Stephen Harper thinks the national media are out to get him, so he's taking measures to restrict and regulate media access at the press gallery.
I feel obliged to offer the besieged PM some words of advice so he doesn't become a national embarrassment.
Thicken your skin, Stephen. If you're too sensitive to take the sting of criticism, you're in the wrong job.
If you can't take the heat, consider the wide array of anti-psychotic medications for curbing paranoia.
The only surefire way to reduce critical press scrutiny is to start making good public policy instead of promoting ineffective proposals that invariably lead to ridicule.
Take Harper's latest proposal to introduce a new law against street ra-cing, presumably in response to a number of tragic fatalities in Ontario and BC.
There is no question that great dangers are created by men with small dicks who need to live out their fast and furious fantasy in a 1976 Starsky And Hutch Ford Grand Torino. But why create yet another law when the Criminal Code already addresses this problem?
We currently have a crime of dan-gerous driving, which calls for a sentence of 14 years in the case of death. Street racing fits squarely within this prohibition.
Also, the Criminal Code allows the sentencing judge to issue a licence suspension of up to five years to anyone convicted of dangerous driving. Adding a new offence of street racing is a purely symbolic gesture with few practical gains.
In recent years, the city of San Diego has significantly reduced its high incidence of street racing without new cri-minal laws. It did so by vigorously enforcing existing driving laws and by introducing the RaceLegal program to allow street racers access to public racetracks for organized competitions.
With a little ingenuity, social problems can be effectively dealt with by proper enforcement of existing laws. But far too often, politicians prefer to play politics, championing legislative initiatives in order to appear to be responding to a social problem without actually taking the risk of doing something new.
Remember the creation of the anti-biker "criminal organization" law in 1997? It was designed to cover extortion, pimping, drug running and murder, but only when committed by a criminal organization a group of people dedicated to a life of extortion, pimping and drug running. Holy redundancy, Batman! We already have laws against these crimes and many, many more.
Whether these crimes are committed as part of gang activity is clearly relevant when considering the severity of sentence or punishment, but it is not really a new crime. So why was it put into our Code? Because the police in Quebec wanted the feds to respond to the increasing wave of biker violence, a response that usually translates into votes at election time.
There have been real gains in Quebec, primarily because of increased resources and greater collaboration between police and prosecutors, but for the most part the new law has only led to protracted constitutional challenges and failed mega-trials in newly built high-security courthouses across the country.
Closer to home, Crown prosecutor Hank Goody has referred to the current prosecution of the Galloway Boys in Scarborough under the criminal organization law as a "logistical nightmare."
Similarly, the enactment of a new street racing law will do little to enhance public safety and will invariably raise a whole host of definitional issues for lawyers: What is a race? What constitutes evidence of a race? Does the race need to be planned or can it arise spontaneously? Do you need spectators and wagering? What are the legal implications of being a spectator?
Prosecuting street racers under the current dangerous driving provisions is a simple task, whereas Harper's proposal will just add a layer of unnecessary complexity to the law.
The automobile may be a dangerous weapon in the hands of a reckless few, but in light of the current legal regime, this is clearly not a pressing issue in need of an immediate political response.
Canada actually has the third-lowest road fatality rate in the Western world, and in 2001 Ontario reported its lowest number of fatalities in 50 years (845 deaths).
Stephen Harper is wasting time and resources by making the fight against street racing a pressing legislative objective while ignoring the real dangers presented by the 19 million passenger vehicles that congest our roadways and our lungs. It is not surprising that he's trying to shield himself from aggressive media questioning.
Last year a report by Toronto Public Health estimated that in Toronto alone there were 822 deaths due to air pollution and 120 due to extreme heat. Traffic fatalities across Canada rarely exceed 3,000 a year, whereas the Ontario Medical Association estimated in 2005 that 5,800 people would be killed by air pollution in Ontario alone. In 2002, the World Health Organization reported that 3 million people die each year from air pollution. This is three times the number of deaths from worldwide traffic accidents. WHO also concludes that half the deaths caused by air pollution can be traced to car emissions.
When it comes to cars, the real political issue that needs to be addressed with courage and innovation is the sad reality that our car fetish is slowly choking us all to death. Ironically, Harper wants to get tough with street racers while reneging on our obligations under the Kyoto Accord.