PM proposes last-minute compromise to
save anti-terror measures
[PoliticsWatch updated 5:25 p.m., February 26, 2007]
OTTAWA — The
Liberals are already rejecting an 11th-hour compromise offer from
Prime Minister Stephen Harper to save two provisions in the
anti-terror legislation from expiring.
During question period the prime minister asked Liberal
Leader Stephane Dion whether he would agree to accept the two
recommendations made last week by a Liberal-dominated Senate
committee on investigative hearings and preventative arrests.
Those two measures are set to expire on March 1. The Liberals say
they will join with the other opposition parties in voting against
extending them another five years.
The Senate committee made 40 recommendations, including two on the
two measures. They call for extending the measures three years along
with an annual recommendation from the attorney general whether
continued use of the measures are warranted.
But Dion said in response to Harper's offer that "we cannot extend today and worry about rights tomorrow."
The two provisions have been in place since shortly after 9/11 and
have never been used.
After question period, the prime minister stopped to talk to
reporters on his way up the stairs to his Centre Block office to
again press Dion to consider his compromise.
"I think the Senate has proposed a couple of things that are
realistic," he said. "We want to see something. So we're open to getting something done here. It's important to have anti-terror provisions that are effective."
The vote on extending the provisions is set for Tuesday evening at
5:30 p.m. and it appears the government will not have enough votes
to pass the motion.
In recent weeks, a number of Liberal MPs were publicly opposing
Dion's position not to extend the provisions.
But last week Dion told his caucus that the decision was final and
it would be a whipped vote, meaning MPs must attend the vote and
vote with the leader.
However, most of the dissenting Liberal MPs now seem onside with
"I thought the Conservative approach has been to unfairly politicize this whole
issue," said former justice minister Irwin Cotler, who
had earlier wanted the government to extend the two provisions.
"Given the politicization that has taken place I couldn't
support the Conservatives on their motion."
Cotler was particularly critical of the Conservatives' allegations
that those who vote against extending the measures were "soft
MPs spent most of Monday in the Commons chamber engaged in a debate
on the government's motion which at times got heated.
Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis said during the debate that the
provisions needed to die because "times have changed"
"Yes, terrorism is there, Osama bin Laden is still
alive, however, the need to have investigative tactics and take people's civil liberties away ... is something that I personally never favoured
and find it very hard to support."
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