Ottawa’s apathy on rural crime ‘outrageous,’ say central Alberta MPs

Recent parliamentary committee report on rural crime inadequate say MPs

Central Alberta MPs joined a call Thursday for the federal government to take rural crime seriously.

Lakeland MP Shannon Stubbs delivered a scathing attack on the federal Liberals’ record on crime at a news conference in front of the Alberta legislature.

Opposition politicians roundly criticized a long-awaited report on rural crime from a parliamentary committee that came out last week.

Stubbs said it was “outrageous” that the Liberal-dominated standing committee on public safety and national security tasked with examining rural crime last year produced a much-delayed, two-page report with no formal recommendations.

The report suggests the provinces spend more on emergency services and the RCMP should partner with other police agencies.

“Rural Canada is facing a public safety emergency,” said Stubbs, who was joined by other federal colleagues, several provincial and municipal politicians and the head of the Alberta Rural Crime Watch Association.

Rural crime in the Prairie province is 36 to 42 per cent higher than in urban areas, according to the latest Statistics Canada data from 2017.

The Conservative committee members filed their own report that points out how regularly short-staffed RCMP detachments are, while calling for tougher treatment of repeat offenders and more clarity in law for those defending themselves against criminals.

Stubbs lambasted the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for its “hug-a-thug, soft-on-crime approach” to public safety.

She was flanked by Red Deer-Mountain View MP Earl Dreeshen and Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins and others.

The public safety committee began its work after Stubbs’ motion on rural crime was unanimously supported last year.

“Then to see the games that were being played was pretty disheartening,” said Dreeshen in an interview following the news conference.

The committee was to study rural crime rates and trends, assess RCMP and other policing resources and the challenges they face, and look at improving the effectiveness of Indigenous police forces and support for victims of rural crime.

It was also to come up with possible recommendations to curb rising rural crime rates and improve crime prevention.

Dreeshen echoed Stubbs’ call for rural Canadians to raise their concerns any way they can with federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

“There are a lot of people who are concerned and they don’t see the federal government taking this seriously.

“I think the critical thing with this … is we have to get Ralph Goodale engaged with this. That’s where a person has to put some pressure on.”

Dreeshen and Calkins were part of a rural crime task force that produced a report on rural crime in Alberta last year after criss-crossing the province to hear residents’ concerns. It provided a lengthy list of recommendations.

Dreeshen said whether the recommendations in the Alberta report become part of the Conservative party’s approach to tackling crime and public safety would depend on what comes out of further consultation with all Canadians.

“It would be somewhat presumptious of us to say what we heard is all that we would hear from voices across the country,” said Dreeshen, who praised the Alberta Rural Crime Watch Association.

“We did this because of their voices and the concerns that they had.”

Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner MP Glen Motz said the Liberals have taken a “dismissive approach” to rural crime issues and many of the party’s urban-based MPs on the public safety committee were clearly uninformed about the importance of the matter to rural residents.

“They just didn’t get it,” he said.

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