Under Liberal pressure to quit, LeadNow steps up fight against C-51


It appears the Liberal Party has encouraged a high profile member of the Stop C-51 campaign to, in the words of the campaigner, “declare victory and go home.”

Jamie Biggar, campaigns director for the online advocacy group LeadNow, which has spearheaded the campaign in cooperation with OpenMedia and a broad coalition of other groups, has agreed to go public with his statements about interactions with an official from the Liberal party headquarters in Ottawa.

“[H]e was trying to persuade me that it [was] in my best interest to do what he perceived to be in his best interest,” said Biggar, by “try[ing] to turn the conversation back onto the economy,” an area where the Conservatives are perceived as weak right now.

Biggar informed this author early Monday morning that they were getting “a stream of emails” from the Liberal headquarters in (what he perceived as an) attempt to get them to drop or relax their challenge to Bill C-51—the so-called ‘anti-terror’ legislation which experts and lawyers’ groups have denounced as an attack on Canadians’ fundamental rights and freedoms.

According to Biggar, the attempt on the part of the Liberal official—whom Biggar won’t name—hasn’t worked because, in the words of the LeadNow staffer (and as he told the official), “this [struggle against C-51] is too important for that”—and they intend to carry on fighting the bill as a whole to ensure it doesn’t pass.

The government was intransigent about making changes to C-51 until very recently, and has even implied that some of its critics could be terrorists.

MPs in the government have also asserted that critics were “conspiracy” theorists who had been subject to “misinformation” and were “quoting rumours” and “mistruths.”

However, in recent days they have back-pedaled and admitted there were changes that could “clarify” the bill for those who were worried about its potential impact on peaceful protest, free speech and dissent.

The Liberals have floated their own amendments to C-51 but also said they would vote for it, throwing their support behind it even before its text was made available by the government.

The bill has now passed at the committee stage with limited amendments that bear seemingly little relation to the committee’s hearings on the bill, as reported by the CBC. Rather, the amendments seem to have been made in response to public pressure about C-51.

The bill will now go to third reading sometime in the third week of April, after which it will go to the Senate, assuming the majority of Conservative MPs in the House of Commons votes in favour.

Despite their support for the bill, the Liberals have been careful not to appear too close to the government’s side in the debate about it. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has said that it contains “worrying features” and that it wasn’t a bill his party would have introduced.

However, Biggar’s report to us is likely to influence perception of the Liberals somewhat, as it reveals the party’s willingness to appease the government with limited changes to measures that will still drastically expand the reach of the Canadian security state, both in Canada and abroad.

A Toronto Star editorial on Monday suggested that there was more “common ground” than not between the position of Liberals and that of the Official Opposition New Democrats, who have said they reject the bill outright. This report appears to contradict that view of the Liberals.

The email from Biggar came after rumours that Conservatives were floating amendments as a “trial balloon” that only “tinker around the edges” of the so-called anti-terror bill, in the words of people fighting C-51. It also came as the House of Commons was about to vote on an extended mission of combat in Iraq and a new mission in Syria.

The motion passed 142-129, with the Liberals and NDP both opposing the plan.

In recent days, organizers at LeadNow have suggested to this author that their group is going to step up their criticism of the Liberal party, and even to go so far as “publicly fighting” with them about C-51.

After other members of the campaign, including this author, alerted people to a strategic voting initiative from the group that omitted mention of the Liberals’ support for C-51, LeadNow was challenged to explain its actions in relation to the campaign against the bill.

According to the email itself, the message could have been been seen by as many as 400,000 supporters. Biggar claims that the mention was supposed to be included, and that it’s omission was the result of a mistake on LeadNow’s part.

LeadNow had also been quietly trying to persuade the Liberals that they would lose votes in the next election from those people if they supported the bill, but found the Liberals largely unresponsive to their appeals.

Biggar, who has been working with others on the campaign against C-51, wrote an email to this author early Monday morning, describing a phone campaign that would directly target MPs with objections to the bill’s passage in any form:

“The Liberal HQ is going to be very, very unhappy with the phone call move. I’m getting a stream of emails from them about how we should declare victory and go home – which is not at all what we’re going to do,” Biggar said.

“I’m also going to tell them tomorrow that bigger censure, directly about the election, is coming.”

As a result of its focus on C-51, LeadNow, which works to build bridges between supporters of all three opposition parties at election time, has decided to temporarily suspend a strategic voting campaign they have spent more than a year preparing and several years honing.

In an email to this author, Biggar stated that LeadNow would be “so far” doing 3 things to fight C-51:

1. Dropping [their] other work to focus so exclusively on C-51

2. Now, suspending a push for the election campaign until after the bill goes through third reading

3. Publicly fighting with the Liberals

As of late Tuesday, the group’s campaign against the bill appeared to be taking center stage once again, with Biggar vowing to more vocally criticize the third party at a moment when they are neck and neck with Conservatives in the polls.

