Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson is pressing ahead with plans to create mandatory minimum prison terms for drug crimes in spite of two studies prepared for his own department that say such laws don't work, and are increasingly unpopular as crime-fighting measures in other countries.
"Minimum sentences are not an effective sentencing tool: that is, they constrain judicial discretion without offering any increased crime-prevention benefits. Nevertheless, mandatory sentences remain popular with some Canadian politicians."
That's one conclusion of a 2005 report prepared for the Justice Department, titled Mandatory Sentences of Imprisonment in Common Law Jurisdictions.
An earlier 2002 report, titled Mandatory Minimum Penalties: Their Effects on Crime, also compiled for the department while the Liberals were in power, offers a similar view:
"Harsh mandatory minimum sentences do not appear to influence drug consumption or drug-related crime in any measurable way."
There is a fundamental arrogance attached to presenting legislation which finds little support from those that have examined the issue. Ignoring reports and studies, instead of using them as guides, is a recipe for bad policy.
The Conservative's have obviously concluded that they are more interested in appearances, rather than the actual substance. All that matters is the optics, the Conservatives are getting tough on crime, the facts irrelevant to the presentation. Good politics trump good government, and the calculation assumes that no one really notices the details. Flaherty went on the same path with the GST cut, despite overwhelming opinion from economists. Baird introduced policies that ran completely counter to what was recommended. Van Loan proposes a seat distribution scheme that introduced fundamental unfairness, articulated by expert opinion. Strahl embarks on an ideological pursuit against the CWB, despite consistent advice that he was acting outside of the legal framework. Etc, etc...
No matter the portfolio, you see increasing evidence of a pre-determined agenda, that is deaf to any advice. The Conservatives make the initial decision, and then lack the pragmatism to accept the rationale of differing viewpoints. You can characterize this posture as dangerous, because it pre-supposes a "we know best" mentality, that isolates the government from outside influence.