Your government's controversial anti-terror bill is plummeting in public opinion polls. A lot of people are concerned the bill is too vague and too broad, and that it will erode civil liberties and result in unintended consequences. Do you:
(a) Acknowledge their concerns and work speedily to improve the bill?
(b) Claim there's a "widespread misinformation" campaign of "conspiracy theories" at work and that your critics haven't bothered to "read the bill"?
If your answer was (a), you wouldn't just be wrong -- you'd be dead wrong!
Tuesday morning at the Public Safety Committee's ongoing Bill C-51 hearings, Conservative MP LaVar Payne dismissed criticisms of the bill as "conspiracy theories."
That sentiment was echoed by the committee chair, Conservative MP Daryl Kramp, who told a Belleville newspaper on Monday that critics of C-51 have their, "information dead wrong... They're quoting rumours and they're quoting mistruths."
Then there's Treasury Board President Tony Clement, who suggested C-51 criticism is an "esoteric debate for law professors" in a Parry Sound newspaper.
And speaking at Monday night's hearings on C-51, Public Safety Parliamentary Secretary Roxanne James floated the idea that critics of C-51 have been fooled by "misinformation."
"I find it unfortunate there's been such misinformation put out about this bill," James said, suggesting this "unhelpful information" has "taken away [from] what is actually important, which is the national security of Canada."
It wasn't the first time James has floated "misinformation" as an explanation for concerns raised about C-51. Here's what James had to say on Victoria's CFAX 1070 last week:
"There's been quite widespread misinformation put out there and I think that if you asked people who may have been at the protest 'have you read the bill, can you tell me what section of the bill, what paragraph, what clause do you think that it is that's going to infringe on your personal freedoms and what freedom is it that you think is being taken away from law-abiding Canadians,' no one can answer that question because it simply is not in the bill."
Is James really suggesting everyone who has criticized C-51 has been duped by "widespread misinformation"?
"No one" can point out the problematic parts in the bill? No one?
Here's a short list of everyone who James is effectively saying hasn't bothered to "read the bill":
- Former Liberal and Progressive Conservative prime minister's Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, Joe Clark and John Turner (plus several retired Supreme Court justices and ministers of justice).
- More than 100 Canadian law professors.
- The Canadian Bar Association, which represents over 36,000 lawyers across Canada.
- Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien (plus every provincial and territorial privacy commissioner in Canada except New Brunswick).
- BC Premier Christy Clark and the Government of Quebec.
- Former NDP leader Ed Broadbent and former Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow.
- National security law experts Craig Forcese and Kent Roach and Internet law expert Michael Geist.
- The editorial boards of the Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Star and dozens of local newspapers.
- Environmental groups, labour unions, civil liberties groups and the Assembly of First Nations.
- Conservative allies like the National Firearms Association (it's a "creeping police state") and the Canadian Constitution Foundation.
- Conservative MP Michael Chong and ex-Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber.
- Conrad Black, Ralph Nader, Rex Murphy and David Suzuki.
- Edward Snowden.
- Over 100,000 Canadians who have signed Open Media and Leadnow's petition.
- Thousands of Canadians who protested in dozens of Canadian towns and cities and at Conservative MP's constituency offices.
But who knows, maybe James is right? Maybe this diverse and credible group has been bamboozled by "conspiracy theories" and the Conservatives are the only ones with a firm grasp on what's really going on here?
Maybe everybody else is wrong...?
Photo: Used under Creative Commons license.