accused persons being presumed innocent until proven guilty, and suggested that it may not withstand a court challenge.

;;;Youth justice

In August 2006, Toews told reporters that he was willing to consider lowering the age of criminal responsibility in Canada from twelve to ten. He indicated that his focus was on treatment rather than jail time, although he did not rule out jail sentences for ten year-olds. [Tracey Tyler, "Minister: Goal is treatment, not jail", "Toronto Star", 15 August 2006, A1.] A Justice Department spokesman later clarified that there were no plans to bring forward such legislation. [Alexander Panetta, "Toews retreats on kid convicts", "Calgary Herald", 16 August 2006, A4.] In October 2006, Toews announced plans to introduce more severe sentencing provisions under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. [Janice Tibbetts, "Young offenders to face tougher treatment", "Vancouver Sun", 18 October 2006, A4.]


In June 2006, Toews brought forward amendments to expand Canada's collection of DNA samples from convicted criminals. ["Federal justice minister proposes changes to national DNA databank", "Canadian Press", 9 June 2006, 19:52 report.] He also confirmed that his government would arm guards at the Canada-United States border, ["Border guards renew call to carry guns", "Edmonton Journal", 12 February 2006, A7.] and would not revive plans by the previous Liberal administration to decriminalize simple possession of cannabis. ["Conservatives not interested in relaxing marijuana laws", "Winnipeg Free Press", 8 March 2006, A11; Peter Edwards, "Police crack down on marijuana users", "Toronto Star", 3 April 2006, A1. Arrests for cannabis possession were reported to have increased following the Conservative Party's 2006 victory.]

MPs from all parties agreed to fast-track passage of a bill toughening penalties for street racing in November 2006. [Peter O'Neil, "MPs speed passage of anti-racing laws", "Vancouver Sun", 2 November 2006, A3.] In the same month, Toews introduced a bill to give the police extra powers against persons who drive while under the influence of drugs. [Carly Weeks, "New legislation 'unfairly targets marijuana users'", "Vancouver Sun", 23 November 2006, A9.]


Some provincial justice ministers expressed concern about the costs of Toews's proposed sentencing reforms. ["New tough-on-crime laws will require new funding", "Kitchener-Waterloo Record", 14 October 2006, A3.] Toews acknowledged that his government's gun sentencing laws would cost $246 million per year for new prison space and $40 million for operating costs, but argued that the changes were necessary and were requested by police and provincial officials. ["Tougher gun laws will mean $246 million needed for new prison space: minister", "Canadian Press", 7 November 2006, 17:19 report.]

Liberal MP Michael Ignatieff criticized Toews's approach to crime, arguing that adding thousands of people to Canada's prison system will lead to young offenders becoming hardened adult criminals, and will not make Canada safer in the long term. [Bartley Kives, "Ignatieff targets Toews on crime", "Winnipeg Free Press", 31 October 2006, B1. Ignatieff was quoted as saying, "If the net effect of (federal Justice Minister) Vic Toews' criminal justice measures is to add 3,000 or 4,000 people to the federal prison system in Canada, then a whole bunch more to the provincial system, can we honestly say we're going to be safer?"] Former Ontario Chief Justice Patrick LeSage also criticized Toews's approach to crime issues, arguing that the country was not experiencing a crime wave and did not need "draconian" laws to ensure its safety. [Tracey Tyler, "There is no crime epidemic, says former chief justice", "Toronto Star", 4 November 2006, A23.]

;;Judicial appointments

Soon after he assumed office, Toews announced that public hearings would be held for the next justice appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. [Susan Delacourt and Sean Gordon, "Shock and awe, Tory style", "Toronto Star", 7 February 2006, A1.] This policy was criticized by Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and former justice John Major, who expressed concern that these hearings could foment the "political warfare" associated with American judicial appointments. [Janice Tibbetts, "Public scrutiny of nominees risks 'warfare': former judge", "National Post", 8 February 2006, A5.] In late February, Prime Minister Harper nominated Marshall Rothstein from a shortlist prepared by the previous Liberal administration. MPs were permitted to ask questions of Rothstein, although the ultimate power of appointment continued to rest with the prime minister. [Terry Weber, "Rothstein tapped as Supreme Court nominee", "Globe and Mail", 23 February 2006 (Breaking News).] Rothstein was supported by Liberal members of the judicial committee, and was quickly confirmed to the bench.

