Pubdate: Wed, 17 Oct 2007
Source: Pique Newsmagazine (CN BC)
Column: Maxed Out
Copyright: 2007 Pique Publishing Inc.
Author: G. D. Maxwell

Maxed Out


In this week's speech from the throne, Stevie Hapless, PM of all 
Canada, managed to nudge the country further right, throw the 
lacklustre Stephie Dion's Liberals into dangerous, uncharted waters - 
the kind that need real leadership, a quality apparently completely 
lacking in the party - and hang the albatross of yet another likely 
election around the necks of Canadians longing for the good old days 
of bland, but effective, government.

It was, in many ways, an encore performance. It was also pretty well 
done. Stevie obviously honed his political skills at the high school 
chess club as evidenced by his deft play. That would be check and 
mate, Mr. Dion.

Liberal leader in name only, Stephie's total collapse sets the stage 
not only for another general election but most likely another 
drawn-out Liberal leadership race. And you thought Canadian politics 
couldn't get any more boring.

But it was Stevie's pronouncement earlier this month that 
foreshadowed the throne speech's inexorable march south toward 
politics American style. That was when Stevie abandoned any pretense 
toward rational thought and fell into lockstep behind the bankrupt 
drug policies that have filled American jails to overcapacity while 
whittling the "drug problem" down not a bit. He might have promised 
the Canadian people lower taxes and a reduced GST but his new drug 
policy gifted continuing record profits and the promise of even more 
to the thugs on both sides of the law who profit from the ineffective 
criminalization of street drugs.

Jeez Stevie, put a brain on.

Let's just suppose you ran, say, a cute little resort municipality. 
Let's suppose things were not going well for you, tourism was off, 
people were tired of your product, mindless gangs from a nearby urban 
centre were terrorizing your town on long weekends, the Olympics were 
coming. When things seemed as though they couldn't get any worse, 
when the situation cried out for leadership and fresh ideas, let's 
suppose the mayor of the cute resort municipality said, "I've got the 
solution. We'll just keep doing the same stuff that got us into this 
fix in the first place." What would you do?

If you were a mindless ideologue you might pat him or her on the back 
and say, "Attaboy(girl). That ought to fix the problem."

Otherwise, you might roll your eyes heavenward and say, "Not this 
nonsense again."

Stevie dished out $64 million worth of new money for the same old war 
on drugs. Given a choice, I'd vote for flushing $64 million down the 
toilet or giving it to corrupt Quebec cronies in Sponsorship Redux. 
He also promised mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of 
serious drug crimes, whatever those are.

It's probably helpful at this point to review a couple of simple, if 
inconvenient, truths. Prohibition doesn't work. It's been the law of 
the land since 1929 and it hasn't made a dent in either supply or 
demand. Law enforcement doesn't work. You can buy illegal drugs in 
every town in Canada. You can acquire illegal drugs in every prison 
in Canada. If law enforcement can't control drugs in prisons, it 
takes a particular kind of idiot to think they'll be successful 
controlling them on the streets of a democratic country. Marijuana is 
not a gateway drug, smoking it doesn't lead to using harder drugs. 
All illegal drug use combined costs Canadian taxpayers and businesses 
less than the effects of smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol. 
Everyone who wants to use drugs uses them. The fact that they're 
illegal hasn't stopped anyone and I'll bet you've never met a single 
person who said, "Ya know, if they'd just make smack legal, I'd 
become a junkie."

The final inconvenient truth is this: no matter what the government 
says, no matter what the police say, any crackdown on illegal drugs 
means more pot smokers get busted. When Little Jean Chretien's 
Liberals introduced - but never passed - legislation to 
decriminalize, not legalize, possession of small amounts of pot, a 
lot of police forces simply stopped laying possession charges, 
according to the president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of 
Police. But since the Conservatives formed the government, possession 
busts have risen from 20 to 50 per cent in Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa 
and Halifax.

That's because no matter what the government or the cops say about 
the horrors of meth or heroine or crack or any other drug, busting 
pot smokers is the path of least resistance. And who more than 
politicians and law enforcement favour the path of least resistance?

So once again, the government has gifted untold wealth to law 
enforcement and organized - not to mention disorganized - crime 
simultaneously. Carumba!

It's a shame. Canada was so close to adopting a more rational, 
evidence-based approach to street drugs, an approach based on 
treating drug use as what it is, a health problem, not what it isn't, 
a law enforcement problem. But harm reduction - the buzzword meaning 
let's all be grown-up and try to treat drug use as a health and 
social problem not as a prisoner recruitment exercise - has been 
blue-penciled by the Hapless government. Harm reduction is out, 
mandatory prison sentences are in.

Fortunately, Stevie has the experience in the U.S. to buttress his 
bold new initiative. Clearly that approach has worked miracles south 
of the border. Since adopting a hard line against drugs and filling 
existing prisons and building lots of new prisons and filling them 
with drug users and traffickers, the use of street drugs in the U.S. 
has all but disappeared. Oh yeah, and the war in Iraq is going quite well too.

I don't believe Stevie is a stupid man. I do believe he's as morally 
bankrupt and ideologically blind as most modern Conservatives. But I 
don't believe the Canadian people buy into that dogma. This may be 
one of the few places left in the world where small "c" conservatism 
manages to live hand-in-hand with small "l" liberalism without making 
the entire nation schizo.

You see, real conservatives wouldn't squander the wealth of the state 
on policies that have proven, over and over again, to be complete 
failures. Real conservatives wouldn't criminalize the lives of over 
half a million of its citizens, many of whom hold responsible 
positions and lead productive lives - that's the number of Canadian 
who currently carry criminal records because of existing drug laws. 
Real conservatives wouldn't gift a thriving business - illegal drugs 
- - with the prospects of even greater profits. Real conservatives 
would find a way to legitimize that business for the benefit of the state.

So where does that leave Stevie Hapless? Up the same old creek in the 
same old leaky boat. still no paddle. How sad.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom