A Conservative MP has broken ranks with the Prime Minister in calling for greater checks and balances in his own government's anti-terrorism bill.
Responding to a recent question about Bill C-51's lack of oversight on community station TVCogeco, Conservative MP Michael Chong said, "I disagree with the government's position on this. They're of the view that the current oversight [the Security Intelligence Review Committee] is sufficient."
"I don't think that's sufficient quite simply because this committee's appointed by the Prime Minister," Chong added.
The five-member SIRC is Canada's intelligence oversight body. Past appointees to SIRC have included former Reform Party MPs, oil lobbyists, and Arthur Porter. Porter is currently awaiting extradition from Panama on fraud charges.
"I don't think that gives it enough of an arm's-length relationship -- enough independence to properly review the activities of security and intelligence agencies and hold the government to account."
WATCH CONSERVATIVE MP MICHAEL CHONG CRITICIZE HIS OWN GOVERNMENT'S POSITION ON C-51 OVERSIGHT:
Since the anti-terrorism bill was introduced in January, C-51's critics have included four former prime ministers, over 100 legal experts and even prominent conservative voices. Many concerns have honed in on the need for checks and balances on the bill's new powers.
In February, Prime Minister Harper responded to that criticism:
"We already have a rigorous system of oversight on our national security and police agencies. Specifically on intelligence, we have the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which is a robust mechanism for independent, expert, third party oversight. It functions very well. We are proud of the work it is doing."
When CTV's Robert Fife pointed out that even SIRC chair Deborah Grey said "the spy agency isn't telling them a lot of stuff," Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney had this to say:
"Any additional [oversight] would be just duplication."
And here's what Blaney's parliamentary secretary, Roxanne James, added to the debate:
"We are not interested in creating needless red tape."
WATCH CONSERVATIVES EXPLAIN HOW CHECKS AND BALANCES ON NEW TERROR LAW ARE "NEEDLESS RED TAPE":
Chong added that, while he supports the broad goals of C-51 and will vote for it, he thinks a motion could be introduced to add parliamentary oversight.
The MP said he favours a parliamentary oversight committee in which members are elected by their "peers" as opposed to being selected by the prime minister or party leaders.