Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rahim Jaffer, short term focus, and opposition tactics

This whole Rahim Jaffer affair is really perplexing. What seems most
likely is that his procedural rights were violated when he was asked
to give a breathalyzer and when he was searched for drugs. Police
occasionally make mistakes and, whether we like it or not, it happens
to be grounds for the dismissal of a lot of charges. For an example of
this, see Margaret Trudeau's exoneration on drunk driving charges a
few years ago.

So, here is what is perplexing and troubling about this to me. First,
why are the Tories not making the most of this to stand up for harsher
penalties and for more rectification of rights violations at the time
of sentencing, rather than at the time of trial? Second, why are
opposition parties, who we should generally think are quite supportive
of individual rights and strict protections against violations by the
state, willing to take such a frenzied and populist position on this?
In other words, why are they willing to ferment doubt about the
administration of justice when they'll likely squander whatever short
term opportunity it gives them? And why are they doing this when their
own general positions on this issue will be undermined if this issue
continues?

More generally, why do parties pursue lines of attack in the short
term which are not generally consistent with their views and/or with
their prior statements, and which may undermine them in the future?
For another example, consider how smart it is for an opposition party
which started the mission in Afghanistan and which has a leader who
has said manipulable things about torture to stake its claims on
prisoner transfers in another country by another government.

2 comments:

Joe said...

Well, Dr. Loewen, you certainly present a hell of a quandary to play with.

One wonders how many people remember that the occupation of Afghanistan was a Liberal measure. If there's one thing I've noticed amongst voters who I repeatedly speak with, and it's also something we spoke about in class, is the origin of policy. Some people mistake who's in power with who is responsible for the policy already enacted. This same group of people may also blame the Conservatives for this last year's poor economic situation, but again, such a claim isn't exactly true (one might argue that the opposition parties squandered a chance to take the reigns of the country).
I am trying to avoid saying that some voters are just ignorant of the facts of what occurs in this country everyday, but I do challenge their understanding of how the Canadian government and legislature creates policy.

This all goes back to how the public views the party. The Tories might be using this as a chance to improve their public image, given their recent track record. It makes me think of how the Liberals backed the harsher drug sentences bill last year, in spite of the Liberal Party's efforts in 2003 to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. Did they do this because they actually believed in the policy, or because they didn't want the public to see them as being incapable of creating policy with the minority Conservatives?

It seems to all go back to the short term, and "how a party would do in an election tomorrow". I really wish our leaders/representatives would start thinking in the long term.

- Joseph Caron

Anonymous said...

Well...we're supposed to be a peace loving nation but what they've done in Afg. is to change it from originally a peace keeping mission to an attack mission meaning it's war.