There's unrelenting talk of a spring Federal election in Canada's capital. It's generally anticipated that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's national budget which is expected by mid-March will set the tone for the political discourse leading into a national election.
The general expectation is that "security" will play a significant role in setting the stage for any heated battle for the hearts and minds of the Canadian electorate. It may boil down to a clearly defined three pronged agenda.
The Prime-Minister's visit with President Barack Obama a week ago has already established the benchmark for a debate over "perimeter security": A plan which critics complain could see Canada sacrifice some measure of its sovereignty in order to soften American border restrictions imposed over the threat of cross-border terrorism.
The Flaherty budget itself is expected to offer a road map for Canada's long range "economic security" in the face of the country's spending deficit and mounting national debt. The turmoil since the economic crisis began has not only erased Canada's pre-2008 annual national surplus of close to $15-Billion, but the deficit for the current fiscal year could top $50-Billion.
As defined by the Federal Government, "personal security" too is to be included as a part of the lead-up to a potential election in the spring. the ruling Conservative Government is intensifying it's multi-billion dollar get-tough on crime agenda with currently close to twenty proposed crime and justice bills winding their way through Parliament. Some estimates predict this energized crime policy will cost billions of dollars and significantly increase the prison population. Parliament's budget officer has predicted the crackdown on crime will mean additional expenditures of $2-Billion just to build more prisons.
If adopted by Parliament, the various get-tough-on-crime measures would be implemented despite a 33-year low in Canada's national crime rate. Faced with a looming election the Liberals in opposition have already signalled they are prepared to take this fight over crime directly to Canadians. Just a few days ago Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said one of the proposed Tory measures..."isn't tough on crime, it's dumb on crime."
Measures already implemented in a 3-year-old $400-million plan to put more policemen on the streets of the country have reduced the incidents-per-officer ratio for Canadian police officers to 32. Meaning that each of the country's 69,000 police officers handles an average of just 32 cases per year, the lowest ratio in close to 50 years. But nationally, police operating costs have double to $12.5 Billion / year in just the last 25 years.
In other countries and at other times crime statistics have been used irresponsibly or even misused to argue in support of get tough on crime agendas. Some experts caution that there is frequently little correlation between building more jails, or putting more policemen on the streets and a falling crime rate.