I was disheartened--but not shocked--to see the Liberals vote against the preventative detention measure that was put in place by the Chretien Liberals to permit authorities to arrest, without charges, suspected terrorists in Canada. They also voted down the section of the Anti-Terrorist Act (Bill C-36) that would have compelled detained suspected terrorists to spill the beans in front of a judge. The measures had never once been utilized by the Government of Canada to preemptively arrest those who would seek to kill Canadian citizens using the means of terrorism for their own nihilistic ends. Yet, incomprehensively, the Liberals framed any use of these measures as an unneccesary abridgement of constitutional liberties, deeming that the civil liberties of people who hate Canada are more important than ensuring security for Canadians.
Due credit is to be given to Irwin Cotler, Tom Wappel, and the dozen Liberal MPs who defied Stephane Dion's imposition of party discipline. I have always had tremendous respect for Cotler, who has a clear understanding of the importance of civil liberties and is one of Canada's foremost constitutional experts. He has been involved in this type of constitutional debate for well over a quarter of a century now, working behind the scenes on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, advocating a strong defence of same-sex marriage rights, and earning the respect of fellow international legal experts such as Alan Dershowitz. Wappel was the only Liberal MP to vote in favour of extending these anti-terrorist measures for another three years; rather than being credited for standing up for Canada, his caucus will likely severely punish him for defying the will of the Leader.
The Liberals were severely divided over this issue, and Dion chose to appease the party's left wing--the new Liberal motto seems to be: when in doubt, outflank Jack Layton. Let me diverge for a moment and make an important statement that is at the heart of this decision: party discipline is a central feature of a Westminster-style Parliament such as ours. I have no problem with a leader, particularly a new one looking to establish his authority and leadership credentials, exercising his authority to unite a divided caucus in the best interest of the country. Dion got the first half, but this maneuver does not represent the best interest of Canada or Canadians. It has been less than a year since the arrest of 18 Toronto-area extremists who had concocted a plan to blow up government buildings, storm Parliament, and seize and behead the Prime Minister of Canada. We know that there are those in the country who share similar sentiments and affiliations. In the event that some of them band together to hatch a similar plan of destruction, the Government now has one less tool at its disposal to preempt and prevent a potential attack against Canada.
Yet in the face of this, Dion deemed that demonstrating his authority had to be his prime consideration. The "big tent" that was once so respective of people such as myself, or Riley, or some friends back in Kelowna, has now shrunk to such an extent that Keith Martin, Don Bell, Derek Lee, and Roy Cullen did not even feel comfortable enough to show up to vote against Dion and in favour of extending the measures. The Liberal audience is shrinking because of its own decisions, alienating those on the centre-right to appeal to those on the left and preserve their own centre-left coalition. They believe, and who knows, they may be right, that there is more inclination among Canadians to veer to the left. Heck, just yesterday one of my co-workers revealed her sympathy with communism and its bastion in Cluba, Fidel Castro, while another was happy to intervene with the declaration that Bush is a dictator. No doubt the Liberal decision will then appeal to these two voters.
The leftist media is rejoicing today. The political cartoon in today's Halifax Chronicle-Herald explicitly suggests that Stephen Harper would like to create a Guantanamo Bay North in Hudson Bay. The Liberals' star blogger accuses Harper of stealing a "Bush-ism" in calling Dion what he is: soft on terrorism. Neither of these comments provides any substance on the matter, or explain any of the legitimate reasons that the Liberals could have used to justify their position. Rather, it's about portraying "scary Harper" by linking him to Bush. In this, they are behaving like nationalists of a second-rate country; well, let me tell you something, Canada is not a second-rate country and we don't need that type of bush-league approach to advocating the Canadian interest. The Liberals are seemingly intent on social engineering the country's political spectrum so that the left becomes the new centre and pragmatic thinking that leans towards a strong Canada becomes "far right," as Dion regularly characterizes Harper. If this theory proves to be true, and I believe it does, they are moving in the wrong direction and the consequences for Canada could be severe.