Some public policy initiatives are difficult for governments to make. They take a certain amount of time, effort, research, discussion, co-ordination, and wheeling and dealing before finally being implemented.
And some public policy initiatives should be remarkably easy for governments to make and implement.
Yet there are examples where simple political decisions take on a particular complexity that’s both baffling and (sadly) predictable.
Here’s a recent one.
The Ontario Progressive Conservative government is tabling a bill this week called the Terrorist Activities Sanctions Act. Sponsored by one of its MPPs, Dave Smith, it will amend several sections of the provincial Criminal Code applicable to Ontarians found guilty of joining and/or participating with terrorist organizations like the Islamic State and al-Qaida.
The act would prevent the guilty party from receiving a driver’s licence, hunting or fishing licence, post-secondary education loans and grants, and health insurance benefits, among other things. The Child Youth and Family Services Act would also be amended to give the state with the ability to explore short-term or long-term custody arrangements for children of convicted terrorists.
Premier Doug Ford and the PCs have a majority in the Ontario legislature, so this bill will pass without too much hassle. Few Ontarians would likely oppose this measure, so it really should have broad-based appeal. One hopes some NDP and Liberal MPPs, along with Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner, will ultimately support it.
But here’s where the complexity comes into play. While this provincial government deserves credit for the bill, shouldn’t Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals have already taken the lead against homegrown terrorism and implemented similar measures under federal law?
That’s the bizarre part of this story. They haven’t.
“If you leave Canada to go fight for ISIS, you should not be welcomed back with open arms,” Ford wrote in an Oct. 19 tweet. “Since Justin Trudeau doesn’t seem to take this seriously, MPP @DaveSmithPtbo is taking action to send a message that there are consequences for leaving Ontario to commit indefensible crimes.”
Exactly. These individuals left our nation to join violent, bloodthirsty terrorist groups hell-bent on destroying the West’s cherished principles of democracy, liberty and freedom. In doing so, they gave up their basic rights as Canadians. For them to come crawling back with their tails between their legs and basically ask for a do-over isn’t acceptable – and should never be tolerated.
This should be a no-brainer for Ottawa. Alas, the federal government seems to look at this important issue rather differently.
For one thing, there’s never been any suggestion of forthcoming legislation crafted along the lines of the Ontario government’s impending bill. Meanwhile, Trudeau has never set aside this blasphemous statement made at a Winnipeg town hall during the 2015 federal election: “And I’ll give you the quote so that you guys can jot it down and put it in an attack ad somewhere that the Liberal Party believes that terrorists should get to keep their Canadian citizenship. Because I do. And I’m willing to take on anyone who disagrees with that.”
It may not be completely fair to suggest the Trudeau Liberals coddle homegrown terrorists. Nevertheless, they seem perfectly willing to tuck them back in their warm, previously abandoned Canadian beds without the slightest form of punishment for their abhorrent actions.
The only way to potentially change this situation is for provincial governments of all political stripes to circle the wagons and pass anti-terrorist bills that are similar to Ontario’s impending act. Then, Ottawa would be forced to recognize the political winds of change and, perhaps, pass some sort of like-minded federal legislation.
That’s how a simple political decision in Ontario will ultimately take on an unnecessary level of complexity in our nation’s capital.
But as you can see, it didn’t need to come to this.
Troy Media columnist and political commentator Michael Taube was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper.