Wednesday, February 28, 2007

MP unrepentant for defying Dion, as he should be!

Liberal MP unrepentant for defying Dion on anti-terror vote
February 28, 2007

Stephane Dion says there will be "consequences" for Liberal MPs who defied his order to oppose renewal of controversial anti-terrorism measures.

But Tom Wappel, the only Liberal to openly side with the Tory government's motion to extend the provisions, was unrepentant and said he's willing to pay whatever price his leader chooses to mete out.

Indeed, Wappel said he's stunned that he was the only Liberal to vote Tuesday with the government given previous Liberal support for the security measures.

"Given that it was Liberal legislation, given that our own Liberal ministers told us that there was nothing that they could suggest to us to fix in the act, I'm flabbergasted that I now find myself the only person supporting the Liberal legislation that the Liberal ministers supported," Wappel said in an interview.

One other Liberal MP, former justice minister Irwin Cotler, abstained. A dozen others weren't present for Tuesday's vote, including four who had previously argued strongly in favour of renewing the security provisions.

Dion said disciplinary action will be meted out but declined to specify, calling it an "internal caucus matter."

Victoria MP Keith Martin, one of the Liberals who supported renewal of the measures but didn't show up for the vote, said no one should be punished for voting according to their consciences.

Martin said allowing some dissension in Liberal ranks is healthier than the absolute discipline imposed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who expects Tory MPs to be "little more than potted plants and to park their brains at the door."

Tuesday's vote was the first real test of Dion's fledgling leadership. His decision to impose unspecified punishment suggests he's determined to put his stamp on a fractious caucus.

He is also taking steps to try to revive his faltering popularity among Canadians. He embarks Friday on a two-week, cross-country tour, hoping to counter Tory attack ads by showcasing a positive Liberal vision for the country.

His tour starts Friday in Halifax with a major speech on social justice. He is slated to give another major speech on the economy next week.

Whether the toxic, hyper-partisan debate over the anti-terrorism measures will help or hinder any political party remains to be seen. But the fallout from the controversy continued Wednesday.

Lawyers for the Liberal party and Liberal MP Navdeep Bains issued a letter demanding that Tory MP Pierre Poilievre withdraw "false, misleading and inflammatory statements."

Poilievre told a radio interviewer last week that Dion has caved into to "extremist elements" in his caucus who are don't want to combat terrorism.

Wappel was one of two Liberal MPs on the Commons sub-committee that reviewed the Anti-Terrorism Act, introduced by the previous Liberal regime in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Before the Liberals were turfed from power last year, two of their ministers, Anne McLellan and Cotler, appeared before the sub-committee and defended the act. Both, Wappel noted, recommended renewal of two controversial provisions empowering police to detain terrorist suspects without charge and to compel testimony before a judge.

In its report last October, the sub-committee also recommended renewal of the two provisions.

Wappel noted that there was not a peep of opposition from Liberals at that time. Nor did the matter become an issue during the Liberal leadership race, won by Dion on Dec. 2.

It was only after a caucus committee meeting on Feb. 5 that he learned the new leader had decreed "a 180 degree reversal" of the Liberal stance on the issue.

"Under no circumstances did I expect that it would be anything but a formality and, yes, we'll support the extension . . . To me it was a total shock," Wappel said.

Having recommended renewal of the measures in the sub-committee report, Wappel said he had no choice but to support the government motion.

"I have to stand by what I wrote in October. Otherwise I can't live with myself."

Former Liberal leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy, meanwhile, lashed out at allegations there were deals struck at last December's convention to strike down the security measures.

A column published this week alleged that Kennedy's delegates from the Indo-Canadian and Muslim communities had made their support contingent on the promise that he oppose the measures. The vast majority of Kennedy's delegates went on with their candidate to back Dion and help him secure the leadership.

Kennedy says the allegations made by Poilievre that were repeated in the newspaper column "are totally baseless without any factual foundation whatsoever," Kennedy said.

"This is simply a concoction that serves one interest, the decision by the prime minister to take into partisan terms what should have been in the public interest, which is the safety of Canadians."


Ardvark said...

Yes, Keith Martin is such a man of principle he didn't have the balls to actually demonstrate his principle and vote for something he "supports". No wait, this does actually show what he really stands for; himself and his job.

Whipping a vote on a what Dion has called a rights issue. Priceless.