Liberal Party Whip Karen Redman was asked if there would be any sanctions against MP's who supported renewal of the anti-terror clauses. Although vague, when asked about "nomination papers", Redman said that was a severe response, but it was one of many options. I don't believe there should be any sanctions whatsoever for an MP who decides, in good conscience, to extend the two provisions.
The Liberal Party should stop worrying about the need for cohesion, at the expense of freedom. There is a certain irony of arguing about Canadians rights, and then engaging in arm-twisting and threats to silence varying opinions. I realize that this issue is largely a question of appearances, in other words, there is a fear that Liberals leave themselves open to criticism of "division", "weak leadership" and "confusion". In whipping the vote it shelters the party and projects a united front.
The bottom line in this debate, everyone already knows the Liberals don't have an unanimous opinion on the matter. Whatever the final vote today, it is largely irrelevant to the perception that has already cemented itself. Many Liberals disagree with the opinion forwarded by the leadership, that is clear. Therefore, what good does it do to force people to vote against their conscience? You don't really achieve anything politically, you just make matters worse by forcing people, leaving the impression that elected MP's are merely pawns, unable to express themselves freely.
My real point, it is high time that the Liberal Party embrace its diversity. Instead of worrying about Harper and Layton calling Liberals "divided", make the case that complicated questions sometimes lead to varying opinion, which is a realistic condition for a party that reflects mainstream Canada. Canadians are largely divided on many of the questions that Liberals are accused of lacking clarity. Let the other parties engage in the goosestep, let them stifle opinion and get their talking points from the PMO, it is the Liberal Party were the serious debate occurs. Debate implies messy, weighing different factors leads to different conclusions. It isn't a negative if MP's vote their conscience, in fact it is a better manifestation of democracy. On any issue where there exists considerable internal opposition, allow a free vote, remove the distaste of arm-twisting.
Let's say every Liberal MP votes against the extension today, what does that say? Will the media say, "wow, look at those united Liberals", "that Dion sure knows how to lead"?. No, they will say the exact same thing they will if a dozen MP's vote against, the Liberals are "divided", they were just whipped. I would rather a spirit of openness, a respect for an elected representative, an egalitarian mood. There is a way to make "division" look "progressive" and "respectable". Canadians don't expect unanimity on every issue, that isn't realistic and the real world we confront everyday reinforces that notion.