Tag Archives: Conservatives

Toews Bats .500 on Crime

By Jason Menard

While Justice Minister Vic Toews swung for the fences in tabling tough new three-strikes legislation, the fact of the matter is that he only batted .500 – making solid contact on getting tough with crime, but whiffing badly when it comes to effective prevention of future crimes.

Similar to “three strikes” legislation present south of the border, Toews new proposal would mandate indefinite prison sentences for violent and sexual offenders after their third occurrence. In addition, it would be the burden of the offender to convince a judge as to why they are no longer a dangerous offender as a condition of their release.

Whether it’s political posturing or not Toews’ motion is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately it’s too much a step in the Right direction, with not enough consideration for the traditionally Left leanings. This three-strikes legislation focuses too much on punishment and not enough on prevention.

Simply put, you’d have to rape three people, or commit violent acts on three separate occasions to qualify for this strict punishment – and that’s three times too long. And nowhere are criminals compelled to deal with their tendencies while in prison. Instead, they’re able to sit in prison, fermenting their anger and rage, and learning new and interesting ways to commit new crimes from their prison cohabitants.

Where’s the prevention? Where are the measures to help people learn to integrate into society? And where’s the acknowledgement that we have to treat the disease, not just put long-term bandages on the symptoms.

Toews’ measure is a reflection of an increasingly agitated Canadian community that’s fed up with perceived leniency in the punishment of our society’s criminals. He’s preaching to a converted choir of disgruntled voters who are experiencing growing concern for the safety of their city streets. And while harsher sentencing may be an effective knee-jerk reaction, it’s one that’s going to end as effective as a kick in the teeth.

It’s not enough to put criminals away and forget about them. They must be dealt with and they must deal with the ramifications of their actions. First, longer prison sentences shouldn’t be where it stops. There should be life-long after-release monitoring for violent and sexual criminals. Just like we tried to do with Karla Homolka after the fact, we should in the future make regular police checks, inspections, and monitoring a part of all future sentences for violent and sexual criminals. If entering into a life-long relationship with your local police station doesn’t get some people to reconsider a life of crime, I don’t know what will.

Secondly, while in prison, violent and sexual criminals must attend and participate in psychological counselling and other programs designed to reintegrate them into the mainstream society. Unfortunately, our prison system is better at removing than rehabilitating and once one is released from jail, they often find themselves on a circuitous route back to their cell because they can’t cope with the pressures and temptations that await them outside the prison walls. Unfortunately, as most programs of this nature are currently voluntary, they don’t need to attend and won’t get the help that may assist them in their transition.

So take away the choice. Weekly mandatory therapy sessions for the duration of one’s prison sentence should be the norm. That way we can ensure that whatever issues have driven these people off the path that most of us take, at least we can do our utmost to steer them back on track.

Any complaints? Too bad. Criminal lose the right to be protected by our society and our laws due to the very fact that they’ve shown an inability to play by our rules. You can’t contravene the expected norms of our society and then expect that same society to protect you. Hey, you can’t play by our rules, don’t be upset when we change the game.

Finally, why do we have to wait for three strikes? Why do more people have to be victimized before we act? Why not make an effort before someone gets to this point, so that other innocent members of our society don’t have to have their lives shattered. Let’s work to root out the cause of this type of violent activity and put in place measures to counter it. Whether that’s support lines, safe houses or centres for those about to commit an act of violence, or programs to help people deal with their emotions in a productive and socially acceptable manner, we have to invest in the security of our society.

Yes, the measures will cost more in the short-term, but the long-term benefits for our society are priceless. Locking them up and throwing away the key won’t work – finding the key to unlock their inner demons and helping them deal with it might.

In baseball parlance, three strikes means you’re out – but wouldn’t it be better if everyone in our society was playing on the same team?

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Tory Cuts: You Win Some, You Lose Some

By Jason Menard

While it pains the left-leaner in me, I have to say I’m half-heartedly pleased with the cuts announced by the Conservative government on Monday. Now, it’s only half-heartedly due to the fact that for every good measure taken, there was another that shouldn’t have been done.

But that’s the way it is with politics – you win some, you lose many more.

First the good. The decision to end the visitor rebate program that saw tourists able to walk into the country, spend to their hearts’ content, and receive a GST rebate on all purchase is the right one. Tourism is an integral part of our economy, and an additional seven – oops, six going one day to five per cent isn’t going to dissuade people from visiting The Great White North.

At least not in the way that the never-ending passport issue will. Can we get that fixed?

And the fact that the $78.8 million in expected savings – part of a larger, two year, $2 billion dollar cut – will go towards reducing the national debt is good. However, it might have been nice to see some of that funding go towards promoting tourism to our various regions as part of an overall strategy that could have offset expected criticism from retailers and tourist bureaus who undoubtedly will – wrongly – assume that this rebate will mean less tourism. Hey, maybe that $78.8 could got towards making passports easy, affordable, and accessible to all Canadians – just a thought.

