Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Harper Conservatives:A government out of touch with reality (UPDATE 16/02/11)

Editorial, Globe and Mail, February 15, 2011
Should the country's biggest job-creation program really be that of the Correctional Service of Canada? The jails plan to hire 5,000 new employees, according to Don Head, the commissioner. He says the service is trying to count up the costs of the government's multiple crime bills. Did no one think to do that first?
Even apart from all those jobs is the cost of the new infrastructure needed to house a spike in the number of prisoners. Canadians may be asked to pay billions of dollars more each year. Yet the Conservative government has provided no comprehensive costing, and none for a new bill, Bill S-10, that provides for mandatory-minimum sentences for some drug crimes, such as six months for growing six or more marijuana plants.
The costs of crime bills such as S-10 are at the heart of a dispute between the government and the opposition. The House finance committee is asking for government cost estimates. Liberal finance critic Scott Brison asked Speaker Peter Milliken last Friday to find the government in contempt of Parliament for not providing those estimates. The government claims the costs are a “cabinet confidence.”
Its position is untenable. This is a government that stresses fiscal rectitude and the promotion of financial literacy. Why should Canadians be told to ask more informed questions about private investment or borrowings, on the one hand, and give the government a blank cheque on the other?
And that's only part of the problem.
An ever more contentious issue is the complete break from reality on the part of the Conservative government in even creating longer sentences, and being, generally "tough on crime" because the Canadian statistics show a clear drop in the crime rate for all crimes over the last decade.
Law-and-order is a political hot-button from south of the border, where the inner cities have been struggling for some time, with rising crime rates. That is not, and has not been, the case north of the 49th.
Furthermore, with an increased focus on incarceration, resulting in more and not fewer criminals, there is an ideological base to the position of the government, based on some vague notion of "father knows best," of both righteousness and rectitude that seems to be attached to every word and every thought from this prime minister's mouth and mind respectively.
And yet, as in so many other cases, the reality on the ground does not support their position.
Just as with the long census form, when the government withdrew it, because of opposition and invasion of privacy, there had been so few complaints that the matter was not an issue for Canadians; yet it became so radioactive for the government, that Canadian policy scholars and planners will be robbed of much serious data necessary for them to do their work, without adequate explanation or justification.
There is no obvious reason to cut corporate taxes by $6 billion, except to please their corporate friends, either. In this decision, there are, once again, out of touch with both reality and real needs of Canadian people.
There is no military need for 65 F-35 Fighter Jets, at a combined cost with both purchase and repairs of some $20 billion, and yet the Conservative government pushes ahead stubbornly, bull-headedly, and also to be frank, stupidly.
Not only is there no reality base to their decisions, they seem unalterably opposed to thinking through those decisions. We do not need 5000 new prison wardens, guards and maintenance staff, simply because we do not need 27,000 new prison cells for prisoners 'whose crimes are not being reported', to use the government's own words.
So we are opposed not only to the government's short-sighted, intellectually challenged, and unneeded approach, they also, by omission, fail to provide the kind of programs for prisoners that would rehabilitate them effectively back into the society, where they belong. The government's approach, that of a stern, stubborn and bullying parent is precisely opposite to the evidence presented by research in the criminology departments.
By of course, those with brains, and with discipline to use those brains, we used to call them scholars, are the unnamed enemy of this government. In their view, scholars are 'snobs' as are those 4 million people who live in Toronto, expecially when compared to those this government considers its natural constituency, the rural voters from small towns and cities in every province.
Let's see, "divide and conquer"....wasn't that the approach of royalty in order to maintain control of the people so many centuries ago?
Divide the urban from the rural voter; divide the right-wing from the middle and the left; divide the provinces from the federal government; divide the outcasts from the inside circle; divide the rich from the poor....and then build walls around those divides and call those walls "A Government Action Program" and spend over $50 million advertising itself as a saviour of the people at a time of crisis....
This is a government that would approve gated communities, if it had the power to plan new cities.
This is a government that would enhance the position of the powerful at the expense of the powerless.
This is a government that would make policy on a whim, and then keep secret just what the whim was in the first place.
This is a government that literally shows contempt for scholarship, reasoned thinking, research and long-term thinking and planning. And, what's more, it is proud of its dumbness, because the rest of us are reduced to being simple 'snobs'....because we think and we believe and we know that whims have consequences and -people charged with responsibility for leadership need to take those steps of thinking through, of reasoning with the reality on the ground, and not playing "make-believe" with the Canadian people and their future.
Just in case, you thought I was alone in this assessment, try this from Thomas Walkom...
By Thomas Walkom, National Affairs Columnist, Toronto Star, February 16, 2011
From crime to KAIROS, Canada’s Conservative government has developed a novel method for dealing with inconvenient reality: If the facts don’t fit, invent new ones.
That’s why International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda is in hot water. She got caught inventing facts around her government’s 2009 decision to cut off funding to the charity KAIROS.
It’s also why Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives like a new study that supports their contention that crime rates are skyrocketing — even though all factual evidence points the other way.
To dyed-in-the-wool Harperites, the world is a scary place. It is peopled by criminals, thugs, terrorists and radical Muslims — all of whom are slavering to slit the throats of law-abiding Canadian taxpayers and steal their vital bodily fluids.
Even worse, as Harper intimated in a 2003 speech, these apostles of violence are abetted by a shadowy clique of Marxist liberals who dominate the commanding heights of Canadian thought (media, judiciary, civil service, universities) and who use their pernicious influence to spread the poison of moral equivalency throughout the land.
That none of this is true has never mattered. It is an article of faith among certain Conservatives. It is also politically useful. If citizens are convinced they are in mortal danger, they will support any leader, no matter how dubious, who promises law and order.

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