In November 2006, Toews announced that police representatives would be appointed to the provincial judicial advisory committees that review the qualifications of potential judges. This proposal was widely criticized by the Canadian media and by opposition MPs, some of whom argued that Toews's intent was to stack the courts with right-wing judges. ["The judges were right to slam Toews's plan" [editorial] , "Globe and Mail", 13 November 2006, A18; "Justice seen to be done", "Ottawa Citizen", 14 November 2006, A14; "Toews should at least be honest about his attacks on judicial independence" [editorial] , "Vancouver Sun", 14 November 2006, A14; "Ottawa's justice fiasco" [editorial] , "Toronto Star", 15 November 2006, A22.] In an unprecedented move, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and the Canadian Judicial Council issued a statement that Toews's proposal would "compromise the independence of the Advisory Committees", and called for the minister to consult with judicial and legal representatives before making any changes. [Kirk Makin, "Top judges rebuke Tories", "Globe and Mail", 10 November 2006, A1.] The Federation of Law Societies of Canada has also criticized Toews's plan, arguing that the government had "politicized" the judicial appointments process. [Kirk Makin, "Senior lawyers criticize Toews", "Globe and Mail", 16 November 2006, A10.] Ontario Chief Justice Roy McMurtry and Attorney General Michael Bryant added their opposition in early 2007, with Bryant arguing that the "the forces of legal populism" were threatening to "tear asunder the basic principle of judicial independence". ["Meddling with courts", "Toronto Star", 12 January 2007, A18.] Toews indicated that he would proceed with his changes despite the opposition, though he was removed from the Justice portfolio before the new system could be implemented. [Alex Dobrota, "Lawyers want minister to review plan allowing police to help select judges", "Globe and Mail", 12 January 2007, A4.] In January 2007, the Conservatives appointed two powerful Ontario police union leaders to an advisory committee. [John Duncanson, "Police officers on panels picking judges seen as 'political' move", "Toronto Star", 22 January 2007.]

;;Other matters

In mid-2006, Toews's department prepared draft legislation concerning religious rights and freedom of speech in relation to same-sex marriage. Some speculated that this legislation was intended to protect the "free speech" of religious leaders and others who criticize homosexual behaviour. The legislation was never brought forward. [Bill Curry, "Tories drafted law on religious rights", "Globe and Mail", 2 April 2007, A7.] The House of Commons defeated a motion to reopen the debate on same-sex marriage in December 2006. While Toews remains personally opposed to same-sex marriage, he later indicated that the Harper government would not revisit the issue again. [Gloria Galloway, "Same-sex marriage file closed for good, PM says", "Globe and Mail", 8 December 2006, A1.]

In late October 2006, an Ontario Superior Court Judge struck down a part of Canada's Security of Information Act as unconstitutional. This law had previously been used by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to obtain search warrants for the home and office of Ottawa journalist Juliet O'Neill, after she received and published leaked information about Maher Arar. In the same week, an Ottawa judge struck down as unconstitutional a section of the Anti-terrorism Act that defined terrorism as crime motived by religion, politics or ideology. [Don Butler, "Security law violates charter, judge rules", "Montreal Gazette", 20 October 2006, A12; Ian Macleod, "Anti-terror law suffers new setback", 25 October 2006, A4; Alex Dobrota and Gloria Galloway, "Portion of law on terror struck down", "Globe and Mail", 25 October 2006, A1.] Toews later announced that the Harper government would not appeal the O'Neill decision. [Ian MacLeod, "Ottawa won't appeal anti-terror law ruling", "National Post", 4 November 2006, A2.]

In December 2006, Toews and Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Jim Prentice announced plans to repeal Section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. The ministers argued that this provision sometimes prevented status aboriginals and on-reserve workers from registering human rights complaints, and said that its repeal would extend full rights protection to all First Nations people. ["Introduction of legislation to repeal Section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act" [media advisory] , "Canada NewsWire", 13 December 2006, 05:16; "Canada's new Government introduces legislation to strengthen human rights protection for Aboriginal Canadians", "Canada NewsWire", 13 December 2006, 10:19.]

Toews called a judicial inquiry into the 1985 Air India bombing in February 2006. ["Air India inquiry will go ahead: report", "Edmonton Journal", 1 March 2006, A5.] He abolished the Law Commission of Canada later in the year, saying that the government would commission other agencies to do its research work. ["Toews defends turfing law commission", "Edmonton Journal", 7 November 2006, A7.]

;President of the Treasury Board

Prime Minister Stephen Harper shuffled his cabinet on January 4, 2007, and appointed Toews as President of the Treasury Board. Some commentators argued that Toews's hardline approach to law-and-order issues was damaging the Conservative Party's image among centrist voters, and described his replacement Rob Nicholson as presenting a more moderate image. [Andrew Coyne, "The man sent to kill the issue: Baird posting is all about appearances", "National Post", 5 January 2007, A1; Paul Vieira, "Nicholson is New Face Of Law And Order: Likely to be more Moderate Than outgoing Toews", "National Post", 5 January 2007, A5. Generally, opposition parties often complained that Toews's proposed reforms were too ideological and confrontational. Only two of Toews's bills were passed by parliament during his tenure as Justice Minister. See Paul Vieira, "Nicholson is New Face Of Law And Order: Likely to be more Moderate Than outgoing Toews", "National Post", 5 January 2007, A5.]