A $46.8 million dollar savings just from a pre-announced cabinet reduction? Also good. After all, few would doubt that government is bloated. But this is just the start. The government needs to undertake a serious review of the duplication of effort and redundancies in all levels of government. It’s not enough to simply lop off the top – we must maximize the return on our investment, which means eliminating much of the bureaucracy in our bureaucracy.

Imagine, a well-run, efficient, accessible government? Why, that’s worth an investment right in itself.

Now the bad. Administrative reductions to the Status of Women, and end to medical marijuana science funding, and cuts to museums assistance all reek of the same conservative short-sightedness that many Canadians feared when Harper took the helm.

Listen, I’m fully supportive of the idea that museums must find creative ways to maximize their funding. And, yes, I’m an advocate that if people don’t support the arts, they can’t expect the government to bail them out totally. However, we have to understand the social and emotional impact that supporting the arts has on our communities at large. We can’t live in a world that’s only guided by the bottom line. Quantifying the value that the arts offer our country is almost impossible – but qualifying it in terms of how they enrich our lives is undeniably easy. Unfortunately it seems the Conservatives have simply fallen back on the old standby of cutting from the social fabric of our society. And it’s for that reason that the Status of Women get their cut. Using the euphemism of administrative reductions, what that simply means is less money, less jobs, and – in the end – less effectiveness. And unlike the aforementioned reductions in government, there doesn’t appear to be much fat to slice away from here.

In the same way that social funding cuts are par for the conservative course, so too does the elimination of medical marijuana science funding seem like nothing more than scratching a long-irritating itch for our boys (and girls) in blue. While medical marijuana has shown promise in alleviating the symptoms for those with Multiple Sclerosis and chronic pain either from various disorders or as a result of other diseases, that progress means little. Much like Republican opposition to stem cell research south of the border, this decision sounds more like a policy of principal than of science.

Finally, the ominously worded “efficiencies” in the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., accounting for $45 million. Sounds like those “efficiencies” are going to result in a lot of pink slips in the near future.

Other cuts were mentioned, but these were the big five. A mixed bag of sorts, which has been carefully crafted to avoid any sort of vehement dissention that could upset the delicate apple cart of this government. For everything left-leaners could complain about, there was something that they could support.

Slow and steady wins the race, and the Conservatives are slowly integrating their beliefs into the Canadian landscape, without raising any red flags. You may not like the players, but you have to admire their game.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Walking a Fine Line

By Jason Menard

A little Conservative thinking can go a long way to giving us the Canada we’re looking for. Politics truly is a dangerous game and with election day upon us, it’s time for Canadians to roll the dice. The only hope is that we don’t overbid and crap out.

It pains my left-leaning heart to say it, but the best situation for this country may be the rise of a Conservative minority government. Yet, in their rush to heap scorn on the Liberal Party of Canada, Canadians may go too far in their punishment and feel the karmic whiplash of getting exactly what they asked for.

In general, Canada is a fairly left-leaning country, as evidenced by three socially progressive federal parties: the Liberals, the New Democratic Party, and the Bloc Quebecois. In fact, throw in the Green’s supporters and you have a significant segment of voters who have displayed support for socially left-wing policy in the past. So how is it that we’ve been at the cusp of a Conservative majority for the past couple of weeks leading up to today’s election?

To be honest, I still haven’t made up my mind for whom I’m going to vote. Presented with two strong left-leaning candidates in my riding I have a difficult choice.

Do I choose the Liberal candidate who has been the co-founder and volunteer executive director of the city’s Food Bank for 19 years? The man who works to build schools and end slavery in Sudan? The man who, on top of all this, has been a firefighter and Captain for 28 years? Or do I go NDP and choose the candidate who has been a long-time advocate for social rights in the community? A woman who transitioned from a teaching job to the world of politics and has demonstrated caring and integrity? A woman who champions anti-racism and accessibility causes – and who has the experience that comes with being elected as a MPP?

For once, I don’t have to choose from the lesser of two evils! I just have to figure out which candidate walks on water better. But for the country, what I want is completely different.

Simply put, a Conservative minority government means that everyone wins. Well, almost everyone – everyone but the Conservatives and the taxpayers, in the end.

The Conservatives get power – however fleeting it may be. But their minority status ensures that once the gaffer tape has been ripped from the mouths of the far-right-wing elected representatives, they won’t have the numbers to enact any particularly damaging legislation.

The NDP will continue in its role as the social conscience of the House of Commons. Either with the same number or an increase in the number of seats, they should be able to be a strong voice in Parliament for however long this Parliament lasts.

