THUNDER BAY – It was a vote that put both local Members of Parliament on the opposite side of the fence with their caucus members in the New Democratic Party. Bruce Hyer MP (Thunder Bay Superior North) and John Rafferty MP (Thunder Bay Rainy River) choose to vote as they have repeatedly promised their constituents. When Bill C-19 the bill to shut down the federal long gun registry came up for a vote on second reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday, both MPs voted for the legislation.
The two MPs were the only members of the New Democratic Party who voted with the government to support this legislation. Both MPs have repeatedly promised their constituents that they would vote to get rid of the gun registry.
The interm NDP leader led off Question Period in the House of Commons on the issue, and several NDP MPs spoke in support of keeping the long gun registry during debate.
During debate on Tuesday in the House of Commons, Conservative Kenora MP Greg Rickford stated, “I spent a great deal of my life living in isolated and remote first nations communities. I have a rich professional background in dealing with a variety of domestic and sexual assaults, most unfortunately. Not one of them revolved around a gun-related incident. However, I can tell the member that this is exactly what the licensing process is intended to deal with. The licensing process, which would not be affected by this legislation, deals specifically with stringent guidelines to prevent those kinds of people with those kinds of tendencies in those kinds of circumstances from lawfully possessing or acquiring long guns. That is an important intellectual point, and in the context of domestic abuse and sexual assaults, it is a more than important practical point in this debate”.
Kevin Sorenson, the Conservative MP from Crowfoot riding in Alberta stated, “Law-abiding farmers in my riding open the newspaper every day and are confronted with stories about gun crime in cities across the country. These crimes are being committed by thugs and gang members. After one of those criminal activities takes place, they listen to the Liberals or the NDP talk about the reason that we need the long gun registry. The farmers and the ranchers in my constituency sit back and say, “Listen. I’ve never broken the law in my life. Why am I being thrown into the same conversation with these thugs and criminals when they talk about the registry and long guns?”. There are crimes being committed with illegal handguns and weapons that have been stolen or smuggled in from across the border but the opposition says that it is all a gun issue”.
NDP MP Charlie Angus, who in the past spoke against the registry said, during debate, “I have lived with the issue of the gun registry since it was implemented. We saw the ham-fisted way that it was brought in, which caused a great deal of alienation. I have to say that in my office over the last seven years the issues regarding the registry have dropped to zero. People are upset about the licensing. People are upset about the various processes. The questions we had about the registry have pretty much vanished. In response to the Conservative member, I sat down with a police officer and told her that I needed an answer on whether she used the registry. She told me that, in a case of domestic violence, they need to know whether there are four or five guns in the house. She said that it was not enough to know that the person is a gun owner. She said that they need to know if there is a fifth gun and that, if they do not know where that fifth gun is, people die. That is what police officers in the city of Timmins told me to my face”.
Liberal interim leader Bob Rae said, “What Canadians are looking for is public policy that is based on evidence, based on the facts, based on a reasonable assessment of risk. They are looking for public policy that is based on the realities of the situation. They are looking for public policy that is based on a consistent sense that we have as a country, that what we can do to reduce violence and reduce the loss of life is worth doing as long as it is not too intrusive, not unreasonable, and is reasonably fair and equitable.
“I am not here to defend all of the expenditures in the registry. I think the costs are way less than the numbers that have been thrown around by the government over a 10 year period. No doubt some of that money could have been spent differently and perhaps more wisely, but that really is not the issue. Those are now sunk costs. We are not going to get the money back. No effort by the Reform Party on the other side is going to get it back. All the enthusiasm they have for the rights of gun owners is not going to change the situation”.
When former Auditor General Shelia Fraser attempted to uncover information about the registry, she had to suspend her audit, there simply was not a paper trail that the Auditor General could follow. In fact the Auditor General reported that the then Liberal government had hidden information about the firearms registry from Parliament, and that decisions were taken without documentation. When seeking to uncover if the registry was able to help in its stated task of public safety, the Auditor General reported, “The performance report focuses on activities such as issuing licences and registering firearms. The Centre does not show how these activities help minimize risks to public safety with evidence-based outcomes such as reduced deaths, injuries and threats from firearms”.
Neither Rafferty or Hyer spoke in the House during the debate Tuesday.
The vote in the House of Commons was 156-123 – The vote has now moved to Committee.