Phil Burpee, Columnist, Pincher Creek Voice
What are we to make of the new omnibus crime bill, fuzzily referred to as the ‘Safe Streets and Communities Act’, currently being touted by the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper? And why is it called an ‘omnibus’ bill? Well, that’s easy enough – an omnibus bill typically contains a hodge-podge of half-forgotten, relegated, reviled, discredited, contentious, half-formed or otherwise previously unsuccessful pieces of legislation which are now lumped together in a grand attempt to hustle the reprobates and under-agers into the night-club without the bouncer noticing (“Yeah – don’t mind her – she’s my cousin…looks real young for her age”). In this case, Canadians are being offered a document which contains some nine previous attempts to bring criminal legislation up to what is perceived by the government as being ‘right’ and ‘fair’ for the times in which we live. These nine amendments in question were left on the table at the dissolution of the last Parliament when the late Jack Layton finally determined that the government no longer enjoyed the confidence of the House. The reason given for this was that the Minister of Justice refused to give to Parliament a full accounting of what these bills might ultimately cost the taxpayers of Canada, both in dollars, and in long-term socio-economic costs, notwithstanding a protracted attempt on the part of a parliamentary committee to elicit such data.