Rathgeber talks economy, crime

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Edmonton-St. Albert Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber said he expects the federal government will have to be flexible in dealing with possibly shifting economic times as the fall session of Parliament is set to open.

In an editorial board meeting with the Gazette Wednesday, Rathgeber said Canada’s economy is strong, but acknowledged the country would be hard pressed to stay on that track if recessions hit the United States and Europe.

“The key word is flexible, as opposed to what I think would have otherwise been a very determined government to reach its deficit targets.”

During the last election, the Conservatives promised to aggressively pursue returning the country to balanced budgets by winding down stimulus programs and cutting government budgets. They promised the government would offer a balanced budget in 2014.

Rathgeber said that simply might not be the case if the economy takes another tumble.

“Our preference was to wind them down, get them finished, pay for them and then work diligently to return to balanced budgets by 2014,” he said. “If we do enter another period of recession, we need to be flexible with what was our election promise.”

He said even without more government stimulus spending, a recession would be difficult for the province to deal with.

“That which would have been in difficult, but not impossible, in strong economic times, with good revenue sources from employed Canadians and corporations making money, becomes all the more difficult if we enter a recession.”

Crime bill

Rathgeber said, while keeping the economy on course will be a major focus of the government, law and order is probably second on the list.

As part of an election promise, the government will introduce a comprehensive piece of public safety legislation into the House of Commons this fall.

The bill, called the Protecting Families and Holding Criminals Accountable Act, is a collection of previously introduced legislation the Conservatives tried to pass when they were in minority status.

Rathgeber couldn’t reveal exactly which provisions would be in the bill, but did say the government’s proposal to re-enact anti-terrorism provisions brought in right after Sept. 11, 2001 would be part of the package.

Those provisions allow for a person to be arrested and detained for three days without charge and for a person to be compelled to testify in a closed court, both under extremely rare circumstances.

Neither of the provisions has ever been used, and when they were initially introduced, they had a sunset clause. The clause required Parliament to reauthorize the laws, which, under previous minority governments, did not take place.

Rathgeber said he is concerned about the infringement of civil liberties, but in the extreme cases the bills envision, he believes they could be important.

“If it is needed, I think the security benefits to the country as whole far outweigh the infringement.”

Different house

With the tragic passing of NDP leader Jack Layton and the Liberal leadership also still pending, Rathgeber said the atmosphere in the House of Commons may be different in the next session.

He said, with those opposition parties trying to re-establish themselves, the government might have an easier time passing its legislation, but he doubts that will be the case.

“You would think that would make it very easy for the government, but that isn’t necessarily so. A rudderless ship can come at you from all directions depending on what day it is.”

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St. Albert Gazette

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