What the hell is the Harper government thinking?


There must be a gas leak at the Justice Ministry’s neo-Gothic building on Wellingtons Street.

Because the number of dangerously insane actions taken by this government in recent months is staggering.  They can’t be in their right minds.

The government’s cyberbullying legislation, C-13, was first.  It was shoved into our hands as Peter MacKay strode to a podium — “Protecting our children,” it said.  The bill allows for unprecedented levels of warrantless data sharing with police.

Then came the Digital Privacy Act, S-4, a good bill with a fatal flaw: it allows corporations to pass along our information with no oversight whatsoever.

Next was the C-24, legislation that would banish Canadian citizens, born here, to their home countries on the whim of a minister.

Thrown to the top of the pile was the staggeringly large omnibus budget bill, C-31, inside of which were hidden provisions that allow tax agents to secretly pass on your tax returns to police on idle suspicion alone.

Yesterday, we saw C-36, the jaw-dropping new prostitution law that went far beyond the expectations of anyone in the country.  It not only criminalizes johns, but sex workers, and those who publish advertisements for sexual services.

So I have to ask, in complete sincerity, Mr. MacKay: have you lost your goddam mind?

Let me preface the following by saying this: I am not a Harper hater.  One need only look back to my past writing to see that I’m no anti-Tory fanatic.

The government’s efforts to reform the immigration and refugee system — a few flatfooted measures aside — should be lauded.  Updates to the Criminal Code to ensure that pedophiles and gun-toting wackos spend a minimum amount of time in jail are good ideas (not including their quixotic campaign to jail pot smokers.)  The Harper Government’s economic policies have generally been intelligent, effective, and devoid of needless populism.

So when I say that these five bills scare the crap out of me, I’m not saying so because I think the Prime Minister is out to put soldiers in our streets, or whatever.

And on that front, the Conservatives should listen to me.  As a voter, I’m in their universe.  I would certainly consider voting for a Conservative candidate in the next election.  Given these past few weeks, that likelihood is rapidly dwindling.

When the Tories were faced with the absurdity of their own legislation, on the Fair Elections Act, they backed down.  Kudos to them for that.

They need to back down on these bills.

C-13, S-4 and C-31 will kneecap our privacy rights as Canadians.  Don’t believe the government when they tell you otherwise.  We should all be profoundly worried that law enforcement can currently obtain our data without a warrant: we should be even more worried that a slew of new agencies can do it for a variety of new justifications, after they pass.

C-24 and C-36 fundamentally undermine rights that every Canadian should enjoy — freedom, security, and the right to expression.  It’s simply not good enough that Ottawa can wave those away, in the face of nearly universal objection from the legal community, and say trust us.

Harper has taken a hatchet to his own credibility in trying to leverage the independence of the Supreme Court.  He has blamed them for his own legislative failures, rather than actually working to ensure that his legislation is Charter-compliant.

Why, though?

This seems like a relatively new issue.  Last year, Harper certainly hadn’t found himself driving over so many landmines.

Here’s the common denominator: Peter MacKay.

The Justice Minister took over last summer, and has shepherded in much of this objectionable legislation.  S-4 had originally been part of C-13, before the Minister sectioned it off and passed it along to Industry Minister James Moore.  C-24 may be immigration legislation, but it has huge impacts on the legal system and it’s absurd to think that MacKay didn’t have a hand in its inception.

I’m not sure what the Nova Scotian Minister thinks he’s playing at, but it needs to stop.

His tenure has been marked by open contempt for journalists — we are handed hugely technical legislation just minutes before he makes his only comments on the bills, and we are not given backgrounders until after the press conference, which is a huge departure from tradition.  I have sent no fewer than two dozen interview requests to MacKay’s office in the last year, on various issues and for different publications, and the answer is always no.  I’m not the only one.

Making interview requests to MacKay may as well be sent via carrier pigeon: because they’ll take forever, the answer will be no, and there’s a lot of bird crap in-between.

To be clear: Peter MacKay’s office is aggressively unhelpful to journalists.

His legislation is bad news for our right to privacy.

His prostitution bill will put sex workers in danger.

The government’s changes to the immigration system will create two tiers of citizens.

These changes are unconstitutional.  And the government does not seem to care.

Whether this is an electoral ploy, sassy defiance of the top court, ideological buffoonery, absolute incompetence or some combination thereof, it needs to stop.



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Follow Justin Ling on twitter: @Justin_Ling


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