Why base policy on facts and evidence when you can exploit fear instead? It doesn’t take a psychologist to know that fear is a much more powerful motivator than boring old rational argument. Political scientists have long studied the use of fear-based appeals as techniques that “entrepreneurial” politicians may use to mobilize support. The Harper government seems to understand this intuitively, based on the comments of senior ministers this week, both at home and abroad.
Imagine a split screen image. On the one side is Vic Toews, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety, testifying Wednesday before a Senate committee on the government’s omnibus crime bill.
During the 2011 election campaign, the Conservatives promised to make Canada a place in which “law abiding” folks “don’t have to worry when they go to bed at night; where they don’t have to look over their shoulders as they walk down the street.” However, the tough-on-crime agenda ran into an awkward fact: Canada’s crime rate had been falling for years. According to Statistics Canada, police-reported crime continued declining in 2010 (the last year for which statistics are available) and reached its lowest level since 1973.