Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Showdown at the parliamentary corral

If yesterday's theme in Ottawa was shashbuckling pirates, today it's westerns and cowboys. Because tonight at 1745 EST it's the show-down in the parliamentary corral, when the pro an anti-gun registry forces square-off. Don't vote until you see the whites of their eyes!

I think it will be a nail-biter. I'm told the Liberals will have all hands on deck. Apparently Newfoundland MP Scott Simms spent some extra time washing his hands or something this morning, wasn't at a group photo-op, and a flurry of speculative media coverage ensued. Were I Yukon MP Larry Bagnall, I'd walk by the press gallery coughing, clutching a bottle of cough syrup, just for the fun of watching the networks break into regular programming. Anyway, they'd better have all hands on deck, no excuses. The NDP don't want to flip one more MP than they think they have to (a risky gambit), so it's a very thin margin we're working with.

I won't rehash the arguments pro and con at this point. But I do want to reinforce a few things.

One, as I wrote last month when Angus Reid released its last poll on the gun registry, opposition to scrapping the registry is growing, and for scrapping it is declining. In the latest poll, 46 support scrapping, and 40 per cent oppose scrapping. Pro-scrapping is up two points from August but down five from last November. But opposition to scrapping it is up five points from last month and six points from last year.

As they learn more, the undecideds are breaking to the don't scrap side. Keep this issue in the spotlight and that trend will continue, and the air will come out of the scrap the registry balloon. People are increasingly siding with the police, the doctors and nurses, the victims of crime, and the growing chorus in favour of the registry.

Two, the media still persist in the laughable assertion that no matter what Stephen Harper does on this issue he'll win, because he's super-awesome. And vice-versa for the Liberals. I wonder how they can seriously write this nonsense.

First of all, the gun registry is Harper's majority killer. It's poison for him in Quebec (better build arenas for everyone), and in cities, particularly with urban women. There's no way he can make up enough seats in rural Canada to both a) compensate for held seats endangered by this issue, and b) add the numbers he needs for a majority. The math isn't even close. There's a reason why he hasn't pushed this issue until now. You can bet that whatever happens tonight, the Liberals will make the registry an issue in urban and Quebec races, particularly in held ridings. Peter Kent in Thornhill, Alice Wong in Richmond, Andrew Sexton in North Vancouver ... the list is long of urban Conservative MPs offside with their constituents on this issue.

And secondly, as I've argued before I'm doubtful the Liberals will take much of a hit in rural Canada on this. By and large, most of those opposed to the registry enough to make it a ballot issue aren't voting Liberal anyway. So it's factored-in. Those who see the registry as a conspiracy toward a police state will forever be lost to us. And for those with legitimate serious issues about the registry, the proposed Liberal changes are a reasonable compromise that address most of their concerns. I see a net positive for the Liberals on this issue with the way they've played it.

Three, while the media have focused on Liberal and NDP MPs they've refused to challenge the long list of Conservative MPs who represent areas (urban Canada, Quebec) where support for keeping the registry is very high. Why aren't they too expected to vote the will of their constituents, as Candice Hoeppner insists the opposition MPs should? Have they been privately whipped or pressured? Questions that the gallery hasn't bothered to ask.

Anyway, if there's one thing we can all agree on, I think, it's that there are far more important matters of state our parliamentarians should be focused on at the moment. So let's kill this bid to quash the registry tonight, and move on to more important things.

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Rick Barnes said...

well said Jeff. Of course all the Cons have a different standard. Not all of them represent the majority opinion in their ridings. But then that only counts if you are a Liberal or New Democrat these days.

CanadianSense said...

Some Liberals don't know it yet but they already lost.

The public is reminded Liberals promised a $ 2 million dollar program went to $ 2 Billion was reported as $ 4 million costs $ 66 million per year.

The math does not add up for Liberals-NDP. They can't afford to run ads in their riding to fend of attacks from third party groups Wildlife Groups or the war chest of CPC.

Alison said...

Agreed that the media has been swallowing the ReformaTory spin about whipping. It is quite clear that the Cons were whipped. Why have they not been called out on this?

Morakon said...

Question for you Jeff. I read this in the Star tonight.

Hoeppner, who has led the party’s charge to kill the registry, flat-out rejected overtures by both Liberals and New Democrats to compromise.

Instead, she said her private member’s bill was “the compromise bill".

“I worked with opposition members because they asked for a bill that would only take the long gun portion out of the registry,” she said, after a meeting of the Conservative caucus.

What other portion did she what removed from the registy? Hand Guns? Have you heard anything about this?

Terry said...

Canadian nonsense states the Libs have already lost..........her own Oakville MP refuses to discuss the gun registry as do many other urban reformatort MP's. They know it will be a big loss of votes when brought up at local riding levels with women abandoning the cons in droves.

Typical of that loser to mistate the obvious

rockfish said...

Harper's reformatories are weaving in circles on this one -- stalled so long, then didn't have the chutzpah to present it as a government bill, then bullied possible enablers to vote against it. These turtles have left their shells, to rip off a horse metaphor.

Jeff Jedras said...

Morakon, I don't remember all the details, but the predecessor to the Hoepner bill came from Garry Breitkreuz in the last parliament. I believe it may have have also taken a crack at handguns, and was generally seen as going too far even by some Conservatives. The PMO asked him to shelve it just before the last election.