Historic vote to scrap the long gun registry

I was in the gallery of the House of Commons yesterday to vote on C-391. Members from
opposition parties voted to support Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner’s legislation to scrap the long gun registry.

Fulfilling a longterm election promise, Conservative members voted unanimously to sink the long criticized program which has been referred to by caucus members as a “billion dollar boondoggle”.

Friendly betting went on between Conservative staff and Conservative members earlier in the day on the outcome of the vote. From passing by two votes to fifteen votes, everyone bet on it to pass. However, there was still tension as the known opposition votes needed to pass the legislation still counted Heopner’s bill short by one or two votes.

In the end, the legislation passed with applause for Hoeppner and Garry Breitkreuz, who shepherded the issue through its latest legislative test. Applause also for Independent libertarian-minded Quebec MP Andre Arthur who showed up for the vote despite being ill over the past two years. It was conveyed to me that fellow Quebec libertarian Maxime Bernier encouraged him to make the vote.

Another MP Claude Guimont, afflicted with H1N1 influenza also made the vote. It was reported earlier that the Tories faced criticism for refusing to pair Guimont’s vote. Given the unwhipped vote, allowing members to vote their minds rather than that of their leader, and given the uncertainty of the outcome, nobody from any political party offered to pair their vote.

The vote sent the bill to committee 164-137, prompting one member from a coterie of gun control advocates sitting in the opposite gallery to show her white ribbon (commemorating the 1989 shootings at l’École Polytechnique in Montreal) to perhaps shame members of the opposition benches that voted with Conservative members.

Among the activists was Wendy Cuckier, often the face of gun control in the Canadian media. After the vote she scrummed with reporters in the Commons foyer. She complained of a new style of politics, an “American style” of approaching legislation. She suggested that, in the future, the government may on matters such as same-sex marriage and abortion introduce legislation as Private Members Business as they’ve done with the Gun Registry to allow MPs to vote their conscience. The danger in this, she suggested was that leaders would have less control over their parties and that the government could “pick off” opposition MPs by lobbying them heavily within their own ridings by spending dollars on persuation via advertising. She remarked that this is the style of politics that happens south of the border.

Keith Martin was among the few Liberal members that voted against the registry. He noted that while the organization of police chiefs is against the abolishment of the registry, rank and file police officers are for it. He explained that he voted for the bill because he wants to broaden the discussion by sending it committee.

Candice Hoepner noted in her scrum that today marked only one step along the path to dismantling the gun registry. She emphasized that it was important that the issue was put to a free vote. Hoeppner noted that while she is against the registry, she is still in favour of licensing for gun owners. On the registry’s supposed intent, Heoppner explained that the registry did little to stop criminals. As for the changes the legislation may face in committee, she suggested that one cannot change the intent of the bill at this stage. And as the bill faces a vote in the Senate, Heopner expressed her hope that the unelected senators be especially mindful of the wishes of Canadians.

Wayne Easter also scrummed in the foyer. Easter was Solicitor General under Chretien and held the office while his portfolio responsibilities included oversight of the long gun registry program. Easter was one of the only front bench Liberal MPs that voted for Hoepner’s PMB. Easter explained that the system isn’t working as it was intended and that there is strong opposition to the long gun registry in rural committees, perhaps including the one that Easter represents on Prince Edward Island. He suggested that it is the Prime Minister that is to blame for the weakening of gun control. In fact, many Liberals had suggested that the Prime Minister dodged a long held campaign promise of scrapping the registry and that he should have directed legislation on this issue to introduced as a government bill.

While Easter was among the Liberal caucus that got the registry up and running, he suggested that there is always room for improvement to the system. It is unknown if he meant improvement via dismantling. Easter stated that he voted to represent the interests of his constituents, many of which include farmers and hunters — two constituent groups firmly against the program. Easter stated when asked that he was, and still is, very upset about the advocacy Conservatives members conducted in his riding. At one point this week he even suggested that it may change his vote.

Hedy Fry remarked that the vote is essentially meaningless as her leader voted to continue the registry. Therefore, she suggested, when the Liberals retake power, they’d reverse any action on the registry taken by the Conservatives.

NDP staffers suggested to me that the legislation may never see royal assent because of delays at committees, in the Senate and a future election that will drop it off of the order paper. They noted that the legislation split along an urban and rural divide in both the NDP and Liberal parties. An NDP strategist also added that gun control lobby groups largely sat on their hands as Conservatives organized on this issue.

