Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday March 1, 2007
Terror vote fails as Dion reins in Liberals
Two controversial measures in the federal Anti-Terrorism Act will disappear from the law books after a vote last night in the House of Commons that marked the first major political test for Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion.
In a vote of 159 to 124, the combined opposition defeated a Conservative minority government motion that would have renewed the extraordinary legal powers of authorities to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects.
The Liberal caucus was deeply divided on the issue as recently as last week. But by the time of last night’s vote, only one Liberal — Tom Wappell — abandoned Mr. Dion and voted with the Conservatives.
Former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler abstained, and a dozen other Liberals were absent, some for health reasons.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Mr. Dion had to force his caucus into line, thus putting internal party politics ahead of national security.
Mr. Harper said the failure of the renewal motion is not the end of the matter, suggesting the government might introduce fresh legislation.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said “the government will get to work … to protect Canadians” by fashioning new tools to combat terrorism. He did not specify what the government intends to do.
Mr. Day once again hammered Mr. Dion for “this very distressing flip-flop.” The New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois have long opposed the renewal. But the Liberals took most of the political heat from the Conservatives.
Sensing an opportunity to drive a wedge between Mr. Dion and some of his caucus members, Mr. Harper last week called the Liberal Leader “soft on terrorism.”
The Prime Minister’s tone did not change Tuesday. He said Mr. Dion “denigrates the police in this country.” The Liberal Leader, meanwhile, said he was taking a principled stand in defence of human rights. (Source: Globe & Mail)