Lester B-full

By Kimberley Love

There's an old joke that goes "even paranoids have enemies". It's a good time in Canada to keep that joke in mind. Prime MinisterHarper has pushed forward Bill C-51 using scary language – "a great evil descending on our world" – to amplify the so-called terrorist threat to Canada. And he's used that emotionally charged language as cover for legislation that intrudes on the rights of individual Canadian citizens.

So let's ask the real question. Which is the greater danger to Canada: terrorism, or the fallout from anti-terror legislation that sacrifices our rights?

People concerned about the over-reach of government into the rights of individual Canadian citizens - rights to privacy, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and due legal process have been asking this question. This backlash produced cosmetic changes to C-51 announced Friday. But you would have to be naive to imagine that such a question was relevant to the considerations that brought C-51 forward in the first place. Bill C-51 is one of a series of distractions, aimed at diverting theattention of the electorate from the real issues facing Canada in the upcoming federal election.

Both the Liberals and the NDP scrambled to come up with a strategy to protect Canadians from the worst of this Bill. Justin Trudeau consulted with his Liberal caucus and made the decision to keep the Liberals at the table,attempting to get desperately-needed amendments to the Bill. Thomas Mulcair took the position that the NDP would oppose the Bill, but would notnecessarily rescind it if they found themselves in a position to do so. These are very similar positions and probably equally uncomfortable. And neither matter all that much, because, as everyone knows, the Conservativeswill use their majority to pass the Bill no matter what anyone says: in theHouse or in committee.

On Friday, the government suddenly announced it would make some amendments. Whether it was the negotiations of the Liberals, the protests of Canadians, the testimony in committee, or the Conservatives admitting that the window-dressing needed some changes, the government has decided to allow a few cosmetic changes to C-51. But they continue to amplify the threat of terrorism as they close in on the end of a government term in which they've failed on issues Canadians care about: jobs, the economy, the environment, and Canada's position on the international stage.

This is a different election coming up for Stephen Harper. His big economic bet on a "rip and ship" resource economy is no longer working. Our dollar is down 20%. The proportion of people who feel that they have a realistic prospect of ever finding work has been in decline for years. And despite hundreds of millions of dollars invested in "Economic Action Plan" propaganda and character-attack advertising, Harper still faces a charismatic young rival who continues to lead the polls.

Worst of all for Mr. Harper, Canadians have now had a decade to observe this government's lack of respect for injured veterans, for the authority of the Supreme Court, for the conventions of our Parliamentary democracy, for retirees who invested in income trusts, for families of disappeared First Nations women, for the research of public scientists, and for Canada's traditional status in multilateral organizations like the United Nations. Oh, and for Senate expense accounts too.

In this political context, it's really not very surprising that Stephen Harper has identified a threat that, while remote, is still real and vivid in the imagination, and then he's dared his political opposition to defy him at the expense of the safety of Canadians. It's a crafty move. But what kind of leadership is it?

It's apparent to just about everyone that Bill C-51 is a divisive, damaging and dangerous piece of legislation. It has been written hastily, in an emotionally charged atmosphere, and with election politics as an evident subtext. That's the wrong context for legislation that plays with the rights of citizens. It's been rushed through the process, in the face of serious concerns raised by a distinguished list of experts across abroad political spectrum. And in spite of the efforts of opposition party leaders, the calls for amendments and modifications have been met (mostly) with smug assurances from the government that the Bill is just fine the way it is.

Bill C-51 has already served one of its goals – create a political hot potato for Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair. And because fear-mongering works, there is only so much either of them can do. But here's the irony of democratic politics. While Trudeau and Mulcair can't do much about this one, you can.

In Canada, you are more likely to be killed by a moose than by a terrorist; in other words, the odds are so remote, they're hard to imagine. But the odds of more rotten legislation like Bill C-51 are virtually 100% if Stephen Harper continues as Prime Minister. And that decision will soon be in your hands. Don't be diverted from the real issues facing us.

Kimberley Love is a resident of Owen Sound and the nominated candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound.