Here We Go Again


Taking another kick at the registry can

Dennis E. Florianby Dennis E. Florian
Gun Owners’ Resource staff

Well, here we are again.

As some of you have likely noticed in a hastily-posted item here last night, Canadian Member of Parliament Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton—Melville, CPC) introduced Bill C-301 to the House of Commons at about 3:15 or so, yesterday afternoon. While the bill holds true to fulfilling a longstanding Conservative Party promise to finally drive a stake through the heart of the loathsome and colossally wasteful Canadian long gun registry, gun owners north of the 49 parallel must be forgiven if their elation seems somewhat subdued in the wake of this news.

We’ve been here before, you see.

True to their word on the campaign trail, the Conservative Party of Canada has made several attempts at killing the white elephant of a registry foisted upon us during the Chretien administration. The problem is that the Conservatives are currently presiding over a minority government in the Canadian parliament, so getting this bill passed may be a nonstarter.

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Now, I have no intention whatsoever of delving into the befuddling depths of the workings of the Canadian governmental system here. American visitors to the site would be bored to tears, British and Australian visitors already know more about the Westminster parliamentary model than any sane person wants to, and French visitors… well, they’d just be French about it. I will, however, try to provide a quick and simple explanation (insofar as that is possible) for those who aren’t familiar with the Canadian system…

Parliament 101

There are 308 seats in the Canadian House of Commons.  The governing Conservatives control only 143 of them; 2 are held by independents and the remaining 163 are divided up between three left-wing, rabidly anti-gun parties: the Liberal Party of Canada, the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois. A quick rundown of them could go as follows:

  • The Liberals are the ones who gave us the long gun registry (which has historically cost Canadian taxpayers over half a million dollars each and every day since its creation) in the first place. And regardless of political stripe, there is one thing on which all observers of Canadian politics agree: Being Liberal means never having to admit you were wrong.
  • The NDP are a socialist bunch, thoroughly entrenched in the idea that there isn’t anything a citizen can do that the government can’t do better. Especially when it comes to your protection.  From anything.
  • The Bloc Québécois are a Quebec separatist party. They exist for one reason and one reason only: to break up the country. Everything else that they do is a means towards that end.

So this is the barren ground that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper would need to till in order to harvest the needed votes to pass the Bill through the Commons. Even if every Conservative voted in favour of the Bill (which is not unlikely) and the two independents got on board as well (which is possible), ten more votes would be needed from some very unlikely quarters. Previous efforts at this have not gone well.

And just think; all this doesn’t even take the Senate (long considered a Machiavellian Liberal failsafe mechanism) into account. You can see why Canadian gun owners aren’t exactly leaping for joy just yet.

Some hope?

Now, before anyone accuses me of being a wet blanket, I’m going to point out that we actually do have a reason or three to think this particular kick at the can may go better than those in the past.

The first is that we, being gun owners, have rumours for every occasion. The current rumour making its way around the campfire is that a small group of Liberal and NDP MPs – most of whom a) come from rural or northern ridings where, as one MP once put it, “guns are part of the furniture,” and b) just barely won their seats by narrow margins in the last general election – are prepared to break rank and vote to kill the registry.

Is this possible? Yes, it is. If there’s one thing that a politician can be counted on to do, in any situation, it’s look after his own skin. The registry has, for years now, been a burr under the saddle of many people who would otherwise vote on the left side of the political spectrum, but are beginning to find themselves rubbed raw by the irritant. The Conservatives are the only party in the country promising to kill the registry and they came within the narrowest of margins of winning quite a few more seats than they did in the last general election. That’s a message that any would-be Member of Parliament ignores at his own political peril.

The confidence game

Another potential cause for optimism is the rather unique weather of the Canadian political climate at the moment. Some people have theorized that Prime Minister Harper may declare the Bill a motion of confidence, meaning that if it fails, the government falls and Canadians have themselves an immediate election. While such a course of action may sound reckless on the face of it, it really isn’t so much.

It’s been said that the political left is driven by the twin fuels of fear and loathing. After decades of being Canada’s “natural governing party,” the Liberals absolutely loathe the thought of the Conservatives having their hands on the levers of power. But as much as they may hate the Conservatives, they fear an election even more.

The Liberal Party of Canada, you see, is nearly broke. If it weren’t for federal political subsidies they receive (another topic altogether) keeping them afloat, the Liberals, as my granny would say, wouldn’t “have a pot to piss in nor a window to throw it out.” The last general election saw the Conservatives returned to power with a second, but strengthened, minority government. The Liberals, under the leadership of the hapless Stephane Dion, staggered away from the fray with their worst share of the popular vote since Confederation. Dion is now gone — they replaced him with Michael Ignatieff; a former Harvard prof who’s lived more time away from Canada than in it, and about whom many Canadians feel more than a little suspicious. They are mired in debt, still trying to pay the bills from not only the last election, but even the leadership convention that gave them the disappointing Monsieur Dion.

They also recently were caught trying to form a pact with the separatist Bloc, in an attempt to wrest power from the Conservatives without all the democratic messiness of having an election. That act of audacity that saw Conservative support rise above the 50% mark; a level of support rarely found in Canada for any party (historically, 40% support is considered the level needed to be elected to a majority government, although lower levels have often accomplished it in the fractured Canadian political environment). Many Canadians are itching for the chance to punish the Liberals — as they once did the now-defunct Progressive Conservative Party; sending them plummeting from a majority status to a mere two seats in the House — for what they consider to be an act bordering on treason.

Add this all together and the sum is that, while the Liberals hate the Conservatives being in power, they are terrified by the thought of facing the electorate at any time in the foreseeable future. If C-301 is declared a vote of confidence, you may well see (or should I say, not see) a large number of Liberals suddenly getting the flu on the day of the vote.

Yes, there is some hope to be had here. But any Canadian gun owner who thinks we can sit on our laurels and enjoy the victory is a fool.

This battle hasn’t even been won yet, let alone the war.

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