And finally, the Liberals can begin the process of rebuilding their party. Unfortunately, Paul Martin has been forever stained with the corruption that came before him (and, admittedly, went on while he was around). Ever the good soldier, Martin was forced to fall on the sword set up by his former nemesis Jean Chrétien.

As long as Martin is in power, a significant number of people who would normally consider voting for the Liberal party will stay away, simply because they can’t get by the stink of corruption that Martin has been infused with. Whether or not he’s been involved, he’s been cast as the lead role in this production of entitlement and patronage.

The Liberals need a clean slate. Martin needs to step back to the private sector, having realized his dream if only for a little while. And the party needs to find new and dynamic leadership. Whether Frank McKenna comes back from exile (OK, Washington, but it’s the same thing) or Michael Ignatieff ever acts upon the promise that others have seen in him, the Liberals need to start fresh.

After that, the country’s ripe for their picking. After almost two decades in power, Canadians obviously are comfortable with a Liberal government. In fact, the polls indicate that Canadians, as a whole, are a little leery of the whole Reform/Alliance influence on the Conservatives. That’s why the electorate has made a sharp turn left the moment a Tory majority was predicted.

Once the leadership race is over, expect the pressure to force another election to come in waves. And, on the hook for yet another election bill, Canadians may go the route of a certain five-year majority with a party they’re comfortable with – a reborn Liberal party.

It’s a roll of the dice that sees the very future of our country at stake.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Tories a Political Trojan Horse

By Jason Menard

At the rate we’re going, this country is going to wake up with one heck of a hangover on Jan. 24 th. Of course, when you sleep with the Conservatives, don’t be surprised when you wake up with blue balls.

Canadian memories may be long, but they’re selectively so. While this orgiastic flagellation of the Liberal Party of Canada continues for the sins of its past continues, we are crossing into a dangerous new area – especially for left-leaning Canadians. In the zeal to punish the Grits we’re setting the stage for a Tory majority government.

We remember the Liberal transgressions because they’ve been thrown in our faces repeatedly by the opposition. We forget the steps the Party has taken to clean things up and the measures for greater accountability that have already been put into place. And that’s fine because, as an electorate, we have the right to feel swindled. We have the right to choose to go another way in government. But for those on the Left, is letting the Right into absolute power the right thing to do?

Since we’re on the topic of memory, let’s not forget where the Conservative Party came from – Reform. This party, just a scant few months ago, was watching its leader bleed out from the knives in his back. And the hidden right-wing agenda is not so hidden, but Stephen Harper and his handlers have done a masterful job of taming the wolf and parading him around in sheep wear.

In fact, some Canadians view the Conservatives as a gentle, moderate alternative to the ruling Liberals. They believe Canada will be the same as it ever was. But these are not your father’s Conservatives. People are forgetting the opposition they felt for the Reform and its offspring, the Alliance. Those parties were dismissed as too right wing, yet when the swallowing of the old PC party by the newer Reform/Alliance was finally complete, only the old PC guard – your father’s PC party – was upset about the merger, because they knew the moderate small-c conservative voice was silenced.

Yet, in this election campaign, another voice has been silenced – or gagged, as you may have it – in that we’ve yet to hear the annual right-wing outburst that would shed light on the truth behind the image. A friend and astute political observe recently said to me that his concern was that the right-wing hawks have had the gaffer tape stretched across their mouths for the duration of the campaign, and it’s only a matter of time after an election for the tape to come off.

The Conservatives have done a masterful job of defining the media coverage. Their policy-a-day platform has kept the media interested on what’s next, without leaving the time to delve into backstory. The campaign promises of a GST tax cut have been well received by those who will be most negatively affected by it – the poorer members of society. And, finally, when all else fails, they’ve effectively rallied the public against the concept of Liberal corruption.

But what are we forgetting? Are we forgetting that Harper eagerly swallowed Bush’s weapons of mass destruction claims in Iraq and would have sent Canadian troops into a questionable war with no definable exit strategy? Are we forgetting that Harper has gone on record supporting a continental economic and security integration with the U.S. that would include a broadened continental energy strategy? Are we ready for that?

Consider what appear to be the issues facing this world in the next few years. The back-burner flames that are Iran’s nuclear issues appear to be on the verge of raging. With his support of the U.S. stance on Iraq, do we expect any different when and if the U.S. unilaterally decides to take proactive measures against Iran? What about our richest natural resource – water? Already the U.S. is looking for additional supplies of fresh water and we have more than we can imagine. Water is going to be the new oil in a few years, but do we want someone so eager to cede control of our natural resources in charge? Gay rights? Abortion? Social programs? Do you really know what you’re getting, or is this “at least it’s not the Liberals” conviction enough to base your vote upon?

