01 March 2010

SCANners

One of the pieces of legislation included last May in Bond Papers’ list of legislation  not in force has turned up dead.

Cause of death is reported to be changed priorities.

As Terry Roberts reported in the Saturday Telegram, the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act (SCAN) won’t be put into force despite being passed by the legislature in 2007 and supposedly still being on track in 2008:

"At this point in time, there's no inclination to proclaim it because our priorities now have changed," Collins said.

"We've put significant investments into policing in the last couple of years, and that's where our priorities have gone."

He said the province's policing budgets have increased $40 million since 2004.

Collins said financial concerns played a role in deep-sixing the SCAN law.

"It's a question of getting the best bang for the buck with the resources you have," he noted.

But the minister could not put a dollar figure on how much implementing the Safer Communities law would have cost taxpayers.

Odd that Collins said financial concerns entered into consideration.  A highly misleading news release issued in 2007 – it was an election year, don’t forget – carried the title “Government takes action for safe communities and neighbourhoods” and also included this line:

Budget 2007 provided $237,000 for an investigation unit within the Department of Justice that will be in place as early as this fall.

Less than $250,000 dropped in 2007 with the clear implication in the release that not only was the legislation in force – when it wasn’t – but that government already budgeted cash to get the whole scheme up and rolling.

So how come three years later the whole thing is dead and money was a contributing factor to the project’s demise?

The SCAN messaging fit perfectly with the Tory campaign that fall which placed a heavy emphasis on crime and crime prevention.  The campaign even included a staged event with police recruits. 

SCAN didn’t get the highlight the Tory campaign expected though.  That’s likely because, as the Telegram reported, the law proved unpopular with community groups.  The Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women warned of serious problems with the bill and no evidence it actually worked in any of the other provinces  - like Alberta, Saskatchewan, and  Manitoba – where this type of law actually was in force.

Amendments to the bill seemed to address some of the concerns but apparently not sufficiently to avoid controversy.

SCAN legislation is supposed to deal with cases where property is being used for illegal activity but where it’s unlikely that the Crown prosecutors could  get a conviction under the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.  SCAN can also serve as a tip to law enforcement about illegal or suspicious activity.

SCAN isn’t the only topical piece of justice department legislation that is on the side of milk cartons.  In 2004, one of the first pieces of legislation passed by the new Tory-dominated legislature was designed to beef up court security. Six years later, the thing is still not in force. 

-srbp-

Related:  “Massive cost overruns, delays now normal for provincial government?”

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