Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Motherhood Titles for Government Bills Used to Sell Legislation to Public: Motherhood Titles for Bills Can Mask Reality

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Motherhood Titles for Government Bills Used to Sell Legislation to Public: Motherhood Titles for Bills Can Mask Reality

Article excerpt

OTTAWA - It's safe to say the "Protecting Bitumen from Internet Predators Pipeline" is not in the cards for Canada.

But when Megan Leslie made the tongue-in-cheek suggestion Thursday in the House of Commons, the New Democrat MP was taking more than just an environmental swipe at Stephen Harper's Conservative government.

She was talking about the perversion of language.

Feel-good titles for government legislation have become standard Conservative salesmanship, a development highlighted this week with the introduction of a complex and controversial electronic surveillance bill.

The "Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act" is just the latest in a long line of Conservative bills with seemingly unassailable, motherhood handles.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews drew a straight line between the legislation's "short title" and opponents of the bill's privacy-invasive elements.

"He can either stand with us or with the child pornographers," Toews scolded a Liberal MP critic earlier this week in the House of Commons.

That kind of incendiary, us-and-them talk has Opposition MPs spitting nails.

"I'm fed up!" NDP justice critic Francoise Boivin said Thursday.

"We always knew they were naming their bills ... I'm trying to find a polite expression ... that would just get the opposition mad -- that would make it almost impossible for you to look at it in a very logical, sound, intelligent way."

The names make a handy political marketing tool for the government, while driving opponents to distraction. But experts in the field say there's something more troubling at play.

"I think we want our politicians on both sides of the aisle to be debating the substance of the bill and not some slogan," Adam Dodek, a professor at the University of Ottawa who teaches public law and legislation, said in an interview.

And the sloganeering can become dizzying.

On Thursday, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney introduced the "Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act," which he said cleans up gaps in the previous "Balanced Refugee Reform Act" and includes many elements of a previous Parliament's unpassed "Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act. …

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