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News

Kill C-51 or Risk a Fractured Base, Right-wingers Tell Tories

In open letter, opponents of Anti-Terrorism Act say bill will erode support.

By Jeremy J. Nuttall 2 Jun 2015 | TheTyee.ca

Jeremy J. Nuttall is The Tyee's Parliament Hill reporter in Ottawa. Find his previous stories here.

This coverage of Canadian national issues is made possible because of generous financial support from our Tyee Builders.

A group of self-described conservatives and libertarians is warning the federal government that its anti-terror legislation risks creating a fracture on the right that could lead to the ousting of the Conservative party from office.

Bill C-51, also called the Anti-Terrorism Act, gives the government new powers to monitor activity that authorities consider a terrorist threat. Opponents of the bill say it goes too far, threatening free speech and the right to assembly while monitoring the online activity of Canadians.

On Tuesday, the group calling itself "Principled Conservatives and Libertarians Against Bill C-51" released a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper that said the legislation does not jibe with Conservative stances on other issues, such as the gun registry and long-form census.

"We are gravely concerned that, while faithfully promising his government would not allow the recreation of a database of information on gun owners, and that any future measures would have political oversight, the Harper government is planning to create databases on all Canadians with no oversight, using Bill C-51," reads the letter.

The umbrella group is comprised of 100 individuals and a handful of groups, including the National Firearms Association (NFA) and OpenMedia.

The letter warns that the government's determination to pass the legislation could end up creating a fracture within the Conservative base, causing those concerned about privacy to cast their vote elsewhere.

"Legislation of this sort will inevitably lead to a split in the conservative movement, with libertarians who have supported the party in the past deciding that their vote is better used to support a libertarian alternative, like the Libertarian Party of Canada or independent conservative candidates," it reads.

"Although these might not attract large vote totals, they could drain off enough votes to deny the CPC a victory and lead to the return of the Liberals, or insert the New Democrats or a coalition into government."

NFA trying to inform members: president

In March, the National Firearms Association pulled out of testifying at the C-51 hearings in Ottawa, hoping for government action on various firearms issues as the government moves to pass Bill C-42. The bill proposes amendments to a number of firearms regulations.

NFA president Sheldon Clare said the organization was given indications that the government would move on his organization's suggestions regarding the bill, but that it hasn't followed through.

Clare said his organization signed the letter over concerns about the reach of the Anti-Terrorism Act. He said that people need to look at the harm the bill could do, saying the legislation is based on unwarranted fear.

"Bill C-51 has the potential to be applied in a way that is not in the interest of Canadians, and from our perspective in the interest of Canadian firearms owners," he said.

Clare said he can't control how his members in the NFA vote, insisting all his organization can do is inform them about what is going on in government.

The letter itself is much more forward.

"Do you really want to live in a C-51 Canada that you don't govern?" it concludes. "We thought not. We don't either. Kill Bill C-51."  [Tyee]

Read more: Rights + Justice, Politics,

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