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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Oh, the outrage!

Taking a moment to skim through the news, and this headline caught my eye.

Tough justice outrages Opposition and critics.

What they're talking about is the Safe Streets and Communities Act.

Bob Rae tells us "the legislation provides no additional protection to the public and that it’s an ideological bill that panders to the Conservative base."

Interesting.  Will have to take a closer look to see. Meanwhile,

Inmate advocacy groups said the cost to implement the justice package is foolish with the economic uncertainty facing Canada.
“Canadians are telling us and politicians that they would rather see their hard-earned tax dollars spent on public housing, child care, pensions, health care, mental-health services, education, victims and other social services,” the Elizabeth Fry and John Howard societies said in a statement.

So their objection to it is the money?

Their comment reminds me a lot of a problem I'm seeing in our co-op (who'd have thought being on the finance committee would be so ... entertaining...).  Group 1 proposes a change. Money for it is to be paid out of budget item A.  Group 2 doesn't like the change proposed.  They start a campaign vilifying the proposal, saying the money would be better spent elsewhere, such as for things covered in budget item B.  What they are ignoring is that the money allotted to the proposal has nothing to do with anything else in the budget.  You can't just arbitrarily take money budgeted in A and reassign it to B because you don't approve of something that would be paid for out of A.  B already has its own budget.  The money for A isn't at the expense of B.

What we really have is a bunch of people who don't like a particular proposal.  So they twist things around to imply that the money going to pay for the proposal out of A's budget is somehow depriving B's budget of funds.

A similar mindset is what I'm seeing in the above quote.  By saying Canadians would rather see tax dollars going to other things (of course, by saying "Canadians are telling us..." they make it sound like they are speaking for all Canadians, which they don't). Fair enough.  What they make it sound like, however, is that this act will somehow take money away from these things, or that the money should be reallocated to these things.

Here's the problem.  We have a budget that allots money to a lot of things (including a lot of things that government shouldn't be paying for at all, but that's a different topic), and the government can't arbitrarily remove money from one area and reallocate it to another.  That's not how it works.  Can you imagine if we had a style of government that could just ignore the budget and throw money at whatever cause is popular at the moment?

If these advocacy groups want more money for these things, they need to fight to get more money for them in the next budget.  They're not going to accomplish that by complaining about the money spent in areas that have their own budget.  The money for prisons is the money for prisons.  Preventing that money from being spent isn't going to magically increase the amount of money being spent in their preferred area.

Near the end, the article makes a brief mention about new prisons being needed for this, even though current prisons are not full.

Personally, I have a problem understanding why people are against new prisons being built.  Some of the old prisons are over 100 years old.  They are horrible places, expensive to maintain and inadequate to the needs of the prison population.  I especially don't understand the objection from people who focus on the rehabilitation of prisoners.  The current facilities make rehabilitation much more difficult.  The resources and infrastructure isn't really there.  Building new prisons will allow us to do a number of things.  The buildings themselves could be built with better materials, making them more efficient and cost effective to run.  They can be built with better infrastructure and resources, including educational, therapeutic, medical, etc., depending on the need.  Instead, it's being portrayed as new prisons would automatically be some sort of warehouses to shut prisoners away and forget about them.  Why?  On what basis are they assuming that new prisons will be a bad thing, rather than an improvement on our existing, antiquated, facilities?

A discussion for another time, perhaps.  For now, let's look at the proposed act.
The Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act (former Bill C-54), which proposes increased penalties for sexual offences against children, as well as creates two new offences aimed at conduct that could facilitate or enable the commission of a sexual offence against a child;

I have no problem with something that gets the sexual predators of children off the streets longer. 

The Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act (former Bill S-10), which would target organized crime by imposing tougher sentences for the production and possession of illicit drugs for the purposes of trafficking;

Specific to organized crime.  Looks good to me.

S├ębastien's Law (Protecting the Public from Violent Young Offenders) (former Bill C-4), which would ensure that violent and repeat young offenders are held accountable for their actions and the protection of society is a paramount consideration in the treatment of young offenders by the justice system;

I've got no problem with this, either.  Violent and repeat young offenders are being enabled by the current system.

The Ending House Arrest for Property and Other Serious Crimes by Serious and Violent Offenders Act (former Bill C-16), which would eliminate the use of conditional sentences, or house arrest, for serious and violent crimes;

Specific to serious and violent crimes; again, I have no problem with this.  I never understood how repeat violent offenders qualified for house arrest in the first place.

The Increasing Offender Accountability Act (former Bill C-39), which would enshrine a victim's right to participate in parole hearings and address inmate accountability, responsibility, and management under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act;

Yes!  More voice and rights to the victims of crime!

The Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act (former Bill C-23B), which would extend the ineligibility periods for applications for a record suspension (currently called a "pardon") from three to five years for summary conviction offences and from five to ten years for indictable offences;

Again, specific to serious crimes.  Sounds good to me.

The Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act (former Bill C-5), which would add additional criteria that the Minister of Public Safety could consider when deciding whether or not to allow the transfer of a Canadian offender back to Canada to serve their sentence;

Additional criteria added.  I'd like to know what those are, but more tools to make a decisions is usually a good thing.

The Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and related amendments to the State Immunity Act (former Bill S-7), which would allow victims of terrorism to sue perpetrators and supporters of terrorism, including listed foreign states, for loss or damage that occurred as a result of an act of terrorism committed anywhere in the world; and

Ha!  Does that mean Canadian victims of 9/11 can sue the Saudi government?  Love it.

The Preventing the Trafficking, Abuse and Exploitation of Vulnerable Immigrants Act (former Bill C-56), which would authorize immigration officers to refuse work permits to vulnerable foreign nationals when it is determined that they are at risk of humiliating or degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation or human trafficking.
I would want to know more about this.  It's one thing to prevent work permits, but what recourse is there to investigate if these foreign nationals really are being exploited, and how can they be helped or protected?

Going through all this, I have a hard time seeing what the Opposition is outraged about.

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