Tuesday, May 15, 2012

No tough choice

Back here, I discussed how ridiculous the Cons' "tough on crime" model would look if applied to any other area of policy - and used that comparison to question why we'd handle criminal justice any differently. But after a minority government period where the Cons mostly limited their shows of faux bravado to attacking unsympathetic figures, it's now becoming clear that they're entirely eager to apply the same principles in places where they're obviously inappropriate.

Most of us might learn of a friend or neighbour who has lost a job and think our political leaders should be looking for ways to help. Instead, Jim Flaherty's message is that we should get tough on those seeking work - finding new ways to kick the unemployed while they're down.

Most of us might hear about the plight of a refugee seeking to escape repression and figure we should offer a reasonable opportunity to build a new life in Canada. Instead, Jason Kenney is pushing the line that we should get tough on refugees in order to dissuade them from seeking to join Canadian society.

And most of us might think of the work of environmental groups and other charities as something to be encouraged. But the Cons are insisting that we meet their idealism with tough punishment to keep them from inconveniencing corporate polluters.

Now, it could be that the Cons figure that building toughness as a brand is at worst a wash politically - that it at least appeals to a certain authority-seeking base while serving to silence what might otherwise be strong critics of an uncaring government.

But I'd think there's a strong case to be made that the Cons have gone a bridge too far in directing the message of punishment, retribution and deterrence toward people and groups who most Canadians rightly see as deserving respect and assistance. And it should be exceedingly easy to see what the political consequences will be if we can make that case to voters.

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