Stockwell Day was at it again this week. Non sequiturs aboundhed.
Defending the Conservative government’s plan to spend billions of dollars on new prisons even as the crime rate drops, the Treasury Board President said crime is going unreported. He had no statistics of his own, proof to back up his disregard of the actual statistics.
In fact, the information we do have shows the level of unreported crime has remained steady through much of the decade.
What we’re seeing here is yet another ideological move from the Harper government: as with the census issue, it’s not about facts, but about personal priorities.
Planning to spend $10-$13 billion on prisons is excessive. Doing after running up a record deficit is folly.
Harper, however, seems intent on pandering to his base, spouting tough-on-crime rhetoric. He also does the public a disservice by promoting fear merely to justify spending massive amounts of money – the same tactics being used to justify spending $16 billion on an untendered contract for jet fighters.
Critics have been quick to compare Harper’s prison plans to the U.S. model, saying he’s taking another page out of the Republican playbook. The parallels exist, the prison issue being just the latest.
Looking at the situation to the south, that’s certainly a model we don’t want to follow. The U.S. has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world – about 750 of every 100,000 people in the country, about seven times greater than in Canada – yet it’s unclear what, if any effect that’s had on the crime rate.
Certainly, no one is going to argue the U.S. is safer than Canada.
Much of the increase in U.S. incarceration rates has come in that last three or four decades – between 1970 and 2000, the general population grew by 40 per cent, the prison population by 500 per cent – aided lately by Republican governments and the push for private, for-profit meaga-prisons.
At the same time, cuts have been made to crime prevention and victims’ aid programs. As well, policies have exacerbated the link between poverty and crime rates.
We’ve seen similar changes here under the Conservative government, including a 70 per cent cut to crime prevention funding.
Even the talking points are the same. The Tories are already briefing members to apply the “soft on crime” label to anyone critical of the billions in spending the government can’t justify.
While generally happy to share a border with the U.S., there are differences most Canadians want to maintain. With our lower crime rates, cleaner cities, better education system and universal health care, to name a few, we see ourselves as a more compassionate and liberal society. We admire many of the qualities exuded by our American cousins, but their crime issues aren’t among them.
When it comes to crime, the U.S. has problems we want no part of here, including the proliferation of guns, a legacy of racial issues and a for-profit factor in its criminal justice system.
The Tories, however, show the signs of wanting to take that road.