Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said he would implement mandatory minimum prison sentences for people convicted of extortion during a press conference in Surrey B.C., where organized crime against businesses has been on the rise.

Extortion increased by 218% since 2015, with violent crime increasing 39% over that same time period.

“In just eight years, there has been a terrifying increase of extortion across Canada. What happened eight years ago? Justin Trudeau was elected,” said Poilievre in a press release on Friday. 

“His reckless approach to extortion has unleashed crime and chaos in our once-peaceful towns and suburbs, making Canada a haven for organized crime and gangs.”

Extortion-related crimes continue to be reported to police at an exponential rate across Canada, with the annual rate in 2022 being five times higher than it was in 2012.

It’s particularly present in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, where it’s gone up by 263%, 284% and 386% respectively.  

It’s felt most in Vancouver, which has seen a 228% spike in extortion since 2015. 

The Greater Toronto Area also saw an increase of 155% over the last eight years.

“Common sense Conservatives will fix the damage Trudeau has caused by making sure that the extortionists who scare and intimidate our neighbours stay in jail for longer,” said Poilievre. 

“We will go after the leaders of these organized crime rings to make sure they get shut down once and for all. Extortion has no place in Canada. Conservatives will bring home safe streets for all Canadians.”

The Conservatives blame Trudeau’s passing of Bill C-5, a federal legislation that eliminated mandatory jail sentences for someone committing extortion with a firearm. 

Poilievre promised to reinstate a mandatory four-year prison sentence for such an offence. 

He also cited Bill C-75, which makes it easier for offenders to get bail, as part of the problem in Canada’s growing crime wave over the past several years. 

Referring to it as “catch-and-release bail,” the Conservative leader promised to repeal the bill. 

He also said his government would impose a mandatory minimum sentence of three years to anyone found convicted of extortion. 

Furthermore, it would impose a five year minimum sentence to anyone found to be “acting on behalf of gangs or organized crime.”

The Conservatives believe this would allow police and prosecutors more options to take down the ring leaders of these gangs organized crime operations. 

Additionally, they would make arson an aggravating factor for the charge of extortion. 

The announcement comes in the aftermath of Surrey seeing a spike in extortion threats, including arson, on businesses owned by South-Asian Canadians.