Archive for category Anti-Terror
Due process is a right that ensures every Canadian citizen is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, and the ability to properly defend and question evidence before an independent court. It is a constitutional right.
There’s been a lot of anger regarding the Omar Khadr settlement, and a lot of it coming from the alt-right side of the political spectrum, even suggestions that the constitution should not apply to those who are terrorists. Just think for a minute. If due process rights are suspended on suspected terrorists, who decides who’s a terrorists and based on what evidence? The Supreme Court of Canada has set rules regarding how much evidence is needed to convict someone of a terrorist offense. If you throw the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of “suspected” terrorists out the window, then there are no such rules that apply.
If you speak out against government, does that make you a terrorist? Do opposition parties then become terrorists of the state? If you had an argument with your neighbor does he get to call in the authorities and have you arrested on terrorism charges? Does witchcraft, and questioning the christian bible make you a terrorist? All of these are strong possibilities when due process rights are not actively administered. If there is no evidence threshold because there’s no rights guaranteed by the charter and upheld by the supreme court, than a simple thing like picking up your coffee mug different than you did the morning before could be enough to land you with a room mate named bubba.
In Khadr’s case it was the US government who decided Khadr was a terrorist and this was based on a coerced confession and evidence that even former crown prosecutors in Canada have confessed wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole, let alone be able to obtain any sort of conviction in a Canadian court. There was no trial, and no court conviction. The only conviction Khadr received was that through the court of public opinion as a result of due process not being awarded, and being tortured into confession. He’s getting paid $10.5 million to compensate for damages he has suffered as a result. As far as I am concerned that number should be a lot higher.
I’m going to have a lot more on this in the next few days, and weeks but I wanted to weigh in, because the real tragedy in all of this, is that I feel almost ashamed to be Canadian. Not because we paid Khadr $10.5 million but that we have allowed the alt-right to take control of the political messaging on this for a week (as a result of the Government not coming out ahead on this), all the while they have argued against our constitution, against our Canadian values, and are calling those that support our constitution and freedoms within it, supporters of terrorism.
I must say, that as a proud patriotic Canadian, the past few days I have kicked all of my friends who claim to be from the alt-right out of my circle, without any hesitation, some of which were close friends for decades and recently bought into this cult and started attacking me for supporting our constitution, and there will be no hesitation if I find more. After what I’ve heard this week, I have no sympathy for any movement or political party that has launched such an all out assault on our constitution, which is a lot more disgusting and treasonous to me as a Canadian than ensuring one of our own is compensated for a “witch hunt” that three consecutive governments (two Liberal and one Conservative) had a hand in.
Protection Our Constitutional Rights Should Be A Priority For Trudeau As A Result Of Trump Nomination
(Anti-terror bill C51 just took on a whole new face with Donald Trump’s nomination for US President)
Has anyone noticed that one of the major policy promises the Trudeau Liberals were elected on seems to be missing in action? When Justin Trudeau took office it seems like the mad rush to legalize pot was more of a priority than our charter rights. Just this spring the government announced plans to legalize pot by spring of 2017, yet the government hasn’t committed “yet” to looking at our draconian anti-terror legislation which was a major issue due to the Liberals position of support for the legislation prior to our election last year.
During the 2015 federal election campaign Trudeau and fellow Liberals were blasted over their support for the Conservative lead anti-terror bill. Trudeau committed to voters that if elected he would overhaul the bill, rather than scrap it, too ensure it was compliant with Canadian Charter rights. Around the same time the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression launched a charter challenge on the bill.
It very well could be that the government is waiting on the decision of the charter challenge (which can take years if not decades) before Canadians can expect any meaningful changes to the bill. The lack of response from the Liberal government to protect Canadians constitutional rights should be way more of concern now especially with Donald Trump being nominated the republican nominee for president state side. Most of our Internet traffic routes through the US than back to Canada, and the US is no stranger to its mass collection of data that crosses its boarders.
Back a few years ago the collection of data to root out possible terror attacks was front and center of a global debate on personal privacy online. Heading up that debate was a former National Security Agency (NSA) systems administrator Edward Snowden who leaked several documents to journalists detailing the mass invasion of privacy in the US and around the globe. Snowden came out strong on ones right to privacy. On the other side of that debate was General Michael Hayden who stated that collection of data was necessary to protect the US homeland from attacks. Now even Hayden is extremely concerned about what a Trump presidency could bring (especially at time index 5:07 in the below video):
It’s not just nukes the world needs to worry about, it’s how our private data would be used by the US under Trump; I would even state under Hillary Clinton as well. In the face of what is happening in US politics right now, Canadian law makers need to assure Canadians that our data remains private, secure, and out of the hands of foreign countries. We need immediate action on bill C-51 as a result.
(Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale)
During the election the Liberals heard from Canadians on the new anti-terror bill C-51, and promised to repeal sections of this bill that are problematic. We still don’t know exactly which provisions will be repealed. This past Friday, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale took to the airwaves stating that Canada must be a world leader in tackling radicalization. During the last election the Liberals promised to reform the Conservatives Anti-Terror bill promising to consult with the public and experts.
In 2009 I took part in the Governments copyright consultations. These consultations were held in town hall meetings with then Minister of Industry Tony Clement, and Heritage Minister at the time James Moore in a public forum. These town hall meetings were open up to the public, and also encouraged the public to attend online. There was also a forum set up by pollster Nic Nanos where people from across the country could air their concerns and debate those concerns in the forum setting regarding copyright legislation and digital rights. What came out of this consultation process was a balanced approach to copyright law based on the views expressed during the consultation process. A made in Canada approach to public policy regarding copyright.In my opinion this was one of the crowning achievements of the last Government when it came to public policy consultation (a process which the Conservatives later abandoned), and there’s a significant need in the debate between civil liberties and security that demands this type of consultation.
Since the NSA leaks from former NSA system administrator Edward Snowden there has been lengthy and informal debates around the issues between civil liberties and security. The Liberal platform during the last election promised evidence based approach to public policy, and widespread consultation with the public and experts on issues relating to the anti-terror bill. What better way to do that, than using the previous Governments copyright consultation process as a benchmark in the debate around anti-terror and radicalization.
If we are to become a world leader in tackling radicalization, than government needs to hear from not just stakeholders, but the public as well. The Liberals won the last election from what the polls suggested, not on the exclusivity of the Liberal platform and stance on the Conservatives anti-terror bill, but rather a vast majority looked to have voted strategically to overthrow Steven Harper’s Conservatives. Canadians will be watching very closely to how the Liberals treat the anti-terror bill, and whether the current Government will take the time to consult broadly with the public, rather than using their elected mandate to ignore public concerns on the bill and shut them out of any consultation process.
If we are to become a world leader in tackling radicalization, we must also become a world leader in listening to public will, and working together to come up with solutions that are balanced and encompass a wide range of views. Only then can other world leaders look upon Canada as a beaming example of how to get it right. For Canada to become a world leader in tackling radicalization we must develop a balanced approach to policy. In order to achieve that true balance, all Canadians should be broadly consulted in a more formal manner by Government.
From the Paris attacks to last week’s mass shootings in California, like many in the civilized world over the past month I’ve been trying to wrap my head around these attacks, and why under mass surveillance are they continuing to happen with greater frequency.
Last week the 42nd parliament resumed with no word or mention from the Liberal government in the throne speech on one of the parties biggest promises, which was to fix the Conservatives anti-terror bill C-51. On this past Sunday, US President Barack Obama took to the airwaves from the oval office, and told Americans that with the build-up of the Russian military in Syria, that the US fight against ISIL will remain an intelligence gathering and special forces mission. Could the Liberal government here in Canada be stalling on anti-terror reforms as a result of US pressure?
I recently watched an investigative report on ISIL’s recruitment of women in the UK. The investigation took almost a year to complete. The report detailed one undercover Muslim women’s journey to seek out and try to get accepted into an ISIL cell. After 3 weeks of baiting radicalized ideology exclusively and very openly on Twitter, she started getting re-tweets and reply’s back from known ISIL terrorists. Within a few months, she was able to penetrate an ISIL supported cell in the UK and record with hidden cameras the meetings with other female ISIL supporters.
ISIL is using social media very openly on Twitter and Facebook to recruit people to their cause. Obama stated in his oval office address that he expects social media companies to do more in dealing with radicalized individuals. Twitter for its part in the UK investigative report started suspending radicalized accounts including the undercover journalist, which can be counterproductive to the intelligence community. In Canada under our anti-terror law C-51 it is a crime to openly support ISIL. This type of law makes our collection of targeted intelligence against ISIL that much harder, as those communications move from a public forum on the internet, to more private one making it that much harder for our law enforcement to track. What the Conservative government did with C-51 is make Canada less secure.
Dealing with radicalized ideology very much needs to be countered. The answer isn’t mass surveillance, its targeted surveillance. France for instance, has one of the world’s top intelligence agencies which specialize in Middle Eastern, and African intelligence. Yet one cold November night Paris came under attack by radicalized ISIL supporters. The problem is that there is too much information coming into our intelligence agencies as a result of mass surveillance, that these intelligence agencies miss what’s happening in plain view. Many intelligence professionals took to the airwaves after the Paris attacks stating that mass surveillance is only useful after the fact, and not in preventing terror attacks.
How do we counter radicalized ideology? You can’t counter someone’s belief systems with bombs and killing, you counter it with facts, and common sense. Going back to that UK investigative report, what should have been done is that the Muslim leadership in the UK should be showing other investigative pieces as to what happens with women and girls once they are in ISIL controlled territories. PBS did an excellent investigative piece on this. Women and girls in ISIL controlled territories are continually raped, beaten and passed around like trading cards. Those women that are often loured by the extreme ideology of ISIL, find themselves trapped in hell (not utopia) and are often wanting to flee for their lives.
Canada needs to be a leader in changing the conversation away from mass Internet surveillance to one that is targeted surveillance. There is no need for C-51. Laws before C-51 very much allow for this to already be done within the scope of the criminal code of Canada. We need a national strategy that is inclusive among Canada’s Muslim community to deal with radicalization. The Liberals promised to base their positions on fact based policy making. We’ve seen no indication from last week’s throne speech that will happen with C-51, and with the past months events in Paris and around the world, I think Canadians expected the anti-terror policy to be at the top of the Liberals policy agenda. Instead it’s been excluded as a top priority, and was a top priority for the Liberals during the election. I don’t think Canadians can expect meaningful reforms to C-51 in the future, if the US is pressuring for more mass surveillance.
I’ve been fairly critical of the media’s role in this election. From the consortium threatening to pull Conservative Ads on false copyright pretenses, to political favoritism in the Munk Debates, and now the situation with the former National Post editorial editor Andrew Coyne when the post refused to post his endorsement of a political candidate.
I called last nights big win for the Liberals hours prior to the election taking place. From the looks of things, the Conservative progressive vote (which is based around civil liberties) and the anti-conservative vote went to the NDP at the very beginning of the campaign as a result of the Liberal support for Bill C-51. I think the tipping point for the Conservative progressives was the Liberal policy on TPP and trade in which the Greens and NDP wanted to kill. All of the poll numbers suggested to me that’s when the NDP and Conservative vote started to go down, and Liberals went up at the time of the signing of the TPP. Last night the anti-conservative vote, voted strategically and rallied behind the Conservative progressive move to the Liberals and oust Harper.
Besides getting screamed at for hours after my call for a Liberal win from my conservative friends on Facebook (too which now owe me a bottle of rum), this was a big shocker to some. Did big media have any pull in the election? It’s quite clear throughout this election that the consortium has been acting inappropriately. The Globe debates were some of the most horrible debates I’ve ever seen with Conservative leaning questions, and statements from the editor of the Globe (who’s editorial board ended up supporting the Conservatives days before the election). Not to mention the lack of coverage Elizabeth May’s responses to debate questions on social media as a result of her being left out of several debates. I think it may be too soon to tell to see if traditional media had the impact they were hoping for.
I think traditional media’s role here really depends on the break down of voter engagement. If the youth voted in big numbers, than traditional media and poll results had very little pull with voter intentions. Most in this age group get their media online and through social media. The Liberals had a strong social media presence in this campaign. I ran into it a few times, especially with MP Wayne Easter (which I congratulated last night on his re-election) debating C-51, not to mention many other potential Liberal MPs on the bill. The Liberals weren’t shy on social media, and came out fighting (and most without per-scripted talking points), unlike most of the NDP and Conservative hopefuls.
If the voter engagement was more balanced, than I think there needs to be questions put by Canadians on exactly how the media and/or lobby groups played a role in trying to intentionally sway voter intentions to the benefit of one or more parties. Do you think traditional media played a big role in the Liberal election win? Post your comments/observations below.
