Will the government’s controversial anti-terror bill be an election issue, even if it becomes law before the writ is dropped this year? In all likeliness, yes, if Bill C-51’s critics have anything to do with it.
The House of Commons wrapped up debate on the legislation this week, which passed in a vote at third reading stage Wednesday night with a Conservative majority, as well as with the support of the Liberal Party.
The NDP and Greens voted against C-51 and have had serious concerns with the bill since it was tabled in the House earlier this year.
The Greens are readying themselves to make Bill C-51 an election issue and get the bill repealed.
“The fact is that this bill will not make Canadians safer – it will actually do the opposite and that’s the big lie being told to Canadians,” noted Green Party leader Elizabeth May after the vote Wednesday night.
“We need outreach programs that counter radicalization of our youth, oversight over our intelligence agencies, and improved coordination between CSIS and the RCMP,” she said.
The NDP’s public safety critic, Randall Garrison, said in a press release Wednesday that his party strongly condemns the adoption of the bill, and that thousands of Canadians took to the streets to protest against it.
“These people don’t want fear to triumph over the values that guide our democracy,” Garrison said.
“Terrorism is a very real threat,” he added, “but it is the responsibility of the government to protect both public safety and our civil liberties. This bill is vague, dangerous and won’t make Canadians safer.”
The Conservative government, obviously, does not agree. Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney told the House of Commons during the last hours of debate that the bill contains specifically crafted measures to deal with jihadi threats.
“Members have heard me many times saying that there is no liberty without security. I would add that there is no prosperity without security,” Blaney said.
“Through its actions and commitments, our government has demonstrated that it will stand up to those who want to spread fear, and that it will respond in a measured fashion,” Blaney continued. “It will not remain idle against this threat. That is why we introduced measures to combat terrorism.”
Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux criticized C-51 on Monday and said the government has lost the opportunity to provide good, solid, robust legislation that would have had more of an impact in fighting terrorism in Canada.
But, he added, “the Liberal Party supports the bill because we recognize that Bill C-51 does have some positive attributes that would provide safer communities as a whole.”
The Liberals’ support, however, hasn’t gone without criticism and OpenMedia, one of the groups spearheading the #StopC51 campaign, plans to fight against the bill as it moves to the Senate and make C-51 an election issue if it becomes law.
“The government and the Liberals may think today marks the end of this matter, but passing this reckless legislation will be an albatross around their neck moving into the election,” said OpenMedia spokesperson David Christopher.
The next step for C-51 is study by the Senate — where it’s possible amendments will be made — and then the bill will be set for Royal Assent.