On second thought - Macleans.ca

On second thought


While agreeing on the use of the word “failure” to describe the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Prime Minister and Justice Minister apparently differ on the applicability of the word “unmitigated.”

The Harper government has decided to tweak rather than overhaul Canada’s young offender laws, which the prime minister once dismissed as an “unmitigated failure”…

Mr. Nicholson said he would not describe the act that way, but his communications director, Genevieve Breton, wrote later in an e-mail that she wished to clarify that her boss was not at odds with Mr. Harper. “While the minister believes that the act is working overall, it has certainly been, as the prime minister has stated in the past, a failure with respect to protecting the public from violent and repeat young offenders,” wrote Ms. Breton.


On second thought

  1. When you've got to break out the thesaurus,

    in scouring for that next "gotcha" moment, it may be time to call it for the other team.

    The new scandal: "Used different verbage[gate]"

    • It's verbiage, biff.

    • not sure about you Biff, but i don't need a thesaurus to understand the difference between its working and its an unmitigated failure</i

      But don't worry, this isn't a big deal. we all know pappa harper's words rule the day.

  2. Recalibrating the appeal to the core CPC voter; meanwhile running in every other direction at the same time.

  3. Classic example of rhetorical overkill by Harper and his speechwriters. On June 6, 2008, Harper said:

    Our predecessors' approach to young offenders, the approach we've been using for some time in this country, has been an unmitigated failure. There is no other way to describe it.

    The principles of deterrence and punishment have been all but erased from the youth criminal justice system, and the consequences have been disastrous. A recent Statistics Canada study shows that the rates of violent youth crime have increased 12 percent over the past decade, and a staggering 30 percent since 1991.

    If Harper's words had been chosen more carefully, Rob Nicholson's communications director wouldn't have a headache right now.

    • This is what I have not understood about Harper ever since he became PM.

      I genuinely believe that had he demonstrated even just a bit of statementship and restrained leadership, instead of the petty sniping and even name calling we have had and pushing the partisan boundaries at every opportunity, he would have had his majority in 2008, 2007 even.

      You look at Mulroney or Chretien or even Harris: they all left the real mudslinging, the day-in-day out stuff, to their underlings. But not only did Harper never feel the need to step above the fray, I always got (less so now) the sense that he actually relished it.

    • Or alternatively, if there was some coherency to his legislative agenda…

  4. What we are seeing here is the natural unfolding of a seriously heavy-handed PMO communications team.

    There is so little space for even the tiniest appearance of any opinion or independence or differing thought, let alone speech, between Harper and even his most senior cabinet ministers that Nicholson's communications director feels the need to proactively and publicly clarify the absence of a single adjective.

    • Not really a "proactive and public clarification" by the PMO. More likely, a clarification initiated by Nicholson himself after Canwest's Janice Tibbetts interviewed him and asked him a pointed question about Harper's 2008 quote.

      • Proactive in that they are so fearful of reprimand by the PMO for not reiterating precisely what Harper says or making him look the tiniest bit wrong… and they don't wait for it to hit the news and have Soudas come screaming down the halls.

    • "What we are seeing here is the natural unfolding of a seriously heavy-handed PMO communications team. "

      I absolutely agree. But I think this is also a consequence of a legislative agenda that's constructed primarily for political reasons and always buffeted by political conditions. Today's spin ('the current law needs tweaking') makes sense in the current political conditions, just as yesterday's spin ('unmitigated failure') made sense at the time.

      The problem is that people expect policy to be driven by more than short-term political considerations. The ugly truth is laid bare pretty easily as a government produces a record of communications, achievements and failures.

      Relying on spin to get you through life has many of the disadvantages of going through life on lies. Sooner or later, a lack of integrity becomes obvious to anyone with a memory.

    • It would all be so much easier if all Conservative MPs could be given electronic collars that (a) monitored every word that the MP was saying, and (b) administered an electric shock if the MP deviated one iota from the approved party line. It would save so much time and effort.

      (And, to reply to your other comment: I believe that the Conservatives would have had a majority in 2006 if Harper hadn't been, well, Harper. The voting public was unhappy with the Liberals, but thought that Harper is too much of a partisan extremist; the same holds true today.)

  5. Oh my gawd!!!
    A Minister and the PM don't agree on the 'degree of failure' of the young offenders act.

    So what,
    they have separate brains and think differently……

    but then this post raised 8 comments,
    real barn burner Mr Wherry.

    • You appear to have missed the point.

      • Again

  6. I agree that the YCJA needs an overhaul; there are cases (many cases – repeat violent offenders being one example) where it really isn't able to work effectively.

    That being said, I don't know precisely what overhauls Harper is intending. I'll attempt (and likely fail) to reserve judgement until then.

  7. I think it's the harps who are now running scared of an election. Until very recently, they were going to overhaul the act and crime was atrocious in Canada. Now that the prorogation hasn't gone the way they hoped and the polls are screaming that fact, they are only going to "tweak" the act. So I guess it wasn't that bad in the first place — just another way to make Canadians feel like scared little bunnies. LIke the imminent danger we face if we don't acquiesce to being scanned naked at the airport.

    • You have choices: you can have your picture taken naked, or you can get fondled.

      And in the official language of your choice.

  8. What would the cabmins and backbenchers do without Langevin Block to tell them what their thoughts and feelings are?