Snap election based on fear would be a travesty

This weekend past, Carol Hughes, Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing’s (AMK) incumbent Member of Parliament, was formally re-nominated as the New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate in the federal election, whenever it happens this year.

Ms. Hughes’ nomination just at this time sends a not-too-subtle signal that her party feels it is possible a federal election call could be sooner, perhaps this spring, rather than in the fall.

It’s not uncommon for incumbent candidates at both provincial and federal levels to be re-nominated, indicating that they have the full support of their party behind them, fairly close to an anticipated election call. Sometimes this even happens after the election announcement.

It’s good positive publicity and this event, although legally required, is for incumbents who are almost never opposed for re-nomination, a media opportunity and a reminder to the voters of who they are and what they stand for.

Is Ms. Hughes’ nomination at this late-winter date a message that her party, that has held the Official Opposition’s role during the current term, for the first-ever time, feels an election call could happen soon?

If this is the case, if the Tory government chooses to call an election this spring, there is little doubt that this will be largely on the basis of Mr. Harper’s and his party’s high marks among Canadians on the domestic terrorism file, or at least on its perceived threat to our security.

It will be unfortunate if the next federal General Election has as one of its primary pivot points which political platform is best suited to deal with terrorist activities within Canada.

The deaths of the two soldiers last October two days apart, one in Quebec and the other the very high profile murder of the soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial (followed by the murderer storming Parliament with more chaos on his mind until he was himself killed by security forces) led directly to the Conservative government bill being debated in committee this week that would add many more provisions to the Anti-Terrorism Act we already have in place.

Mr. Harper has not done anything to discourage fear of unknown terrorists and this appears to have given he and his party a 54 percent approval rating on this topic in recent polls, a noticeably higher rate that the Tories earn on another important issue: the economy.

If the Tories’ star is shining brightly just now on the terrorism topic, and since fear is always a major motivating force, it is certainly conceivable that an election call could come this spring.

If this happens, it means that fear of terrorists in Canada and the related topic of which party will best deal with this issue will be front and centre for the 30 to 40 day campaign period prior to the election.

And this would be a shame.

Yes, we have had our share of domestic terrorist threats, as have had all the Western nations like Canada that are involved in the current conflict against ISIS in the Middle East and, previously, against the legacy of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

But if we have an election call this spring, as Ms. Hughes recent nomination indicates is a real possibility, it will be largely, if not solely, because of the Conservatives high standing on the domestic terrorism issue just now.

We hope this doesn’t happen for, if it does, it will mean the party in power is appealing to citizens’ fear of the unknown in order to stay in power and there is little doubt that any election where this topic is a significant focus will leave Canadians feeling even more, and unnecessarily, concerned with security and perceived terrorism.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Bob Paulson, when the Mounties made public the selfie video prepared by Ottawa assassin Michael Zehaf-Bibeau late last week, told national media that based on his declaration alone (and if he had survived) he would certainly have been charged with terrorism under the existing laws that date from 2001.

The new provisions the government proposes at the very least require constant judicial (or other external) review on a routine basis.

If we’re inviting our neighbours to spy on us, we had better have a mechanism to review the practices with the authority of recommending a pullback of the new authority the government proposes to legislate into its beefed-up Anti-Terrorism Act.

We have only to look to the example of our closest friend and neighbour to the south to see the results of poor government oversight of the intelligence community. There, authorities were left scrambling to close the barn doors with congressional oversight following out-of-control activities of the US intelligence services.

If circumstances have conspired to make some Canadians uneasy about changes in the world, our own government has no business exploiting this natural concern for political gain and if we have an early election call, that’s what it will be about.