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Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness listens to a question during a press conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand (Fred Chartrand/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness listens to a question during a press conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand (Fred Chartrand/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Globe editorial

A Liberal sense of mystery surrounds the future of Bill C-51 Add to ...

A year ago, the Liberals won election on a platform that promised to undo and reverse many acts of the Harper government. Among the most popular with a core group of Liberal and NDP voters was the pledge to “repeal the problematic elements of Bill C-51, and introduce new legislation that better balances our collective security with our rights and freedoms.” The Liberal platform was specific on precisely how that would be accomplished. A year later, however, the Liberals have barely started down their promised road map.

Last week, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and his counterpart at Justice, Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, announced a public consultation on national security issues, one of the (perfectly sensible) promises in the Liberal platform. They also put off amending Bill C-51 until sometime after those consultations.

But a year ago, on the campaign trial, that’s not exactly what the Liberals promised. In fact, it’s exactly not what they promised.

The Liberal platform said the government “will introduce new legislation” touching on C-51 in eight specific ways. And after introducing a bill including that eight-point plan, it promised to “launch broad public consultations.” It has now reversed the order.

The steps the Liberals promised but have yet to take include “guaranteeing that all Canadian Security Intelligence Service warrants respect the Charter,” ensuring that C-51 does not limit “lawful protest and advocacy,” narrowing “overly broad definitions” in C-51, such as “terrorist propaganda,” and “limit Communications Security Establishment’s powers by requiring a warrant to engage in the surveillance of Canadians.”

The government has come through on two of the eight items: It is improving parliamentary oversight of Canada’s intelligence agencies and, in the wake of the Aaron Driver incident, it announced the creation of the promised “Office of the Community Outreach and Counter-radicalization Co-ordinator.”

The question of intelligence and terrorism is a complicated one. Who can be against study followed by action? Not us. But on the campaign trail, that’s not what the Liberals promised. They had answers, not questions. Not any more.

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