When Stephen Harper rode into town almost ten years ago, he claimed that he was the new sheriff and he vowed to make Canadians feel safe. To that end, Steve Sullivan writes, he made all kinds of changes:
He amended the Dangerous Offender law, brought in mandatory minimum penalties for gun crimes, raised the age of consent, toughened penalties for white collar criminals and abolished accelerated parole review.
He repealed the faint hope clause for killers and brought in consecutive sentences for multiple killers. He cracked down on sex offenders, drug dealers and young offenders. He toughened prison rules and made pardons much harder to get. He went after cyber-bullies and those found by the courts ‘not criminally responsible’.
Now Harper wants to limit statutory release, abolish parole for some killers, crack down on sex offenders (again) and, of course, get those terrorists.
If you listen to Harper's election pitch, you'd have to conclude that, as a sheriff, he's been an abject failure:
Harper’s election year message is clear: Canada is a perilous place. In 2015, things are apparently so bad here that we need judges to give police and spies permission to break the law to deal with “terrorists” who don’t seem to know any actual terrorists. And rural Canadians, of course, need to arm themselves right away. Because terrorism. Or murderers out on parole. Or both.
Harper’s campaign slogan this fall might as well be, “Don’t Keep Calm and Vote Conservative.” Or, “A Vote for Justin Trudeau is a Vote for Terrorism.” Even former U.S. presidential candidate Ralph Nader has noted the deep strain of paranoia in Harper’s campaign strategy.
But after almost 10 years of the Harper government, it turns out we’re still in mortal danger from … everything. Listen to the PM and you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s more danger around today that there was when he took power. And the message is getting through — a recent poll suggests Canadians feel less safe than they did a few years ago.
Never mind the facts:
I could, I suppose, point out the facts. That Canada is not a more dangerous place. That the homicide rate is lower than it has been in decades. That there’s no evidence whatsoever to suggest that more children are being sexually abused by predators today than a decade ago.
And can we please stop pretending that Canada was until recently some kind of sleepy and innocent cul-de-sac when it comes to terrorism? Air India ring a bell? The FLQ? How about Denis Lortie, who walked into the Quebec legislature with a gun 30 years ago and killed three people?
Clearly, Mr. Harper wants it both ways. He wants Canadians to believe that his efforts have made them safer -- and that they are more unsafe than they've ever been. That patently insane pitch might help him get re-elected.