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Friday, February 18, 2011

Columns: Harper Must Come Clean On The Costs Of His Phony War On Crime

Columns: Harper Must Come Clean On The Costs Of His Phony War On Crime

By Mike Archer. The Harper government doesn’t know how much the estimated 42-odd new prisons we will require to house the new criminals they’re about to manufacture ought to frighten the most right wing among their political base.
It is a strange axiom of politics in the Western World – conservatives spend money like drunken sailors while liberals balance budgets while redistributing society’s benefits more equitably.
Clinton balanced the budget. Chretien balanced the budget and paid down a significant portion of the debt. Bush and Harper squandered all of those savings so that, in both countries, even before the bailouts and stimulus packages, both countries are now deeper in debt than they were before the conservatives took charge.
Globe & Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson made some interesting points in his column Feb 11:
Jeffrey Simpson
“Of all the Harper government’s curiosities, none is more telling than those surrounding the role of government. “Time and again, the Prime Minister and his cabinet tell Canadians about the virtues of smaller government. Along with “tough on crime” and “lower taxes,” smaller government forms the red meat trilogy the party delivers to its core voters and, presumably, to other Canadians.
“Except that, over the past five years, the number of Harper ministers has grown, the civil service and military have soared by more than 30,000 people, spending leaped before and during the recession, the government’s actual and projected deficits have been twice as large as the surpluses from 1996 to 2006, and the government’s plan to restore fiscal balance is leisurely, to say the least, and is being attacked as unreliable by three independent studies.”
When presented with the conflict between the statistics which show without question that the Canadian and European models of preventative intervention, restorative justice and re-education have managed to contribute to a significant reduction in crime the Harper government preferred to appeal to its base, invent criminals (Stockwell Day’s infamous ‘unreported criminals’) and pledge to put more Canadians in prison.
The other measure they took was to reduce the meaning of any statistics collected by StatsCan by eliminating the long form census.
The US is rapidly abandoning the ‘imprison everybody’ strategy as they discovered that after two decades of arresting everybody petty thief and drug user they could find they are going bankrupt housing all their freshly minted prisoners. California has had to release tens of thousands of prisoners just to save money in impossible attempt to balance their budget.
Now Canada is heading down the same stupid path the Americans are abandoning because it hasn’t worked and our ‘conservative’ government has no clue how much it will cost.
Rather than tell Canadians what their tough on crime agenda will cost, the Harper government is claiming the costs are protected by cabinet secrecy.
The reason Harper’s conservative base believes crime to be on the rise, despite all evidence to the contrary, is that they still read newspapers. The cheapest and easiest way to fill the blank white space in a newspaper every day is to print the police reports which, if you print enough of them, will convince anyone we’re lucky to come back from the grocery store alive.
The other cheap source of news is the courthouse. If you pay a report to sit there for one day a week you can get six stories out of the investment.
If the Harper conservatives can’t tell us how much their phony war on crime is going to cost they will have proved once and for all that they have simply become the liberals Stephen Harper hates so much.

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