Original text in globe and mail, lbut it's purchase only so I'm copying from a weed forum
Opposition vow to block get-tough measures; Tories won't back down
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
November 5, 2008 at 4:21 AM EST
OTTAWA — Opposition MPs, including Liberals who have worked on justice
issues, say they would plunge the country into another federal
election before agreeing to a slate of Conservative proposals that
would see convicted criminals treated more harshly.
The measures, including tougher penalties for young offenders and the
reduced use of conditional sentences that allow criminals to serve
their time at home, are likely to be among the first tests of Liberal
willingness to challenge Stephen Harper's new minority government.
The Conservatives are not backing down from threats to make the
measures matters of confidence.
"I don't think there has been any change in our position around that,"
Kory Teneycke, spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, told The
Globe and Mail. "We are prepared to make them [justice issues]
confidence matters if necessary."
During the last session of Parliament, the Conservatives passed a law
that removed judges' ability to hand down conditional sentences for a
range of serious violent crimes.
As it was introduced, the legislation also stipulated incarceration
for many less-serious property crimes. But opposition members on the
House of Commons justice committee stripped non-violent offences from
the list, saying they should be eligible for conditional sentences.
Mr. Harper made it clear during the election campaign that he would
try again to require people who commit such crimes to serve time in
jail - and he would tolerate no revisions by the opposition. He also
said he would allow stiffer sentences, including the possibility of
life in prison, for criminals as young as 14 - a measure roundly
opposed in Quebec even though provinces could set the age at 16 within
their own jurisdictions.
After the election, Mr. Teneckye reiterated the Conservative resolve
to move the justice provisions through Parliament.
"If the other parties want to go into an election on criminal-justice
issues, I think we are prepared to call their bluff on that," he said
in an interview.
It is unclear just when the crime bills will be introduced in the
House of Commons. But the opposition has already indicated its
willingness to vote against them, even if it means a return trip to
"If the government decides to make a confidence matter on this bill,
it's going to be its own responsibility." said Réal Ménard, the Bloc
Québécois justice critic. "We have a platform, we have a historical
view on this matter and we are not going to change our view."
Joe Comartin, the NDP justice critic, said there are some crime
proposals outlined by the Conservatives that his party supports.
But "bringing back the issue of conditional sentences, I think is
generally a non-starter," Mr. Comartin said. "If the Prime Minister is
prepared to put the country through another election over conditional
sentences for non-violent crimes, let him go ahead and try it. It's a
In the end, however, it depends on whether the Liberals sit on their
hands - as they did through repeated confidence votes during the last
session of Parliament. Many Liberal MPs emerged from a recent caucus
meeting to say abstaining is no longer an option.
Three Liberal members of the Commons justice committee are among the
most adamant that the party will not stand by as the Conservative
measures roll through the House.
Brian Murphy, a Liberal from New Brunswick, said it would be wrong to
oppose bills that have not yet been seen by Parliament and they could
be crafted in a way that the Liberals support.
But "I would say very clearly that abstaining as we did was not
helpful in this election for me," he said. "And I would be very
reluctant - given that I ran on the idea of being a fighter, being
very strident, and having 16 years of always standing up for people -
I would be very reluctant to abstain."
Larry Bagnell, a Liberal MP from the Yukon, said the question for both
his party and the Conservative government will be whether these issues
are serious enough to fight another election over.
"I can say that we will be making a strong case in our caucus against
this bill, for sure," Mr. Bagnell said.
Derek Lee, a Toronto-area Liberal, said "there is no way I am going to
sit on my hands. There is no way that these guys are going to get
The Conservative plan is "an ignorant, uninformed vision" of the
justice system and how it works, said Mr. Lee, adding that harsher
penalties don't work because criminals don't know the precise
sentences for the crimes they commit.
"I couldn't allow myself to vote in favour of such ill-advised
legislation, whether they call it confidence or not."
Believe it when I see it, but I hope they learned their lesson from this last election.