City deserves money to fight guns, gangs; debate was a dud | Columns

City deserves money to fight guns, gangs; debate was a dud | Columns
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BY IAN PATTISON

Here’s the situation. Thunder Bay police are finding more and more loaded handguns on people they arrest. They are confronting more and more hard-core drug activity as southern Ontario gangs move north. Just this week a southern Ontario man was shot in a Dease Street home in a case police suspect was drug-related, a handgun was used to rob a homeowner on Finlayson Street, and a loaded handgun was seized in a Mountdale Avenue drug raid.

City, provincial and aboriginal police officials met in Thunder Bay Wednesday to discuss how to confront the growth in guns-and-gangs activity. City police services chair Celina Reitberger called it unconscionable that Ottawa handed Ontario $54 million this summer to combat the rising tide of gang shootings related to drugs but the North was ignored.

Here’s part of what federal Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair had to say when announcing the funds: “Unfortunately, we have recently seen across the country, and in particular in the Greater Toronto Area, an increase of violent gun crime and gang activity. It is affecting our communities and it is affecting how Canadians live their lives.” He said that all levels of government must work together to combat violent crime.

Across the country, not just in the GTA. Work together, which Thunder Bay and the Northwest are asking for. Where is the money? Isn’t this an election issue? Candidates?

* * *

The sporting community likes to say the vast majority of its members are responsible and don’t break the rules. Figures from Thunder Bay this week suggest something quite different. CBC reports that damage and theft from honour boxes at some of the conservation authority sites is pretty common and costs a lot to repair. Nearly 22,000 parties used the Silver Harbour Conservation Area last year; 0.9 per cent dropped a townie into the box. At the Cascades, 1.2 per cent of 53,000 users bothered to pay. It’s much the same at all seven areas, most of which are popular fishing boat launch sites. Ontario has cut conservation authority budgets in half. Thunder Bay Mayor Bill Mauro has warned the local CA not to expect the city to make up the difference. Something’s got to give. Who can’t afford to give $2 to use these remarkable facilities? Come on, people!

* * *

Well, that was a dud. The English-language leaders’ debate, that is. A night of rehearsed one-liners and hit-jobs left analysts to conclude we didn’t really learn anything new but that Jagmeet Singh seemed to best convey his message. You know, the same message that Andrew Scheer and Justin Trudeau also repeated over and over and . . . ‘I’m here for you (look seriously into the camera), not the wealthy and powerful.’

So, the NDP on the left, Libs in the middle and Tories on the right are going to rebalance the political status quo in this country by taxing the hell out of the rich and distributing that money to the poor. Isn’t that what one party or another has been telling us since elections began?

Does anyone really think that any party, if it wins the Oct. 21 election, is going to summon the titans of Canadian industry and business to Ottawa and say, ‘You’ve had it your way for long enough. Now we’re going to force you to pay enough in new taxes to allow us to attack every social ill in Canada.”?

There will be some fiddling with the tax codes, but with Trumpland beckoning, where free enterprise rules the roost, no political party in Canada is going to dare its biggest economic drivers to pack up and move south (hello Heinz and Caterpillar) by imposing taxes stringent enough to solve all our problems and, oh yes, pay down the national debt. It’s just not going to happen.

Back at the “debate” you knew things weren’t going to end well when, in answer to the very first question about how he would protect Canada’s interests on the world stage, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer turned to Liberal Leader and man-to-beat Justin Trudeau and spit out a blistering attack, calling the prime minister a phony and a fraud who no longer has any moral authority to govern the country.

And the question was? Nobody seemed to remember. Such was the level of Scheer’s feigned anger, the kind of emotion you usually hold onto until the right moment. This was not it.

The format was stilted. Six leaders all trying to sound better than the other five while five moderators traded chairs for different topics. All in two hours. It was a recipe for failure.

The studio audience had been told not to utter a peep. So why have them there? The best questions came from viewers on video anyway.

As usual, the most interesting points were made by those with nothing to lose. Green party leader Elizabeth May, for instance, finally had enough with others arguing their plan to save us from climate catastrophe is the best of the bunch. No, she said, you’re not even close. Quit trying to sell mediocre methods to Canadians who need to hear the brutal truth: Beating climate change is going to hurt because there’s no time to waste.

People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier pushed his proposal to cut immigration by pointing out that most Canadians agree there are too many people coming here. Sixty-three per cent of respondents to a recent Leger poll said the government should limit immigration because the country might be reaching a limit in its ability to integrate them. Just 37 per cent said the priority should be on growing immigration to meet the demands of Canada’s expanding economy.

No one responded when Bernier asked why the others are ignoring the wishes of Canadians.

And where were the journalists afterward when the leaders were trotted out one by one to answer questions? Most came from French-language reporters pressing leaders on what they’d do about Quebec secularism. A lad from Rebel Media tried goading leaders but was effectively ignored. Elizabeth May was stunned at the absence of decent questions. “Really guys?” she exclaimed before marching away. Maybe reporters of substance had given up on the whole thing and gone home. 

Ian Pattison has retired as editorial page editor of The Chronicle-Journal, but still shares his thoughts on current affairs. 



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