Here are the three things you should not have missed:
- Reacting to the thwarted terror plot
- Comments by former intelligence agents
- Brent Rathgeber on Members’ Statements
A mere hour after the revelation that the RCMP and CSIS had made arrests in a Canadian terror plot to derail VIA rail trains, Power & Politics spoke first with CBC’s Greg Weston, who gave what details he could – that the two suspects were watching the route for some time rather than any specific train, that they are not Canadian citizens but in the country legally, that they are 30 and 35 years old, the investigation is ongoing. Over on Power Play, CTV’s John Vennavally-Rao mentioned that there was a separate briefing for the Muslim community in Toronto, that one of the men was from Tunisia and the other from the UAE, and that it was a tip from the Toronto Muslim community that helped the police make the arrests.
Getting MP reaction, Evan Solomon had an MP panel of Candice Bergen, Paul Dewar and Irwin Cotler. Bergen said that she couldn’t comment on the incident because it will be before the courts, but that it was incumbent on the government to give police the tools they need, and urged passage of Bill S-7. Dewar said he had mixed emotions about the announcement – relief that it’s been thwarted and concern about what was intended, and that the Iran/al-Qaeda connection was strange. Cotler spoke about the attacks around the world with Iranian footprints on them, and that there may very well be a state-sponsored dimension if they were providing funds or direction to al-Qaeda operatives.
Evan Solomon spoke with both the former Assistant Director of Intelligence at CSIS, Ray Boisvert, and former FBI Special Agent Andrew Arena, for their analysis on the arrests. Boisvert said the links to al-Qaeda concerned him the most, and that it likely had to do with the online presence of the global jihad movement. Boisvert also wondered if there was a connection to Pakistan/Afghanistan with al-Qaeda, and noted that there seems to be a transition to softer targets like subways and trains as they are easier to attack. Arena said that it was possible that al-Qaeda was being allowed to operate with impunity in Iran, and that al-Qaeda doesn’t likely differentiate between Canada, the US and the UK in their operations because of our similar values. On the Power Panel, Boisvert added that there is the added long-term environmental and economic impact of an attack on rail infrastructure, and that Iran has a long history allowing al-Qaeda agents to operate in the country, particularly near the Afghanistan border, but that would be more a sign of acquiescence than active involvement.
Don Martin spoke with Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber about the move to get control of Members’ Statements back from the party whips. Rathgeber said that he would like the Speaker to rule that there is nothing in Standing Order 31 that gives the party whips the power to vet the speakers or the contents of the statement, and that it will begin a process of reverting to the system before the Speaker accepted speaking lists from the whips. While he doesn’t believe that being denied the ability to make a statement is a widespread problem, Rathgeber characterized this as a test case where the backbenchers are now standing up against the problems in the system. He added that he likes that Justin Trudeau’s motion takes away power from the whips, but doesn’t like that it might be equal allotment for parties as it would overly advantage smaller parties (and my own understanding from their Friday scrum is that the current allocation scheme would remain).