No shoulder to cry on for crime victims -- that's gone, too

Michael SmythIn the House
The Province

February 19, 2004

Crown attorney Hank Reiner faced a situation the other day that all prosecutors in B.C. have to deal with: Distraught crime victims breaking down in grief in his office.

There was once a time in B.C. when he could have relied on a victims' counsellor to comfort people whose loved ones had been murdered or injured. It was a critically important function because it freed the Crown counsel to work on the evidence of a case and put the perpetrator of the crime behind bars.

But now the Gordon Campbell government has fired all those counsellors. And in one of the cruellest cuts in this week's balanced budget, the Campbell government stuck it to victims of crime again, slashing the budget for victims' services and community safety programs by $3 million.

"Victims' counsellors used to go to court with victims, comfort them, help them compose victim-impact statements that were later entered as evidence in court," Reiner explained yesterday.

"All that has been eliminated -- and that's a huge loss to the public."

This is the Campbell government's response to serious crime in our province. It's appalling.

The cut to victims' services and public-safety programs is just one line item in the budget of Solicitor-General Rich Coleman. That budget now looks like a piece of swiss cheese after it was slashed on Tuesday by $34 million.

The government cut the police-services budget by $13.5 million. Coleman, who was roasted in the legislature over the cuts yesterday, said the reduction is because the Robert Pickton pig-farm investigation is winding down.

Winding down? Didn't police just announce last month they had discovered the DNA of nine more missing women?

Coleman's explanation for cutting the police-services budget is ridiculous. It's doubly insulting when you consider the organized-crime raids on the legislature.

Other cuts to his ministry are also disturbing.

The Liberals have cut consumer-protection services by $590,000. So much for angry Telus customers and consumers ripped off by telemarketing scams.

Gaming enforcement operations have been cut. It was less than five years ago that Glen Clark resigned as premier in a casino-corruption scandal. Now the Liberals are cutting gaming enforcement at the same time they're expanding gambling. Nice priorities.

The Liberals even cut the budget for commercial vehicle safety this week!

Coleman says all these cuts were accomplished because the Liberals are such efficient managers.

Too bad the same thing can't be said about his own office. At the same time he was cutting the budget for victims' services, the budget for Coleman's office at the legislature was increased to hire a new executive assistant.

Voice mail: 604-605-2004


 The Vancouver Province 2004



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