Back in 2008, Stephen Harper decided to cut public funding to the opposition parties. As the head of a newly elected minority government, it was a stunningly stupid move. When they threatened to revolt and form a coalition government, he prorogued Parliament and went around the country declaring that coalition governments were illegitimate and would lead to political Armageddon.
Now, with his economic leadership in tatters, he has proposed two pieces of legislation to "keep Canadians safe." Bill C-51 vows to protect Canadians from the jihadists who Harper claims are at the gates. Yesterday, he proposed legislation to protect Canadians from the "heinous" criminals who are within.
Both pieces of legislation are unnecessary. The second bill, which Andrew Coyne has dubbed the "Throw Away The Key Act," was announced at a campaign stop and underscores the new Conservative campaign slogan -- "Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid:"
According to the government, the measure is needed “to keep Canadian families and their communities safe” from “heinous” (that word again: has it ever been used except in front of “crimes” or “criminals”?) criminals, those “whose actions mean we cannot risk permitting them on the streets.” The suggestion is that Canada’s streets are menaced by a wave of elderly jailbirds, released on parole after a scant 25 years in the slammer.
This is — does it even need saying? — nonsense. Not every prisoner is paroled after 25 years: only those judged at low risk of re-offending. Those designated as “dangerous offenders” can already be kept locked up for life. Parole, further, does not mean prisoners are simply set loose in the community, or released unconditionally: rather they remain, as a backgrounder by the Parole Board of Canada explains, “subject to the conditions of parole and the supervision of a … parole officer.” For how long? “For the rest of their lives.”
What sort of risk do they represent? According to figures from Correctional Service Canada, of 658 “murder offenders” released on parole between January 1975 and March 1990, just five — an average of one every three years — were convicted of a second murder. None of the five had originally been convicted of what was then called capital murder, the equivalent of the Harper government’s “heinous” crimes.
To be re-elected, Mr. Harper has to convince Canadians that they are at the mercy of the depraved. In his own mind -- like Richard Nixon before him -- he is surrounded by enemies. And all of them are depraved.
He is convinced that he sees the world as the majority of Canadians do. If that is true, the country is lost. Because in such a country, fear trumps facts.