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BTC Pic

Marc Laferriere (standing right), Gary Newman – Program Coordinator of Breaking The Cycle (standing left), and a group of young ambassadors from Breaking The Cycle at the Brantford Arts Block.

Each week Parliament is prorogued www.brantmarc.ca brings you “The Week That Could Have Been.” This column is an exploration of a current local issue our Brant NDP candidate Marc Laferriere would have brought to the House of Commons if he was representing Brant Riding, and if Parliament was permitted to sit.

Every week is an opportunity to hold the government accountable, debate the issues of the day, and come to a resolution that Canadian’s want to see passed.

We cannot get this time back but we can still hold the government to account in other ways.  This column is just one attempt from the Federal NDP and our local candidate to do exactly that.

These issues won’t go away for Canadians; and, they shouldn’t go away for this government just because the house is prorogued.

This effort has produced results.  Last week, while our local Liberal candidate was noticeably silent on the issue, through this blog and other channels we successfully demanded that the Federal Government “remove the arbitrary deadline of March 31st, 2010 on funding for stimulus funding projects that have already been approved by this government?”

We brought up how this deadline was being used as an excuse by some City officials to skip important community planning sessions.

Last week the deadline was clarified with it now being March 31st, 2011 so that there is time for the necessary checks and community consultations.

Even before getting into office the Brant NDP is effectively working with the Federal NDP to get local issues on the Federal agenda and we will continue – despite prorogation.

THIS WEEK’S ISSUE: CRIME

The Conservatives say they are the party that is “tough on crime” but our Conservative representative from Brant supported halting 17 crime and justice bills with prorogation of Parliament.  The Conservatives in Ottawa have junked all the committee work that was done on these bills.

This is not and should not be a political game.  Those victimized by crime deserve better.  We need to pass legislation to update the Criminal Code, strengthen criminal investigations, and act to prevent crime.

When we speak of crime it must not just be street level crime but all kinds of crime.  Harper’s decision to prorogue halted a bill on White Collar Crime that would have dealt with Ponzi Schemes.  These kinds of crime also effect hard working and honest citizens regularly and need to be dealt with immediately.  This is especially true in our current economy when so many have been so vulnerable. 

All 17 of the halted crime bills had a great deal of work done on them by NDP MP’s, and the other parties, to make them enforceable and effective.  Yet the decision to prorogue means that Parliamentarians and the Canadians who have been waiting for action on these issues must start again at “square one.”

NDP MP Joe Comartin, a vigorous anti-crime advocate, summed it up perfectly when he said, “Canadians whose hard-earned livelihoods have been destroyed by white-collar criminals, families facing the devastating loss of a loved one, and communities struggling to control the ravages of gangs are all badly served by a Conservative strategy designed to grab headlines – not criminals.”

No more hollow approaches.  Not in Brant, and not in Canada. 

When will the Conservative Government actually pass their own “tough on crime” legislation?

Comprehensive strategies that combine additional resources for police and the judicial system, better social infrastructure to prevent crime, and more deterrents is what most Canadians would agree are needed.

The problems with the system are well documented, as is the inaction of the current federal government. 

The positive results of “After School” and “After Dark” programs that provide our communities with prevention programs to help at-risk youth are also well documented.

Speaking as a social worker who has worked with young people in and out of the justice system, I believe strongly that the NDP provides a more balanced plan than the other parties.  Not just “tough on crime” but “effective against crime.”  More police officers and greater resources to the police to target specific crimes, in specific ridings. 

In Brant Riding we have a serious car theft issue, yet our police do not have enough resources to utilize “bait cars” that have proved to be helpful in other communities. Strategies like this not only help to catch criminals but add a level of deterrence as word spreads throughout the criminal community.  The NDP also believes strongly in the reclassification of auto theft as a violent offence which would also help deter would be thieves from their attempts.

Mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes, first degree murder charges for gang related homicides, and creating new laws to make “drive-by” shootings, and firing at a building all indictable offences are supported by the NDP – while the Conservatives delay their own legislation.  Are the Conservatives strong on crime; or, just strong on rhetoric?  They have had several years to implement these changes yet they blame others for letting these opportunities slip by that could help all of us live in a safer Canada. 

Those of us in the Brant Riding want more than just rhetoric about being “tough on crime.”  My sense, from growing up in this community and after attending an Open Forum on the issue of crime in January, is that the people in this riding want sensible actions. 

Youth gangs are becoming more and more prevalent in this riding.  Gangs with leadership in Toronto and Hamilton have been getting a foothold in this community for quite some time.  This issue needs to be talked about at all levels of government before it worsens.  I’ve worked with gang youth in Brant, across the province, and in the East coast as well.  As a counselor, child and youth worker and in other roles as well, I’ve learned there are ways out of this violent and predatory way of life.

I was fortunate enough to meet some youth from Toronto who have left gang life with help from a program called “Breaking the Cycle.”  These former gang youth are now leadership ambassadors working and contributing to their families, and society.

Yet the Federal funding for this program is being reduced and expected to disappear. 

Programs that work are being cut and threatened, while crime and justice bills have been halted in Parliament due to prorogation TWICE IN ONE YEAR.

Will the Federal Government reverse their decision to cut funding to anti-crime programs that are working to prevent crime, like “Breaking the Cycle” and others in our communities? 

My question to the citizens of Brant Riding is a more simple one.  Will you elect an MP who will fight for these issues in the next election?

If you have answered yes, then please honour us with your vote when the time comes.

Marc Laferriere MSW, RSW

Federal Candidate – Brant NDP

 

 

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