Great! The nation’s economy is in a shambles. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are evaporating nationwide. Overnight, our Alberta budget’s gone from multi-billion-dollar surplus to billion-dollar deficit – which is a little like going from chicken salad to the other stuff that comes from chickens. And what does our federal Conservative minority government offer us? They’re going to get tough on crime!
There are words for this, and one of them’s “distraction.”
We’ve discussed this before. Crime’s a problem, but it’s not the problem our federal government would like to fool us into thinking it is.
Indeed, Canadian crime rates have been declining dramatically. Last summer, Statistics Canada reported that the national crime rate in Canada declined a significant 7 per cent in 2007. Crime was down in most provinces, including Alberta. Most serious violent offences – including homicides, attempted murders, sexual assaults and robberies – were down too.
Over the past 15 years, the country’s crime rate has dropped more than 25 per cent! Who knows why? Maybe because a lot of our active criminals are almost as old and tired as I am.
Moreover, most of the “solutions” being proposed by this government won’t work, and may make the situation worse. As in most things (except crazy stuff like unbridled free expression), however, our Conservatives follow the U.S. lead – packed jails, brutal penalties and all. And if a homegrown solution actually shows promise of working – a gun registry, say – oh, they’re going to get rid of that.
But as long as we’re getting mad about crime, I guess, we won’t be getting mad about all that other stuff. So never mind all those boring old crime-rate statistics!
So whatever the reality, our (minority) Conservative masters in Ottawa have decided that “getting tough on crime” – even if it is completely counterproductive – is what their political base demands.
They also recognize that their core political supporters are uncomfortable with the idea of spending our way out of a recession – even if that is the prescription recommended by most mainstream economists of the right and left alike.
Nevertheless, even given all this, the non sequitur that came out of the mouth St. Albert Member of Parliament Brent Rathgeber last week was decidedly weird, if not outright bizarre.
I’m quoting from one of the local papers here: “Many Conservative supporters aren’t happy the federal government plans to run a deficit, Rathgeber said, including members of his own political board. ‘To compensate for that, the government has decided it’s going to move forward on its law and order agenda.’” (Emphasis added.)
Say what? Does Mr. Rathgeber, who is pretty obviously a fairly bright guy, think that St. Albert voters actually think like that? Or, more frighteningly still, do they?
Gee whiz, this is a bit like having your landlord tell you: “Because you’re so concerned about the fat fire blazing on the stovetop, I’m going to paint the front room pink!”
Uh, great. … I guess. D’ya think we could put the fire out anyway?
At times like these, I’m often prone to blame the journalist. I edited too many journalists’ stories over the years not to have faith that, given the opportunity, most reporters will get things spectacularly wrong. In this case, however, the young man who wrote the story is a serious fellow with a reputation for accuracy. And anyway, our Brent elaborated at such length that it could hardly be otherwise.
Actually, though, the more I think about this, I wonder if this isn’t an approach that has some merit. Maybe we can look forward to several interesting new initiatives from our “new” Conservative government along similar lines. (When did they stop calling themselves new?)
- To discourage teens from smoking, we plan to ban the use of studded tires in Nunavut between March and September.
- To make up for the decline of the B.C. salmon fishery, we’ll consider lowering the GST another half percentage point.
- And since our base just isn’t happy about university biology teachers yakkety-yak-yakking about evolution all the time, we’re going to compensate them by building a new bridge over the Miramichi River!
Now that oughtta keep the Conservatives’ supporters quiet!