Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition tries to kill long-gun bill behind closed doors

Where: The subcommittee for Private Members Business
When: June 15th
What: A debate over the status of Private Members legislation, specifically on the voteability of Candice Hoepner’s bill C-391 (a bill to scrap the long-gun registry). It was debated by opposition members that it is similar to bill S-5, which is now before the Senate. However, it was ruled that the bill is voteable in the House because it is not before the government. Further, Gerry Breitkreuz’s bill (C-301) was dropped from the order paper because Mr. Breitkreuz did not show up to debate it. Therefore, the subcommittee was debating the ability of the bill to be moved before parliament.

Here’s what Scott Reid had to say:

Yeah, just the list of criteria as decided by the committee of procedure and house affairs under the standing orders the criteria made by this procedure and house affairs committee are in fact part of the standing orders, although not contained therein, and the four criteria include items 3 and 4—I’ll read them both: item 3 is the item on the basis of which opposition members opposed allowing bill C-391 to go forward while bill C-301 was on the order paper. The argument there on the criteria is, and I quote, “bills and motions must not concern questions that are substantively essentially the same as ones already voted on by the house of commons in the current session of parliament or as ones preceding them in the order of precedence. That criteria is no longer met. Item 4, which I assume that criteria number 4 is I assume what is being referred to here, and I’m quoting again is, “bills and motions must not concern questions that are currently on the order paper or notice paper as items of government business.” Now, order paper and notice paper are instruments of the house of commons, the bill S-5 is in the Senate and therefore is neither on the order paper or the notice paper and so there’s no need to fear that bill C-391 would in any way be out of order on the basis of where bill S-5 is. It would be different if bill S-5 would have been passed by the Senate and is now before the House on the notice paper/ order paper but it isn’t.

So, that’s the status of Conservative long-gun registry-scrapping bills before the upper and lower chambers of Parliament.

Reid, now having set the stage of the status of these bills, wanted a recorded vote of the opposition on the fitness of C-391 because he knew that the opposition was trying to spike the legislation before it got to the House so that opposition MPs from rural ridings wouldn’t be embarrassed by voting against the legislation. If the opposition could quietly kill the bill in committee, it would help them save face.

Unfortunately for opposition members (Ms. Jennings and Ms. Gagnon) the meeting of the committee was public and therefore bill C-391 may not face a quiet death.

I’m just curious if the intention here—I should advise members—I’m sure that everybody is going to vote based on the criteria if the intention is to vote with no actual criteria against the bill in order to stop it from going forward, I would just remind the opposition members of two things, one is that we are now meeting in a public session, so their vote is now on the record, and number 2 that it simply would be impermissible for us to allow this to go forward as a negative item and I would be in a position of having to prevent this from being reported back to the main committee, I would just make that observation, Mr. Chairman.

The opposition members, now visible to the public, move to bring this to a forum without accountability.

Mme. Gagnon: (trans.) Why isn’t it in camera? We were told it was in camera.

Chair: We indicated that it was a public meeting, and checking with the clerk there are no rulings indicating that the private member’s subcommittee needs to meet in camera, and on that basis we call the meetings a public meeting.

Mme. Gagnon: (trans.) Who decided? You, Mr. Chairman?

Chair: On advice, after discussing with the clerk whether it was procedurally possible. Correct.

Mme. Gagnon: (trans.) I’m new at this committee but generally that kind of decision is taken in a collegial way with the members sitting on the committee and decide together whether it’s in camera or public.

Chair: He is the master of its own fate and unless this committee chooses to meet in camera that’s certainly…

Mme. Jennings: I propose that the meeting move in camera, in conformity with the practices of subcommittees when discussing this kind of issue. My understanding is that this subcommittee has sat in camera every single time it’s met and this is my understanding and you can correct me if I’m wrong, the very first time that this committee is not in camera. As you can see from the reaction from some of the members, they assume including myself that the meeting was in camera, so I move that the meeting go in camera.

to which Scott Reid protests,

Mr. Reid: I believe that there was a motion on the floor to the effect that we would be voting on bill C-391, up or down, that you can’t go back after having had a vote, we had a show of hands, and then we were moving to an actual recorded vote, we can’t stop in the middle of the vote and have a discussion of whether we are going to go on camera. The fact was that as I saw it the three opposite members were all indicating that they wanted bill C-391 killed, voting it down, and I was voting in favour and I realized what had happened and I said that I would like to make this vote on division, you can’t stop in the middle of a vote and go in camera or do any other procedural item, so in fact we are in the stage now of debating, I gather that we are moving in to a vote period, and the vote is on whether bill c-391 is voteable under the four criteria before us—there’s not been any other subject and it’s certainly not something to be stopped whenever Mme. Jennings feels like throwing the rules aside in order to…

and then the meeting wraps up…

Mr. Reid: … What is going on is a reference to a rule that does not exist in terms of a requirement that we be meeting in camera, an effort to ensure that bill c-391 can be killed quietly by the parties, by the other opposition parties, in order to ensure that they don’t have to suffer the embarrassment of revealing that they in fact…

Chair: I’m going to call the motion, we’re going beyond the point of order, so we’re going to call the, uh, someone has to make a motion that we move in camera. Ms. Jennings?

Mme. Jennings: I move that this subcommittee move in camera.

Chair: Okay, that’s a non-debateable non-amendable, all agreed that we move in camera? Recorded vote? Okay?

Clerk: Mme. Jennings?

Mme. Jennings : Yea.

Clerk: Mme. Gagnon?

Mme. Gagnon : Oui.

Clerk: Mr. Reid?

Mr. Reid : No.

Chair: Okay, that motion is carried, we move into camera.

Reid summarizes the opposition politics in a member’s statement before QP later that day.

Many members of the opposition oppose the gun registry and if this bill were to make it to the House to be voted upon, it is unclear if the members would be whipped which would result in lost support in their ridings.

Members such as John Rafferty (NDP), Scott Simms (Liberal), Martha Hall Finley (Liberal), Charlie Angus (NDP) and Larry Bagnell (Liberal) have all expressed that the long-gun registry has failed Canadians.

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