The government is fighting terror, don't you know

Tease the day: The government debates anti-terror legislation as the RCMP foils terror plot

Chief Superintendent Jennifer Strachan addresses the media Monday, April 22 during a press conference announcing the arrest of two individuals charged with conspiring to carry out a terrorist attack against a VIA passenger train. (Photograph by Aaron Vincent Elkaim)

Cynicism abounds in Ottawa. Yesterday, as RCMP officials detailed their case against two suspected terrorists—and detailed is a generous term, to be sure—an Ottawa Citizen reporter, Gary Dimmock, thought something smelled funny about the timing of the press conference, the arrests, and the government’s preferred topic of debate in the House of Commons. “If there was a risk, the RCMP would have ‘foiled’ it back in August 2012, when they knew,” Dimmock tweeted. “They told u today on combat terror debate day.”

Dimmock rightly points out that the two suspects—Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35—apparently posed no imminent threat to the public, and their plot to derail a VIA train was in the planning stages. Dimmock also correctly points out that the government made a big deal of its anti-terror legislation, Bill S-7. Candice Bergen, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of public safety, led the government side during yesterday’s debate (the government’s heart wasn’t really in the debate—as Aaron Wherry points out, the discussion mostly comprised interventions from New Democrats and Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux).

Whether or not the timing of the arrests was a cheap ploy to remind the country of the necessity of increased powers for law enforcement is an open question. If that was the government’s goal, The Globe and Mail took the bait. Seeing things that way requires a bigger-than-usual dose of cynicism—and deep mistrust of government, or at least the current gang in power. Even if it’s all bunk, that a reputable reporter even mused about such things speaks to a constant undercurrent of suspicion that plagues so many government critics in this town.

UPDATE: Somehow, I missed Colleague John Geddes’ own writing last night about the curious timing of the arrests and the parliamentary debate on terrorism. The government officially denied any link.

What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with the foiling of a terrorist plot to derail a train on the same day the House of Commons debated Bill S-7, the government’s anti-terror legislation. The National Post fronts the help of the Muslim community in catching the suspected terrorists. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with the devoutly religious nature of the two terror suspects. The Ottawa Citizen leads with the suspects’ alleged “direction and guidance” from al-Qaeda. iPolitics fronts a Tasha Kheiriddin column that supports S-7 and dismisses complaints about the curious timing of the debate on the bill. leads with this morning’s court date for the suspected terrorists. National Newswatch showcases the CBC’s main story on the suspected terrorists’ plot.

Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Sex abuse. The Supreme Court tossed out the Crown’s appeal of the case of Ernest Fenwick MacIntosh, whose sexual abuse convictions had been overturned due to “unreasonable delay.” 2. Accounting. Treasury Board President Tony Clement launched a new online portal that listed departmental expenditures for the last three fiscal years—a response to the “digital age,” he says.
3. Elliot Lake. Ontario’s labour ministry charged an unnamed engineer with endangering a worker by providing negligent advice in connection with last summer’s deadly mall collapse. 4. Charbonneau. Frank Zampino, the former president of Montreal’s executive committee, told the Charbonneau commission that gifts he received from construction bosses didn’t influence him.

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