With several tough-on-crime bills heading for debate in the Commons next month — including Bill S-10, which would see mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana possession and baking pot brownies — the question has largely been where the Liberals will stand on the bills.
At a press conference at the end of the Liberals’ winter caucus in Ottawa, leader Michael Ignatieff signalled that his party was ready to oppose them.
Asked if the Liberals were taking a harder line, Ignatieff spoke about recent town hall meetings in Winnipeg North, where the Liberals recently won a by-election.
“[It’s] a community ravaged by crime, a community where there’s so much crime that people said, ‘Don’t come knocking on our doors during an election — it’s too dangerous,’” Ignatieff said. “This imprinted in all of us how serious the crime issue is, but when you ask people in Winnipeg North, what would make a difference — throwing more people in jail? They all said no.
“They said, What we need is community safety groups. What we need is more resources for the police. What we need is a gymnasium for our kids. What we need is youth training and employment. If you listened to the people really on the frontline of the battle against crime, that’s really what they’re saying, and that’s what we’re saying, too.”
Ignatieff also countered Conservative attacks on his party’s opposition to corporate tax cuts. Conservatives say the Liberals are threatening to block a program that could create jobs, but Ignatieff countered that the Conservatives’ plan to increase EI deductions — which he called “job-killing payroll taxes” — would hurt small and medium-sized businesses.
This isn’t the first time in recent memory that the Liberals have announced their opposition to Stephen Harper’s crime agenda. But when it comes to vote, the Liberals have often either supported Harper’s justice legislation or absented themselves.
Liberal senators were unable to block or successfully amend S-10 when the bill was introduced in the Senate earlier in the session, given that the Conservatives now command a majority in the Upper Chamber.