It seems to be the new normal: come see a Conservative speak and you could go home with a gun.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is courting controversy by giving a speech this weekend at a fishing and hunting conference where organizers are auctioning off a hunting rifle.
The prime minister will deliver the keynote address tonight in Mississauga, Ont., at the annual conference of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. The organization is holding a silent auction at the conference for a "hunting package" that includes a rifle.
Harper's appearance comes only days after Conservative MP Garry Breitkreuz faced an uproar over plans to address a dinner where the organizers, the Canadian Shooting Sports Association, will give away a Beretta semi-automatic handgun as a raffle prize.
"Is there going to be a weapon auctioned off at every event they speak at?" said Liberal MP Mark Holland. "The optics are terrible, and when you mix it with everything else the government is doing to undermine gun control, it's disturbing."
As long as the winner is licensed and registers it, I have no problem with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters raffling off a rifle as part of their annual conference today. Rifles and handguns are two different things. And they are hunters, so it's kinda logical.
What I do question, here, is Stephen Harper's political judgment. Usually he probably could have gotten away from this with minimal fuss. But coming just days after the Garry Breitkreuz handgun controversy, the optics of this are just ridiculous and it will not play well at all in the communities that are dealing with gang violence, communities where he has been trying to gain ground with his supposedly tough on crime legislation.
Forget the merits of the long-guns vs. hand guns debate, the fact is this raffle in conjunction with the Breitkreuz thing sends an awful message to Canadians at a time when crime is an important issue on their minds. The Conservatives should have known better, and nipped this one in the bud.
The best I can say is that maybe this is a sop to their base, a way to send a message that "forget than handgun thing, or that we haven't abolished the gun registry after three years, see, screw them liberals, we love our rifles too" and play the culture game. Maybe so, but I think the bite they're going to take on the other side outweighs the benefit of tossing a bone to the base.
It is the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. Couldn't they just auction off a dammed fishing rod and tackle box?
**Help send a BCer to BC for the Liberal convention. Any support is greatly appreciated. Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers