Shameful decision

Clock ticking down for renowned environmental research station – The Globe and Mail.

A line in a “budget” and a world-renowned research facility, the one that taught us about phosphates and acid rain and would have taught us how to deal with the oil sands is closing because of some politician’s scientific illiteracy and inability to face hard facts. Not everything in this world of ours can be reduced to a line in a profit and loss statement, but the members of the Harper government seem to think it can. But even it that was the way it worked, the knowledge produced by the experiments at the Experiment Lakes is far more valuable than any minimal decrease in budgetary expense.

Even if other sectors could pick up the cost, the time line imposed by the Omnibus bill is too short. I suppose the Harperites like to see people who are so much smarter than they are twisting in the wind.

It is shameful decision and a disgrace to this country.

Heavy Urban Search and Rescue

Budget cuts put rescue teams in peril long before Elliot Lake – The Globe and Mail

Teams such as these cost a great deal of money. The Harper government, which is cancelling the funding, claims that 90% of disasters are handled locally. Whether or not that is true, and who knows about statistics released by this government, the 10% are those such as the disaster at Elliott Lake or future terrorist attacks, or crumbling urban infrastructure collapses that take heroic effort by well-trained teams with advanced equipment to save lives. Without funding, Public Safety Canada said that some or all of the teams would not survive.

The funding cut was another of those buried in the Omnibus Bill, just passed with much high-fiving and cheering by the Harper party stalwarts. Perhaps they will come to dig out the survivors when the next building collapses.

What so these guys think federal governments are meant to do? Oh, I remember. Build bridges for the Americans.

Canadian Values and Prisons

Solitary confinement Kingston PenitentiaryA view inside of one of the segregation cells at Kingston Penitentiary. - A view inside of one of the segregation cells at Kingston Penitentiary. | The Canadian Press

Two articles on opposite pages of the Globe and Mail this morning. One spoke of the tremendous support for Canadian values— tolerance for others and equality—that native Canadians and immigrants supported at the same level, the other of the conditions within our prisons, in particular the plan in the Omnibus Bill to deny visitors to people in solitary confinement. The Canadian Bar Association calls that “mean-spirited and counterproductive”. The article quotes  2008 Florida study as showing that prisoners who had family visitors were less likely to reoffend. The evidence against the punitive, unyielding nature of the measures in this bill continue to mount, yet the government remains committed to an approach that is being discredited and dismantled in the prototypic programmes in the US. Even a right-wing stalwart like Newt Gingrich has spoken against this approach, mainly because it is to expensive and it does not work.

If Harper thinks that he must continue with this because he believes he has a mandate to do so, he needs to think again. Those people who supported Canadian values in the survey quoted above, a vast majority, are not likely to long support a prison run on the recommendations of jail guards and their unions alone. Solitary confinement and the punitive instincts of prison administrators led to the death of Ashley Smith in a Kitchener prison. Four years have passed and this “mean-spirited” bill is the result. How many more people have to die?

Agnes McPhail one of the Famous Five, whose statues confront the politicians every day on the Hill, led the demand for prison reform in this country. Prisons in that unenlightened time were based on principles of retribution, not rehabilitation. Are we returning to that, not only inhumane but useless, expensive and unconscionable in a time of economic uncertainty and falling crime?

Guards are afraid of prisoners’ anger and violence. Measures which increase that anger make them less rather than more secure.

I wonder if the Prime Minister should make an unannounced visit to the Kingston Pen or to the prison here in Lindsay, as Agnes McPhail did in 1935. What she saw ignited a crusade that brought down the Conservative Government of R.B. Bennett later that same year. On second thought, maybe one of the opposition leaders should be making that visit.

Famous Five on Parliament Hill

Harper’s Crime Bill according to Texas

Texas conservatives reject Harper’s crime plan – Canada – CBC News.

If you missed this article on the CBC news website, have a look. According to the Texans who have “been there, done that,” incarceration on the scale Mr. Harper is planning will cost billions of dollars and won’t work. That’s right. No decrease in crime. No decrease in drug use. What works? Treatment of drug addicts, outside of the prison system.

I don’t want to pay huge amounts to build new prisons, incarcerate countless young people and have nothing to show for it at the end but regret as expressed by these Texans, Republican to the core.

Marc Levin, a lawyer with an anti-tax group called Right on Crime, argues that building more prisons is a waste of taxpayers’ money.

“We’ve see a double-digit decline in the last few years in Texas, both in our prison incarceration rate and, most importantly in our crime rate,” says Levin.

“And the way we’ve done it is by strengthening some of the alternatives to prison.””

I just don’t get it. I can understand the Tories not being swayed by the sociological, psychological and moral arguments, but thought they would accept the economic one. I thought they were supposed to be pragmatic, bottom line guys. Just ideologues, the bunch of them.

Why do we have to go down this well-worn path to failure?