My problem with Stephen Harper’s effort to be hard on crime and terror is not that it lacks compassion, empathy and other mushy left-wing values. It’s that it will create more crime and more terror.

Take crime. Doubtless his policies are tough on criminals: higher mandatory sentences, end the “faint hope” clause, make parole scarce. The trouble is they aren’t tough on crime. Criminologists, or a little common sense, suggest the measures will result in more crime by leaving people in jail longer, with less hope, and then releasing them without the supervision they get on parole. If that sounds speculative and theoretical, look at the U.S.

But our new leader seems to get satisfaction from announcing the policies, so at least someone is benefiting. When he told a police meeting this week, “If you do a serious crime, you’re going to start doing serious time,” he looked relaxed and expansive, as he did when he began ending speeches with: “God bless Canada.”

His comfort zone is clearly American, he can imagine himself as George Bush or Ronald Reagan and it works for him — just like having some war heroes acknowledged during Tuesday’s State of the Union, I mean Speech from the Throne. Nice for him. He feels better. He’s taken a stand against the bad guys. But about those shootings . . .

Now terror: Peter Mansbridge asked the PM if our Afghanistan role puts Canada in al-Qaeda’s crosshairs. The PM said no, because the people who destroyed the World Trade Centre would equally like to destroy this country. With all respect, Mr. Speaker, that is what kids at camp call horse puckey. When George Bush said something similar about the inevitability of the U.S. being attacked, Osama bin Laden replied, “Perhaps he can tell us why we did not attack Sweden.”

Ex-CIA expert on al-Qaeda, Michael Scheuer, says “Theirs is a war against a specific target and for specific, limited purposes.” It is, in a standard bin Ladenism, to make America “pull out of the Arabian Peninsula” and “cease its meddling in Palestine and throughout the Islamic world.”

If Stephen Harper doesn’t know that, he is one ignorant policy wonk. If he does, he’s being disingenuous. Either way, his Afghanistan policy is like painting a bull’s eye on us. I’m not against that at times — I do it to myself — but don’t pretend you don’t know what those big circles you’re making mean.

Then they pull Canadian funding from the elected Hamas government in Palestine. What will be the effect? Everything that happens in Palestine ripples through the Arab, and then Muslim, world.

When the blind leader of Hamas was assassinated by U.S.-made missiles fired from Israeli helicopters in 2004, there was immediate rage from Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq, followed by the killing of four U.S. security men in Fallujah, whose bodies were dragged behind cars bearing pictures of the dead Hamas leader. Many “insurgents” are shifting back to Afghanistan from Iraq. There will be a line drawn marking the Canadian role from Palestine to Kandahar.

What is the point of acting in the world if you don’t take account of the consequences of your acts? Canada’s mildly independent stance in the region used to suggest “the West” was not monolithically aligned with U.S. policy. It was a straw of hope for pro-secular, anti-fundamentalist forces in the region.

But now Canada carries out U.S. policy — like cutting off Hamas — even before the U.S. does. This becomes an argument for monolithic, fanatical responses. “They” mistreat us; “we” must hit them back. The terror metre rises. Move the arrow up another colour. Are we there yet?

It’s like the crime-punishment stuff. You may think you’ve taken a moral stand, it makes you feel good. But that’s not what policy is about. Policy is about consequences to others: war, peace, life, death.

A final note on domestic policy. I read Margaret Wente’s column in The Globe and Mail yesterday on how national child care would benefit the middle classes, not the poor. I’m earnestly searching for her 1964 column about how public health care will do the same. I’m sure it was as clear then as it is now. It’s taking time because the files aren’t computerized and your fingers get inky.


Rick Salutin

Rick Salutin is a Canadian novelist, playwright and critic. He is a strong advocate of left wing causes and writes a regular column in the Toronto Star.