Getting tough on mentally ill offenders: Politics on TV, Dec. 13 edition

New measures for mentally ill offenders, and a year in review from Thomas Mulcair and Bob Rae

Message of the day

“Victims need to be at the heart of the justice system.”

Hot Topics

  1. Thomas Mulcair and Bob Rae year-enders
  2. Mentally ill offenders
  3. Union transparency

Questions not answered

  • What will the bill on mentally ill offenders look like?

Mulcair and Rae:

Power Play had a wide-ranging year-end interview with NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, where he said that the China deal does the most damage to the government because it’s long-term and it means we’ve lost control over our resources. On the F-35s, Mulcair said that it’s obvious that the government is not good at basic public administration, and that they have been played for chumps by sole-sourcing the contract. Mulcair said that the NDP have been careful as to when they call for ministerial resignations – they called for Gerry Ritz’s because the public was in danger, but wouldn’t call for MacKay’s because of incompetence. While Mulcair said that it was a raucous session, he said that the dividing lines are becoming increasingly clear as they move toward the next election.

Over on Power & Politics, Evan Solomon had an interview with interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, who said that the F-35s have been a “monumental screw-up,” and if everything was okay and the government was telling Parliament the truth, why are they now hitting the reset button and pretending the last three-and-a-half years didn’t happen? On CNOOC, Rae said that he doesn’t have a philosophical objection to a state-owned enterprise investing in Canada, but he might have a practical objection if he knows the terms and conditions, and noted that sixty percent of the oil companies in the world have a state relationship. Rae also said it’s curious that the NDP is now anti-China (unlike Tommy Douglas) and against state-owned enterprises. When asked about the direction of the party under the leadership contest, Rae said that as a non-ideological party, the Liberals are looking for new ideas and not labels.

Mentally ill offenders:

Former Montreal cardiologist Guy Turcotte is going to be released after four years of treatment for mental illness after having been found not criminally responsible for the deaths of his children. Power Play spoke with Heritage Minister James Moore, who said that the government plans to table legislation to put victims at the heart of the justice system. Moore admitted that the challenge is that you don’t make law based on high-profile cases, but those cases expose inadequacies in the justice system, and that victims and public safety should be considered when those who are treated for their mental illness are eligible for release.

Moore was later on Power & Politics, where he added that while they leave it to the doctors and psychiatrists about whether or not someone can be released, the panel currently doesn’t take in community interest and victims into account. Moore said that a balance needs to be struck, and while the victims shouldn’t have a veto, they should have a stronger role.

Solomon spoke with Dr. Sandy Simpson, the chief of forensic psychiatry at the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health. Dr. Simpson said that somebody who kills when they are mentally ill does so because they are sick, and once that illness is treated, and the risk of recidivism is greatly reduced. Dr. Simpson said that it’s fair criticism to say that a process for compassion for victims needs to be built into the system, but it’s not an easy fix, and that being more retributive to something that happened when a person was sick doesn’t help.

When P&P’s Power Panel gave their thoughts, John Ivison said that his gut reaction is that Turcotte’s release isn’t right, which the government is responding to, but there would likely be court challenges to attempts to change the expert panels. Tom Flanagan said that the legal framework is wrong, and there should be no defence of “not guilty by reason of mental insanity.” Gerry Caplan said that the government can’t wait to find any excuse to keep more people in jail for longer, and that he’s not sure why victims should be given such preferential treatment. Liza Frulla said that emotion shouldn’t play a part in the justice system, but people don’t have confidence in the system anymore.

Union transparency:

Power & Politics spoke with Conservative MP Russ Hiebert said that his union transparency bill is needed because unions get tax benefits, and the bill simply puts unions in line with charities. Hiebert said that the bill has been deemed constitutional and that by Rob Nicholson voting for the bill, it means that it has tacit approval from the justice department (which may be a bit of a reach).

Power Play’s MP panel of Michelle Rempel, Jinny Sims and Elizabeth May looked at this bill, where Sims – a former president of a teacher’s union – said that there is no group more transparent than unions, and that they elect their leadership democratically and their spending is debated. May questioned why the bill was federal jurisdiction and gave kudos to Conservative backbencher Brent Rathgeber for his criticism of the bill. Rempel said that she supported the bill because it is transparency for union members and noted that it amends federal tax legislation.

Worth Noting:

  • Justin Trudeau said that his speech at the Islamic conference will be a message of inclusion and becoming active in society, and will be delivered to 20,000 Muslims. Asked to weigh in on the F-35s, he said that the government has failed both with building a modern military and being competent fiscal managers.
  • CBC’s Laura Payton said that the court case on voter suppression allegations is problematic because there are no affidavits on record from people who didn’t vote because of misleading calls.
  • Immigration lawyer Chantal Deslogues said that the new agreement on visa information sharing with the US will help facilitate cross-border transactions, but there are some serious privacy concerns about sharing data with the States. Deslogues also said that right or wrong, Hungary and Mexico will likely be on the new Safe Country of Origin list for refugee claimants.
  • Winslow Wheeler said that the government is still dreaming if they think they can buy 65 F-35s for $9 billion, and that they’re still gaming the numbers. He added that it’s possible that cuts to the US defence budget could kill the F-35 program.
  • Craig Oliver said the F-35s fell victim to the war in Afghanistan because of the careless and self-indulgent sole-source procurement culture that emerged as part of it, while civilian oversight fell to the wayside.
  • Jeffrey Simpson said that one of the problems with procurements is that politicians become less interested in what is needed and focus instead on how it will benefit their constituencies.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.