Friday, December 06, 2002

Rex Murphy is a Canadian broadcaster who usually gives a pretty good view of things. How he manages to keep a job at the very liberal CBC TV is beyond me. If he is ever let go, I hope he runs for Prime Minister. Here is his Point of View of Dec. 4:

Point of View
CBC News and Current Affairs
Wed 04 Dec 2002

REX MURPHY: There was a mini epidemic of shooting and murder here in Toronto recently. Ten murders in five weeks. It struck me as mildly strange that years after gun registration legislation had been passed, that we were seeing people getting shot by guns in daylight and dark, in malls and outside clubs in such tragic numbers.

It was the very kind of happening that normally would've raised a great cry for gun registration, gun control. But of course it didn't because we already had gun control legislation. I kept expecting the police to come forward to tell us now that there was gun registration, that though they couldn't stop the murderers, it was going to be so easy to track them down.

And of course, they didn't.

Because gun registration is singularly inapplicable to the particular type of urban violence that stimulates the call for gun registration. Felons don't register their guns as a rule. That's point "A".

After all the sociology siences are over and the lobbying is done, gun registration is at best a very vague policy nebula to shield us from very real outbreaks of crime. But after Sheila Fraser, the Auditor-General told us yesterday that a program that we were told would cost a net $2 million would run up to $860 million and very likely a billion dollars, the bemusement at the policy got radically upgraded to rare and simple amazement.

How could a policy of so little measurable utility that was going to pay for itself shoot through the atmosphere heading for the billion dollar mark which seems to be becoming something of the gold standard when the Liberals leave their calculators at home. That's point "B".

They promised it would pay for itself and it's now revealed roughly costing one billion dollars, one thousand million. Do you want to know why there are no MRI's or why the armed forces are starved?

But there was more. What do you get for a Liberal government billion these days? A registry, 25 percent of whose entries by the RCMP's own declaration are not reliable. A debatable policy cost one billion dollars and the registry itself is useless to boot. It takes genius to be so wrong. That's point "C".

And finally the Auditor General herself and I have no fear of guessing this, staggered by the Godzilla of cost chasing the mouse of policy had further to report that there was even worse, that the government had kept the obese numbers to itself, that it hid from parliament what this ridiculous experiment was costing.

There are lessons to be drawn from this that go way beyond gun control. We're about to sign on to a health care plan where they start with really big numbers. Do you honestly believe what the government estimates fixing the health care system will cost.

It gets better. This government on Monday is going to sign on to the Kyoto protocols. Is there anything more elastic than projections on Kyoto? Guns, you can count. Weather is a cosmic playground. HRDC meets the jet stream. If we may use the track record of their estimates on gun control, it will pay for itself or maybe cost two million and the actual cost will reach one billion.

How confident are you that the wizards of the Liberal front bench have married the science and economics of climate change and will present a figure which will have meaning any longer than it takes to escape the lips of the minister who mumbles it. Or that they will tell us when the number in reality changes. They're so good at counting what's down here on earth. I can't wait for them to start on the clouds. Two million to one billion, that's not a margin of error that's Enron making a stopover in social policy.

For The National, I'm Rex Murphy.