Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of Sept. 22, 2008)


Liberals getting tough on crime is hard to swallow


  By John Martin

Few people actually base their election-day decision on the campaign promises made by the various parties. Justifiably cynical, weíre skeptical that political promises will be kept. Still, there has to be a certain believability in its promises if a political party is going to have any credibility whatsoever. There comes a point where the promises being made are so out of character with that party, itís hard not to laugh. In that light, there were definitely more than a few chuckles in recent days. Reeking of desperation, the Liberals made a number of crime-fighting commitments last week that even their most loyal supporters must be shaking their heads at.

Liberal leader (probably for not much longer) Stephane Dion promised a cash infusion of some $80 million to address organized crime and gang activity. Other promises of a law and order nature include money for hiring more police officers and a thorough review of the Criminal Code.

More specifically, Dion announced, "All Canadians have a right to feel safe in their communities, and a Liberal government will adopt an approach that deals with every aspect of fighting crime: prevention, arrests, conviction, punishment, deterrence, rehabilitation and caring for victims."

Anyone who has kept track of the Liberalsí positions on crime must be ready to gag. They fought tooth and nail during the last parliament against the governmentís crime legislation and only finally backed off when Stephen Harper threatened an election if his crime bill didnít pass.

Making it tougher for high-risk offenders to get parole? Liberals opposed it. Increased mandatory minimum sentences for offenders using guns in the commission of an offence? Liberals opposed it. Making it easier to declare repeat violent sexual predators "dangerous offenders"? Liberals opposed it. Strengthening the rules that allow gun-toting criminals to walk out on bail? Liberals opposed it.

During the last election the country was disgusted with an incident on Boxing Day in which a young girl was killed in the crossfire of a gangland shootout in a busy Toronto shopping district. The Liberals immediately vowed to play hardball with guns and gangs. Once the election was over they opposed and filibustered legislation that would do exactly that.

They have repeatedly called the governmentís tough-on-crime legislation "draconian" and "barbaric." Time and time again the Liberals insist that any attempts to get serious with criminals is much too "American" and further evidence that Stephen Harper wants to be like George Bush. In response to the governmentís anti-crime legislation, Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh noted "what this government is trying to do is actually take us down the U.S. route."

Imagine the guffaws and reaction if Stephen Harper promised that if re-elected he would sign on to Kyoto and legalize marijuana. Listening to the Liberals promising to target crime and criminals is no less absurd.

For the once mighty natural governing party, these are truly desperate times.

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


Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2008