Once Michael Ignatieff was considered a "public intellectual" who gazed down from the heights of Harvard to share his erudite opinions on world affairs ranging from the war in Kosovo to post Cold War nationalism to the state of human rights in the wake of 911.
Now he's just another greasy politician trolling for votes in Winnipeg by pontificating about what he's been told is the city issue of the day---car theft.
But there's one thing we can thank him for---exposing how desparate NDP M.P. Pat Martin and Liberal M.P. Anita Neville are.
We've caught both of them have recently telling tall tales about their service in the fight against auto theft. But we don't know who is more to blame, this pair of Pinocchios, or the CBC and the Winnipeg Free Press which allowed them to (almost) get away with it.
The CBC reported this week that Liberal MP's. including deputy leader Ignatieff,came to Winnipeg to be seen doing something about auto theft -- namely holding meetings and hearing from "experts".
But deep, deep in the story Pat Martin popped up attacking Conservative MP Stephen Fletcher for blaming the Oppositon parties for undercutting every effort to toughen the laws against car thieves.
"The Tory minority government's hands are being tied by the opposition, Fletcher said.
'Hogwash,' says NDP MP
But Winnipeg Centre NDP MP Pat Martin scoffs at that position. He also introduced a motion to have auto theft made a violent crime, but received no support from the ruling Conservatives, he said.
"I think they're saving it for a doorstep issue in the next election campaign," he said. "I think the Conservatives are rationing out justice bills so that they have something to campaign on."
Martin said the Conservatives are in government and can write legislation now if they want.
"Steven Fletcher saying that some private member's bill is the solution to this is hogwash when they're the ones that have the ability to write legislation," he said.
"If they put it forward, they will have my vote, and I believe I will campaign for them to get the other parties voting for it, too."
Well, we did something unusual in journalism in Winnipeg. We went in search of the truth.
Starting with Pat Martin's "motion to have auto theft made a violent crime."
We found the said motion on Martin's website:
Tue 20 Mar 2007.
Mr. Martin (Winnipeg Centre) - That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) recognize that auto theft is an increasingly common and dangerous offence that is often associated with a profound threat to public safety and warrants more stringent deterrence than other categories of theft offences and property crimes; (b) amend the Criminal Code to include auto theft as a distinct stand alone offence; and (c) amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act to give prosecutors more power to hold in custody young offenders who are arrested for auto theft.
To begin with, we can't find to whom he made this motion.
It's not in Hansard for March 20, 2007, although he refers to the House of Commons.
And it's a motion, not a private members bill.
Dancing the Watusi is a motion, too.
And there's clearly NO reference in Martin's motion to making auto theft a crime of violence, contrary to what he's paraphrased as saying to the CBC.
Neither is there any information in the CBC story about :
BILL C-343, A PRIVATE MEMBERS BILL INTRODUCED IN JUNE, 2006 BY ANDREW SCHEER, CONSERVATIVE MP FOR REGINA-QU'APPELLE;
which passed third reading in the House of Commons on Feb. 27, 2008, and has moved to the Senate.
The bill would amend the Criminal Code to make theft of a motor vehicle a separate offence. Fibber Martin told the CBC he not only welcomed such a law but would actively campaign for it. And yet a month after it passed in the House, he professes no knowledge the bill even exists.
Maybe this http://www.andrewmp.ca/EN/4513/68474
from Andrew Scheer's website is the reason why:
"While Scheer was very happy that his bill made it through the House of Commons... he was very disappointed that the NDP and Liberals took out some of the tougher provisions of the bill.
At the committee stage, the NDP and Liberals removed clauses of the bill that would have forced judges to hand out at least two years of jail time once a criminal had been convicted three times.
"It just shows how out of touch the NDP and Liberals are when they say that a two year sentence is too harsh. I really believe that we should treat repeat offenders more harshly, because once they have been caught three, four or five times, they are demonstrating that they have no interest in rehabilitation. To allow judges the option of light sentences is to put honest Canadians at risk for no reason," said Scheer. "
Scheer's bill contained mandatory penalties that got stiffer with each conviction. The sentence for a first offence would be a minimum punishment of a fine of $1,000 or a minimum prison term of three months, or both. A second offence would see a mandatory minimum fine of $5,000 or a minimum prison term of six months, or both. A third and subsequent offence would result in a minimum fine of $10,000 and a minimum term of two years imprisonment with a maximum of ten years.
We note that Crimefighter Pat Martin wanted to amend the Youth Justice Act to give prosecutors more power to keep car thieves in custody. Well, the Conservatives tried that in 2006. Here's how the Ottawa Citizen reported on that effort:
Opposition MPs soften Tory tough-on-crime bill
Committee loosens rules for house arrest
Janice Tibbetts, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Wednesday, October 25, 2006
One of the Conservative government's key law-and-order initiatives has been dealt a critical blow by opposition parties, who have effectively gutted a bill that would have severely curtailed the use of house arrest and jailed about 5,500 more people annually.
The three opposition parties on the House of Commons justice committee, which held public hearings on the bill, have dramatically amended the proposal so that the vast majority of criminals will remain eligible to serve their time in the community instead of going to jail.
Pat Martin's NDP colleague in Ottawa, MP Joe Comartin, the NDP's justice critic, bragged about keeping deterrence out of the Youth Justice Act as a factor judges could consider in sentencing. And he brayed about gutting the bill that would have given prosecutors a stronger hand with car thieves. As the Ottawa Citizen reported:
"NDP MP Joe Comartin, the committee's co-chairman, said the opposition parties have rejected the "radical, extreme overreaction" of the Conservatives in their efforts to eliminate conditional sentences for about 80 crimes for which the maximum prison term is 10 years or more, including most car thefts, arson, break and enter and theft over $5,000."
And, no, we haven't forgotten Anita Neville.
Last month when Prime Minister Stephen Harper flew in to make a totally irrelevent-to-Winnipeg announcement about auto theft, the Winnipeg Free Press mentioned Bill C-343, then inconguously added:
"Manitoba Liberal MP Anita Neville, who introduced her own private member's bill on auto theft last month, said Sunday she'd also like to see the government address prevention."
Reporter Mia Rabson conveniently omitted the role of Neville's Liberal Party in trimming the mandatory penalties from the bill.
"Scheer's bill passed in February but in an amended form without mandatory minimum sentences. It is currently before the Senate." was all Rabson said.
She also failed to question Neville about the Liberals' role in watering down auto theft penalties especially since Neville's own belated motion pretends to call for stiffer sentences...
"Accordingly I am introducing this bill, seconded by my colleague from Saint Boniface. With the bill, everyone who commits theft of a motor vehicle for a second or subsequent offence would be guilty of an indictable offence and would be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years."
But everyone knows the game she's playing.
Anita Neville and Pat Martin know the Manitoba public is
incensed with car thieves, the judges who let them get away with it and the politicians who have failed to pass the laws to protect the public.
Anita Neville and Pat Martin know the Conservatives will go into the next election with chapter and verse on how the Liberals and NDP undermined every attempt to pass legislation to get tough with car thieves.
Both of them have reached into the bottom of their weasel chest of tricks to get some press showing how tough on crime they suddenly are.
Look, says Neville, I want to send them to jail for 10 years but the Conservatives won't listen. Look, says Martin, it's a penny - oh, um, Look, I wanted to go after the car thieves but the Conservative wouldn't let me.
You don't have to be a public intellectual to know a con job when you see one.