Wednesday, September 22, 2010

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:

1.) 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.


  1. Brilliant analysis of the gender, education, provincial divisions.

    Two things to consider:
    I believe fully that the Cons. always meant to win. It was a Private Member's vote to allow "free voting" as he expected no one,including no party, really cared about the issue, and no groups besides stupid women's groups- oops- that was their biggest miscalculation.

    Secondly, the firearms program just happens to be administered fully in only those provinces where the support is high. What came first (administration/support?), I don't know but someone should really check into it.

    Great analysis- if you were to keep going you would find more.....

    Social justice girl

  2. Thanks.

    I gather that the folks in Miramichi were quite upset when there was a possibility that the registry would shut down. Here are a couple of quotes from the local newspaper:

    "Debbie Kelly, regional vice-president of the Union of Solicitor General Employees, said Monday that workers at the centre have been working hard to persuade members of parliament that the registry is a valuable tool.

    "It's not just to save the jobs," she said. "They absolutely know that it's vital for the safety of Canadians.""

    Yeah, sure it is. Miramichi is an area with chronically high unemployment so promoting the saving of the gun registry had everything to do with public safety and nothing to do with saving jobs.

    "In August, as debate over the registry broiled in advance of the September vote, Harper announced that federal government payroll services would be moved to Miramichi, creating about 550 permanent jobs over the next five years."

    Apparently, Harper announced that the payroll jobs were NOT contingent on the disappearance of the Canadian Firearms Centre.

    The entire story can be found here:

  3. Interesting. Did you know that the Registry is completed located in Ottawa (ALL employees)? How on earth did the press and the local MP's mess that one up? I know- political spin for NB, and not one shred of truth.

    Keep digging and you'll see the truth.
    Social justice girl.

  4. I'm not exactly certain where to go from here.

  5. The "urban elites" telling the rural self made "frontiersmen" (because as you astutely pointed out, the most vociferous critics of the registry are generally middle-upper aged males) was a narrative that suited the conservatives just fine. Not going anywhere with undecideds? Time to fire up the base. That's why that Canada map on CBC yesterday that broke the country down into areas that voted to abolish was mostly blue with a comment board comprised mostly of whining about the tyranny of "Quebec and Toronto" by westerners, including some self-described separatists.

    "Quebec and Toronto (including the GTA)" make up more than a third of the country's population with over 13 million residents. But the map is misleading because when you add several other urban centres (which of course, appear insignificant on the map beside massive mostly uninhabited rural ridings), and the ratio of Canadians that live in urban centres (80%), and it becomes apparent that despite the howls about oppression and government intrusion, this is nothing more than a wedge issue exploited by the cons. I don't understand how Saskatchewan can use the "big bad Toronto" argument when it comes to federal politics when 2.5 million+ Torontonians have 22 seats in the HoC and 950,000 Saskatchewaners have 13. I don't want to play divide and conquer politics either, but I doubt this issue arouses the passion in urban areas that it does where we heard the most complaining about the vote result, and their argument about being underrepresented and oppressed is total bunk.