In his first major speech after the shuffle, Toews announced increased penalties and longer jail terms for bureaucrats who commit fraud against the government. [Kathryn May, "MPs consider perjury charges for sponsorship witnesses", "Ottawa Citizen", 8 February 2007, A1.] In the same month, he announced that the Canadian Wheat Board would be subject to the Access to Information Act. ["Agents of Parliament, Canadian Wheat board and foundations brought under Access to Information" [press release] , "Canada NewsWire", 22 February 2007, 09:30.]

As Treasury Board President, Toews is responsible for overseeing the Federal Accountability Act, which was passed into law in 2006. [Kathryn May, "Toews' appointment 'scary thought' for PS: Get-tough approach worries bureaucrats", "Ottawa Citizen", 5 January 2007, A1.] In January 2008, he introduced a Lobbying Act to replace Canada's Lobbyists Registration Act. The new act created a category of senior public officials called "designated public office holders", whose interactions with lobbyists would need to be reported. It also created a Commissioner of Lobbying (to replace the Registrar of Lobbyists), and increased penalties for violations. [Jennifer Allen, "New lobby rules mean more work for lawyers", "Globe and Mail", 13 August 2008, B5.] The coordinator of the group Democracy Watch was strongly critical of the changes, noting that the new rules only covered "oral and arranged communication" between ministers and government officials while exempting written correspondence and chance encounters. [Andrew Mayeda, "Tories introduce new reporting rules for lobbyists; Must detail meetings with public officials, but not correspondence", "Ottawa Citizen", 5 January 2008, A5.] After the act officially became law in July 2008, it was discovered that some arranged meetings between ministers, government officials and lobbyists' clients would not have to be reported at all, if the lobbyist who arranged the meeting was not actually present. Lobbyists were not required to report such meetings, and the clients would only be required to do so if they were themselves registered under the act. [See Tim Naumetz, "Major loophole in new federal lobbying law even surprises lobbyists", "Canadian Press", 18 August 2008, 2:45 pm.]

In February 2008, Toews and Minister of Public Works Michael Fortier announced that the Harper government would spend $10 million less on public opinion research in its next budget. This decision followed criticism that the government was spending far more on polls than the previous Liberal administrations. ["Conservatives promise to cut spending on federal polls and surveys", "Canadian Press", 13 February 2008, 18:22.] Toews' department also shut down the Co-ordination of Access to Information Requests System (CAIRS) in April 2008. Critics argued that the system provided a vital resource for citizens attempting to investigate previously released documents. Toews argued that it was expensive, and slowed access to government information. [Bruce Cheadle, "Expert cited by PM questions how Tories tracking info now that registry dead", "Canadian Press", 5 May 2008, 17:07.]

During a June 2008 parliamentary debate, Toews described Canadian jurist Louise Arbour, the retiring United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as a "disgrace". He indicated that he made the remarks with respect to her past statements on Israel (during the 2006 Lebanon War, Arbour argued that the killing of innocent civilians by any party could amount to war crimess). This statement was widely criticized. Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay responded that Toews had taken Arbour's remarks "completely out of context", and described his comments as an "appalling" personal attack. [Tonda MacCharles, "Tory minister's comment on jurist slammed", "Toronto Star", 18 June 2008, A15.] Claire L'Heureux-Dubé also criticized Toews' comments, writing that Arbour had avoided taking sides in the Middle East conflict. [Claire L'Heureux-Dubé, "A disgraceful attack; It is shameful that a federal cabinet minister would make an unwarranted verbal assault on one of Canada's most accomplished citizens, Louise Arbour", "Ottawa Citizen", 21 June 2008, B7. See also Bob Hepburn, "The snubbing of a Canadian hero", "Toronto Star", 26 June 2008, A4; [ William M. Trudel, "Louise Arbour: a colleague we have failed"] , "Law Times", 22 September 2008, 3 October 2008.]

Toews was invited to speak at an event marking the 25th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but declined. [Janice Tibbetts, "Conservatives skip out on Charter events", "Montreal Gazette", 11 April 2007, A4.]

In November 2007, disgraced businessman and lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber filed an affidavit in Ontario Superior Court that contained serious accusations against former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. The Canadian media subsequently reported that Justice officials had prepared a briefing note on Schreiber the previous year, while Toews was still minister. Bureaucrats indicated that neither Toews nor his successor, Rob Nicholson, had read the material. Some columnists suggested that the Conservative ministers may have intentionally avoided briefings on the subject. [ [ Dan Lett, "Minister needs to answer some dreaded questions"] , "Winnipeg Free Press", 14 November 2007; [ Mia Rabson, "Toews dragged into scandal: Resurgence of Airbus affair puts Tories in hot seat"] , "Winnipeg Free Press", 14 November 2007; "Conservative ministers may have intentionally avoided Airbus briefings", "Canadian Press", 8 November 2007, D7.]