The bill now faces discussion and study in committee where it is likely to face testimony by lobby groups both for and against the scrapping of the gun registry. Opposition members are likely to express an intent to “study” the legislation by calling a number of witnesses. Ironically, delay may increase likelihood of the bill passing through the Senate as 2010 will see appointment of additional senators to the Upper Chamber. Conservatives are effectively sailing through votes in the now and 2010 the Senate will tip further to the right. For the time being, however, delayed passage of a bill to dismantle the gun registry by the Upper Chamber will only act to bolster Conservative fundraising on two hated issues: the gun registry and the unelected Senate.



  • ripples

    If the tories don't play politics with this it could get a thorough hearing in a way that all canadians can judge whether this law is god or not. To address as an urban/rural split is nonsense.

  • batb

    Well, hip, hip, hooray — and pass the ammunition. (I've never owned a gun in my life and probably never will.)

    The hysteria of the pro-gun registry fanatics is pathetically laughable. I'll bet not one death-by-gun in Toronto, or Montreal, or Vancouver, or Halifax was caused by a registered firearm. What don't these idiots understand about gangs and gangsters? Do they genuinely believe that these guys register their guns????

    The gun registry, at $2-billion and counting, hasn't put a halt to shooting deaths in Canada by criminals, but has harrassed honest gun-owning farmers and hunters. I'd be delighted to see it shot out of the water, so to speak.

    The spin I heard on the news this morning? Getting rid of the gun registry is the scrapping of a Canadian taxpayer “investment.” Yeah, an investment we never wanted, didn't ask for, and for which we've been overtaxed by the government for years — and all for nothing. Again, follow the money … who's making it off this bogus solution to gun crime in Canada?

  • Nicola Timmerman

    After the vote there was nothing about it on CBC until a while later when their analyst in Quebec City, not Ottawa, mentioned that a majority had voted for the bill (no numbers or footage of the historic vote) and proceeded to give a report on possible reaction to the bill in Quebec. Later in the evening on Mark Kelly's show the report on the bill began with footage of the Polytechnique massacre.

    By the way we could as easily say we should ban all Algerian immigrants to Canada as a solution to gun massacres since Marc Lepine had a wife and child beating father from Algeria who had no respect for women (Lepine original name was Gamil Gharbi but this is rarely mentioned in stories about him).

  • wilson

    So Ms Wendy and Wayne Easter did not like the CPC ads….they would rather Canadians be lulled into thinking 'oh well'.

    If the Libs hang it up in committee, fire up that advertising team,
    and go back to those same ridings to inform constituants what's happening!

    IMO, that is my donation dollars to the CPC well spent.

    Now how about the CWB,
    farmers thrown in jail for selling their own grain,
    but only Western Canadian farmers…..Eastern farmers are free to sell to whom ever they want, without penalty.

    Surely people in downtown Toronto, and PEI have no skin in that game,
    yet see the unfairness in it.

  • michelt

    As most Canadians, I am glad the Long Gun Registry is going the way of the Dodo…

    But what I find most interesting, is that the death of the white elephant shows that IT IS possible to kill a useless government program!!!

    I wonder which other pointless bureaucracy we should set our sights on?

  • Chuck C

    The guns used in crime are largely stolen in the United States and smuggled over the border to be sold on the black market. Not to mention, the guns targeted in the Long-Gun Registry are completely useless when used in the consideration of the majority of gun crimes. Gang members want something that's small and easy to carry, not a hunting rifle.

  • Jane Doe

    I feel for familys who have lost loved ones involving a gun, I have also lost family members this way. I get the impression that a lot of people would like to see all guns band and that it will end all gun related violence. somehow I have to imagine one little defensless deer out in the forest with a hundred wolves surrounding it and moving in for the kill.

  • Fred Gurney

    Thye Long Gun Registry, however wrong, is not the problem. It is the money being spent on this nonsense that is. At the current cost the goverment has spent $500 to $1,000 on every gun registered. In many cases more than the gun is worth. When will we have real penalties for people who use them illegally. Hand Guns are a more serious crime and even just possession should carry at least 5 years no parole. Why aren't the tories addressing this as well. If it looks like a skunk and smells like a skunk it probably is.

  • Fred Gurney

    Thye Long Gun Registry, however wrong, is not the problem. It is the money being spent on this nonsense that is. At the current cost the goverment has spent $500 to $1,000 on every gun registered. In many cases more than the gun is worth. When will we have real penalties for people who use them illegally. Hand Guns are a more serious crime and even just possession should carry at least 5 years no parole. Why aren't the tories addressing this as well. If it looks like a skunk and smells like a skunk it probably is.