Plenty new in Ottawa

Posted 10.03.11

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Aylmer, Quebec's MP Nycole Turmel takes up the challenge of Opposition leader as a new session of the House of Commons begins. Prime Minister Harper is a known commodity, but we will be watching Ms. Turmel. The massive job cuts (770 cut from Environment Canada alone) will affect Aylmer. And the game-changer is the Tory majority in both House and Senate.

A fundamental law in managing politics concerns exactly this period we are entering -- the first few months of a new government -- and the rule is that the most controversial and unpopular items get passed right away, without a lot of notice. Voters are not yet paying attention to Parliament, and the corporate media remains focused on entertainment: Did Harper hug his wife in public, for example -- anything but substance.

The majority government (with a majority of seats; the opposition parties have the majority of votes) is tabling bills which at any other time would bring parliament to a stand-still and pull the national media away from, say, promoting car sales. The plan is to pass big, unpopular laws long before the next election; by the time the vote rolls around, everyone has forgotten these first few months.

Ideology drives the agenda

One of the reasons these early laws are so problematic is they are often ideologically driven, and not necessarily good for the country or the federal budget. They are to pay off a party's core constituency or a big donor's request.

For example, when the Conservatives launched their first government they handed fundamentalist anti-feminist organizations, like Real Women, funding cuts to women's organizations and a cancellation of programs to assist community court challenges. A few years later, no one remembered that Canada once supported peoples' challenges to government agencies, or supported women's groups.

This session the Harper Government has announced it will lead off with its Omnibus Crime Bill. No matter that crime rates have been dropping almost everywhere in the country, except for white collar and financial crime, Canada will spend more on imprisoning people than in rehabilitating them or on the country's educational system.

The crime bill and mega-prison bills are ideologically driven. There is no evidence this crime bill is needed; the evidence from the USA is that the mega-prison system, run by private corporations, is a huge money sink with no benefit to society.

In the US, Texas in particular, prison corporations have been found to be bribing judges and conniving with the media to get more and longer jail terms for ‘criminals’ entering their facilities.

‘Tough on crime’ is a Tea Party mantra, even with less crime to be tough on. Hyper-policing and mega-prisons are heading towards us, no matter the cost and no matter the need. No matter what funds are needed for highways, colleges, research, or veterans' support, the money is going to Ideology.

Even the praise for Jack Layton has a purpose: we won't notice what's bearing down on us while we're singing Jack's praises.

Copyright © 2011 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/0.11