Prince Albert MP Hoback introduces bill targeting repeat car thieves

Photo by Tetyana Kovyrina/ The Canadian flag flies at the Parliament building in Ottawa.

Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback has introduced a new private members bill that aims to implement tougher penalties for repeat car thieves.

Hoback introduced Bill C-379 in the House of Commons on Tuesday. If approved, the Bill would establish a three-year minimum sentence for anyone who has stolen vehicles three times or more. It would also require judges to give primary consideration at sentencing as to whether the theft involved organized crime.

“I think that people in my constituency and right across Canada are going to be very happy with this motion,” Hoback said prior to introducing the bill. “This is something Conservatives are going to take action on.”

In 2023, the Insurance Bureau of Canada declared car theft a national crisis. IBC figures show private auto insurers paid out $1.2 billion in theft claims in 2022, three times more than in 2018.

The Prince Albert Police Service reported 493 vehicle thefts in 2023, an increase of 6.91 per cent from 2022. Those thefts resulted in 113 charges of either theft of a vehicle or being in possession of a stolen vehicle. Officers recovered the stolen vehicle 391 times.

Vehicle theft increased by 34 per cent across Canada in 2023, with the biggest leaps coming in Ontario (50 per cent) and Quebec (48.3 per cent) and Atlantic Canada (34.5 per cent). Hoback argued the federal government’s soft-on-crime policies were the primary reason.

“While Liberals attend photo ops and meetings, Conservatives are going to take action on this issue and show results for our constituents,” Hoback said in the House of Commons.

Hoback’s bill comes days after the federal Liberals hosted a National Summit on Combatting Auto Theft. The summit brought together industry leaders, law enforcement representatives, and provincial, municipal, and territorial leaders from across the country.

All participants endorsed a Statement of Intent recognizing the need for improved coordination between regions to combat auto theft.

“We have heard the message from Canadians: all orders of government: Federal, Provincial, Municipal, must work together with police, the auto industry, the insurance sector, and stakeholders to deal with auto thefts,” Federal Justice Minister Arif Virani said in a press release following the meeting. “I am grateful to everyone who took part in today’s summit. We did more than talk shop. We came away with plan to take on the criminals who are comprising the safety of our communities.”

On Feb. 7, the Liberals announced $28 million in federal funding to stop the export of stolen vehicles. The government says that money will give the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) more resources to search for shipping containers with stolen vehicles.

“Auto theft is a complex problem and tackling it requires all partners to do their part,” Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc said in a press release. “With this investment, our government is acting to prevent stolen vehicles from leaving the country and support the work of our border officers.”

There has been a significant rise in the number of stolen vehicles intercepted by CBSA agents. In 2018, they intercepted 463 vehicles, but by 2023 that number had increased to more than 1,800.

The government says the majority of stolen vehicles are exported to Africa and the Middle East, although some remain in Canada. One of the biggest busts came in November 2023, when CBSA agents in Montreal intercepted 72 stolen vehicles as part of a joint export control operation.