;Minister responsible for Manitoba

Toews is currently the only federal cabinet minister representing a Manitoba riding. In late 2007, he indicated that the Harper government would not prioritize funding for a new football stadium proposed by Winnipeg media mogul David Asper. [Mary Agnes Welch, "Get ball rolling on stadium: Doer", "Winnipeg Free Press", 7 December 2007, A3. The Winnipeg media subsequently reported that Joy Smith, a Conservative MP from Winnipeg, opposed Toews on this matter. See Daniel Lett, "Is Toews part of the problem?", "Winnipeg Free Press", 8 January 2008, A3. Smith denied that she in Toews were in disagreement. See Joy Smith, "I agree with Vic Toews" [letter] , "Winnipeg Free Press", 9 January 2008, A10. See also Allan MacLeod, "MP spoke out of turn" [letter] , "Winnipeg Free Press", 12 January 2008, A18.] He later modified his position, and announced in June 2008 that he was interested in moving forward with a revised stadium plan. [Bartley Kives, "Toews' touchdown pass? Feds open to funding downtown site over Polo Park", "Winnipeg Free Press", 21 June 2008, A1.]

Toews's public visibility declined after his reassignment as Treasury Board President, and the "Winnipeg Free Press" reported in May 2008 that he was not playing a prominent role in discussions about the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg or the proposed football stadium. [Mary Agnes Welch, "Political futures spur debate Legislature abuzz over Toews, Maloway", "Winnipeg Free Press", 16 May 2008, A3.]

;Future plans

Rumours circulated in early 2008 that Toews was planning to retire from politics. In May 2008, it was reported that he was being vetted for a possible appointment to Manitoba's Court of Queen's Bench. Some opposition MPs argued that any such appointment would create a conflict of interest situation, as Toews has an active role in choosing the oversight committee. [Campbell Clark, "Potential post for Toews raises ethical concerns; MP being vetted for judgeship, reports say", "Globe and Mail", 17 May 2008, A4; Don Martin, "Voter cynicism could reach new heights; Harper considers appointing Toews to judicial post", "National Post", 17 May 2008, A6; Mia Rabson, "From critic to patronage appointee? Minister Vic Toews may benefit from a system he once slammed", "Winnipeg Free Press", 17 May 2008, A1. Former NDP cabinet minister Sidney Green wrote a piece defending the appointments process later in the month. See Sidney Green, "Patronage actually works", "Winnipeg Free Press", 27 May 2008, A11.] Toews was still a Member of Parliament when the 2008 election was called, however, and is currently seeking re-election.

Family life

It was reported in May 2008 that Toews had separated from his wife of 32 years, following the revelation that he had fathered a child out of wedlock. Some have speculated that this could damage his chances of re-election in his socially conservative riding. [Daniel Lett, "Having friends in high places a big help for fallen Tory star", "Winnipeg Free Press", 20 May 2008, A6; Bruce Owen, "Voters bring up Toews scandal - Rival candidates stick to policy questions", "Winnipeg Free Press", 1 October 2008, A6.]


*When asked about his reading preferences in 1996, Toews said that he recently re-read Paul Bowles's "The Sheltering Sky". ["On the night table", "Winnipeg Free Press", 18 August 1996, B5.] He is also a fan of the Winnipeg Fringe Festival. [Glen MacKenzie, "Labour pains", "Winnipeg Free Press", 6 October 1996, B4.]
*Toews bears a passing physical resemblance to Jack Layton, who was chosen as leader of the federal New Democratic Party in 2003. He temporarily shaved off his moustache in 2003 to prevent confusion, ["Canadian Alliance politician shaves to avoid confusion with NDP leader", "Canadian Press", 30 September 2003, 20:34 report.] and later took part in a comic sketch with Layton at the 2004 Parliamentary Press Gallery Dinner.
*Toews is an avid long-distance runner, and has participated in several marathons. [Paul Samyn, "Toews in familiar territory", "Winnipeg Free Press", 7 February 2006, A5.]

External links

* [ Official website]
* [ Cabinet website]
* [ Parliament Webpage]

Electoral record

"Note: A subsequent investigation by Elections Manitoba found that Toews overspent by $7,500
in the 1999 campaign."

All electoral information is taken from Elections Canada and Elections Manitoba. Provincial election expenditures refer to individual candidate expenses. Italicized expenditures refer to submitted totals, and are presented when the final reviewed totals are not available.


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