Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Fear Mongering For Votes

Quite a contrast in the morning papers. On the one hand, you have the Conservatives putting their "law and order" agenda on the frontburner, and fueling media-driven paranoia about crime:
"Canadians feel less safe today and rightly worry about the security of their neighbourhoods and the country," the speech said.

"There is no greater responsibility for a government than to protect this right to safety and security."

Tough on crime sells, particularly in vote rich urban centers. The irresponsible rhetoric of the government feeds the inaccurate perception that Canada is becoming less safe. If you ask Canadians, they always respond that crime is on the rise, communities are less safe, this opinion is a by-product of a media pre-occupied with the sensational, with every incident exposed and brought into living rooms.

The concurrent news story today, which completely contradicts the Conservatives hysteria, gun crime is down:
The national homicide rate dropped 10 per cent in 2006, while the number of killings committed with firearms fell...

The homicide rate has been on a general decline since it peaked in the mid-1970s at just over three homicides per 100,000 population.

It had reached a 35-year low of 1.73 in 2003.

Of the 605 homicides, 190 were committed with a firearm, 33 fewer than in 2005 and a 16 per cent drop in the rate of firearm homicides.

In fairness, the article also says violent crime was on the rise, but if you take the overall trends, there is no indication of a rise, in fact we see a decline.

It is a losing battle to argue against the "tough on crime" agenda, because facts are secondary to appearances. It is no coincidence that the Conservatives have decided to make their crime package the centerpiece of the new session, they know they can exploit the issue for maximum political gain. However, this tactic doesn't distract from the reality, supported by actual evidence, that a prosperous society, that focuses on prevention and rehabiliation, is the best remedy to crime, proven in the Canadian experience. Fear mongering for votes, the truth the real casualty.


Anonymous said...

steve v,

There you go again - putting pesky facts in the way :)

Steve V said...

My apologies, back to the "breaking news".

KC said...

Wow am I ever tired of this silly argument.

Regardless of the trend in crime rates the overall crime rate--in particular the violent crime rate--is too high and any policy that aims to make sure more of those committing those who are commiting these crimes are locked up and unable to commit more crimes has my support.

I see your point about how the Conservatives create the inaccurate perception that crime rates are rising but that in no way cuts into the justification for policies aimed at further lowering violent crime rates.

Anonymous said...

I just saw Hillary Clinton say on TV - regarding the Republicans - and the same line can fit here about the Conservatives.

"they don't make decisions on facts, they make decisions and then make up facts".

According to Nick Nanos - crime and punishment is not the first thing that concerns women.

I wonder how those who want the tough on crime thing regarding kids would feel if their little Johnnie got into trouble - sent to the big house instead of being helped...hmmm....

Steve V said...


Point taken. But, it is also fair to say that people are wrong to paint others as "soft on crime" because they recognize the trends.

Gayle said...

"I see your point about how the Conservatives create the inaccurate perception that crime rates are rising but that in no way cuts into the justification for policies aimed at further lowering violent crime rates."

Here is the problem with that argument - tougher sentences do not reduce crime. This has been proven time and time again. If it were otherwise, why don't the conservatives say so? Why don't they point to all the evidence that show a link between sentences and crime. They cannot do that because the link does not exist.

If the conservatives were truly concerned about our safety, they had several options since they won the election.

First - they could have agreed to pass all that "tough on crime" legislation the liberals wanted fast tracked last spring. I am referring to bills like raising the age of consent, reverse onus for bail on gun crimes etc. Instead, the conservatives stalled that legislation until June, and then went on TV to complain about how it was being held up in the senate rather than admit that had they agreed to pass it in March the senate would have had plenty of time to review it before Harper killed all of it when he prorogued parliament.

Second - they would listen to the people who study crime and who can offer some solutions - solutions that are far less expensive than the plan to throw them in jail. For example, a sex-offender expert who treats convicted pedophiles was quoted in the Edmonton Journal on Saturday as saying these people can be helped and cured - however the government refuses to fund therapy choosing instead to fund jails.

They would also listen to criminologists, police, social workers and lawyers - all people who deal directly with criminals. I attended at a Federal roundtable discussion about crime prevention that had all these professions on the panel, and to a (wo)man they said the conservative government is not interested in programs and measures that actually reduce crime. Yes, even the police officers who attended said that.

Finally, they would give the taxpayers an idea of the real cost of these measures (250 billions dollars by Harper's estimate in early 2006), and what the taxpayers will have to give up in order to fund these measures when there is little evidence to show they will reduce the crime rate.

Anonymous said...

Tough on crime sells? since when? Liberal governments and the judges they appointed let even the most violent thugs walk - even if they were toting guns - everyone knows Liberals are soft on crime, but they still get a lot of voter support for some strange reason.