A couple of months ago, ten people spent an hour sitting down with Justin Trudeau, Liberal Party leader and potentially Canada’s next Prime Minister, to talk about Bill C-51, anti-terrorist legislation from our Conservative government. I was one of those people, and perhaps readers might be interested in hearing about it.

Sidebar: Why now? · After the meeting I decided not to blog it, because I was worried about ethics; nobody had said the meeting was private but nobody’d said it was public either. Recently I mentioned this to a Liberal insider I know who’d helped organize and he looked shocked: “Why not?! People ought to hear that Justin’s having these conversations.”

Sidebar: C-51 · People who are Canadians probably already have opinions; for those who don’t, Wikipedia’s coverage isn’t terrible.

OpenMedia.ca got a bunch of Canadian business leaders (including me) to sign an open letter to the government condemning the legislation. In response, some Tory backbench dullard questioned our values and suggested we reconsider our business model. Also, Opposition leader Tom Mulcair sent us all nice emails. Also, a few of us got to meet with Justin Trudeau.

The meeting · Trudeau’s opening statement was direct; not smarmy or evasive or pandering. It was along the lines of “We thought there were some good things in the bill and we really didn’t want to give Stephen Harper the chance to fight the election on the security issue, claiming to be the only party tough on terrorism, because that’s where he wants to be.”

Color me unconvinced. I think the bill (which BTW I have read in its entirety) is a load of crap and unlikely to save a single Canadian life. I also think Justin is wrong about the politics; more on that later.

After Trudeau was done, the rest of us politely but firmly gave him a hard time. People from a fintech vendor explained that their competitive advantage against US vendors due to the wide (and correct) perception that the US intelligence community will subvert any organization’s privacy at a whim, but that Canada is more grown-up, could evaporate. A social-media company executive groused about surveillance chill on the great Internet conversation. A civil-liberties lawyer suggested that policy should be evidence-based, and that there was no evidence that the policies in advanced in C-51 would actually enhance Canadians’ safety.

My big argument was that the Liberals have the politics wrong. Recent events suggest that the actual terrorists here in Canada are drug-addicted basement-dwelling losers; immensely less dangerous to us than texting drivers, West Nile virus, or agricultural antibiotic abuse. By and large Canadians are not frightened of these morons, and the Tory moves are chickenshit, and the Liberals should just come out and say so.

If you’re in a serious well-organized and well-armed terrorist cell, do you think Toronto or Calgary is going to feature very high in your worldwide list of big targets? Me neither. Curtailing one fingernail’s width of our liberties to deflect gnats like Zehaf-Bibeau is cowardly, and stupid too.

More on the political ineffectiveness of the Liberal position: Back on July 4th Stephen Harper gave a speech alleging that Justin Trudeau would “gut” C-51 if elected.

Take-away on Trudeau · He’s an impressive guy: good communicator, attentive listener, more direct and less formulaic than other politicians I’ve met.

In the election we’re having this October, I’m firmly in the “Anyone but Stephen Harper” camp and might even vote tactically for the first time in my life. Right now, three months from election day, my take is that Mulcair and the NDP are a better bet, both strategically and tactically, for people like me. The awful Liberal misstep on C-51 is a significant part of the reason.

But three months is a long time and Trudeau would be an immense improvement on what we have now.

I think he deserves considerable credit for showing up and listening.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Dave (Jul 22 2015, at 00:52)

For the PC party, their business model is selling fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Terrorists are everywhere.

And it's working.

One guy killed a guard in a dress uniform, then ran through a park with the gun, and we were locking down schools 2000 miles away.


From: Barbara Samson (Jul 22 2015, at 01:55)

Tim, I have been reading you for years without commenting. But I have to say you are right on with this one. I switched my support to the NDP over Bill C-51. I also have seen Justin in person (in a roomful of supporters) and was struck by his authentic manner and thoughtful answers. I wanted him to succeed, but I think that in the end he was not strong enough to stand up to the Liberal political machine. They were just looking for an attractive figurehead to burnish their image without challenging their practices. I am glad to know that he had the chance to hear the truth from the ten of you and I hope that it helped him to grow a bit.


