The True North Times
  • First to podcast with Wilfrid Laurier
  • Exporting Beaver Hides to the Metropol since 1608
  • Ineligible for the Supreme Court
  • Winnipeg? There?
  • Peter Mansbridge’s bathroom reading material
  • The only thing that Andrew Coyne DOESN'T hate
  • For the sophisticated hoser
  • It's Dynamite!
  • Now with 60 minute hours!
  • Yet to be castrated by Margaret Wente

All you need is smiles.
Jane Lytvynenko / CUP

In case you were busy boycotting Tim Horton’s or engaging in some other act of patriotism, Bill C-51, the new anti-terror legislation that will give more power to law enforcement and CSIS, passed in the Senate 44-28.

While the NDP have gained support by opposing bill C-51 outright, Federal Liberals are supporting the Conservative’s highly divisive counterterrorism bill, despite promising to amend it after forming government. They also don’t want the government to make “political hay out of an issue,” as Mr. Trudeau said, whatever that might mean.

With C-51 frequenting both hyperbolic news headlines and the Centre Block Circus otherwise known as Question Period, nuance and reason are naturally hard to come by when discussing C-51. Additionally, when juxtaposed with the Conservative support for the bill and the NDP opposition to the bill, the Liberal stance of “support even though we dislike it and will probably change it” can easily, and justifiably, confuse. To clarify the Liberal position on Bill C-51, the investigative team here at The True North Times got investigative.

We e-mailed Liberal MPs to better understand their position with respect to C-51 and to discover how they felt about the proposed legislation. After all, while the Conservatives and NDP have been using strong and extreme rhetoric in public statements about the bill, it seems as though the Liberals are pretending it doesn’t exist. The NDP are talking about the end of democracy while the Liberals point to their new tax plan, so we wanted to get a sense of where Liberal MPs stood. The internal diversity of a political party becomes particularly relevant when that party takes a great deal of criticism over their complicated stance. Sorry, Chris Alexander, based on all accepted definitions of the word “controversial,” C-51 is indeed that.

We tried to work with the Conservatives to make this bill better … based on conversations with Canadians like you.

Overall, responses were underwhelming and lazy with a small dose of irritating. The bright side was that a decent number of MPs actually responded. Participation medals don’t quite cut it though. Justin Trudeau and Liberal Critic for Public Safety Wayne Easter responded with similar but not identical write-ups outlining the Liberal position and the problems with Bill C-51.

Disappointingly, a number of MPs—Geoff Regan, Scott Brison, Rodger Cuzner, and Chrystia Freeland—referred our inquiry to Wayne Easter and provided no original thought on the matter. Freeland’s Twitter account is oddly void of C-51 recently, but is truly a great resource for news on Ukraine. The conclusion could be drawn that there is more freedom for MPs to sound off about a major post-Cold War conflict with global implications than respond to voters regarding a domestic counterterror bill. MPs Carolyn Bennett, Hedy Fry, and Lawrence MacAulay were equally uninterested in originality, but did kindly copy Wayne Easter’s message rather than direct us to his office. It’s almost like they were all scared to talk about the bill, even though they opposed it a few months ago.

I encourage you to get in touch with the office of the Hon. Wayne Easter, who is the critic responsible for the bill.

The only varied responses came from MPs Irwin Cotler, Francis Scarpalleggia, and Ralph Goodale. While Cotler’s office simply attached an excerpt from Question Period and a link to a co-authored piece with Liberal Lebron James Wayne Easter, Scarpalleggia provided something thoughtful. Out of all MPs contacted, he is one of two to go off-script even slightly, discussing the bill’s pros and cons and taking the time to go through the important amendments that the Liberals have proposed. Scarpalleggia even gives a bromantical shout out to his colleague Irwin Cotler, whom he refers to as a “renowned human rights advocate,” in a genuinely passable use of the “that guy did it too so it’s legitimate” argument.

The other MP to go off script in this brave new world was Ralph Goodale (quote below), who may have actually written his email himself. His response is strangely to the point for a politician. The best part of Goodale’s email is his PS, which notes, “Mr. Mulcair and the NDP have pledged not to repeal C-51 but to amend it along lines that Liberals have already proposed.” It is unclear why these three MPs discuss the issue more liberally, but it is possible they missed the memo on party discipline amidst the daily distraction of office toilets overflowing with Liberal Senators’ incessant attempts to flush taxpayer money.

The practical point is this — no matter how anyone votes in this Parliament, Harper has a majority and he will force his will while trying to demonize his opponents.

Even if the Liberal record on C-51 is confusing, what is presently clear is that the party is trying to make the Liberal position digestible and consistent. With the standard response clocking in at roughly the length of a short essay, that’s likely wise. What is also clear is that MPs are not willing or able to discuss this issue with much freedom, even if they have spoken out against it previously. Personalities and localized messages are being policed, which would be more understandable if Liberals held a popular position. Liberals burning their party membership cards is probably a good impetus to begin questioning the status quo, and maybe to let MPs switch off autopilot.