On the eve of the vote on second reading to end the long-gun registry that will be a free vote for Liberal and NDP MPs, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is sending signals he’ll propose policy that would seek to continue the registry while trying to address the concerns of rural Canadians, and indeed, rural Liberals:
Ignatieff said his caucus supports the "principle of gun control," and he personally believes it should include long guns. But he said the issue has divided urban and rural Canadians, and faces "resistance" in rural Canada.
He said his caucus is working on proposals to bridge that gap. In French, he suggested it could include "decriminalizing" the registration system for long guns.
It was a Liberal government that enacted the legal requirements to register firearms, including long-barrelled hunting rifles or shotguns, under the Criminal Code of Canada. The federal Conservatives have brought in successive "amnesties" since 2006 that were meant to encourage compliance by otherwise law-abiding and licensed long-gun owners.
"The fundamental issue is to make sure we get a system of gun control which works both for rural Canada and for urban Canada," Ignatieff said.
"We want to listen to victims groups, sports hunters, legitimate gun owners to find a way to rebuild legitimacy for the gun registry in rural Canada. That's not a thing you can do overnight."
Ignatieff said changes would start with a "simple principle: we are for a firearms registration system that includes all firearms, but there is a problem of resistance in rural areas. It could be possible to decriminalize but to maintain a firearms registration system for long guns."
Interesting. For those Liberals who have been saying it’s time for Ignatieff to have adult conversations with Canadians, here’s a litmus-test for ourselves: can we have an adult conversation on this issue within our own party?
For too long we’ve been playing politics on this issue too, pandering to our urban base while ignoring the rural perspective. Part of the problem has been we haven’t had rural voices at the policy-making table to add perspective. And part of the problem was the calculus was made better to secure the urban even if it means punting the rural.
Whatever happens with the private member’s bill, it appears we’re going to get a chance here within Liberal-land to try this one again, to try to find common policy ground on gun control that can address the concerns of both urban and rural Liberals. The question is, will it be actual debate? Online thus far, the tone has been largely support the registry no matter what or you’re a bad Liberal and a bad person. That reeks of the arrogance the Conservatives always accuse Liberals of having, and it’s insulting to the rural Liberals who have every right to their view.
This issue isn’t a make or break for rural Liberals by a long-shot, at least not for me. But it is symbolic. If you send the message that their views aren’t welcome, that there won’t be actual debate, that the urban way will always carry the day, then you’re just reaffirming the Conservative talking point about this being a Toronto party. Is that really what we want to do?
So can we put ideology aside to accept that each side has legitimate concerns, and try to find common ground? I hope so. Because if Liberals can’t even have adult conversations with ourselves, we’ll never be able to have them with Canadians. Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers