BC Leaders Debate: Jane Sterk Offers Fresh Ideas On Crime And Prohibition

From left: Jane Sterk, Carole James and Gordon Campbell shake hands at the leaders' debate in Vancouver. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)From left: Jane Sterk, Carole James and Gordon Campbell shake hands at the leaders’ debate in Vancouver. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)Wow. That’s all I can say after transcribing Green Leader Jane Sterk’s comments on crime in today’s televised debate.

Whereas B.C. Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell and NDP Leader Carole James kept trying to outdo one another with their Republican law-and-order banter, Sterk stood out in stark contrast by emphasizing her opposition to prohibition.

“If more police, more prisons and more prosecutors was a solution to safer streets, the United States and China would be the safest countries on the planet, and they’re not,” Sterk said in her opening comment on the issue. “We believe that the root cause of the gang violence that we see in the Lower Mainland and elsewhere in British Columbia is directly related to prohibition of substances. The last time we saw this kind of gang violence—this kind of murderous gang violence—was when there was prohibition against alcohol in the 20s and 30s. When that ended, the gang violence ended. So we need to get into prevention.”

Sterk also said on more than one occasion that we “cannot police ourselves out of social problems”.

“So we need to create the social infrastructure to take care of people so we prevent them from getting into gangs,” she said.

The NDP’s James, on the other hand, said her party has put forward a plan for putting more police on the streets and creating a dedicated team of Crown prosecutors.

“We’ve doubled the number of police that are put forward in the Liberal plan,” James said. “We’re making sure our streets are safe. And we’re also going to make sure we focus on prevention to make sure we keep young people out of gangs.”

Campbell responded that his government has hired more than 1,100 additional police officers since it was elected in 2001—and this year, another 168 officers have been added.

“Gangs are not welcome in British Columbia,” Campbell said. “We’re going to go after them with additional police officers. We’re going after them with additional prosecutors. We’re working with the federal government to make sure that they toughen the Criminal Code so we make sure our police officers actually have the tools they need. But you know, I think we should recognize the integrated task force we have are doing a great job on behalf of all of us. Over a dozen gang leaders have been put behind bars in the last few weeks alone. And that’s a real tribute to our police forces.”

James and Campbell then debated the meaning of the provincial budget, which called for a $10-million reduction in courts and prosecutors.

That prompted Sterk to say that she felt she wasn’t present in the debate because Campbell and James kept perpetuating an argument that we can police our way out of social problems.

“It costs $55,000 to keep someone in poverty in this province,” Sterk said. “It costs $140,000 to hire a police officer. At some point in time, we have to look at the way we’re spending our money so that we start to have different choices and make different choices. We have to deal with prohibition. Get these substances out of the hands of the bad guys, and control the supply and distribution.”

– Article from The Georgia Straight on May 3, 2009.