Tough talk without resources is just a lot of wind

Who among us is not interested in a strong response to criminal activity?  That is almost a ridiculous question, but to hear the government tell it, the opposition is not.   That is, of course, because the government is intent on controlling the ‘message’ and put more stock in perception than they do in reality.  But the proof is in the pudding, as they say, and when you look at government spending, that pudding turns into a pretty thin gruel – and quickly.

The government has really latched on to the idea that if you say something enough, people will believe it is true.  That must be the impetus behind their relentless bleating about being “tough on crime.”  Despite the near constant bravado on the subject and a number of crime bills that have been before the house, the truth of the matter is that they are reluctant to actually spend money – even when it has been allocated – to let our police forces do the job that much better. 

What we mostly get from the government are bills with great names.  This week we have been debating the Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act, which is a universally supported concept.  The problem is ten million dollars that was allocated to the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre was returned to the government coffers and nothing was done.  This isn’t a solitary example either.  If we go all the way back to 2006 when the Conservative were first elected they promised to help communities hire 2,500 more police officers and to fill a 1,000 vacant RCMP positions.  We are still waiting for that to happen.

The government blames administrative challenges for the money left on the table that was ear-marked for the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre.  The problem is they have left money on the table all over the place and the pattern suggests that they are all about the announcement and hope Canadians aren’t paying attention when nothing is delivered. Despite the cash crunch we have seen an increase in people being charged, but imagine all the other people out there who are not being charged because the RCMP does not have the proper resources.

Another problem with legislation related to crime is the ‘take it or leave it’ approach the government adopts.  While this is true of almost all their legislation, with crime bills, it is especially important to listen to real experts in order to avoid foreseeable court challenges, which are costly themselves.   Still, the Conservatives only want to listen to their opinion and not to people like judges who have to interpret the law at the end of the day.

There is being tough on crime in a sloganeering way and there is being smart on crime.  The implications are too important to be left in the realm of the purely partisan, but that is just what the government is doing.  When we develop legislation, we need to make sure that we are pursuing the appropriate measures and that we provide the tools required to make sure they will actually be effective.  It is a shame the government doesn’t share that opinion.