The Tyee: C-51 is Harper’s tool to keep spreading fear
Experienced crime victims’ advocate Steve Sullivan on the open letter signed by conservative groups against Bill C-51, and how fear is the fuel that keeps Harper's government going. Keep speaking out Canada! It's never too late: StopC51.ca Article by Steve Sullivan Things are not going Stephen Harper's way. People aren't as scared as they used to be -- and fear is the fuel that keeps his government going.
Peter MacKay is just the latest high-profile Conservative to bolt before the election. Mike Duffy is back in the news; senators, PMO staffers and Nigel Wright himself are all on deck to testify. The economy is not getting better. It may be getting worse.
Politics is all about unforeseen events, of course, and while Harper might have anticipated the lingering sickliness of the economy and the growing restlessness of his caucus, he couldn't have predicted how quickly a political asset like terrorism could turn into a liability.
It's remarkable to recall how, only months ago, many members of the pundit class were calling the security issue Harper's ace in the hole -- a policy area where he had a clear position and a solid advantage over the New Democrats and Liberals. But the timing worked against him: Terrorism gave him a polling bump that lasted just long enough for too many people to learn just enough about C-51 to loathe it.
Now, and quite suddenly, the bill is a political problem. This week we saw something astounding: a group of right-leaning critics of the bill -- including National Firearms Association president Sheldon Clare and National Post comment editor Jesse Kline -- calling the information-sharing provisions in C-51 "the long gun registry on steroids" and warning of a split in the Conservative party's own voter base.
"Bill C-51 represents everything that principled conservatives have been fighting against for the past decade," reads a letter signed by the critics and posted on the website StopC51. "It is appalling that a Conservative government would even consider voting for such legislation, much less crafting it and pushing it into law."
The letter goes on to excoriate C-51's provisions for "secret trials" and online censorship, to accuse Harper of rank hypocrisy for pushing C-51 after having damned the long-gun registry and the long-form census as unacceptable intrusions into Canadians' privacy, and to state the bill violates basic small-c conservative principles by extending the reach of Canada's security services into an extralegal grey zone. It warns that C-51 risks depressing the Conservative core vote and allowing the New Democrats or Liberals to come up the middle.
"On balance, there is no need for C-51," it reads, "and it is politically foolish to bring in such legislation that can only result in a massive political defeat."
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