Another busy week in Ottawa

Last week was a busy one in Ottawa as New Democrats continued our work to ensure better scrutiny and oversight of the government’s controversial anti-terror legislation while the forestry hearings continued at the Natural Resources committee.
We seem to be at a turning point in the debate about the Conservatives new anti-terror legislation, also known as Bill C-51, which dramatically infringes upon some important civil liberties and rights we value—and that some believe will be ineffective in combatting the terror threat we face today.
The NDP position on C-51 is a simple and clear: we believe this bill is flawed and restricts our civil liberties far more than needed, and we want the government to accept some constructive amendments to it.
Bill C-51 proposes that Canada’s Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) be given extraordinary new powers to spy on and “disrupt” the lives of Canadians.
If we are to give this agency these new powers, then New Democrats want independent civilian oversight of CSIS in addition to appropriate resources for those agencies that were removed by Conservative budget cuts.
We also believe public safety agencies should be working with at-risk communities on counter-radicalization programs, recognizing that this is an effective, community-based approach to avoid potential threats.
But there is no provision for this in C-51.
Unbelievably, the Conservatives want just three committee hearings, and a total of just six hours and nine witnesses, to examine the fine print of Bill C-51. By comparison, the current study of our forestry sector will be taking place over 10-12 committee meetings and we will be hearing from 30-50 witnesses.
Needless to say, we are fighting to have more hearings and witnesses added for Bill C-51.
In regard to that forestry study, I want to report back that the hearings are ongoing and we are learning quite a bit from our witnesses.
This past week, we heard there are some great pilot programs between B.C.-based First Nations and the private sector to help educate aboriginal youth, but that these programs are without federal support at the moment.
We also heard from J.D. Irving, vice-president of a massive international firm based in New Brunswick, who said he believes Canada should have a national forestry strategy.
I must say I felt somewhat vindicated by Mr. Irving’s testimony as I’ve been asking for a national forestry strategy—and been rebuffed each time—since 2009.