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I recently wrote two posts that were highly critical of both Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair for their apparent embrace, for political purposes, of Bill C-51, the bill that will serve only to further erode our civil liberties in the chimerical hope of containing terrorists threats to Canada.  I expressed my disgust over the fact that both leaders seem ready to abandon the broader interests of Canada for the sake of their own quest for power, fearful of being labelled by the Harper machine as ‘soft on terrorism.’

I may have been too quick to judge Mr. Mulcair.

According to Tim Harper in today’s Star, Mulcair is preparing to diverge from Trudeau’s acquiescence:

Voters will decide whether Opposition leader Tom Mulcair is brave or foolhardy, but the official Opposition is preparing a case to oppose the bill — not simply by working around the fringe on oversight or sunset clauses, but by questioning the guts of a bill that gives the country’s spy agency radical new powers, allows longer and easier preventive detention and would criminalize the “promotion” of terror from a naif in a basement.

The oppositions leaders’ non-performance on this issue thus far has bothered me for a number of reason, their refusal to safeguard our liberties being only one of them.

Their timidity also bespeaks a jaundiced view of Canadian voters, one that says we are easily fooled and manipulated, a contemptuous philosophy found at the core of Harper strategies these past nine years.  And while I have frequently expressed genuine concern about the general level of political engagement of my fellow citizens, political leaders who capitulate to the lowest common denominator essentially preclude the possibility of establishing vision and real leadership.

It would seem that Mulcair is mindful of this to some degree. Mulcair will likely announce his opposition when the House returns later this month. Is he filling an opening left by the Liberals?  Yes.  Is he ensuring he responds to his base?  Surely.

There may be cold feet in the caucus, but opposition MPs must raise the questions, provide the skepticism and, ultimately, oppose a law if that is their view.  They’re not supposed to flee from a wedge issue.

Mulcair will have to stand and explain that keeping Canadians safe does not mean sacrificing civil liberties.  He will have to fend off the inevitable attacks that he is a weak-kneed terrorist-hugger. But he will stand and oppose a bill he believes is flawed, meaning we will have one opposition leader doing his job.

To me, an opposition leader doing his job, despite the inherent political risks, commands respect; playing it safe, as is Justin Trudeau, does not.

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Follow Lorne on twitter: @lornepw

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