Prime Time Crime  


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of Mar. 26, 2007)

"Jumping the shark" on crime


  By John Martin

“Jumping the shark” is a term used to describe the point at which a TV series has become so tired, predictable and void of new ideas that they’ll attempt anything, no matter how desperate or out of character, to recapture ratings.  It comes from a Happy Days episode where Fonzie, on water skis, literally jumps a shark and everyone knew, at that moment, the show was finished. 

But the metaphor can be applied elsewhere.

For more than a decade the Liberals have ridiculed victims’ rights groups and voted down numerous pieces of proposed legislation that would crack down on violent predators and sex offenders.  They’ve resisted countless calls to keep even the most dangerous offenders in custody and slashed the budgets of the RCMP and every other law enforcement agency.

But lo and behold, now Stephane Dion is promising to “pursue a tough, effective strategy to fight crime and make our communities safer.”

The about face came within days of Ontario’s Attorney General criticizing federal Liberal justice policies.  The AG noted the Liberals have "very little substance to offer by way of alternative, and certainly nothing new or effective. The typical federal Liberal approach to crime, in a word, is a boomer approach that is stuck in the summer of love."

Stephane Dion a born again crime fighter?  Au contraire.

His Justice Critic, Marlene Jennings, has repeatedly criticized the Harper government’s anti-crime efforts, and claimed to be “horrified” at their plans to crack down on offenders.  Liberal Public Safety Critic, Sue Barnes, calls measures to get tough on criminals "draconian."

Even as Dion was announcing his support for reverse-onus bail hearings for those arrested for gun crimes, the Liberals continued to stall passage of Bill C-35 that would establish exactly that; a reverse-onus condition at bail hearings regarding serious firearm offences. 

Dion says, “the most effective way to protect our homes and our rights is to catch and convict more criminals.”  Meanwhile his party gutted Bill C-9, legislation that would ban house arrest for arsonists, burglars and car thieves.  Sounds more like catch and release than catch and convict.

The Liberal crime platform calls for a crack down on Internet luring as well as hiring more police officers.  But his party recently voted against legislation specifically designed to protect children from sexual predators and wouldn’t support the hiring of 1000 additional RCMP members in last year’s budget.

Leaders often revisit issues and change positions.  Mulroney did it on free trade and Chrétien did it on his promise to scrap the GST.

But Liberals cracking down on criminals?  Just when all the polls spell trouble for them?  Even as they continue to oppose each and every new piece of law and order legislation?

Looks like Dion and his party just jumped the shark.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at

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