For three days in November, several hundred senior politicians, military officials and security experts from around the world take over a downtown Halifax hotel to talk about war, security, weapons, power, threats and terrorism. This is the sixth year of the Halifax International Security Forum (HISF) that started when Peter MacKay, Nova Scotia's senior minister was the federal Defence Minister. The forum costs Canadian taxpayers $2.49-million, according to a report in the Halifax Chronicle Herald. No resolution or communique comes from the forum – but Mr. MacKay insists that the informal conversations in the hallways between international officials who may never have had the chance to meet or the contacts that are made is the "magic of Halifax."
The forum ends today. Here's a look at what's been going on:
Security legislation for Christmas
Justice Minister Peter MacKay told the Globe and Mail he is hoping to introduce the much-anticipated package of legislative measures to protect the public from terrorism before the House of Commons breaks for Christmas. The measures would give the police improved powers to allow preventative arrests and a new law to deal with people who promote or support terror on line. They were promised by the government in the aftermath of last month's deaths of two soldiers, including the shooting of Corporal Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial and the gun fight in the Parliament Buildings. "It's not going to be one bill, one legislative response," Mr. MacKay said in an interview. "It's a package of things we are looking at. We are doing it in a thoughtful way, in a measured considered way. This isn't reactionary by any stretch." Mr. MacKay says he is looking to the United Kingdom, which allows a terrorist suspect to be detained for up to 28 days without being charged.
Keystone XL pipeline opponent – and dirty tar sands oil
Tim Kaine is the Senator for Virginia and a Democrat. He's part of the U.S. congressional delegation at the HISF, which also includes Republican Senator John McCain. On Saturday, Sen. Kaine explained to the press why he voted against a bill to approve the project in the Senate last week. The bill failed – 59 to 41 votes. Sixty votes were needed for it to pass. Sen. Kaine said he came to the Senate in 2013 "without a firm opinion" on the pipeline that will take Alberta oil to Texas.
"We produce coal in southwest Virginia and I have a region of 1.6 million people that is the second-most vulnerable region to sea level rise in the United States and the everyday effects of it are being seen," he said. "I decided after I dug into it that tar sands oil is significantly dirtier than conventional petroleum and we should have a policy of a cleaner tomorrow than today. … and I basically decided that a vote on Keystone was essentially a vote about whether it should be American policy to promote and accelerate tar sands development. I don't think it should."
He said that this issue is "not over." The Republicans take control of the Senate in January and have vowed to re-introduce the bill.
Islamic State is monitoring the forum
HISF president Peter Van Praagh issued a statement Saturday noting that the Islamic State militant group was using the forum's "hashtag, #HISF2014, to circulate a propaganda video featuring a British captive, John Cantlie. We understand that ISIL is also sending messages to participants and staff of this Forum."
The video was posted using the hashtag but not sent to any one individual, according to an HISF spokesman.
Added Mr. Van Praagh: "Ours is a Forum where ideas are freely and openly exchanged. I also recognize that they must feel intimidated by the openness and transparency of our Forum. When people gather to discuss ideas, it scares those who would impose their ideologies. I am therefore not surprised by these efforts to leverage our discussions."