The NDP is taking up the fight against Ottawa's anti-terrorism bill, planning to oppose the legislation on the grounds it gives too much power to security agencies to spy on the government's political enemies, party officials said.
The final announcement from the party to vote against Bill C-51 is expected at the end of Wednesday morning's caucus meeting. Up until now, the NDP has raised questions about the bill, but stopped short of standing up against the proposal.
The debate over the legislation begins Wednesday afternoon in the House.
The NDP will be going up against the Conservative government, which is keen to depict the opposition party as soft on terrorism. The Liberal Party has already declared that it will side with the government on this bill, despite the lack of parliamentary oversight of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
The government announced its plans last month to boost the powers of Canada's spy agency, criminalize the promotion of terrorism and make it easier for police to make preventive arrests.
During Question Period Tuesday, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair argued the legislation offers an overly vague definition of the activities that will be subject to new scrutiny.
"The language is so broad that it would allow CSIS to investigate anyone who challenges the government's social, economic or environmental policies," Mr. Mulcair said. "What is to stop this bill from being used to spy on the government's political enemies?"
Prime Minister Stephen Harper rejected the attack as absurd, before laying out the existence of judicial oversight over the new powers afforded to CSIS.
"We knew that with the NDP it would be only a matter of a couple of weeks before we got into this kind of conspiracy," Mr. Harper said. "Of course the reality is that under the legislation, based on information about imminent terrorist activity in Canada, should CSIS find it necessary to disrupt that, of course it would have to go to a court to get court sanction for those actions."
Government officials added that the activities targeted by the new anti-terrorism measures do not include "lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression."
Still, the NDP called on the government to provide clear examples of deficiencies or gaps in the existing legislation to explain the need to create a new Criminal Code offence against the promotion of terrorism.
"Canada already has strong laws that make it an offence to incite a terrorist act. Can the Minister provide a single example showing that such a new offence is necessary?" NDP MP Randall Garrison asked.
Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney responded that recent attacks in Copenhagen serve as a reminder of the war being waged by the jihadis movement around the world, including in Canada.
Two of the most important figures in the NDP – former leader Ed Broadbent and former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow – have written an open letter against Bill C-51. Party officials said the publication of the letter was part of the broader strategy to eventually vote against the proposal.
"The bill attacks the civil rights of all Canadians, and places the protections guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms under the shadow of wider powers to interfere with lawful and legitimate conduct," Mr. Broadbent and Mr. Romanow said.
In particular, the pair criticized the broad definition of activities that could lead to a national-security investigation.
"Any interference with financial or economic stability could now be considered to violate national security. Such activities are a daily occurrence and in truth could include just about anything," the letter said.
The matter will be discussed one last time at the NDP's caucus meeting on Wednesday when the party's public safety critic, Mr. Garrison, will make a presentation on his recent consultations on the legislation. Mr. Mulcair is then expected to publicly lay out the party's opposition to the bill, party officials said.