Yesterday, Canada’s House of Commons passed third reading of legislation which would abolish the Canadian Firearms Registry. The bill now goes to Canada’s Senate for passage before being signed into law by the Governor General.
The Canadian Firearms Registry came into being by the Liberal government of Jean Chretien back in 1995. It has long been plagued by cost overruns and there is little evidence to suggest it actually reduces gun crime. The Conservative government of Stephen Harper has wanted to abolish the agency since coming to office in 2006. However, the Tories were in a minority government situation and the opposition parties wouldn’t have it. But after the Tories won their elusive majority in the House of Commons last May, it was only a matter of time before the registry was going to be scrapped.
Interestingly, two members of the socialist New Democratic Party (NDP) voted with the Tories yesterday. The two NDP MPs in question, Bruce Hyer and John Rafferty, represent constituencies in my hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Both Hyer and Rafferty have long supported abolishing the registry which is unpopular in rural areas and especially amongst hunters. Despite their long standing opposition, when Hyer and Rafferty voted in favor of the bill on second reading, interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel stripped Hyer and Rafferty of the critic portfolios and committee assignments as well as prohibited them from participating in Question Period or making public statements. Turmel has warned that more sanctions will be brought about against Hyer and Rafferty. It is worth noting that the NDP will select a new leader next month. If that new leader insists on disciplining Hyer and Rafferty for voting in the interests of their constituents then the NDP can kiss Northern Ontario goodbye in the 2015 election.
It’s interesting how urban-rural schism can split the Left when it comes to gun politics in Canada. On a personal note, when I was a parliamentary intern for former NDP MP Nelson Riis back in the fall of 1994, I had the opportunity to sit in on a few NDP caucus meetings. I was there when the Liberals introduced the firearms registry legislation and back then nearly every member of the NDP caucus opposed the bill as they represented constituencies in Western Canada (mostly in Saskatchewan) that were either predominantly or partially rural. The only NDP MP who supported the registry at the time was Svend Robinson who represented a constituency in a suburban Vancouver.
Well, today there’s are far more urban composition to the NDP Caucus especially from Montreal where there is greater support for the registry. There are also no NDP MPs from Saskatchewan, the cradle of Canadian social democracy. But it also seems there is less tolerance for those with dissenting views which is curious because those dissenting views were once the prevailing views within the NDP Caucus not so long ago.