153 to 151 – The Yeas have it and the Gun Registry survives to see another day

Well, that’s it for the great gun registry debate of 2009 – 2010. Bill C-391 was just defeated by 2 votes, thanks in large part to the NDP and the whipping of the Liberals.

I’d like to take just a quick last look at the issue.

Canadians have been conned by our elected ones into believing that the vote on Bill C-391 was split along rural-urban lines with John Baird even summoning the ghosts of the “urban elite”.

By feeding us that line of propaganda, it made it appear that there was little support for the Bill among those in urban settings. Nothing could be further from the truth. An EKOS poll from November 2009 found that the societal fracture in the issue was along several lines:

 Only 46% of Canadians felt that all Canadians should have a legal right to bear arms with 54% feeling that gun ownership should be outlawed completely except for law enforcement officials. The split was along provincial lines with a poll showing that only 41% of Ontario residents and 36% of Quebec residents felt that it should be legal for ordinary citizens to own guns of any type compared to 62% in Atlantic Canada, 64% in the Prairies and 69% in Alberta.
2.) Supporters of the gun registry tended to be university-educated with 38% supporting the registry compared to 31% who supported abolishing the registry.
3.) Supporters of the gun registry tended to be Liberal or BQ supporters.
4.) Supporters of the gun registry tended to live in Ontario and Quebec.
5.) Supporters of the gun registry tended to be under 65 years of age.
6.) Supporter of the gun registry tended to be female.
7.) A majority of all Canadians (64%) believe that guns should be banned in urban areas.

From the responses, it appears that Canada is very divided on the gun registry issue, but definitely not only along rural-urban lines. Why didn’t Conservative politicians bring up the issue that 47% of male respondents wanted to abolish the gun registry compared to the 30% of women surveyed? Why didn’t they focus on pitting the 45% of Canadians 65 and older who favoured abolition versus the 29% of Canadians under 25? Why exactly did our politicians focus on the rural-urban issue? I honestly cannot answer that question except to say that perhaps the issue something visceral and historical but relatively harmless compared to pitting seniors against the younger crowd and men against women (and we all know that’s a no-winner).

Interestingly enough, a very large 31% of respondents to the poll had no opinion suggesting that there is more ambivalence toward the issue than the media or our politicians would have us believe. It’s apparent that all of the talking points about the registry over the past 10 months have been just that; talk.

As Canadians, we have to be careful about what we believe, especially when we are using politicians as our source of information. Their primary goal is to get re-elected, nothing more and nothing less. If in the process they divide Canadians, sadly, that seems to be of little concern to them.

One last point. 
If the Harper government was convinced that it was a good idea to get rid of the gun registry, why did they let Candice Hoeppner introduce Bill C-391 as a private members bill rather than introducing it on the floor as a bill that could have been subjected to a vote of confidence? Or, was it that the Harperites knew that getting rid of the registry was a very divisive issue that was only going to split Canadians roughly in half and so they had it introduced as a weaker private members bill because they didn’t want to trigger an election over an issue that was so contentious and probably a non-winner.

In any case, the issue now has the unmistakable stench of an election issue; the Harper government can now point out the fact that they kept one of their campaign promises from 5 years ago when we next go to the polls.

Click HERE to read more of Glen Allen’s columns.

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