Crime and Populism
The Harper government has made a tough stance on crime one of its showcase positions. Why?
Over the past eight years, the federal Conservatives have seldom
missed an opportunity to show Canadians how seriously they take crime
and how eager they are to make convicted offenders sorry for their
transgressions. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made punishing crime a
showcase priority of his government. He hammered this home in his
annual summer speech to the local faithful in Calgary this past July.
“If, God forbid, Canadians are attacked, or robbed, if they lose someone
they love to a murderer, or if they see their children driven to
suicide by bullying and harassment… the first thing they want their
government to do is not to make excuses for criminals, but to stick
up for victims,” reads the Prime Minister’s prepared speech. “And that
is our role.”
This is not empty rhetoric. Since taking office in 2006, the
government has introduced no fewer than 81 crime bills, though only 30
have been passed into law. According to University of Toronto
criminologist Anthony Doob, the effect of these new laws has largely
been to lengthen sentences (as with mandatory minimums) or to eliminate
chances to have sentences shortened (as with the elimination of
“accelerated parole review,” a mechanism that could temper punishments
for first-time, nonviolent offenders).