Let’s put it this way; we could have used the swagger and unexpectedness Donald Trump presented in last nights US Republican debates in the Canadian leaders debate. Instead, the first hour the Canadian debate consisted of Conservative leader Stephen Harper doing what he does best which is misleading Canadians on facts. Green Party leader Elizabeth May catching Harper on misleading facts (which is why she needs to be in every debate). Liberal leader Justin Trudeau attacking the NDP leader Tom Mulcair over a non-issue regarding Quebec separatism because he’s lost a tremendous amount of support to Mulcair over the anti-terror bill. Finally Mulcair looked like he was part of some alien race freaking people out on social media with his weird smile, and alien like black eyes peering into their living rooms when he looked directly into the camera when debating the other leaders.
The two that had the best body language in the debate were the two national debate veterans, May and Harper. Trudeau came across as a kid with something to prove (Liberals think his downfall is due to Harper’s attack ads, not his position on supporting the new anti-terror bill. Liberals are still tone deaf on that because they have nothing to fear but fear itself), and Mulcair just looked nervous for the first hour. On the other hand May seemed very well prepared, however didn’t do well in the first hour to inject her voice over the others. Harper was calm and cool to begin with, however came across as though he got annoyed at the fact he actually had to debate the other parties and defend his record.
Those of us who follow Canadian politics closely saw relatively nothing new regarding policy positions. Harper played the expected “steady as you go” position on the economy warning that the opposition parties would raise taxes and put the country in a horrible economic position. Mulcair and May made a good point that corporate taxes have remained low, and the Bank of Canada has been extremely worried in the past that these corporations are just sitting on the money they saved from tax breaks rather than creating jobs.
The environment debate which happened in the second hour, May just owned it and the other parties let her have the floor. May called Harper to account on his environmental commitments, getting Harper to admit that emission reduction targets will not be reached by 2020, but by 2030. May also questioned Mulcair on his support of pipelines, which Mulcair remained non-committal on, and May kept pressing him on.
On the new anti-terror bill, there are stark differences between the parties. Harper said it was necessary; Trudeau is for and against the bill; Mulcair starkly pledged to Canadians he would repeal the bill (looking directly into the camera with his alien like black eyes) and if new powers were needed, Mulcair consult the experts first. Essentially Mulcair wants proof these new powers would be needed, and how to implement them in a way that doesn’t impede the rights of Canadians. Trudeau actually did admit that he may have been naive in his support of the anti-terror bill, but continues to support it.
I think the major news from this debate that Canadians need to be aware of, is not what happened during the debates but after. May, Trudeau and Mulcair all took questions from the press after the debate. Harper didn’t take any questions nor did he appear before the press after which I found very bizarre and arrogant. We’re in an election Harper. Deal with it!
All in all, I think it was a good introduction to the party leaders to those who do not follow politics closely. I don’t think this first debate will have that much of an impact on voters. If your a conservative supporter, you’re likely to remain that way and same with the other party’s supporters. Mulcair needs to bring his style of debating that he has during question period to future debates. That’s where he shines, and Trudeau needs to stop bouncing around like a boxer and listen to Canadians more as to why he’s so low in the polls:
Last week I had a twitter conversation with Liberal MP Wayne Easter who sat in the parliamentary committee on the new anti-terror Bill C51. Most Liberal MPs took to their online websites to defend their vote on Bill C-51 days after the Liberals stood up in the house of commons and voted for the bill. Most have followed party lines in their responses and what has emerged is what the Liberals plan on running on regarding the anti-terror bill during the election.
Take for instance Liberal MP Caroline Bennett’s explanation (which is starkly similar to most Liberal MP’s responses) as to why she voted for C-51:
I voted in favour of Bill C-51 because it contains significant measures that will keep Canadians safe. The Liberal Party of Canada welcomes the measures that (1) lower the threshold for preventative arrests, (2) expand the no-fly list, and (3) allow for greater and more coordinated information sharing between government departments and agencies involved in security matters.
In legal terms bill C-51 lowers the legal threshold for preventative arrests from what most of us are familiar to as “Reasonable grounds to believe.” to “Reasonable grounds to suspect.” In legalese this means that virtually no evidence is needed other than an accusation to obtain arrest warrants under C-51 and detain individuals for 7 days on an accusation of terror. We’re back to the good ol’ days of witch hunting. The Liberal Party voted (according to Bennett) to keep this part in the bill. This would likely be challenged and struck down by the courts.
Expanding no-fly lists, and greater more co-ordination of information sharing between government departments and agencies involved with security matters has already been put into question by not just the privacy commissioner. In 2013 an Ontario women was denied entry into the US because she had a bout of depression and was hospitalized years before. The police shared this information with US boarder security agencies. The women was told she had to get re-evaluated by a US psychiatrist before she would be allowed to cross the border. What exactly does depression have to do with terrorism? Terrorism is about radical ideology often religious in nature!
Another position within the Liberal Party has been the support of these so called “Sunset Clauses”. This is a bit problematic. The Charter does allow in certain circumstances the temporary suspension of Charter rights if it’s warranted and there’s enough evidence to prove Government needs to temporarily suspend Charter rights. I put the question to MP Wayne Easter on twitter, who insisted that the Liberal position would be Charter compliant. Sunset Clauses would likely be up for a Charter challenge, since in 2013/2014 US Congressional hearings and Obama’s own Presidential panel examining the Bill C-51 type approach to mass surveillance dragnets, didn’t produce one credible instance where terror attacks were prevented due to these new powers. In fact Obama’s own appointed panel on the subject concluded that these powers were likely not constitutional. I challenged Easter to produce at least one expert that supports the Liberal’s position on C-51, to which I didn’t receive a reply.
One expert however has chimed in on the debate regarding the liberal platform on C-51. Internet Law Expert Micheal Geist wrote today stating:
“The decision to support the bill was surely the result of a political calculation based on the fear of being labeled as weak on security. Indeed, Trudeau acknowledged precisely that a month later, telling students at UBC that the government was hoping the opposition would reject the bill so that it could “bash people on security.” Trudeau added that “this conversation might be different if we weren’t months from an election campaign, but we are.”
I think the problem goes much deeper than appearing weak and being attacked by political opponents. There’s no logic in that. You can’t be in politics if you are afraid of your political opponents. What kind of leader does that, or will that make you?
While I agree that politics are being played on this bill by all sides, MP Wayne Easter who sat in the committee has explicitly stated that the reasoning behind the support of the bill is because the Liberals were in power during 9/11. Liberals brought in sunset clauses back then to temporary suspend charter rights, and should be trusted with their support of C-51 because they have been in government and have that experience. These were the lines Easter used over, and over again in political talk shows.
Geist in his most recent post also took aim at the information sharing clauses in the bill:
Second, the Liberal position on Bill C-51 has consistently cited the information sharing provisions in the bill as a reason to support it. Yet the information sharing provisions are among the most problematic aspects of the bill drawing criticism from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and numerous experts. In supporting those provisions, the Liberals are not only siding with the government, but they are also rejecting the analysis of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
I grew up in a law enforcement family. My step father was a Staff Sargent with York-Regional police. I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for those who wear the uniform in law enforcement, military, and intelligence services. I’ve heard from my step father some pretty interesting and horrifying stories on what our law enforcement has to deal with on a day to day basis. My step father suffered from PTSD which eventually killed him. It’s a tough job and not suited for everyone.
Out of the negative there is light. Light that is often ignored by those in law enforcement due to what they have to deal with on a day to day basis. The community and civilians are of up most important to law enforcement when they are investigating crimes, or potential crimes. Without community or civilian help, many crimes would either be thrown out of court, or not reported. What bill c-51 does is make us more fearful of law enforcement and intelligence agencies, thus a lot less likely to help law enforcement and intel agencies as a collective society. Bill C-51 will make it harder, not easier on law enforcement to catch and investigate the bad guys.
Not too many people know the history behind ISIL, and how it was born. It was born mainly through the Arab spring, and the fight for democracy starting in Iraq, through Egypt, and the Middle East. A large portion of that fight for democracy was ignored, brutally put down by dictators, anger ensued, rebellions rose and religious radicalized groups took advantage. You can’t beat radical religious ideology with bombs, or dragnet surveillance. It has to be at the ground level with the full and complete support of the communities affected, none of which bill C-51 addresses.
We have over 2000 years of lessons on this. Our Forefathers put in democratic constitutions to ensure we don’t fall back on those lessons. Civil rights are not just a “thing”. We often take them for granted. Civil rights are meant to ensure that democracy survives. The moment we take away even one of those rights in the name of fighting adversaries who seek to damage them; is the moment when we’ve already lost the war on terror.