You don’t want the Liberals in, fine. But don’t go thinking that the Conservatives are a moderate, closer-to-centre alternative. A Conservative minority may not be a bad thing, as long as there’s a solid NDP/Liberal presence to hold them in check. But are we ready for a full-scale paradigm shift in the House of Commons to the right? Remember, a majority means five years – FIVE YEARS – of right-wing leadership with limited opposition.

Thanks Jack Layton for being Harper’s most effective campaign tool. You’ve been so effective in bashing the Liberals that the Conservatives are now on their way to a majority. And your decision now to target the front runner may be a case of too little, too late.

So what is a left-leaning Canadian to do? Do you hold your nose and vote for the Liberals because they’ve at least proven that they can effectively manage a country? Do you cast your ballot for the NDP, which has never had an opportunity to show what it can do at a federal level? By splitting the left-wing vote are we allowing the Conservatives to pass in the far-right lane?

The Conservative Party is a political Trojan Horse for Canada. The Tories appear to be a gift for those voters disenchanted with the Liberals – but we all know how that gift worked out for the Trojans.

We have to choose the Canada we want, but when it comes to who will rule ad mare usque ad mare, we have to keep in mind another Latin phrase – caveat emptor, buyer beware. Personally, I’ll choose to live in Soviet Canuckistan over America North any day.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Latest Poll a Test of Lefty Faith

By Jason Menard

While some may look at the latest Decima Research poll as the final nail in a long-delayed Liberal coffin, it may in fact be the defibrillating jolt that the Grits need to breathe new life into their campaign.

It’s serious now for many Canadians. The debates are out of the way, the holidays are past, and the dull grey January weather is the perfect background for playing out this political drama. And with the latest poll results showing the resurgent Conservative Party enjoying a nine-point lead amongst decided voters and those who are leaning in one direction, we’ve come to the time when the left-leaning voters have to make their choice.

It’s a test of faith that will decide the outcome of the next election.

Nine points is nothing to laugh about. At 39 per cent of the decided voters, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are sniffing a majority government. Alone on the right, they’re not only enjoying voters’ lack of trust in the Liberals, but also their apparent belief in the power of Jack Layton’s New Democratic Party. Even in Quebec, the Conservatives appear to be working their way back from the brink of extinction to become an actual viable alternative, as evidenced by their six point increase of support that comes courtesy of the Bloc’s precipitous drop of 11 per cent support.

So the path of the current election is clear. If voters hold true to their stated intentions, the Conservatives will ride to a majority and the Liberals will be swept from power. But in this majority scenario, so too does the left-of-centre influence find itself on the outside looking in.

That’s where those left-leaning voters have to do a gut check and see where their priorities lie. And it’s the only hope the Liberals have to retain any semblance of power.

As Layton has expressed repeatedly through the campaign, he feels the Conservatives are just wrong on the issue and he appears to be angling for a stronger role for his NDP candidates in the next House of Commons. This campaign strategy is all fine and dandy when we’re looking at a minority government because, as he’s shown, a smaller party can have a disproportionate impact on the fortunes of the government. But in a Conservative majority, how much influence will those powerless MPs really have? In essence, Layton could find himself with more NDPs in the House of Commons, but with less power than he enjoyed in the last House with fewer representatives.

In last year’s election, polls pointed to a dead heat between the Conservatives and Liberals as voting day approached. Apparently, once voters got to the polls, they chose to vote strategically and not with their heart as NDP support migrated to the Liberal camp in order to keep the Tories and their alleged right-wing agenda out of power.

If lefties were scared last year when the polls showed a neck-in-neck race, they must be quaking in their boots now at the prospect of a Conservative majority.

Best of all, for the Liberals, is that the numbers are so striking the average Canadian can easily do the math and draw their own conclusions. There’s no need for the Grits to unleash the smear-and-fear strategy – the writing’s already on the wall and the voters don’t need anyone to spell it out.

Unfortunately for Layton, it appears that most Canadians view the NDP as a wonderful party to act as the country’s conscience, but not one to actually take Canada’s reigns and guide it in the next House in a leadership role. So that leaves the tried-and-tested Liberals.

Those soft-NDP voters, and even those disgruntled right-wing Liberals who have drifted to the Conservatives, have to take a look at the strength of their convictions. The reality of a government dominated by a right-of-centre party is upon us and they have to choose what they want their Canada to look like.

Much like Quebec, where elections are less about parties than ideologies, this federal election is shaping up to be a battle not between individual candidates, but rather a contest pitting right versus left. The battle is at hand and the right has their champion. The leftist camp has to decide whether to continue to split its forces, or consolidate their power into one front.

Voting with their hearts or their minds – it’s a test of faith for the left in which the country’s future rests.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved