MPs vote against extending terror law provisions
Published Tuesday, February 27, 2007 11:26PM EST
The House of Commons has voted not to extend two controversial anti-terror provisions, by a vote of 159-124.
"This was automatic legislation put in five years ago -- you either extend them or you kill them -- and (Liberal Leader Stephane Dion) killed them tonight," Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day told a late edition of Mike Duffy Live.
"We're worried what that means to our security."
There had been much partisan bickering in the lead-up to the vote, with a Conservative MP claiming Dion had caved in to "extremists."
While Liberals stood up to vote against the motion, Conservative MPs could be heard heckling them.
"You're a real Liberal now, Garth!" shouted one, referring to former Conservative and independent MP Garth Turner, who voted alongside his new leader Dion.
Todd Russell, a Liberal MP for the riding of Labrador, said that "any time you take a bully on and push him back, that's a victory. (Prime Minister Stephen Harper) is a bully, and he got what's coming to him tonight."
Just one Liberal MP voted with the government to support the motion: Tom Wappel.
Montreal MP Irwin Cotler, a former justice minister and human rights advocate who had argued for extending the measures, was present in the House but abstained from voting. Bill Graham and former prime minister Paul Martin were absent, and both have said they will not run in the next election.
One provision allows for investigative hearings of material witnesses; the other gives police the power to detain people suspected of planning to carry out a terrorist attack for 72 hours.
Without parliamentary approval, both measures will now expire on March 1.
The NDP and Bloc Quebecois joined the Liberals in opposing the measures.
Ottawa Tory MP Pierre Poilievre told a radio interviewer earlier Tuesday that Dion's caucus includes MPs who want to legalize the anti-Israeli terrorist group, Hezbollah, and shut down the investigation into the 1985 Air India bombing.
"We know there is an extremist element in the Liberal party generally that has been very vocal in opposing measures that are designed to combat terrorism," Poilievre said, according to a transcript of the interview.
"And it would seem that Mr. Dion has collapsed under the pressure from those groups."
Liberals demanded an apology. Grit MP Omar Alghabra said Poilievre's comments were "outrageous, slanderous.
"This is the pattern that this government, this Conservative government, is following in choosing to go to the lowest level of politics that they can find to smear people just to make a political point,'' he said.
The Conservatives responded by quoting Dion and other Liberals who have said the Tories are captive to a hard-right ideology.
Meanwhile, families of Canadians killed in the Sept. 11 attacks in New York urged parliamentarians to vote in favour of renewing the measures, and begged MPs to not play partisan games with the issue.
"The families who lost loved ones in the Air India bombing and 9/11 know all too well the impact terrorism can have," Maureen Basnicki, whose husband Ken was among 24 Canadians who died in the New York attacks, said Tuesday.
"We want to protect other Canadians from the devastation that we experienced," she said.
The Liberal government of Jean Chretien introduced the measures in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. But current Liberals and other opposition parties argued it was time to let them expire.
Last week, a Liberal-dominated Senate committee recommended extending the two measures by three years, similar to the government's motion. But it added a stipulation: an annual report on the use of the measures, which would include an explanation as to whether the provisions remain warranted.
The opposition Liberals, however, said while the measures were an understandable reaction to fears about terrorism in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, they are now an unnecessary infringement on civil liberties.
During question period on Tuesday, Liberal Deputy Leader Michael Ignatieff had challenged the prime minister to introduce reforms of the anti-terror legislation.
"Will the prime minister commit today to propose new legislation to rebalance anti-terrorism laws to respect both security and human rights?" said Ignatieff.
"The Liberal party supported these laws not just for months, but for years," countered Harper, "and abruptly the leader of the Liberal Party flip flopped on his support just days before the vote."
"The laws are there are for the interest of national security, the courts have found they're consistent with civil liberties. Instead, this leader chooses to ignore all that."