Stephen Harper overestimates his opposition -

Stephen Harper overestimates his opposition

The opposition has been rather supportive of recent justice reforms


The prepared text of his speech this weekend has Prime Minister Stephen Harper lamenting that, “However, I must tell you, with sadness, that in none of our justice reforms have we had support from the opposition.”

Mr. Harper might be furthered saddened to learn his speechwriters have led him astray.

I count eight “justice” bills that received royal assent in the first session of the current Parliament: C-2, C-10, C-19, C-26, C-36, C-37, C-51 and C-55. Two of the most prominent bills—C-10 (the omnibus crime bill) and C-19 (abolishing the long-gun registry)—were opposed by the New Democrats and Liberals.

But C-2 (megatrials), C-26 (citizen’s arrest), C-36 (elder abuse), C-51 (witness protection) and C-55 (response to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Tse) all passed the House unanimously. And C-37 (victim surcharge) received the NDP’s support.

In the current session, C-14 (not criminally responsible) has received royal assent and was supported by the NDP, C-10 (contraband tobacco) is now with the Senate after receiving unanimous support in the House and C-32 (the victims bill of rights) passed at second reading with unanimous support.

Of the bills that have progressed far enough for a vote, the New Democrats and Liberals have opposed C-36 (prostitution) and C-13 (cyberbullying and privacy)—on the latter, the opposition parties have called for the bill to be split so that its cyberbullying portions can be separated from the clauses that deal with disclosure.

There are possibly arguments to be made about what specifically has and has not been supported and what the Conservatives have prioritized, but none of those arguments include the idea that the government has been opposed at every turn. In fact, I find myself somewhat surprised by how much of the government’s justice legislation has been supported.