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Bob Rae condemned the Harper government Tuesday for coming up short on its plan to deal with the fallout of the Air India terrorist attack, which took place 25 years ago.

The Liberal foreign affairs critic questions how it could "take so long to come up with so little." He was responding to the Conservative's release of its "Air India Action Plan."

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney outlined their response to judge John Major's extensive report into the attack that affected more than 300 Canadians and their families.

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Mr. Rae, who had led an investigation into the attacks several years ago for the federal government, said he was disappointed there was not more a rigorous response to the former Supreme Court justice's recommendations.

"There is a clear need for some important action on the legal front, there is a clear need for a better review of all the security activities of our agencies, there is a need for a clear plan for compensation for the families - it is not there," Mr. Rae said.

Indeed, the government is still trying to work out compensation payments for victims' families. It has been six months since Mr. Major concluded his inquiry. In his report, the judge noted the families had been poorly treated by successive governments and called for symbolic ex-gratia payments to be made.

The Conservatives ministers, however, discussed other measures Tuesday, including streamlining the criminal trial process to give judges stronger control of proceedings; a better exchange of intelligence information between departments and agencies involving financial transactions; and strengthening aviation security.

The issue of compensation only came up when the politicians were asked about it by reporters. Mr. Toews noted they have met with families in Toronto and Vancouver and that the meetings have been "positive."

Mr. Kenney noted that Prime Minister Stephen Harper had agreed with that recommendation in the report as a recognition of giving a practical meaning to the government's apology. There are suggestions of awards of $20,000 to $25,000.

In what became a sometimes testy news conference, with reporters frustrated with the lack of detail, Mr. Toews explained the action plan is "a commitment towards a specific end and that's what we are doing." He noted there are 3,000 pages in Mr. Major's report and 64 recommendations.

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"We are committed to implementing those recommendations and we are not going to come out and say here today that we've answered all 64 in the course of six months. This is a complex issue and we've taken every possible step that we could to date and we will continue," he said.

That's not good enough for Mr. Rae. He charged the government has "dropped the ball" and that calls for more time is a "dereliction" of its duties.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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