Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How cynical is Jack?

I've seen a few things around the ProgBlogs today castigating Jack Layton for pledging NDP support for the Cons' new anti-gang omnibus crime bill. I have to wonder, though, as mentioned in the title: how cynical is Jack? Is he endorsing the bill to get some public support ('cause, face it, folks, drug legalization is electoral suicide in this country, as is any anti-gang strategy that doesn't include increased punishment), knowing full well that the Cons will flake on enforcing it like they flake on enforcing everything? I'm not sure. I do know that Layton has previously demonstrated a pretty good sense of what needs to be done in order to resolve crime in a lasting rather than knee-jerk sort of way. So, either he's lost his senses, or he knows something that we don't regarding this bill. For now, I'm favouring the latter: something else is going on here. Maybe there's another bill coming down the pipe, or maybe Layton doesn't think the Cons are any more serious about this than they are economic stimulus.

(If it turns out the former is true, then I'll gladly join the anti-Layton group, with the caveat that I agree with stronger penalties for people who commit crimes as part of criminal gangs. Yes, broader solutions are needed, yes, the drug war is a failure. But, there needs to be enforcement of criminal penalties against people who form organized groups to systematically break the law -- whether these groups are called gangs or corporations is irrelevant.)


janfromthebruce said...

good post

KC said...

So just pass the bill and hope the Conservatives wont enforce it? You've seen how rabid those guys are about drugs.

Pretty stupid on Layton (and Ignatieff's) behalf.

The Jurist said...

I'd think the best explanation is that accepting higher punishments is supposed to prevent talk about crime from being an "either-or" discussion between deterrence and prevention/rehabilitation: in theory, it eliminates any plausible argument that the NDP is "soft on offenders", and allows the discussion to instead focus on the Cons' failure to introduce the broader solutions you mention.

Unfortunately, the next time the Cons care whether or not their attacks on other parties are actually plausible will be the first. So there is reason to doubt that the strategy will actually accomplish what it's supposed to.

ADHR said...

I think the Jurist raises another important angle there: given that the Cons, if they do anything (and it would be hard to justify, given their inaction on the economic problems), won't do more than ramp up enforcement, it does open up a way to critique them for failing to talk about prevention, rehabilitation, and so on. I don't really share the worry, though, about the Cons' lack of caring about the plausibility of their attacks. The issue isn't whether the Cons care, but whether the NDP can shift the popular discussion in a direction that's favourable to broader anti-crime strategies.