Who Created Bill C-30? The Liberals Would Rather Forget (They Did)

You have no doubt heard or read about the opposition's attacks on minimum sentences and on Bill C- 30, which would adapt the investigative powers of police services to fight cybercrime. My purpose today is not to take a position for or against either of these proposals but instead to highlight two contradictions that are rather embarrassing for the Liberals.

The opposition's criticisms are long on vitriol and short on content. Liberal MPs have even posted an online petition against Bill C-30 titled "Don't let Stephen Harper creep your emails." Well, I won't comment on the outrageous misinformation contained in the petition's title or the biased statements in its introduction. Rather, I'm wondering who is behind Bill C-30?

By reviewing the legislative records, I learned that it was the Liberal government of Paul Martin! Indeed, on November 15, 2005, the Liberal government's deputy prime minister, Anne McLellan, noted law professor and legal scholar, introduced Bill C-74. This bill had virtually the same form and content as Bill C-30. The title of Bill C-74 was itself highly revealing of its purpose: "An Act regulating telecommunications facilities to facilitate the lawful interception of information transmitted by means of those facilities and respecting the provision of telecommunications subscriber information."

Bill C-30

Bill C-74 would have subjected telecommunications companies to the same requirements and given the same investigative powers to police as Bill C-30. If you look at the two bills side by side, you quickly realize that their content and wording are more than 95 per cent identical. Bill C-30 contains only a few additional clarifications and specifics.

Without taking a position for or against this bill, it seems obvious that police services' request to adapt their investigative powers to new technologies has been around for nearly 10 years. The Liberal party's smear campaign is especially uncalled for since, to avoid making waves, their government chose to introduce its bill on November 15, 2005. On that exact date, all eyes were on Liberal finance minister Ralph Goodale as he released his economic update, which forecast massive budget surpluses of $100 billion in the coming years. The attention-deflecting strategy worked so well that the Liberals themselves seem to have forgotten about it!

Minimum Sentences

If the Liberals' attacks of the past weeks had been focused just on Bill C-30, the point about the old Bill C-74 could have passed for mere forgetfulness. But the criticisms of minimum sentences following the Ontario Superior Court decision make you wonder if the Liberals are actually suffering from amnesia.

Here are the facts. On February 13, an Ontario Superior Court justice decided not to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of three years, as provided for in section 95 of the Criminal Code, because in this very specific situation such a sentence would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

Since then, New Democrats and Liberals have launched an all-out attack, blaming the Conservative government's ideology and questioning the appropriateness of minimum sentences. Yet the three-year minimum sentence required under section 95 was adopted by the House of Commons on November 26, 2007, with huge support from all opposition parties, including the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc Québécois. In fact, only one Member of the House voted against it. You read that right -- Denis Coderre, Gilles Duceppe, Stéphane Dion, Thomas Mulcair, and Yvon Godin all voted for this minimum sentence!

But there's more. On October 26, 2007, in his speech on the bill that established this three-year minimum sentence, Liberal Opposition Critic Brian Murphy said: "I remember that it was a Liberal Minister of Justice who brought in the whole concept of mandatory minimums, which at [...] the Conservatives' press circle was [described] as if it was invented by them." Given such statements, how can the "inventors" of minimum sentences now denounce every use of their own invention?

I am aware that, for some, the opposition's role in the political arena is to oppose. But it seems to me that words and actions should be somewhat consistent and that, on certain issues, a little embarrassment is in order.

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