“The essential message that I bring to the House and to the people of Canada about this budget is that it is not a budget for everyone. It is not a budget that brings Canadians together. It is not a budget for one Canada. It is a budget that focuses on a certain group of people. It does far more for those who are better off than for those who are not. In that sense, it is a budget that fails our vision in the Liberal Party, of being able to talk out of all sides of our mouth at exactly the same time, when we say that the search for prosperity for Canada is exceptionally important and the success of our businesses is exceptionally important.
However, I want to refer to one other item that is not in the list of things, because it relates to a major debate that we will be having in this country in the fall, and that is the cost of prisons. The government is about to take this country on a course with respect to the reform of the criminal justice system that will repeat every significant error made in the United States and made in Europe, particularly in the U.K., for which those countries are now repenting and seeing the folly and unwisdom of their ways.
The government is pretending as if the simple solution to every act of crime and every misdeed in our society is to simply throw the accused into jail and, essentially, to throw away the key.
The cost of that is going to be borne by every Canadian and the provinces and the municipalities. It ignores the fact that our correctional institutions are about to become the largest mental health institutions in the country.
We must recognize that despite all of our successes, Canada has the highest suicide rate in the western world. That principally is because there are far too many young Canadians, young teenagers, young aboriginal people in particular, who do not see a way out, who do not see hope and who do not see opportunity.“
This speech is pretty great overall. The decision to focus on “unity” was a shrewd one by Mr. Rae considering Jack Layton’s vulnerability on issues of federalism. While Stephen Harper purposefully seeks to divide Canadians, the NPD’s policies would result in a literal division of Canadians.
Rae covers a lot of issues in this speech (the possibility of another global recession, the environment and the deficit) but his decision to also touch on mental health was a pleasant surprise. As Liberals we must fight conservative fear mongering on crime with the facts (which was one of the themes of this speech) but we sometimes forget the human face of poverty, mental health and crime. Mental health issues have been left out of the crime debate in Canada and this speech was a good first step in expanding the debate.