Gangs and counterfeit parts: Politics on TV, Oct. 24 edition

Talking prison gangs, counterfeit military parts, and opaque foreign investment rules

Message of the day

“We’ve taken these gang members off the streets.”

Questions not answered

  • Is the Department of National Defence looking into the problem of counterfeit parts in its equipment?

Gangs in prisons:

Power & Politics opened with an exclusive story about the rise in gangs in prisons – 44 per cent increase in the past five years, meaning that 12 per cent of the prison population is now in gangs. Evan Solomon assembled an MP panel of Candace Bergen, Randall Garrison, and Wayne Easter to discuss the issue. Bergen said that thanks to their crime measures, gang members are off the streets and that they are dealing with the continual challenge of drugs in prisons through their strong interdiction measures (a claim that has previously been questioned). Garrison said that when prisoners can’t get programming, because the population is increasing without increasing programming budgets, the inmates with nothing better to do turn to other things. Easter said that our prisons are becoming warehouses for making better criminals, which wasn’t the case when he was Solicitor General.

The Correctional Investigator, Howard Sapers, was on next, who said that gang recruitment is a result of a sense of fear and self-preservation inside prisons. He noted that Correctional Services has spent $120 million on a drug interdiction strategy and intelligence gathering, but has made no new investments in drug treatment, programming, or harm reduction. He said that with the increase in double-bunking because of crowding, there are fewer options for keeping prisoners separate and apart, which is necessary for gang suppression.

Later on, P&P’s Power Panel weighed in, where Jennifer Ditchburn said she wants to hear more about what kinds of gangs are in prisons. Ian Capstick said there’s a pilot project in Edmonton going on about breaking up prison gangs, and that the mandatory minimum sentences mean there are no incentives for good behaviour in prison. Stephen Carter said that ideological zeal gets in the way of good policy, and creates a number of unintended consequences. Rob Silver said we shouldn’t act surprised because we knew these problems happened in the States before.

Foreign takeovers:

On Power Play, Don Martin spoke with Chamber of Commerce president Perrin Beatty, who said that there is a need for greater clarity around these takeovers, and that if we believe in the rule of law, then we need to know what the law is. Beatty added that the issues around state-owned enterprises means that there are becoming two sets of equally opaque rules, and if we’re privatizing Crown corporations in Canada, does it make sense to then invite these state-owned enterprises?

As part of a wider-ranging interview, BC NDP leader Adrian Dix said that with regards to the Petronas rejection, he respects that the federal government assessed the evidence and that it was their jurisdiction to make the decision, but that this was only one proposal to increase the province’s Liquefied Natural Gas industry.

Don Martin later spoke with journalists Tim Harper and Robert Fife about this issue, where Fife said the government has mismanaged the file, and that they didn’t think through their invitation for more foreign investment in their fit of pique over the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. Harper noted that the government not only seems to be taking a two-track approach to these deals, but that they’re making up those rules on the fly.

Counterfeit military parts:

Power & Politics had another exclusive story about the risk of the Canadian Forces faces with counterfeit military parts from China, after a similar problem was found in American military equipment. American sources say that we face the same problem because most of our equipment comes from the States. Greg Weston said that the documents he acquired say that the Canadian Forces hasn’t done any analysis of the problem, so any reassurances that ministers have made about the issue would ring false.

Canada-China Investment Treaty:

Solomon spoke to an MP panel of Mike Lake, Wayne Easter, Don Davies, and Elizabeth May about the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement. Lake said it was similar to the FIPAs we have signed with other countries, and that we need them to help Canadian companies to succeed around the world. Davies said this FIPA is different from others because it is with such a large economy, and that it allows for a private lawsuit process. May highlighted her concern that this will be ratified by an Order-in-Council (seeing as treaties are a Crown prerogative), and said she was especially troubled that Chinese state-owned enterprises could claim unlimited damages in secret processes. Easter said Parliament should have a say, as the federal taxpayer would have an obligation to pay those damages.

Omnibus budget bill:

P&P’s Power Panel looked at how the dynamics are shaping up around the current omnibus budget bill, and the government saying that ten different committees will study it. Ditchburn suspected that this move is a reflection of something they heard on the doorstep, but there is no guarantee they’ll allow amendments. Capstick noted that there will still only be one vote in the end, but this allows backbench Conservatives to feel more involved, which Stephen Carter agreed with, even if he didn’t agree with Ditchburn’s assessment. Rob Silver said that we shouldn’t congratulate Harper for doing what he should have been doing all along.

Don Martin asked his MP panel of Ted Hsu, Jinny Sims, and Stella Ambler about this latest concession. Sims said it’s a step in the right direction, but the broader pattern is still a problem. Hsu said it’s hard to let your constituents now how you stand on certain parts of the bill if you have to vote on the whole package. Ambler reiterated Flaherty’s consideration to hive off other portions if they want to pass them quickly, like with the MP pensions portion.

Seal cull:

Don Martin spoke to Conservative Senator Fabian Manning about the plans to launch a cull of the grey seal population as a means of protecting recovering cod stocks. Manning said the grey seal population used to be 13,000, and is now closer to 104,000. He said the Senate was presented with research that shows a correlation between cod biomass and the seal population, but that they want to carry out intensive study over the course of the cull to gauge the effect on those stocks.

Martin then spoke to Sheryl Fink from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, who said that she doesn’t believe the science will justify the cull, as other culls have failed elsewhere, and that marine ecosystems are more complex than this cull would otherwise indicate.


When discussing the latest census data on the linguistic make-up of the country, where French isn’t growing as fast as other languages, Martin’s MP panel also weighed in. Sims said that the country will always be bilingual, and that children benefit from learning more than one language. Hsu said that bilingualism is an important part of our identity as Canadians. Ambler said that in ethnically diverse ridings like hers, it can be challenging, but they do manage fairly well.

Commons Folk:

As part of his Commons Folk feature, Don Martin spoke to Conservative MP Joe Preston at a Wendy’s, as Preston has been a franchise owner. Preston said the company has always done a great job of testing their beef, so there is no need to worry about E. Coli contamination. With a riding whose unemployment rates have increased from seven to ten per cent in recent years, Preston says they recognize the need to diversify and some of those examples are a new aquaculture facility in that land-locked region. The one thing that most people don’t know about Preston is that he’s an actor in his local theatre company.