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Canada’s soaring car thefts are far outpacing criminal charges


Surging car thefts in Canada are outpacing criminal charges in a major way when it comes to thieves being brought to justice for stealing vehicles.

According to Statistics Canada data compiled by The Hub the same week that the federal government released its strategy to tackle the auto theft crisis, car thefts across Canada have risen by the tens of thousands in recent years, while the number of criminal charges for car thefts have remained around the same.

Take Ontario for instance. In 2022, there were 37,041 car thefts in the province, a 34 percent increase from 27,527 in 2021. Yet Ontario charges for car thefts only rose by an additional 88 charges or four percent.

Ontario’s rate of criminal charges per car theft has risen the most sharply, from 10 thefts per charge in 2019 to approximately 18 thefts per charge in 2022. 

The trend is consistent across the country’s most populous provinces, where car theft has increased massively, with vehicles being sold overseas.

From 2021 to 2022, Quebec car thefts rose by over 7,000, while resulting charges rose by only 337. Alberta saw nearly 3,000 additional thefts, but only 140 additional charges.

British Columbia holds the record for the worst rate of criminal charges per car theft—26 stolen cars for every single charge in 2022. 

As University of Ottawa criminologist Michael Kempa wrote in The Hub in March, when it comes to rising car thefts, Canadian law enforcement has so far signalled that citizens are “on their own.” 

He was responding to Toronto police constable Marco Ricciardi’s controversial suggestion that drivers make their car keys available near the front doors of their homes, to avoid home invasions and violent confrontations.

“Suggesting that citizens simply give up and make it easier for car thieves to steal their property reads like an admission that the police have lost control over a dangerous and costly problem,” said Kempa.

Kempa added that there are a minuscule number of Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) agents monitoring thousands of shipping containers passing through the Port of Montreal, the node through which many stolen cars are shipped.

“Even if police know a vehicle is in a particular port yard, it becomes a needle in a haystack. There is but a minute number of border agents literally working against the shipping clock to find it,” he wrote.

The Hub reached out to the Toronto Police Service to ask why criminal charges for car thefts have not kept pace with car thefts between 2021 and 2022.

“There has been a dramatic spike in auto thefts over the last several years, with over 3,990 vehicles stolen in Toronto so far in 2024. Around the clock, we have investigators aggressively working to address auto thefts in the city,” Toronto police media relations manager Stephanie Sayer said in an email. “Auto theft is among the top three revenue generators for organised crime groups, and it’s not an issue that police services can tackle alone.”

The federal government’s National Action Plan on Combatting Auto Theft was released this week. It focuses on “disrupting, dismantling and prosecuting the organised crime groups” responsible for these rising rates of car theft. 

To address the issue, the Action Plan seeks to amend the Criminal Code with tougher penalties for thefts tied to organised crime, money laundering, and youth involved in the theft who would otherwise face minimal jail time. There will also be new offences regarding the possession and distribution of electronic devices that assist with car theft, says the plan. 

The federal government wants to share more information between municipal, provincial, and national police services for criminal investigations, charges, and prosecutions. According to the Toronto Police Service, collaboration between Ontario’s police services resulted in the recovery of 15,000 stolen vehicles in 2023.

The CBSA has also been asked to enhance penalties around false reporting or failing to report export goods.

Hub Exclusive: Poilievre is poised to benefit from a potential Trump victory


In the lead-up to the November 2024 U.S. presidential election, The Hub and Pollara are teaming up to provide insights into what Canadians make of the race as it unfolds. Pollara senior advisor Andre Turcotte will provide exclusive polling and analysis to Hub readers, helping them understand how fellow Canadians are making sense of the election and its implications for Canada.

Conventional wisdom dictates that as he’s preparing for the Canadian election, Conservative leader Pierre Poilevre is probably praying that Donald Trump loses the American presidential election, now only six months away. The Liberals are betting on it, having launched a new ad campaign that directly compares the leader of the Official Opposition to the reality TV star-turned U.S. president, who is now appearing in court. Justin Trudeau and team are certainly hoping to stoke fear around the idea of putting two uncooperative outspoken conservative populists in power, while feeding the idea that Poilievre is just as brash, untruthful, and controversial as Trump.

However, new data collected by Pollara and published exclusively by The Hub surprisingly shows that 43 percent of Canadians actually believe a Prime Minister Poilievre would be best suited to deal with another Trump presidency. 

Meanwhile, 24 percent of Canadians believe Prime Minister Trudeau would be best at dealing with Trump, having done so in the past during the renegotiation of NAFTA and various other trade battles.

According to our polling, Poilievre emerges as the best to handle Trump for a plurality of Canadians of all ages (except older Canadians) and across every region. Not unexpectedly, we find partisan divisions on this point. A solid majority of Conservative voters (88 percent) prefer their own leader while 75 percent of Liberal supporters have more confidence in Justin Trudeau. What is interesting and an opportunity for Poilievre is that a significant proportion of Green (27 percent), Bloc (23 percent), and NDP (18 percent) voters as well as eight percent of Liberal supporters would turn to Poilievre to handle a second Trump presidency.

