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.

Tim Hudak comes by the office

Our office in downtown Ottawa today hosted potential Ontario PC leadership candidate Tim Hudak for a meet and greet with friends and colleagues on Parliament Hill today. Many thanks to Dimitri Pantazopoulos and Phil von Finkenstein for coordinating and to Chris Froggatt for tieing it all together.

Hudak spoke about returning Ontario to a clear sense of conservatism and will be attending the Manning Centre conference this weekend.

On the developing news front, I’ve learned that Hudak is receiving the endorsement of Rob Nicholson, the federal minister of Justice. Does Froggatt’s involvement with today’s event mean that endorsement from his boss John Baird will follow?

The Manning Centre is hosting a reception tonight prior to our conference and I can confirm that Tim Hudak, Christine Elliott, Randy Hillier and Peter van Loan will be in attendence. The Manning Centre conference will be the first significant venue for leadership pre-campaigning.

Who is considering a run at the Ontario PC leadership?

I’ve been hitting the phone, email and blackberry PIN asking known PC organizers, student leaders and strategists who’s been calling them “testing the waters”. I’ve learned that there are at least seven people considering a bid for the Ontario PC leadership to succeed John Tory. Here they are:

Tim Hudak: The perceived front-runner for the PC leadership is backed by a number of student/youth leaders, much of the party executive but has shallow support in caucus. Hudak’s people are pushing for an early leadership election (June) in order to deprive oxygen from other rivals who are trying to catch up. Hudak has been billed as a “true-blue conservative” by many of his supporters.

Christine Elliott: MPP from Whitby-Oshawa, lawyer and wife of Canada’s federal Conservative finance minister, Jim Flaherty. Flaherty ran for the PC leadership against John Tory and the organization and team may fall into place should Elliott contest the leadership.

Frank Klees: Among Hudak and Elliott, Klees rounds out the top three frontrunners who are making active and concerted pitchs to potential supporters to form a team for the 2009 leadership race. Klees ran against Tory for leadership in 2004 and served as a cabinet minister under Premier Harris.

Randy Hillier: Hillier is the former president of the Lanark Landowners Association and has represented a defiant conservative streak during his time in the Ontario legislature. The most conservative among the lot, many see a bid by Hillier as principled yet politically untenable. According to my sources, Hillier has been pushing for a later leadership election.

Peter Shurman: One of the only gains during the last election for the Ontario PC, Shurman is the MPP for Thornhill. A former broadcaster and businessman, Shurman has the profile and resources for a serious bid though my sources say that he is testing the waters carefully at this time. (update: Shurman’s out, but was considering this possibility)

Peter van Loan: Yes, the Conservative federal minister for Public Safety is said to be “leaving the door” open for a potential run at the provincial party leadership. PVL is the former president of the PC Party of Ontario, former government House leader for the Conservative government and, in his previous private sector life, he was a successful lawyer in Toronto. Van Loan is a “no guff” style administrator and would likely bring order to a divisive caucus that churned under Tory.

Dean Del Mastro: Del Mastro is the federal Conservative MP from Peterborough and has served in the House of Commons since 2006. Mr. Del Mastro is also allowing talk to circulate about a potential leadership shot to make a bid for the Premier’s office in the next Ontario election. Del Mastro plays the wouded partisan role well and this may be the contrast to John Tory’s approach that Ontario PC partisans are seeking. Del Mastro has been a visible member of the CPC caucus and has done a good job to raise his media profile in the short time he’s been in Parliament. (update: Del Mastro has ruled out a run at leadership but confirmed that he was approached to run the day of John Tory’s resignation)

UPDATE: Shurman says he’s out, Elizabeth Witmer says she’s considering a run.

Liveblogging the cabinet shuffle

9:52AM: Rob Nicholson, Gail Shea, Leona Aglukkaq, Peter Kent and Peter van Loan, Chuck Strahl show up to Rideau Hall

9:52AM: And Christian Paradis, Jim Prentice. CTV has speculated Prentice to environment.

9:54AM: John Baird has arrived.

9:55AM: Some MPs showing up in Blue Line cabs, some in airport cabs, some in their own cars.

9:55AM: Rona Ambrose shows up. Rumour is she’ll move to HRSDC.

10:00AM: Lynne Yelich is at Rideau Hall and Stockwell Day

10:01AM: James Moore arrives

10:03AM: Rahim Jaffer has shown up. Probably to support his newlywed wife Helena Guergis.

10:06AM: Jim Flaherty arrives with wife Christine Elliot.

10:08AM: The Prime Minister’s motorcade makes its way up to Rideau Hall.

10:16AM: Rumour is that Jason Kenney is moving to Citizenship and Immigration. You heard it here first.

10:25AM: Cabinet embargo about to end. Should have the list up soon.

10:31AM: Other MPs at Rideau Hall: Bev Oda, Peter MacKay, Keith Ashfield, Gary Lunn, Chuck Strahl, Gordon O’Conner, Tony Clement, Gerry Ritz, Stephen Fletcher, and Lawrence Cannon.

10:40AM: Here we go. Here comes cabinet into the hall.

10:44AM: Nicholson stays in Justice, no surprise there.

10:45AM: Greg Thompson at Veterans Affairs, Chuck Strahl at INAC, Vic Toews at Treasury Board

10:48AM: Bev Oda at CIDA, Flaherty at Finance, Gerry Ritz at Agriculture

10:50AM: Jean-Pierre Blackburn to Revenue. Aglukkaq to Health. Finley to HRSRC.

