Despite the next-day elation over the NDP sweep of the Alberta provincial election, May 6 wasn’t an entirely rosy day for federal New Democrats.
That’s because May 6 was also the day the House of Commons passed, with minor amendments, the government’s controversial anti-terror legislation, Bill C-51, a bill that amends the Criminal Code, expands the mandate of CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) and gives the government more power to share information about Canadian citizens.
Critics say the legislation is unconstitutional and essentially amounts to a government spying bill, but the Conservatives maintain that the bill will help keep Canadian citizens safe from terrorists and other threats.
The Conservative omnibus bill passed Wednesday evening with the support of the Liberals and with members of the NDP, Greens, and Bloc voting against.
Speaking Wednesday, Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen, who moments earlier had said nothing could wipe the smile off of his face after the previous evening’s election of NDP leader Rachel Notley as majority premier of Alberta, switched his tone, calling the vote on C-51 “a dark day for Canada.”
“It’s a terrible bill,” he said. “The provisions are so broad. Most of these will be challenged immediately in court because they’re not constitutional.”
The finance critic also had tough words for Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, whose party supported the bill.
Trudeau candidly admitted earlier this year that he planned to support the bill – and overturn it if elected – because he didn’t want to appear soft on terror heading into the federal election and the Conservative electoral machine.
“What he’s saying is that if it weren’t an election year I’d be voting against it, or because it’s an election year and because it’s going to be used against me… OK,” said Cullen.
“Here’s the thing. We’re talking about fundamental rights – and this is why we’re hearing from former Liberals and Supreme Court judges – it’s devastating,” he continued.
Canadians concerned about the bill have mounted a large campaign targeting MPs with letters and phone calls – and Cullen said the Liberals must be feeling the pressure.
“The son of the Prime Minister who brought in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is voting on a bill that attempts to scrap the Charter of Rights,” he said. “It’s incredibly uncomfortable.”