Thursday, February 5, 2015

On Profound Timidity

H/t The Toronto Star

Yesterday's post dealt with the profound reluctance of Messieurs Trudeau and Mulcair to oppose Harper's latest incursion into our civil rights, Bill C-51, lest they be accused of being 'soft on terrorism' ("Oh, the horror!"). Better, in their minds, to betray the interests of Canadians than to be stuck with that taint, I guess.

Today's Star reports Justin Trudeau speaking with some enthusiasm about the bill, again carping around the edges about the need for more parliamentary oversight:

This bill can be improved but on the whole it does include measures that will help keep Canadians safe,” Trudeau told reporters.

But he conceded that his party will back the new law even if their suggestions are ignored by the Conservatives, adding that a Liberal government would bring in “robust” oversight and review if elected in the October election.

This seems hardly an adequate response to such an onerous bill, given that
it would give agents working for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service a broad new mandate to directly intervene in and “disrupt” emerging terror threats at home and abroad, even if it meant breaking the law.
In the same paper, Thomas Walkom writes about how even the parliamentary oversight called for by both Trudeau and Mulcair would not prevent or address the intrusions the bill makes possible:
In fact, most legislative oversight committees have limited authority. Those with greater powers, such as the U.S. Senate and House intelligence committees have, in many cases, given their imprimatur to dubious security practices. Walkom cites the use of torture by the C.I.A. While the Senate produced a report about it, it was years after the event, demonstrating the failure of oversight.
Or how about this?
In 2005, the New York Times broke the story that, in apparent violation of American law, the country’s National Security Agency was engaging in warrantless wiretaps of U.S. citizens. In this case, the chairs of both legislative oversight committees had known of the program since its inception in 2002. But they had done nothing.
Similar failures abound in other countries with supposed legislative safeguards:
Australia’s parliamentary oversight committee is barred from examining either operational methods or specific operations. It is not permitted to make public any information that the intelligence agencies want kept secret.
New Zealand’s oversight committee is subject to similar constraints. It is also specifically barred from inquiring into whether the country’s intelligence services are breaking the law (an appointed inspector-general does that).
In Britain, that country’s parliamentary oversight committee can look at past operational matters (if the prime minister agrees) as well as other matters that the prime minister wants it to examine. The government can deny the committee any information it deems sensitive. The committee’s annual reports to Parliament are subject to censorship by the prime minister.
What does all of this demonstrate? In my mind it is a piercing indictment of both Trudeau and Mulcair, who, in hiding behind the accountability mask, are revealing themselves for what they really are: political opportunists whose only real passion is for power, not public service.


  1. Somehow I can't imagine Pierre taking Justin's stand, Lorne.

    1. As cavalier as he could sometimes be about civil liberties, Owen, Pierre had too much self-respect and conviction to ever play it safe as Justin obviously is.

  2. Gee Lorne, have you renewed your Liberal Party membership? If you haven't, don't worry. They'll still call you looking for a handout.

    Have a look at the piece I put up today about Lone Wolf terrorism. That adds some overdue perspective to this crap.

    1. Thanks. Mound. I shall do so right away.

      Re: appeals for funds from political parties: somehow they always go to the right place; my junk mail filter works impeccably.