10:55AM: Raitt to NRCan, Day to International Trade and Asia-Pacific Gateway.

10:55AM: Ambrose to Labour.

10:58AM: Prentice to environment. The could be to negotiate new regs with the provinces when it comes to GHG emissions. Alberta will need to sit down with the federal government soon to finalize the new regulations for the oil and gas sector.

11:00AM: Baird goes to Transport/Infrastructure.

11:01AM: Cannon goes to Foreign Affairs.

11:02AM: Tony Clement goes to Industry.

11:05AM: Josee Verner to intergovernmental affairs.

11:05AM: Jay Hill to House Leader.

11:05AM: PVL to Public Safety.

11:07AM: Jason Kenney to Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism.

11:08AM: Christian Paradis to Public Works.

11:09AM: James Moore to Heritage and Official Languages.

11:14AM: Gail Shea to Fisheries.

11:16AM: Gary Lunn to Sport.

11:17AM: Gordon O’Connor to Government Whip.

11:18AM: Helena Guergis to Status of Women.

11:19AM: Diane Ablonczy stays at Small Business.

11:20AM: Rob Merrifield to Minister of State (Transport).

11:22AM: Lynne Yelich to Western Economic Diversification.

11:24AM: Steven Fletcher to Democratic Reform.

11:27AM: Gary Goodyear to Minister of State for Science and Technology. Goodyear will work closely with Minister of Industry Tony Clement.

11:29AM: Denis Lebel to economic development for Quebec. Lebel will be the cash man for Quebec and this will help him electorally.

11:31AM: Keith Ashfield to ACOA.

11:32AM: Peter Kent to Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Americas).

Adjournment

Negotiations are currently underway, and barring some procedural snafu, the rumour is that we’ll see adjournment of the House either today or tomorrow. That’s the current word from the gossip-hounds on the Hill.

UPDATE: Peter van Loan, the government House leader has moved for emergency debate on two pieces of legislation. Yes, they’re pushing through to wrap up soon.

UPDATE (Friday afternoon): Alas, it’s not to be. Liberals and Conservatives (and journalists) are complaining that its the NDP that’s holding up the House. But good news, the latest consensus estimate is that the House will break after Monday with unanimous consent.

Cabinet shuffle

UPDATE: I have heard that Prentice is already meeting with significant stakeholders (innovative green technology firms) behind the scenes and that the Conservatives may already be developing a new green strategy (the “Green Phoenix” perhaps?). Regardless, I should mention that the following is still speculative rumour. The proceeding information is based on a few fairly good sources.

Jim Prentice moves into Environment.

Ambrose shifted to Intergovernmental Affairs replacing Van Loan.

Van Loan goes to Indian Affairs.

Prentice is considered by most insiders in official Ottawa to be the Prime Minister’s de facto deputy (even though he is not officially named as such).

Does this indicate that the Conservatives are putting increased focus on buffering themselves on the environmental file should it become a campaign issue?

Even though Dion’s record on greenhouses gases is virtually all hot air, I wonder if the polls are telling the long term strategic planners in the PMO that such a pragmatic cabinet shift is worth the nod of recognition that the Clean Air Act was widely reviewed as a lemon.

This move may have been planned to show movement on the file which may yet become a sleeper issue during the next campaign. I’m still skeptical of the notion that a significant number of voters will make green issues the deciding factors on their ballot, but internal polls may be showing an increasing trend.

Back on January 25th, I predicted that the PM-elect would name Ambrose to Intergovernmental Affairs. Prior to her election to federal office, Ambrose was the Senior Intergovernmental Officer with the International and Intergovernmental Relations department of the Government of Alberta.

Chong resigns cabinet

They’re still sorting things out in Ottawa, but here’s what I’ve been able to scrape together from contacts on the Hill.

Michael Chong, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs resigned from cabinet today in a press conference after Question Period. Chong resigned rather than voting for the Prime Minister’s nation motion tonight.

The first sign of trouble was during Question Period when a Conservative MP rose to ask a softball question to Chong and Chong wasn’t there. Minister Cannon was seen to high tail it from question period to likely talk some sense into the junior cabinet minister from Halton Hills. Garth Turner, smelling blood in the water asked a question of the Prime Minister concerning Chong’s possible resignation from cabinet due to the nation resolution. The PM gave a dodge answer about the nation resolution and Bill Graham sought to clarify. Mr. Harper grimaced and said that “we’ll see who votes for the resolution tonight” (or something to that effect).

An embarrassing day for the government indeed. House leader Rob Nicholson had to get up in the House to answer Minister Chong’s question.

The London North Centre by-election is today and this issue, let alone the nation issue, will be on voters’ minds.

I hear that western Conservative MPs are outraged. It was toughest for them to accept the nation motion and now Michael Chong has given their constituents an inconvenient question to answer:

“Why didn’t you stand up against this nation resolution when an MP from Ontario did?”

The Conservative Party’s common front on this just met a wrecking ball.

The silver lining at the moment is that Chong’s still part of caucus.

UPDATE (6:59pm): Who will replace Chong in cabinet? There are a couple of possibilities. The PM will either spread Chong’s responsibilities to a current cabmin to shorten the news cycle on this embarrassing event. Or the PM will appoint an MP to cabinet.

I think that Peter van Loan would be a good choice.

UPDATE (8:57pm): Peter van Loan promoted to cabinet. MSM breaks this at 8:22pm. Maybe I’ll play Pro-Line this weekend.

Van Loan makes sense. Replace an Ontario MP with another Ontario MP. Van Loan’s also a highly experienced MP.