Graphic credit: Janice Nelson.
The closest of friends

“The longest open border in the world”; “steadfast allies”; the “closest of friends and allies”; those are just a few ways politicians have described the nature of the relationship between Canada and the United States over the years. Confrontations between Canadian and U.S. leaders have been relatively rare throughout history, owing to the generally strong diplomatic and economic ties between the two countries. However, there have been many instances when our leaders have clashed publicly or in private. 

There was the infamous incident in April 1965 involving Lester B. Pearson, who was then Canada’s external affairs minister, and Lyndon B. Johnson, who was president at the time. In a speech delivered in Philadelphia, Lester B. Pearson criticized the U.S. bombing campaign in Vietnam and advocated for a halt to the carnage. President Johnson felt personally attacked by Pearson’s remarks. When the two men met later, Johnson grabbed Pearson by the lapels and shouted at him, “Don’t you come into my living room and piss on my rug!”

Pierre-Elliott Trudeau had a strained relationship with Richard Nixon. The two clashed over several issues including trade and Canada’s opposition to the Vietnam War. The animosity was in full display when Nixon was recorded calling the former prime minister a “pompous egghead”.

More recently, Jean Chrétien’s decision not to participate in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 seriously damaged relations with President George W. Bush. 

With the U.S. presidential election approaching and the outcome still uncertain, we decided to examine Canadians’ expectations regarding which of the two main federal party leaders would be best equipped to handle relations with the next U.S. president. Our most recent study, conducted between April 22nd and May 2nd with 1,500 adult Canadians, aimed to explore this topic.

President Biden remains the preferred choice of most Canadians. Specifically, 58 percent want to see Biden win in November, but his support has slipped three points since March. Only 21 percent of Canadians prefer Donald Trump. 

But, despite their preferences, Canadians are divided in terms of who they expect to win. Some 28 percent think Trump will be the likely winner (down 3 percent from March) while 26 percent expect Biden to win (down 1 percent since March).

Graphic credit: Janice Nelson.
What would a Biden presidency mean for Canada?

Canadians are largely detached about a potential second term for Joe Biden. When asked what a Biden re-election would mean for Canada, 25 percent say it would be a good thing and 19 percent say it would be bad. About one-third (34 percent) are neutral. 

There is very little variation across socio-economic groups. However, Canadians over the age of 64 (52 percent) and Quebecers (46 percent) are slightly more likely than others to view a second Biden mandate in positive terms. However, there are partisan differences. Bloc (63 percent), Liberal (62 percent), and NDP (49 percent) supporters are sympathetic to a Biden re-election, while 31 percent of Conservatives believe a second Biden administration would be a “bad thing for Canada,” compared to 21 percent who think it would be good, and another 37 percent who are neutral.

Detachment is also found with regards to which of the two main federal party leaders would be best at dealing with President Biden. Some 35 percent of Canadians think Poilievre would be best equipped to deal with President Biden. An almost identical proportion (33 percent) think Trudeau would be best, and 32 percent are unsure. 

Graphic credit: Janice Nelson.

However, while Canadians may be indifferent to a second Biden term, the possibility of Trump returning to the White House evokes strong opinions and significant divisions.

What would a Trump presidency mean for Canada?

A strong majority of Canadians (60 percent) think another Trump presidency would be “a bad thing for Canada.” This is largely unchanged from our previous study conducted in March. Older Canadians (83 percent), Quebecers (74 percent), women (67 percent), and British Columbians (66 percent) are most likely to see a Trump re-election in a negative light. 

Partisanship also has an impact on this issue with Bloc (90 percent), Liberals (84 percent), and NDP (81 percent) voters united in dreading a Trump return to the White House. In contrast, Conservative voters are more ambivalent about this possible outcome. Specifically, 43 percent of Conservatives think a Trump return would be bad for our country while 25 percent think it would be a good thing, and 22 percent remain neutral. 

What does this mean for Poilievre?

On January 20, 2025, a new U.S. President will be inaugurated. Later that year, Canadian voters will head to the polls. Although it’s too early to predict how Canada-U.S. relations will influence the upcoming federal election, if they do, it could strain Liberal support and benefit the Poilievre Conservatives. For Poilievre to capitalize on this, he needs to adjust his approach. While aligning with the MAGA populist appeal might be tempting, continuing down this path could be detrimental. If Trump wins in November, Canadians will likely seek a tough leader who can stand up to the new administration. Poilievre should take a cue from previous Liberal prime ministers—Pearson, Trudeau, and Chretien—who demonstrated that confronting a belligerent U.S. president can yield electoral benefits.