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No Strong Crime Platforms Yet
09/12/2005

I think it speaks to the complicated nature of Toronto's recent gun-gang problems that I have such a cynical reaction to yesterday's announcements by Paul Martin, and yet I'm not very sure what I would want to see instead.

Here's my take on each of the five initiatives in the Liberal plan:

Anyway, some of what Paul Martin has proposed is useless, but other parts seem positive. He has earned the support of Mayor David Miller and Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant. Nevertheless, I find that I can't give him much credit. I wonder if my cyncial feelings about Paul Martin render me incapable of being a fair judge of his policy promises? Well, it's just that I have seen too many announcements that turn out to be re-announcements, or that turn out to be hyped up by adding up the spending over long time periods, or that just take credit for something that needed to happen anyway.

At the same time, I have to recognize that the shooting spree that Toronto has seen this year is a complicated issue to face. It is doubly difficult to address it with legislation that has to be applied to the whole country. Still there are other things than need looking at.

Bail changes and witness protection supports are two areas where innovation could help make a difference. After all, the police keep telling us that there are many witnesses but no one is talking.

Let it Bleed has an example and an odd suggestion regarding bail. I can't agree with that, but I can agree with the suggestion of one of his commenters: if a criminal out on bail commits a crime for which he is later convicted, he forfeits the original bail deposit. "The idea is to make it harder for scum who are likely to reoffend to raise the bail. The person who makes the bail payment is promising his $$$ that the charged is worthy of being free -- so you would want to be sure about his character before bailing him out, because if he truly is scum you will lose your money."

We also need to consider the issue of drugs. Drug-dealing gangs exist because it is a great way to make money when you don't have other opportunities or you're looking for a quick path. Decriminalizing pot actually risks making things worse because demand should be up but the supply remains in the hands of criminal enterprise. Do we need to talk about complete legalization of pot vs. maintaining criminal status? Of course dealers are selling other drugs that most people wouldn't want to see legalized and available at the LCBO. Not easy, but who is debating this?

Places like Toronto also need more help financing the integration and empowerment of immigrants and the poor. Seperately, but related, John Ibbitson makes some controversial comments in today's Globe on the way to suggesting that we need to be more careful when considering immigrants from "countries that are particularly violent and impoverished".

Overall, no political party has yet made promises that sufficiently address:

  • The reasons Toronto police are having trouble catching shooters
  • The underground economy that fuels gang-related shootings
  • The macro and micro societal issues that contribute to gang membership or criminal behaviour

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