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February 03, 2004

National Firearms Registry in Canada.

Maybe, just maybe, the Canadians are going to get a chance to undo a little bit of liberal folly.

Some key points:

The final battle over the $1-billion federal gun registry is set to be waged over the next two months, with a senior Liberal MP telling constituents he believes the controversial program may die of "financial malnutrition" after a free vote in the Commons.

For those of us in the US, a 'free vote' means that the MPs are going to be allowed to vote their conscience, not the party line. In the past, PM Chretien threatened any vote would be a 'confidence vote' which could trigger new elections if the vote didn't go the way the PM wanted it to.

Gallaway recalled the anger of Liberal MPs last year when Chretien declared a vote on $59 million in supplementary estimates for the Canadian Firearms Centre would be a vote of confidence in the government, meaning an election would have been called had the motion been defeated.

Since no one was willing to topple the government over the issue, it wasn't going to get overturned. Now however, there's a chance.

However, the usual suspects aren't happy.

The leading advocate for the registry, Wendy Cukier of the Coalition for Gun Control, calls the prospect of its demise "tragic."

Cukier accuses Martin and his government of undermining the program through anonymous leaks about a current review of the scheme.

She also criticized the January declaration by Albina Guarnieri, the minister for emergency preparedness who is reviewing the program, that all options are open.

Cukier expressed frustration at the meagre resources available to mount a last-minute lobbying campaign to retain the program. She accused the government of failing to communicate positive aspects to the public and MPs.

Ms. Cukier - perhaps that's because they read the report of the Auditor General?

Martin said during his leadership campaign that changes to the program last year in the wake of a scathing report by auditor general Sheila Fraser were insufficient. He said last month Canada must continue to register "weapons," but that left the door open to continue the decades-long practice of registering handguns while ceasing the registration of rifles and shotguns

Fraser touched off a firestorm in December 2002, when she disclosed massive overspending on the program, which the government originally said would cost $2 million. The latest estimates are $1 billion by the next fiscal year over the 10 years it has taken to implement the program. The program now costs about $113 million annually.

Now, some elements of the US political structure have wished to have the same sort of thing. Given those costs for Canada, imagine what it would cost here!

Let's give Ms. Cukier a last word:

"I think it would be tragic if Paul Martin's legacy was that he was the prime minister who killed gun control in Canada."

I'm just guessing here - but I bet there are other things Canada could spend 1 Billion dollars on. Just a thought.