Peter Stoffer on the Long-gun registry

CBC News and the Chronicle Herald are reporting this morning that NDP MP Peter Stoffer is walking away from his long-time opposition to the long-gun registry because his constituents now support it, according to him. He’s been a Member for quite some time. Did he just ask his constituents on the weekend how they felt? Or are we witnessing the gradual behind-the-scenes whipping of the NDP caucus?

Liberals would meddle with RCMP: Liberals

The Liberal Party of Canada put out a baffling press release today accusing Conservatives of meddling with the staffing decisions of the RMCP, an arms-length agency of the government of Canada. The Liberals are upset that Chief Supr. Marty Cheliak was let go as head of the Canadian Firearms Program.

Their solution? They would meddle with the staffing decisions of the RCMP, an arms-length agency of the government of Canada.

Liberals call for reinstatement of Chief Supr. Marty Cheliak

Liberal MPs are demanding the immediate reinstatement of the Director General of the Canadian Firearms Program after the Harper Conservatives ousted him for making the gun registry a model in police protection.

Was Cheliak fired by the elected and partisan side of the Canadian government. Well no, according to the Ministry of Public Safety. “The RCMP has complete autonomy to direct its own personnel matters”, according to a spokesman from that office.

Imagine if the RCMP acted and reacted according to the whims of its political masters. That would help support the definition of a “police-state” wouldn’t it? It’s a bit disturbing that the Liberals either haven’t done their research as to the appropriate relationship between government and the RCMP, or that they are indeed advocating that their government would run political interference.

The Liberals argue that this is a political move executed by the government on the eve of a showdown between the parties on the long-gun registry, a vote on its dismantling is scheduled for September 22nd. The RCMP however, says that the position is one which has a bilingualism requirement, one which Cheliak does not meet.

On the face of this, a bureaucrat is being reassigned by an arms-length agency of the government for not meeting a bilingualism standard. Since the Liberals cannot make a case against this as stated, they are concocting an argument that this is political interference.

The Liberals have taken a partisan position (as parties do) in the debate over the long-gun registry. However, to support their argument, they are politicizing an arms-length agency of the government. They are doing so first by accusing the government of political interference “without hard evidence”, as the CBC reported last night, then by suggesting that they would inappropriately interfere with staffing decisions at the RCMP to rectify the situation, which they indirectly admit, supports their position in an upcoming partisan debate.

Big news day

First, SUN NEWS is coming to Canada and is launching January 1st, 2011. Expect the CRTC to approve the channel to maintain its relevance (cabinet would likely overturn the CRTC if it objects). Though at the presser today it was suggested that Category 2 application will proceed if Category 1 fails.

Here’s a video of the press conference courtesy of Dr. Roy:

Detainee Docs
Next, the NDP has withdrawn from negotiations with the four parties on the release of the so-called Afghan detainee documents. The NDP says that the Liberals aren’t negotiating in good faith. The Liberals call the deal (sans NDP) a “surrender” for the government allowing Parliamentary review without government veto over sensitive information.

CBC News has the tape (and uploads to twitvid — fitting for covering politics?)

MP audits
More Parliamentary news has Sheila Fraser conducting a future global audit of MP expenses meaning that she will report on how MPs in general spend but will not delve into individual MP expenses. I heard of a poll suggesting that 98% of Canadians want the AG to look into MP expenses whereas 2% are opposed. Who knew that 1 out of 50 Canadians have contracts with the House of Commons?

Trudeau steps in it
Trudeau the Younger “wows ‘em” at a local community college stop in the Ottawa region and gets himself into a bit of hot water. He told the students,

“A productive member of society is someone who creates … is someone who has things to offer that go beyond the products that we have to sell or buy.”

This was news to, well, those that produce.

Ignatieff not election ready
In more Liberal news, Michael Ignatieff is trying to keep to his goal of making it into the obscurity of summer while dodging rebukes from his own caucus. Take, for instance that three Liberal candidates have resigned in the past month. Never a good omen for a leader of a political party.

Prince Edward Hastings
Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale
Kootenay-Columbia

The candidate for Kootenay-Columbia dropped citing his displeasure in Ignatieff for whipping the gun-registry vote. If the gun registry survives, Ignatieff plans on registering the nation’s daggers (or at least those within his own party)

Opposition MPs that Voted to Scrap the Gun Registry

Liberal Party of Canada – (8)
Scott Andrews (Avalon)
Larry Bagnell (Yukon)
Jean-Claude D’Amours (Madawaska—Restigouche)
Wayne Easter (Malpeque)
Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca)
Anthony Rota (Nipissing—Timiskaming)
Todd Russell (Labrador)
Scott Simms (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor)

New Democratic Party – (12)
Malcolm Allen (Welland)
Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay)
Niki Ashton (Churchill)
Dennis Bevington (Western Arctic)
Nathan Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley)
Claude Gravelle (Nickel Belt)
Carol Hughes (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing)
Bruce Hyer (Thunder Bay—Superior North)
Jim Maloway (Elmwood—Transcona)
John Rafferty (Thunder Bay—Rainy River)
Peter Stoffer (Sackville—Eastern Shore)
Glenn Thibeault (Sudbury)

Bloc Québécois – (0)

Independent – (1)
André Arthur (Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier)

and from the governing Conservatives…

Conservative Party of Canada – (143)

Read my post on how the vote went last night

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.

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.

Government introduces legislation to scrap long-gun registry

I’ve just learned that the government will be tabling legislation in the Senate to scrap the long-gun registry.  Current legislation is already on the order paper in the House of Commons, introduced by Conservative MP Gerry Breitkreuz as a private members bill (C-301) whereas the legislation in the Senate is a government bill.

Private members bills usually have a tougher time reaching the stage of Royal Assent and thus government legislation will be given a higher priority and indicates that the government is interested in moving to eliminate the long-gun registry as soon as possible.

The bill is being introduced in the Senate and was initiated by Public Safety minister Peter van Loan.  It is being introduced in the Senate due to parliamentary procedure which limits redundant legislation from being concurrently considered by the same Parliamentary body.  I’ve learned that the government is moving to fast-track the scrapping of the long-gun registry putting the legislation on the government’s agenda.

The scrapping of the long-gun registry would fulfill an election promise for the Conservative Party of Canada that goes back to 2004 when Stephen Harper ran for leadership of the party promising accomplish this.

The bill is expected to receive majority support in the House of Commons when it is moved from the upper chamber to the House of Commons for its consideration.

UPDATE: The Senate bill is S-5. (no link yet available)

UPDATE: Public Safety is calling it the “long-gun registry repeal act”

UPDATE: A link to the legislation is now available.

UPDATE: In a fundraiser speech last night, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff indicated that he would whip his Liberal senators (sober second thought, indeed) to vote against the legislation so that it wouldn’t even make it to the House for Canada’s elected representatives to consider. Expect the PM to make his case against the appointed Senate and for Ignatieff to lose any perceived ‘gains’ out west. Ladies and gentlemen, the Liberal Party of Toronto.