If in fact the Liberal support and platform on C-51 is due to looking weak to their political adversaries, than the Liberal party has a hell of a lot more problems than eroding support. Their entire party ideology needs to be fully and completely questioned.
Starting today I’m going to be doing up a Friday Political Week In Review (PWIR) posts throughout the campaign. The summer is going to be a bit slow regarding political news, but these posts come fall will be beneficial to my readers to catch up on the busy election campaign and political news.
In this weeks post:
- The Canadian Senate extends middle finger to Canadian tax payers three times
- Becoming an art dealer is not okay with CBC political journalism ethics, however intentionally misleading Canadians in newscasts for political gain is ethical
- Prime Minister Harper throws poutine at Russian frigates, than refuses to ask the Pope for forgiveness
- Canadian Health Minister Rona Ambrose outraged by Supreme Court Decision to list pot as a “drug”
- Busy week in Canadian politics so lets get to it. If you are a Liberal than you are definitely not where you want to be.
On Tuesday the Auditor General released his findings regarding the senate expenses. 9 Senators have been referred to the RCMP for questionable expenses and possible fraud charges. Also on Tuesday the Senate voted approval on the controversial anti-terror legislation bill c51 after widespread public opposition. The final vote count Yay, 44. Nay, 28. Abstentions, 0 which passed with applause from Conservative senators. The final slap in the face to Canadian tax payers is that the Senate is going to court on the public dime to try and block key details about Senator’s residencies.
The CBC this week announced that it has fired political talk show host Evan Solomon. Solomon was a hard hitting political journalist and hosted “Power and Politics”. Solomon was let go after a Toronto Star investigation found evidence that Solomon was using his position to sell art on the side, in which CBC executives state was against ethical standards. Meanwhile CBC’s internal e-mails point to chief anchor Peter Mansbridge being one of the masterminds behind a collaborative effort among major broadcasters to intentionally mislead Canadians back in the fall of 2014 on Canadian law to stop political attack ads. Mansbridge could end up facing criminal charges as a result, and is still employed by the CBC.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper this week stood on the deck of Canadian frigate HMCS Fredericton and started yelling at passing Russian warships about Russia’s military advances in Ukraine. Later Harper met with Pope Francis and refused to ask the pope to address the truth and reconciliation report in which Canadian Aboriginals were abused at Catholic schools. A key recommendation in that report was to get the Pope to recognize what happened and for the church to ask for forgiveness.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled this week that it is unconstitutional for medical pot users to be forced to smoke the drug. Smoking the drug (the court found) is detrimental to the health of medical pot users. Legal dispensaries will now be able to sell “baked goods” such as brownies, cookies for those who need the medicinal uses of pot rather than to just smoke it. In a press conference Health Minister Rona Ambrose slammed the Supreme Court decision stating pot was not an authorized drug from Health Canada and that the Courts should have no say on what a “drug” is. That decision Ambrose said, “should be up to Health Canada to decide.”
Latest Ekos poll results now show NDP starting to get a commanding lead at the expense of the Liberal and Conservative position on the new anti-terror bill. The NDP is now at 34%, Conservatives 27%, and the Liberals 23% (which is getting close to Stephane Dion territory which is pretty low for the Liberals). I had an interesting twitter conversation about the new anti-terror bill and the Liberal position on it with Liberal MP Wayne Easter (who sat in the House of Commons committee on this bill and is probably one of the masterminds of the Liberal position behind it). The full conversation is here.
Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog through e-mail on the upper right hand side to keep up to date on the political news throughout the election along with some commentary on policy. Also don’t forget to follow me on twitter, and join the MindBending Politics facebook page.
Well folks the order of accountability seems to be the theme today, so I have to start by saying I was wrong. I was wrong to believe in an institution that clearly can’t see past their own crackers, and gourmet meals. I was wrong to have hope that for once the red chamber would rise above the house of commons and display sober second thought. I was wrong to believe that the Senate is looking to redeem itself from scandal, and I was wrong to believe accountability and civil liberties remain a core principle of the Conservative caucus.
The Senate passed the anti-terror bill with NO amendments with thunderous applause from the Conservative senators. Final vote count: Yay, 44. Nay, 28. Abstentions, 0 It now receives royal assent, and is now the law of the land. Passing the anti-terror bill with no amendments means the Senate beleives (counter to experts that testified) this law is constitutional. More on the political fall out of the vote to come soon..
