Crime-fighting election issue: punishment or prevention?

Crime-fighting is a top priority for each of the federal election candidates running in the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon riding.

But each differ on how they would tackle the issue.

Crime-fighting is a top priority for each of the federal election candidates running in the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon riding.

But each differ on how they would tackle the issue.

City of Chilliwack officials – and the RCMP – have both complained about the lack of resources to fight back against crime here.

But Conservative candidate Mark Strahl points out that it’s the provincial government that decides how much federal funding goes to B.C. municipalities, and negotiates the contract with the RCMP for police services.

“Our job is more on the recruitment side,” he said, about the federal government’s role.

He said the Conservative government created a $400-million recruitment fund in the last budget to add 2,500 front-line police officers, but the fund died when the budget was defeated by the opposition.

The Conservative government’s crime-fighting strategy is to make sure crime doesn’t pay, by toughening up Canada’s laws, and the sentences meted out by courts.

“It’s important that when people commit criminal acts that there are significant penalties for that,” Strahl said.

But he said a majority government is needed to get the “crack-down on crime” legislation passed over the opposition in parliament.

“We’re tired of waiting for the opposition to get on board,” he said.

Liberal candidate Diane Janzen, a Chilliwack city councillor before she resigned to run for the federal election, said Chilliwack is paying 90 per cent of the bill for policing. Only 10 per cent is paid by the federal government.

“We (city council) don’t even sit at the table when people are carving up the resources,” she said, referring to contract negotiations between the province and the RCMP.

If elected MP, Janzen said she would fight to give the city more authority to crack down on the drugs that are behind most of the home and business break-ins in Chilliwack.

“That’s the major issue we have here,” she said.

But the city has no authority to shut down marijuana grow-ops masquerading as legally-approved medical grows, or stop the “outrageous” sale of drug paraphernalia in corner stores like crack pipes that lure young people into drug use, she said.

“I think we need to start empowering the city to come down on people flying in the face of the law,” she said.

Under Health Canada legislation, medical grow-ops are supposed to be inspected, but Janzen said city council is “not confident at all” those inspections are happening, allowing illegal grow-ops to flourish.

New Democratic candidate Gwen O’Mahony said while the Conservative government focusses on harsher penalties and mega-prisons, “we’d like to spend the money on policing and prevention.”

She said the NDP is committed to doubling the $400-million police officer recruitment fund, and to cut the “paper burden” on police officers, so they can spend more time on the streets fighting crime.

“We want to increase policing,” she said.

Green Party candidate Jamie Hoskin said his party wants to ensure there are “adequate” police officers to make the community safe.

But instead of “throwing more money into policing” the Greens would put more funds into eliminating the root causes of crime, poverty, drug addiction and mental illness.

“The real issue in this riding right now is jobs and access to education,” he said.

Without a job or the education to get that job, crime is sometimes a “tempting alternative,” he said.

“$10.25 an hour (B.C.’s new minimum wage) is not enough to live on,” he said.

rfreeman@theprogress.com