NDP stalls final vote on crime bill

Procedural tactics by the NDP in the House of Commons managed to postpone a final vote on the Conservative government’s sweeping crime bill late Wednesday.

OTTAWA, Ont. — Procedural tactics by the NDP in the House of Commons managed to postpone a final vote on the Conservative government’s sweeping crime bill late Wednesday.

The stalling tactics mean Bill C-10 likely won’t come to a final vote until early next week — a perhaps fitting end-game for a bill that has attracted no end of partisan acrimony in parliament.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson accused New Democrats of being more interested in procedural games than doing the right thing for Canadians.

“All you hear from them: ‘we don’t like the procedure, we had an amendment here that we wanted.’ I say, c’mon, let’s get on with it, let’s do the right thing for the people of this country,” Nicholson shouted in the Commons during a heated exchange Wednesday.

The omnibus legislation, which includes nine, separate crime-related bills on a wide range of issues, was a key plank in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s re-election campaign last spring.

The Conservatives promised to pass the bill within 100 sitting days of the new parliament, and should still easily meet that target despite the delay.

The NDP gamesmanship, however, spoiled the government’s carefully orchestrated communications plan, which included flying Nicholson, a Conservative senator and junior cabinet minister Julian Fantino to Woodbridge, Ont., earlier Wednesday for a news conference with high-profile victims rights advocate Sheldon Kennedy.

“Canadians gave our government a strong mandate to crack down on child predators and violent drug traffickers,” Nicholson said in Woodbridge.

Conservatives, victims rights advocates, some police organizations and some addictions organizations maintain the measures will lead to safer communities and fewer victims of crime.

But the government itself has never set a measurable target for assessing crime reduction during a period when Canadian crime rates have generally fallen to their lowest level since the early 1970s.

“We believe that eventually the crime rate will continue to proceed in the right direction,” Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said last September.

The bill’s many critics say bitter experience shows that the move to mandatory minimum sentences, longer jail terms, less judicial discretion and harsher treatment of minors won’t increase public safety but will prove costly.

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