Liberal MPs are set to give the Conservative government help tonight in passing tough drug-crime legislation, despite the risk of a backlash at the party grassroots.
Under the bill, soon to be law, people convicted of serious drug crimes will automatically face prison terms of six months or longer. The legislation is particularly tough on any offender who traffics drugs or gets young people involved in drug crimes.
Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson has said the tougher sentences are aimed at “serious drug traffickers, the people who are basically out to destroy our society.”
Critics argue the proposed law does nothing to rehabilitate drug users and it will simply mean more crowding in prisons. Most witnesses at the Commons committee examining Bill C-15 argued against it.
Nonetheless, the Liberal caucus has decided to support the bill tonight, and that has some Liberal party members seeing red. Late last week, normally supportive Liberal bloggers went public with dissent.
“I think it’s a terrible idea,” Toronto lawyer James Morton, deputy chair of the Liberals’ council of riding presidents, wrote on his blog.
Jim Curran, a former riding president from Niagara Falls, compared this to the Liberals’ support of the Harper government’s move in 2008 to give the immigration minister more power to decide who gets into the country.
“This is one of the dumbest things I’ve seen the Liberal Party of Canada support in decades. It’s right up there with that immigration bill we let pass last May that cost us about five ridings in the GTA,” Curran wrote on his blog, referring to the results of the October election.
The worry seems to be that the Liberal caucus is swallowing its principles so it can’t be accused of being “soft on crime,” as the Conservatives often allege.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff told reporters yesterday that the party supports more “appropriate” sentencing and that’s why MPs will vote in favour of the bill tonight.
“In the context of some occasions where the sentences have not been appropriate, we’re in support of C-15,” said Ignatieff, who was at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Whistler, B.C.
“We support stronger measures, but there isn’t one hammer to this problem. We have to have federal investments in innovation and treatment and services in order to deal with these problems.”
Liberal MP Mark Holland (Ajax-Pickering) said in an interview the party is backing the bill because it contains enhancements to the drug-treatment system.
– Article from The Toronto Star.