At the start of our last federal election campaign, mainstream media undercut one of Paul Martin's best campaign strategies by predicting that he would run a negative campaign that demonized Harper and scared Canadians into thinking Harper would impose values repugnant to most Canadians. This blanket media interference effectively kicked the stuffing out of legitimate Liberal arguments that Harper is at odds with the majority of Canadians on abortion, crime, capital punishment, the social safety net, universal health care, an evangelical religious agenda, and on and on.
When Harper came to power the media told us that Harper couldn't do any of those things, even if he wanted to, because he had a minority government. Then they told us that coming to power had shifted Harper towards the center and blunted some of his more extremist views.
But during the last two years Harper has moved Canada towards a less caring, more punitive US model. This "Tacking Violent Crime" bill is an outrageous reversal of practices that have helped Canada maintain a startlingly lower crime (and incarceration) rate than the US. As I've written before:
The homicide rate per 100,000 people in the US is 5.59. In Canada, it is 1.85... and declining. It makes no sense to follow the model of a country that locks up inordinate amounts of its citizens - especially minorities - and only manages to keep crime rampant.
Canada has had huge success with a kinder, gentler approach to crime. Jail diversion programs reduce recidivism, but that should not be the only metric used to judge their effectiveness. This is a human rights issue. Going to prison wrecks a person's life: it is traumatizing; it makes it difficult for a person to ever work at a good job or fit in to regular society; it is a training ground for future criminal behavior. People should only be subjected to prison when there is risk to society or a strong need for deterrence.
Since Day One, the Harper government has been waging a propoganda campaign to convince Canadians to Americanize our justice system. Their biggest target has been youthful offenders, who Harper wants to lock up more often and for longer periods - just the ticket to ruin their lives, ruin their family's lives, and encourage them to enter a life of crime.
Liberal party leadership have to decide which issue to focus on in the next election, and that decision should be made on the basis of a much stronger understanding of the country than I have, but for me, the crime bill is The issue of the day. Afghanistan is much iffier for me. I don't like the idea of Canadians being involved in any war, but a Liberal government got us into this engagement, and I supported Paul Martin's reasons for doing so at the time.