Ottawa’s cuts to young offender programs are short-sighted and costly
TheStar.com – opinion/editorials
Published on Friday July 06, 2012.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has slashed funding for programs that help keep young offenders out of jail and able to make something of their lives. It’s a terrible decision and surely the government knows it. Why else would Justice Minister Rob Nicholson have announced it in such a sneaky way?
This $36-million cut was not highlighted in the recent federal budget. It was not discussed with the agencies that provide these important services to troubled youth. Provincial ministers, who are the federal government’s partners in keeping Canada safe, were not consulted. The cut was made public last week in an announcement masquerading as good news.
“The government of Canada announces continued support to youth justice services,” the official news release stated. Sounds good. Too bad that $141.7 million in annual funding is a 20 per cent reduction in spending. Calling a cut “continued support” is misleading, at best.
Cutting this funding is a short-sighted policy. That, unfortunately, makes it typical of the Harper government’s approach to battling crime. Rather than spend $10,000 to provide high-risk youth with the counselling and support that can keep them on the straight and narrow, the government seems to prefer to spend more than $110,000 to lock them up.
This government has demonstrated time and again that it has no problem spending an ever-increasing number of tax dollars on senseless, ideologically driven justice policies. We’re already on the hook for billions in prison spending to keep up with all the new laws designed to lock up more offenders for longer periods.
Experts, such as Queen’s University law professor Nicholas Bala, warn that the loss of youth crime prevention programs may have the opposite effect that everyone wants and result in “an increase in levels of offending.” That won’t sway the Conservatives, who have shown nothing but disdain for experts and evidence.
But such assessments should give Canadians cause for concern. Not just about their safety, but also about Harper’s deeply misguided “tough on crime” agenda.
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