From: Nik Pinski (Jul 22 2015, at 05:58)

Hey Tim, Thanks for your candor and directness.

The important thing everyone who cares about the future of this country is that polling numbers are meaningless in the non-proportional-representation democracy we have.

With the new electoral ridings for the 2015 election, the Conservatives still hold a comfortable lead and a better-than-average chance for another majority government. See: http://www.thetyee.ca/Opinion/2015/07/20/Harpers-Tories-Winning-Bet/

The best thing that Trudeau could do for Canadians, the future of this country, and the future of his party is to preemptively join forces with Muclair and proclaim that they will not campaign against one another, and that people should vote strategically for whoever has a stronger candidate in each riding because they promise to work together to form a minority government. That is the only way to undo the damage of the Conservatives.

If the Liberals were smart they would do that. Another term as an also-ran 2nd or even 3rd party with questionable opposition values will destroy the already weakened Liberal party.

Never gonna happen, of course. Too much pride.


From: Michael (Jul 22 2015, at 07:49)

Thanks for sharing this. As a fellow "Anyone but Stephen Harper" voter this makes me feel a bit better about potentially holding my nose and strategically voting Liberal instead of NDP or Green in my first federal election as a Canadian citizen.


From: Rob (Jul 22 2015, at 21:16)

I've been mulling it over, and I have concluded that C-51 is not simply a cheap cynical political ploy. I mean it, IS a cheap cynical piece of political fear-mongering of course, but at its heart, it reflects our Prime Minister, who is himself a very fearful man. This is the dude who hid himself in a closet while his MPs barricaded the door to the caucus room with their bodies and ceremonial flag pole spears, during the attack by drug-addicted homeless shelter dwelling mentally ill Zehaf-Bibeau. It was probably very dark and scary in that closet.

As of last month, the security on Parliament Hill now walk around carrying openly displayed submachine guns, very Canadian.

Harper regularly bollixes up Calgary's already problematic traffic with his regular shuttles between the airport and the fortress like federal building downtown-- its pretty impressive, scores of motorcycle cops blocking every intersection ahead, a convoy of huge black limos bumper to bumper surrounded by cop-cars with all their flashers and often their sirens going, all screaming along highly variable routes without warning.

I've been at events which Clark, Trudeau, and Mulroney attended, and their security details usually could fit into one or two cars, and those were public events with crowds of strangers.

I think Harper is as genuinely fearful as he wants the rest of us to be.


From: dr2chase (Aug 02 2015, at 18:15)

I'm a little surprised that nobody's been willing to go after the various fear-N-incompetence parties for just that. Show footage of previous PMs, versus this one. Talk seriously about the risks to life from terrorists, versus the risks to life from bad government policy (e.g., US healthcare, and our shameful infant mortality rate). Talk about the sheer incompetence of our War-on-Terror, where our police waste their time pepper-spraying protesters and monitoring Quakers and Code Pink, but the actual assholes who bombed the Boston Marathon were caught because of truly exemplary efforts by ordinary citizens.


From: len (Sep 11 2015, at 11:41)

"Cana­da is more grown-up"

Or is more sparsely populated without much that interests a terrorist organization. They could burn the parliament building to the ground with the civil servants inside and the rest of the world would say "How terrible?" for a cycle and a half. Otherwise Canadian self-adoration has created a Who Gives Fuck About the Canadians attitude outside those thinly guarded borders.

Given the refugees and Putin situating a contingent to stop a no-fly zone and protect al Assad, the "interesting times" part of the curse is just getting underway. Canadian isolationism won't hold and it won't take many incidents to convince conservative Canadians to grow up.

On this day fourteen years ago, we were feeling pretty smug too around 7AM. By 11, our minds were definitely changed.


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