Wildrose populism offers no real solutions.
I spent 2 hours on Monday this week in an Edmonton criminal courtroom (as an observer, not a defendant!) Here is what I observed:
– A 59-year old aboriginal woman who was charged with shoplifting. She was charged with her first criminal offense, after shoplifting 8 bottles of perfume, with the intent of reselling it to feed her family.
According to the duty council, she has been on AISH for most of her adult life, was living with severe depression and in the last four years has lived through the death of her husband, her son, her brother and her mother. According to her, she has been battling depression and was just trying to raise money to buy food for her family, and she earns $1200 a month on social assistance.
– Another lady was a 43 year old Laos immigrant, charged with shoplifting $21 worth of cosmetics. She brought to the judge two letters of reference, one from her employer, Tim Hortons, where she has worked for 13 years. Again her first offense, she did not speak English and had a Laos interpreter with her to help her understand the charges.
Two very sad stories that compelled me to wonder what we could have done as a society to prevent the crimes… let alone, why they were consuming courthouse resources, a judge’s time, a crown prosecutor’s time and the helpful, if not harried duty council there to help them. Of course the interpreter was likely provided by the tax-payer as well.
Then this week, we read about a man who was clearly mentally ill, who killed a homeless man who chose to serve a night in jail instead of paying a $100 fine for jaywalking.
What I wondered… is what all this costs? Not just the dollars wasted on behalf of the tax-payers… but of course how has the system served the public need to reform criminals and prevent crimes? Finally, of course… did a homeless man charged with jaywalking need to die at the hands of a mentally ill person… ? I AM a fiscal conservative who abhors crimes against society… but even I know that the charade I was watching was overwhelmingly expensive and offering very little real societal value.
So why is this important?
Today the Wildrose Party did only what they do well. They mocked the government’s idea for an Alternative Justice System, which would prevent these types of crimenals from having to serve penalties like financial fines (if they can’t pay) or jail time, and instead provide some kind of community service.
It’s obvious that for certain smaller crimes, especially first offenses, we should come up with a way to keep the courtrooms clear for prosecuting greater offenses.
The Wildrose Party… who allegedly care about fiscal responsibility… think that the government’s idea of Alternative Justice is a joke. They have chosen to politicize an intelligent response to a complicated problem, with a hacked-up “sarcastic coupon” offering “one-free-crime” coupons from the Premier and Minister of Justice.
I have been a vocal opponent of the government on some lack of vision around revenue stabilization and economic diversification, as well as the cuts to the post-secondary education system…. but if the Wildrose “ideas” are our only alternative to the PC government… I would support the PC Party all day long.
Shame on the Wildrose Party. They are using red-meat populism to try and scare you into supporting them. Trust me when I assure you they are half as smart as you… and you should be offended when they play these games to try to win your favour.
Until they come up with reasonable policy, to tackle real-world problems…. Well I think they ARE the problem.