At a rally on Parliament Hill, Saturday, Amnesty International’s Secretary General Alex Neve criticized the government’s proposed changes to C-51 as inadequate. Neve said:

“I can tell you that on every single page of Bill C-51, there’s something that violates, undermines, attacks or affronts human rights. We don’t solve that by a little tweak here, by removing a word [there]… Bill C-51 has to go. That’s the bottom line.”

Note: this post was published in an earlier form on the Stop C-51 Facebook page. Jamie Biggar responded to that earlier version in the comments of the post, which can be read here:


UPDATE, April 4: Jamie Biggar has responded in the comments below with the same comment he posted under the earlier Facebook post. He points out that Liberals never told him to stop campaigning against C-51. For the record, here are all of the instances—each in separate emails sent over the course of 48 hours—where Jamie reported what the Liberal official wanted him to do, either change course or declare victory:

Mar. 30: “I’m getting a stream of emails from them [Liberal HQ] about how we should declare victory and go home

Mar. 31: “The person I was talking about said that he thought we should declare victory and move on

Mar. 31: “[he said] you should call this a victory, it’s meaningful changes

Mar. 31: “He believes that focusing on terror plays into the Conservatives hands as it helps them turn the channel from the economy, where they are now weak, to an issue where they believe they can win”

Mar. 31: “he was trying to persuade me that it’s in my best interest to do what he perceived to be in his best interest.”

Mar. 31: “Trying to persuade me to do something in their interest, not pressure.”

I’ll have to leave it to the reader as to what constitutes pressure in this context, but I think when a senior Liberal who wields power—and stands to wield considerably more power if their party is elected to government because of your organization’s commitment to strategic voting—smiles and offers you his opinion, that meets a certain definition of pressure.

From the Oxford English Dictionary:

Pressure, noun:

the use of persuasion, influence, or intimidation to make someone do something

It isn’t more complicated than that.

18 thoughts on “Under Liberal pressure to quit, LeadNow steps up fight against C-51”

  1. Hi everyone,

    There’s been a few misunderstandings here (which is really understandable in the heat of an intense campaign), and I wanted to clarify on a few points.

    First things first, the Liberals have *not* told us to stop our campaign on C-51.

    The key email that I received from a senior Liberal told me simply that we should see the amendments as a meaningful victory on this issue.

    In turn, we have been telling them that we’re seeing widespread opposition to their current position: calling for amendments to C-51, while still planning to vote for it.

    Thousands of people have joined our campaign to specifically call on the Liberals to strengthen their position on C-51, and we will continue to put more pressure on them to do so.

    Second, from what we’ve seen so far – we don’t believe the amendments go far enough to address the wide ranging concerns with this bill.

    We will continue to campaign hard to stop bill C-51, with next steps coming from us in the coming days.

    Third, our election campaign, VoteTogether.ca, has been developed with participation and support from our community over the last two years. The campaign calls on people to vote together for the best candidate who can win against the Conservative in the next election.

    “Best” and “win” are two separate tests. People will have the information in front of them on the electability of the candidates, and their positions on key issues – and in the places where the campaign is strongest they’ll then be able to vote in a process to recommend a shared candidate for everyone to “vote together” and defeat the local Conservatives.

    As we’ve told the Liberals, their position on C-51 is going to lose them support in that process.

    1. “The key email that I received from a senior Liberal told me simply that we should see the amendments as a meaningful victory on this issue.”


    2. From a personal opinion – I am glad that this group is focusing on this battle. Politically, just days before a massive private public opinion survey of 2011 voters I would say that the New Democrats caught most of the benefit by staying the course against the bill whose popularity waned steadily from 3rd week of February onward, to be followed by political rifts surrounding an extension – or some other ad hoc plan in the middle east. The Liberals may not have done the popular thing but I don’t believe hurt themselves in public opinion, as oversight was enough to take away some of the pain from the support. The Conservatives waited too long to move off their intransigent position. The New Democrats did take a stab at supporting the bill with oversight and probably wish now they hadn’t done that – as the bill just seemed to explode in unpopularity over a week period. Announcements about going to the middle east – did not help the bill – it confused Canadians and now – we will be comfortable in survey commentary to conclude there is slim to no chance of the Conservatives winning another majority.

  2. This goes to show that despite the window dressing that Trudeau has placed on the Liberal Party (support for Marijauna), there is not much difference at all between the Conservatives and the Liberals.

