The federal NDP Monday brushed Manitoba Premier Gary Doer aside like a bug on a windshield in their rush to oppose changes to the Youth Justice Act.
No sooner had the Harper government announced amendments to the law to make general deterrence and denunciation key principles in sentencing, than the federal NDP declared such ideas "useless".
It was barely two months ago that Gary Doer's All-United Travelling Salvation Dog-and-Pony Show descended on Ottawa, with the mayors of Winnipeg and Brandon scattering rose petals in Brother Doer's path, and his hand-picked merry men, Hugh McFadyen and Jon Gerrard, skipping behind him like giddy schoolgirls going on a picnic. They had come, one and all, to seek changes to the Youth Justice Act and the Criminal Code through stronger penalties for gang crimes and auto theft.
And all seemed peachy at the time, according to the Winnipeg Free Press account of the trip:
Doer made his anti-crime pitch directly to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a one-on-one meeting that Doer called "extremely positive."
"We had very strong indications that there will be changes coming forward," he said. Doer rejected the suggestion that minority gridlock could make it tough to get much action on crime. He said the non-partisan delegation from Manitoba serves as a good model of co-operation, and he said he wouldn't shy away from criticizing any party -- including the federal NDP -- that stymies crime legislation.
But NDP justice critic Joe Comartin, who supports Manitoba's proposals, said he's worried some measures might get sidelined if the Tories decide to focus on drug crimes this fall.
(Manitoba posse hits Ottawa, Demands toughening of crime laws; Fri Sep 21 2007; By Mary Agnes Welch)
And so there would be no mistake, Mary Agnes Welch polled the individual parties on their positions regarding the Doer mission.
No firm commitment, but Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said he would take a serious look at Manitoba's proposals.
The federal NDP has been criticized for holding up crime legislation, but Leader Jack Layton said he was supportive of Manitoba's proposals.
Deputy Leader Michael Ignatieff did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
But no sooner had the provincial bumpkins left the capital, than it was business as normal.
On Monday, Joe Comartin, the NDP's justice critic, told Don Newman, host of Politics, CBC's daily political interview show based in Ottawa, that deterrence and denunciation don't work and the NDP opposes their inclusion in the Youth Justice Act.
The Toronto Star quoted Comartin saying the amendments are "basically useless" and a "political" move "because our judges are already dealing with the detention of youth when appropriate using the same type of criteria that's in that part of the bill."
Talk about a slap in the face.
Here's how the Manitoba NDP's own news releases have been trumpeting the very principles that their federal counterparts scoff at (emphasis ours):
March 21, 2007
Strengthening Federal Youth Criminal Justice Act Key Piece in Manitoba Auto Theft Strategy: Chomiak
"Manitoba has been a consistent advocate for a stronger YCJA," (Justice Minister Dave) Chomiak said. "Stronger federal law will mean tougher sentences and meaningful consequences for youth who commit crimes in our communities."
Chomiak said reform of the federal YCJA is a key missing link in Manitoba's fight against auto theft. He noted Manitoba has repeatedly called on Ottawa to tighten up the YCJA to provide stiffer consequences that will deter youth from engaging in serious and repeat criminal behaviour, and will allow for sentences that reflect the severity of the crime.
Building on the province's auto-theft strategy, Manitoba will call for important amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act and the Criminal Code that would bolster sentencing to send a strong deterrent message to would-be auto thieves and enhance the ability of the justice system to deal appropriately with repeat offenders.
"Strong sentences send a strong deterrent signal to young people thinking of stealing a car," Chomiak said. "A federal commitment to sentencing auto thieves is a key component of Manitoba's tough approach on auto theft."
When the slightest concern was expressed in the Manitoba Legislature that Gary Doer couldn't count on the support of his federal counterparts, "Six Months" Chomiak leaped to the defence:
Oct. 2, 2007
Auto TheftAnti-theft Programs
Mr. Gerald Hawranik (Lac du Bonnet): The federal Conservative government has pledged to increase penalties for auto theft, provided, of course, Jack Layton and the federal NDP will let it go through Parliament. It's now time for the Minister of Justice to do his part and look to best practices in other provinces that have been extremely successful in curbing auto theft. Provinces have substantially reduced auto theft without changes to the Criminal Code.
So I ask the Minister of Justice: Why has he failed to follow the lead of other provinces with respect to auto theft?
Hon. Dave Chomiak (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): In point of fact, Mr. Speaker, the member ought to know, and perhaps his leader could inform him, that the Minister of Justice, Rob Nicholson, and Stockwell Day indicated that Jack Layton and the NDP supported the crime initiatives of the Conservative parties, and so he should check with his own leader.
As fully anticipated, the NDP's tough-on-crime talk has turned into soft-on-criminals action when it matters. The Manitoba NDP government introduces a new Speech from the Throne today when its expected to announce more tough-on-crime measures.
What we won't see is the Manitoba NDP denounce Jack Layton, Joe Comartin, Judy Wasylysia-Leis, or Pat Martin.
The Manitoba NDP MPs have demonstrated how powerless they are in caucus, if they even bothered to promote Manitoba's crime agenda. They have been dead silent in challenging Layton and Comartin and defending Manitoba's call for tougher laws for youth crime.
The reporters didn't get Wasylysia-Leis or Martin on the record supporting Doer and Company in September.
And we're betting they won't be chasing either of them for comment on why their leader is spitting in Manitoba's face.
Et tu, Judy. Et tu, Pat.