Thursday, August 12, 2010
What Stockwell Day meant to say
The Prime Minister’s Office was busily emailing its message of the day to supporters and MPs as Treasury Board President Stockwell Day was unsuccessfully trying to share it with reporters in Ottawa Tuesday.
“Continuing the Focus on Jobs and Growth – Message of the Day” was the headline on the PMO missive. That was not Mr. Day’s message, try though he did. The minister was sent out as the Tory representative in the morning in advance of a series of cabinet meetings this week that ends with the national Conservative caucus meeting Thursday.
Mr. Day was to talk about jobs and growth; he tried to talk about jobs and growth and stimulus. However, reporters had other ideas – the controversy over the census dominated and there was a question about prisons to which he gave a very curious answer – and so his news conference went slightly off the rails.
Here’s what he was supposed to be discussing:
“Today, the Honourable Stockwell Day, President of the Treasury Board, Minister for the Pacific Gateway and Minister Responsible for British Columbia … discussed the Government’s continued focus on creating jobs and economic growth across Canada,” the PMO email says.
And it listed some of the points that Mr. Day would make:
“Today, Canadians can be encouraged by the positive signs of recovery we are seeing across the country,” according to the talking points. “However, the recovery is still fragile and Canada is not immune to the economic instability of other countries.”
To be fair he did make the points in his introductory remarks before he took any questions, he just wasn’t able to build on them. That’s because reporters had other ideas _ nowhere, for example, in the talking points is any mention of the controversy over the scrapping of the compulsory long-form census or Canadians not reporting crime.
Mr. Day, in answering a question about the government’s thinking in building more prisons during a recession, defended the billions of dollars of expense with his assertion that the crime rate is not going down because other offences are going unreported at an “alarming” rate.
“It shows we can’t take a Liberal view to crime which is, some would suggest, that it is barely happening at all,” Mr. Day said. “Still, there are too many situations of criminal activity that are alarming to our citizens and we intend to deal with that.”
Not surprisingly, Mr. Day’s comments about unreported crime have provoked a lot of commentary, including a YouTube video annotating his statements during the news conference.
The Liberals, too, were quick to pounce. “Stockwell Day seems like he is making things up,” a senior Ignatieff official told The Globe. “Not to say that there are no such things as ‘unreported crimes,’ but to use that to justify their ‘lock’em all up and throw away the key’ agenda is pushing the envelope.
“If Mr. Day is so keen to look back to the early 60s crime stats, he should know that some crimes reported today were not necessarily reported back then: domestic violence, rape and child abuse, to name a few.”
If only the Treasury Board President had just stuck to the talking points. What he really meant to say was that his government is continuing its work to “return to balanced budgets by winding down stimulus spending when the time is right.”
Update A Justice Department press secretary is contacting reporters telling them Mr. Day is “correct in his assertion that many crimes go unreported in Canada”, arguing, too, that the Liberals use statistics as an “EXCUSE not to get tough on criminals.”
Pamela Stephens’s defence of the Treasury Board President came Tuesday afternoon by way of an email, in which she notes she has received “some calls” about Mr. Day's s contention that crime is going unreported in Canada.
“As far as our Government is concerned, one victim of crime is still one too many,” she writes. “What the Liberals forget to tell Canadians is that there is a cost to crime whatever way you look at it. Allowing criminals to roam our streets is not free. It costs money to try to keep track of them, and sometimes when we lose track of their whereabouts and they re-offend the impact can be devastating.”
Ms. Stephens points to a 2004 Statistics Canada survey, which she notes finds that an estimated 34 per cent of Canadians who are victims crime still aren't reporting the offence to police.