Stockwell Day appeared before the national press again Thursday, this time announcing new lobbying rules but also defending his earlier - and controversial - assertions that unreported crime justifies spending billions on new prison facilities.
The Treasury Board President has been the subject of critical editorials and commentary as a result of his remarks. While he did not back down from his earlier thesis, he didn't repeat the word "alarming," which he had used Tuesday to describe the amount of crime not being reported.
He was more careful with his vocabulary this time around; there was no thesaurus sticking out of his pocket. Instead of acknowledging he may have slightly misrepresented the facts, he blamed Michael Ignatieff's Liberals for misrepresenting the costs of the Conservative prison plan.
The Grits have charged that the Tories will spend between $10-billion and $13-billion on expanding facilities. Mr. Day disputed this.
"Figures get tossed out that the media has been quoting from the Liberals," he said when asked if he went overboard with his earlier remarks. "There's all kinds of figures floating around out there," he said "Our estimation is possibly $2-billion over the next five years."
That amount, though just a "ballpark" figure, would be used to "rebuild some of the aging facilities," he said, or "to make some of the existing ones more efficient."
A senior Ignatieff official defended the Liberal numbers, noting they came from parliamentary budget watchdog Kevin Page. "So, who is more credible?" the Liberals ask "The people who said $90-million and are now saying $2-billion? Without any supporting documents, by the way."
And the official noted the apparent hypocrisy of "talking about transparency" without documenting "where this $2-billion number is coming from."
The $90-million price tag, meanwhile, came from Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. He said in April that amount had been set aside for this year and next to deal with changes to sentencing and also to expand facilities if that was required.
In a follow-up answer about his previous comments, Mr. Day would not retreat from his contention that crime is going unreported in Canada despite statistics that show otherwise. He was basing his assertions on a 2004 report from Statistics Canada showing 34 per cent of crime was being reported compared to 37 per cent in 1999.
"I think when there is an increase as there has been in the amount of unreported crime as clearly reported by Stats Canada and when it's in the thousands - that to me is serious," he said. "It may not be to some people, but it's serious."
He maintained there are serious offences not being reported and he encouraged Canadians to report all crime to police.