The Senate has moved the final vote on the controversial anti-terror bill to Tuesday at 5:30pm EST. Coincidentally that will be hours after the Auditor General’s report on Senate expenses is due out which will shake the nations confidence of the red chamber to its core. Go figure!
Canadians of all stripes have written into their senators expressing concern on this bill, myself included. I think on Tuesday it will become very clear to the Canadian public just how much the Senate cares about our public purse, let alone prior public opinion as a result of the Auditor General’s report. The Senate has already over the past year passed two bills; the cyber bullying bill and bill S4 which have tremendous constitutional and privacy issues attached to them. The Canadian public needs to keep this in mind come Tuesday’s vote of the new anti-terror bill (if the vote actually does take place).
Why the delay of the vote on the new anti-terror bill? Political optics are going to be critical for the Senate to try to control the messaging around this current expense crisis. What a perfect political opportunity it would be for the Senate to vote down the anti-terror bill and send it back to the house on consititional grounds with a lot of eyes on the Senate due to the expense report. Politically it would the perfect pivot off of the Auditor General’s expense report, to the vote down of the new anti-terror bill. This would essentially limit (or try too) the impact of the expense report, control the messaging though media headlines (although I doubt it will work that way), and try to show Canadians that indeed the red chamber is Canada’s sober second thought.
Traditionally, the Senate is supposed to reject legislation that is not constitutionally sound. Canadian senators have in very recent times neglected that duty, and are essentially lap dogs to their respected parties by voting on party lines, not on constitutional grounds. The Senate has passed bills over Harper’s reign that have been consistently shut down by the Supreme Court on constitutional issues. Canadians need to be very cautious if in fact the senate votes down the new anti-terror bill. If the Senate was legitimately concerned about public opinion, the bill would have not passed yesterday; instead the vote was delayed until hours after the public release of the Auditor General’s expense report.
At this stage in the game I think it wouldn’t be at all politically possible for the Senate to pass the anti-terror bill. Due to the constitutional issues attached to it, a vote for the bill will put the red chambers very existence into question. The NDP is the only party running on a platform of dealing with the senate, and passing the new anti-terror law would basically make case and point for the NDP on senate abolishment. If they are not our chamber of sober second thought in charge of up-holding constitutional law, and we continue to see legislation passed by the Senate that isn’t constitutionally sound, than why pay them to sit there if they are not doing their jobs and abusing the public purse?
With the bleed over to the NDP from both the Conservative and Liberal support of the new anti-terror bill in recent polls (most recent Ekos Poll show NDP now clearly leading nationwide) passage of the anti-terror bill in the senate would solidify the public’s perception of the red chamber and could possibly see the NDP numbers rise to majority status ahead of an election. So senators that would vote for the bill; the logic states they would be rightfully voting themselves out of a job.
If all it takes is an Auditor General’s report on senators expenses for these twits in the red chamber to care about public opinion and our constitutional rights, than maybe we should have the Auditor General look into the expenses of House of Commons MPs annually starting with the Conservatives and the Liberals. Maybe then would we end up getting law that isn’t consistently shot down by our courts on constitutional grounds, and public opinion would matter at least once a year instead of a few months before MPs start begging on wounded knee for our votes.
Sure senate reform, or abolishment is a must (I’m for both), but those MPs who criticize the senate now should also be open to their own expenses being audited as well. It’s not just the senate that is sworn to uphold her majesty’s law and constitution; it’s those who write the laws, and vote in the House of Commons that hold that ultimate responsibility to which they are held accountable by the public every four to five years.
To put it all into blunt perspective, if in fact on Tuesday the Senate does vote down the new anti-terror bill, it’s an attempt to save their own asses, not due to public concern or pressure. Either way, the Senate needs to be dealt with by all political parties in election platforms. I’ll be looking for the party that goes that one step further and starts to put fiscal accountability on MPs in their political platforms.
There is going to be a lot of spin by a lot of groups that opposed this bill, and have being fighting the good fight against it. If in fact that spin turns into the Senate caring about public opinion, than we continue to feed that spoiled child who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and will do almost anything to get away with it. Instead these groups should take this opportunity to work with the Senate to ensure going forward, the public has an open line of communication with their senators, and start crowd sourcing on ideas to senate reform and how to make the red chamber more accountable to the public it serves, or abolish it.