Federal NDP Leader Jack Layton says enough members of his party will vote to defeat a Conservative backbencher's bill to repeal the long-gun registry.


NDP Leader Jack Layton has said he wants to submit legislation to fix the long-gun registry. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))

Layton said Tuesday an "overwhelming majority" of his rural caucus is on his side after consultations at the party's caucus meeting in Regina.

"After all these discussions, I'm very confident that the votes that are needed to continue the registry so that it can be fixed will, indeed, be there," Layton told reporters. "I'm feeling very optimistic about what lies ahead as a result."

With all Liberals and the Bloc Québécois poised to vote on Sept. 22 to halt Tory MP Candice Hoeppner's private member's bill and the Conservatives set to support the bill, the fate of the registry lies with the NDP, which allows its MPs to vote however they want on private member's bills.

This week, the Conservatives launched a series of radio ads targeting New Democrats who previously supported Hoeppner's bill but planned to switch their votes in the upcoming fall session of Parliament.

Six of the dozen NDP MPs who previously voted in favour of Hoeppner's bill have said they will not change their vote to scrap the registry.

Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton (Churchill) has yet to indicate how she will vote. And NDP MP Carol Hughes (Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing) has said she will not vote in favour of a Liberal motion to scrap Hoeppner's bill on Sept. 22 but wouldn't say what side she would choose if the bill reaches a vote on third reading.

Hughes said Tuesday she'll announce her decision in her riding.

Layton has said his party will introduce legislation when Parliament resumes next week to make a first-time failure to register a firearm a non-criminal ticketing offence and to waive fees for new licences.

During the last session of Parliament, Hoeppner's bill, C-391, passed second reading 164-137 in a House vote with support from 12 New Democrats and eight Liberals, most of whom represented northern and rural ridings.

While the NDP is allowing a free vote, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has declared Hoeppner's bill a whipped vote, meaning all of his MPs must vote along with the leader or face discipline.

Speaking earlier Tuesday, Liberal House leader David McGuinty would not say whether all members of the Liberal caucus would show up for the Sept. 22 vote.

The Conservatives have denounced the long-gun registry as wasteful and ineffective, arguing it unfairly criminalizes law-abiding Canadians who fail to register a firearm.