Friday, July 18, 2008

The Tory Mental Crime Wave

I was reading this article: about how new crime stats could damage Tory attempts to play the "tough on crime" card. While crime rates are in fact lower across the board, the Conservatives seem to be sticking to their messaging that an obviously shrinking problem is more of an issue then the environment, a slowing economy, or Canada's place in the world. A couple of quotes from the article are particularly worrying:

“(They) try to pacify Canadians with statistics,” he told party supporters in January.
“Your personal experiences and impressions are wrong, they say; crime is really not a problem. These apologists remind me of the scene from the Wizard of Oz when the wizard says, ’Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”’
That assertion was echoed today by Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.
“We are not governing by statistics. We are governing by what we promised Canadians in the last election and what Canadians have told us,” he said in an interview.

Pacify with statistics? Not governing by statistics?

Good to know that the Canada's government is not bound by inconvenient things like, you know, the truth, in favour of placating the socially conservative "lock em up and throw away the key" base of the party. I'm waiting for the Elections Canada style accusations thats that Stats Can is full of Liberal hacks trying to cook up conspiracies against the government. Furthermore, given the inaction of the Conservatives on the economy, I wonder how far an ignorance of statistical truths and reality based evidence extends in the party. The article also talks about how media and popular public perspection of crime can be far off the mark in terms of actual crime rates and the like, which brings to mind the comments of former Republican Senator and John McCain economic advisor Phil Gramm, on how America is statistically not in a recession, but the public perception is overwhelmingly that they are in one, a situation Gramm called a "mental recession." Some of Gramm's remarks can be seen in this article:, and some of them can be very easily applied to the crime situation in Canada.

Mr. Gramm said the constant drubbing of the media on the economy's problems is one reason people have lost confidence. Various surveys show that consumer confidence has fallen precipitously this year to the lowest levels in two to three decades, with most analysts attributing that to record high gasoline prices over $4 a gallon and big drops in the value of homes, which are consumers' biggest assets.
"Misery sells newspapers," Mr. Gramm said. "Thank God the economy is not as bad as you read in the newspaper every day."

Compare that to the Toronto Star article:
The numbers fly in the face of popular media and political messaging, which portrays crime across Canada as rising in both volume and ferocity.

Anyway, from a political perspective, tough on crime messages, particularly when deployed by Conservative parties, tend to be attempt to win/hold on to suburban voters worried about bad things happening in nice little bedroom communities, like say, Mississauga. Really, that is the only region where tough on crime messaging would be effective from a Conservative perspective, rural areas which might favour tougher crime laws are already generally Tory leaning, while urban areas won't vote Tory anyway. Crime also plays into favoured Conservative tactics relating to putting a scare in voters to get them to the ballot box (Tax on Everything, anyone?). In the past, when areas like the suburban GTA West could be counted on to deliver solid support for the Tories, a crime focus could be expected to work, however, times and demographics have changed. I'm going to semi-quote Gerard Kennedy's response to my question re: selling the green shift to small c-conservative suburbs, that the 905 belt has changed dramatically since the days of the Big Blue Machine sweeping the area (example, from 95 to 07, the provincial PC vote in Mississauga South, a former stronghold, fell from 69% and 23,000 votes to 34% and 14,000 votes) thanks to demographic changes coming as a result of younger, more socially liberal minded families moving in from the 416, and increased immigrant populations in the area, which tend to be more Liberal friendly. Conservative messages of fear based on "personal experience and impressions" as are bound to fail opposed to real progressive action based on, you know, facts. One last interesting tidbit from the Toronto Star article:

“For the fourth year in a row, the lowest provincial (crime) rate occurred in Ontario and Quebec,” said the agency.

Interesting that the Ontario crime rate is so low after 4 years of the "small man of Confederation" Dalton Mcguinty in charge, and following the "lock up the homeless" tough on crime PC's.

1 comment:

penlan said...

Good post!