Opposition’s Job in a Crisis
By Thomas Walkom
National Affairs, Toronto Star
“That the government is using tragedy to further its political agenda should come as no surprise. This is standard fare. Crisis always provides opportunity.”
“In 2001, for instance, then-U.S. president George W. Bush used the 9/11 attacks to ram through Congress a raft of draconian measures known collectively as the Patriot Act. There was virtually no opposition to this move. In the aftermath of terrorism, opposition was seen as disloyal.
Let us hope that doesn’t happen here.
The pressure on Canada’s political opposition to fall into line will be great. Canadians like to see their politicians co-operate at times of crisis. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and New Democratic Party chief Tom Mulcair know this. They also know that in light of this week’s events, many voters will be willing to sacrifice civil liberties — especially if they think such sacrifices will affect only others.
Over the next few weeks, the NDP will be particularly interesting to watch. It voted against preventative arrest in 2013. In 1970, New Democrats famously opposed then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s overwhelmingly popular decision to strip civil liberties from all Canadians in order to fight terrorism in Quebec. For the NDP, it was a bold move that put the party at odds with public opinion.
This time, with an election less than a year away and with government in their sights, many New Democrats may not want to take such a politically risky route. That’s understandable, too. But let’s hope that they, and the Liberals, remember why they are in Parliament.
The main role of opposition parties is not to jockey for power. Nor is it to hug the prime minister. It is to take a principled stand against government measures that are wrong. That is what opposition means.”
Published Friday Oct 24 2014