Stephen Harper tried to boil this election down to two issues: economy and security. The economy plank hasn't worked so well for him, given the problems in the oil patch. So now he's emphasizing security -- and railing about niqabs. Michael Harris writes:
According to senior sources in the Liberal campaign, this is nothing short of a life-and-death struggle. If the focus remains on the economy, Team Trudeau thinks it can win. Why wouldn’t they? Here’s the snapshot after a decade of Harper: a recession (his second); a dollar that has lost 12 per cent of its value since 2006; seven out of eight budgets in deficit; and an extra $150 billion added to the national debt. Not exactly an argument for staying the course. As for prudent fiscal management — raiding the budget of veterans to balance the books doesn’t count. No wonder the Grits are excited.
But if security dominates, the edge goes to Harper. The Liberals understood that coming into this joust — which is why they made the high-risk move of supporting Bill C-51. They knew Conservative strength on this file was deep, though based more on emotion than reason. The last thing they wanted was to give Stephen Harper a hot-button wedge issue to excite his xenophobic fans by making Trudeau look soft on terrorism.
Trying to innoculate themselves from the notion that they were soft on security, the Liberals voted for Bill C-51, saying they would make significant changes to the bill. But that left them open to attacks from progressives who claimed they were, once again, being buffaloed by Stephen Harper. And that shadow has been following Justin Trudeau throughout this election.
There is a way, Harris writes, for Trudeau to get out from under that shadow. In fact, before the election, the Liberals tried to get out from under it:
Before C-51 passed, Liberal MP Joyce Murray brought forward a private member’s bill, C-622, pinpointing the things in C-51 that required changes: the need for independent review of the Communications Security Establishment, for a new Intelligence and Security committee for Parliament and for a sunset clause to give the law a limited lifespan, as opposed to the Harper government’s plan to make it permanent. Murray hoped to lessen the disillusionment that grassroots supporters felt after the Liberals voted for C-51.
Murray's bill was voted down. However, she hasn't given up:
Based on her continuing interest in security matters, Murray — who finished second to Justin Trudeau in the last Liberal leadership contest — is now asking her leader to consider making further public announcements touching the national security file. She wants Team Trudeau to announce a “comprehensive” White Paper. Its purpose would be to examine Canada’s “security laws, institutions and review mechanisms” — every last scrap of it.
According to Murray, amending C-51 is only part of the job. The other part is taking current thinking on national security issues “down to the studs”. That way, if the Liberals get a chance to make good on their promise of a full review of C-51 after three years in office, there will be a solid evidentiary base for the process. Party sources tell iPolitics that the leader is mulling over Murray’s request, but the economy remains Justin Trudeau’s primary focus.
It's time for Trudeau to take on Bill C-51. And the economy is still on the ballot.