    1. “there is not much difference between the Conservatives and Liberals. ” That is a ridiculously uninformed and insulting comment. This is just what the Conservatives would like to happen to Lead Now – break down into petty squabbling and lose sight of the first and most important priority – unite the majority of Canadians against the Conservatives. Bill C-51 is a direct threat to our basic values, but if we don’t get rid of the Conservatives in the next election this is only the beginning….

      1. Bill, the Liberals have been voting with the Conservatives on many of the most important issues for the LeadNow community (of which I am a part) including Bill C-51, pipelines and FIPA. Their Vote Together tool was not designed with this possibility in mind, which is why I and others in the campaign against C-51 criticized them for promoting that tool without mentioning Liberal support for the bill. It’s not “petty squabbling” to scrutinize, discuss and criticize the positions of all parties before an election, it’s responsible democratic engagement.

        There may be salient differences between the NDP and Liberals, and there may be no ideal choice in this election in any case, but it is nonetheless a fact that the Liberals are voting for a Conservative police state with their support for C-51. This is what Jamie (LeadNow’s campaigns director) told me about that support:

        “I hear you on this – the Liberals have been going after blue-red switch voters and taking a lot of people’s support for granted. The C-51 campaign is the first time that they’ve really felt enough heat to start reconsidering that strategy.”

        The question that I have for Jamie (and for Liberal supporters) is: Why would you trust the Liberals to amend C-51 if they get into power? There will always be another election around the corner, and they will still need those “blue-red switch voters” to win it.

  3. I agree with Rod Morley..there is little difference,,,Trudeau supported FIPA which by itself kills our sovereignity. It weakens any government and makes it an instrument of multinationals.
    He has supported the oil industry including the Keystone pipeline. My opinion is the Liberals were desperate for a leader who could drag them out of oblivian. I’ve met both Lib and NDP candidates but the Liberal has been open to conversation about Fair Vote and has a good chance if winning. The NDP got burned by Bob Rae and it’s candidates have suffered since.

    But we have , I hope, a few months where either opposition can make a decent case for becoming the next government.

  4. Why would you put as a headline “UNDER LIBERAL PRESSURE TO QUIT, ”
    when Jamie Biggar, who was the ‘source’ of the supposed info, says in his own words
    “There’s been a few misunderstandings here (which is really understandable in the heat of an intense campaign), and I wanted to clarify on a few points.

    First things first, the Liberals have *not* told us to stop our campaign on C-51.”

    Jamie corrected your misinterpretation of what he had said…. but you insist on continuing with your misrepresentation.
    Have we not have enough of that sort of attack from the Harper Cons?? Do the NDP want to be compared to the Cons for this sort of underhandedness??

    1. I put that as a headline because, in spite of what Jamie thinks about it, it’s true. Pressure comes in all shapes and sizes. As I wrote in the update to the piece (in response to Jamie’s comment), “I think when a senior Liberal who wields power—and stands to wield considerably more power if their party is elected to government because of your organization’s commitment to strategic voting—smiles and offers you his opinion, that meets a certain definition of pressure.”

      In fact, as I also pointed out in the update, it meets the dictionary definition of pressure.

      “Jamie corrected your misinterpretation of what he had said…. but you insist on continuing with your misrepresentation.”

      I didn’t misinterpret what Jamie said, and I didn’t misrepresent anything, either. Jamie has a different understanding of the meaning of “pressure” than I do. But that doesn’t mean he’s correct.

      “Do the NDP want to be compared to the Cons for this sort of underhandedness?”

      I don’t follow. Does the address of this blog say “ndp.ca”? What makes you think this is an NDP platform?

  5. Laws mean nothing if there is no accountability.

    With no over sight and accountability, we know the powers will be abused and the secrete police will be a political tool to tyrannically crush decent.

    Now we have NO choice but to fight for a truly open accountable government or face even more tyrannical dictatorship.

    Unfortunately the Canadian government system is very open to abuse. For a long time Canada has been a benevolent dictatorship.

    Without a truly accountable government this elected dictatorship is growing more tyrannical. And will only be replace by a even more tyrannical dictatorship or a truly open accountable government.

    This is the time to decide our future path.

  6. Fascism is like a progressive disease – it is best to deal with it in the early stages. It is time to rid ourselves of Harper and his far-right-wing ideologies (i.e. Bill C-51). The amendments to Bill C-51, don’t go far enough to address the wide ranging concerns with this bill. On every single page of Bill C-51, there’s something that violates, undermines, attacks or affronts human rights. Therefore, Bill C-51 simply has to go, along with Harper!

  7. The only two parties that stand up against the Bill are the NDP and the Greens. I would like to see a majority NDP government. The Liberals are just another Conservative party. Unfortunately if the NDP won a minority the Liberal and Cons would probably have a non confidence vote to call for another election. The other problem is that the Senate is made up of Liberals and Cons old party hacks. To get anything passed it may be difficult.

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