Defund the police.
Those three words became a rallying cry in the Summer of 2020, when a Minneapolis man named George Floyd was brutally murdered by members of that city’s police force. Across the United States – and across Canada and Europe – hundreds of thousands of angry people rallied to protest police brutality.
And, for many, their rallying cry became “defund the police.”
It was a pithy phrase, not too many syllables, and – to some – it seemed like the best way to prevent police brutality: take away police funding. That’ll teach them.
Except that it was foolish. It was madness. And, in particular, it became the best way for Donald Trump and his ilk to illustrate the excesses of woke folk. They repeatedly reminded voters that the Democrats wanted to defund the police.
And it worked.
Joe Biden may have won the presidency in 2020, yes. But the “defund the police” refrain shattered the Democratic Party’s hopes to sweep the Senate and the House of Representatives.
James Carville, Bill Clinton’s election mastermind, called the defunding cry “a terrible drag” on the Democratic Party. Joe Biden, for his part, was blunt: “I do not support defunding the police.”
But the damage had been done. Democratic Party ambitions were crushed by the “defund the police” idiocy. And now, up here in Canada, Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre has seized on the issue, too, and it’s working: he’s way ahead in the national polls, in part, because of it.
You’d think that urban progressives would remember all of that. You’d think that they would recall that the best way to alienate the majority of voters is to advocate “defunding the police” – in effect, leaving people to protect themselves and their families.
But no. They’re at it again.
The recent decision of Toronto Mayor John Tory and Toronto’s Chief of Police to assign up to 80 police officers to the city’s transit system was denounced by many progressives who should know better. Despite the shocking number of murders, assaults, rapes and robberies taking place on or near city buses, streetcars and trains, the defunders have not been swayed.
“People are already criticizing the increased police presence on the TTC,” ran the headline in the much-read BlogTO. It went on to quote palliative care doctor Naheed Dosani, who tweeted: “Make no mistake: The violence we’re seeing on the TTC won’t be addressed by having more police present.” What was needed instead, Dosani wrote, was “more compassion.”
And, yes: more compassion is always desirable. But when your 16-year-old is being stabbed in broad daylight on a city bus – as one was, just a few days ago – feeling compassionate towards the person wielding the knife is a bit hard to do, isn’t it?
Like Dosani, author and activist Judy Rebick was unimpressed: “Some people, particularly Black and Indigenous people, will feel less safe on the TTC with more police.” BlogTO also quoted Jessica Neil, who pins a “defund the police” message to her Twitter profile. Wrote Neil: “Please understand this will not improve the safety of transit.”
Except, well, it does. And it has.
Three months ago, New York city mayor Eric Adams beefed up police presence in the Big Apple’s transit system. And it has worked. In just three months, major crimes have plummeted by nearly 20 per cent in NYC’s transit network.
The state’s governor, Kathy Hochul, appeared at a press conference this week with Adams to declare that the dramatic drop in crime “is a trend that we can feel good about.” Experts were similarly laudatory. Christopher Herrmann, an associate professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, suggested Adams and the police “can certainly pat themselves on the back” for their decision to bolster the ranks of cops.
Does police brutality happen? It does. Should it be investigated and punished, whenever it happens, without exception? It must be.
But the recent experience of New York City shows that defunding the police is not the solution. It in fact shows the reverse.
Don’t defund the police.
This is huge for me, us. In our little punk rock circle on the Canadian prairies, Marquee Moon was the summit – not punk rock, but with a punk sensibility and lyrical/musical genius. RIP. "Tom Verlaine, Singer and Guitarist of Television, Dead at 73" https://t.co/BQwVWBubSW
— Warren Kinsella (@kinsellawarren) January 28, 2023
Big political graves get dug with tiny shovels.
It’s a cliché, yes. This writer says that a lot. But it’s no less true for that, is it?
You’d think they’d learn, but they never do. In Canada: a Conservative cabinet minister who charged for eighteen-dollar orange juice, or a former Liberal MP who expensed a $1.29 pack of gum. In Britain: Members of Parliament expensing the cleaning of a moat – and the building of a duck house in the middle of a pond.
In America: a Republican congressman who sought compensation for “a tablecloth, three square pillows, a three-brush set, a metal tray, four temporary shades, four window panels, a white duck, two Punky Brewster items, a ring pop and two five-packs of animals.”
All of those expense scandals – and many, many more – resulted in resignations, firings or election losses (and sometimes all three). Because it’s always the little stuff that is most lethal, in politics. Because most of us have never held, or will hold, a billion dollars – out as billion anything – in our hands. It’s hard to comprehend.
But we know what a glass of orange juice should cost. We know that public servants who are paid well shouldn’t expensing “Punky Brewster items.”
Which brings us, with depressing regularity, to the latest outrages. Because – at a time when ordinary Canadians are debating whether they can afford to feed ground beef to their families – the latest outrages are deeply, profoundly disgusting.
Like how a federal bureaucrat, earning at least $120,000 a year, required that her chauffeur be flown from Montreal to Vancouver – twice. At taxpayer expense.
Like how bureaucrats hired a two-person Ottawa technology firm to develop their celebrated ArriveCan app, which was an unmitigated disaster. And for which the two-person firm then billed $54 million – and, allegedly unbeknownst to those selfsame bureaucrats, forked over the actual work to a bunch of other firms. Without anyone’s approval.
Like how the Trudeau folks spent a minimum of $66 million of your money on a consulting firm called McKinsey and Company. Said company having paid hundreds of millions in fines for pushing opioids in the U.S., when they knew opioids were killing many, many people. Said company touting their “carbon-reducing” work, while quietly representing 43 major carbon polluters. Said company boasting about its tobacco-fighting – while secretly helping Big Tobacco defeat those very initiatives.
With whose former global chairman Justin Trudeau was a close personal friend. Who he would later appoint Canada’s ambassador to China.
And on, and on, and on. It never ends. The entitlement, the greed, the petty corruption.
It’s enough to make you want to vomit. (It does me.)
For all of these things to be happening, over and over and over, is bad enough. But for them to be happening at a time when people are struggling – really, truly struggling – to simply feed themselves and their families? That’s more than a scandal.
In government, plural, these atrocities happen with every ideological disposition. Every political stripe, at every level. Judgment and restraint abandon them. And then, to recall an infamous phrase, they feel they are entitled to their entitlements.
They think they work really hard, and make super-duper big sacrifices, and that we – the taxpayer – should pay a little extra. And then more. And even more.
And then the downward-descent into greed and disgrace.
Let’s make a promise to each other: let’s all focus, right here and right now, on the bureaucrat – Isabelle Hudon – who flew her chauffeur across the country. Let’s make an example of her (as CBC, to its credit, is attempting to do). Let’s drive her out, and make her name synonymous with excess and shame.
Call the Office of the Prime Minister, (613) 992-4211, and express your outrage. Email him, if you want, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mostly, let’s get out some tiny shovels – and let’s all dig a big grave for Isabelle Hudon’s career.
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