The Conservative government is dismissing allegations by the Opposition Liberals that its intent to scrap the federal long-gun registry is linked to or influenced by the National Rifle Association.
The comments come a day after CBC News reported that the NRA, a powerful U.S. lobbying group that advocates fewer gun controls, has been involved for more than a decade in efforts to get Canada's long-gun registry abolished.
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre said the Liberal "conspiracy theory" attempts to "demonize" rural Canadians who have been already unfairly criminalized by the registry.
Poilievre, parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, told reporters in Ottawa that the government is proud to work with "distinctly Canadian organizations" who want to end the long-gun registry, which the Conservatives have long denounced as wasteful and ineffective against crime.
Earlier Tuesday, Liberal House leader David McGuinty said Canadian politicians should conduct the debate on the long-gun registry without being influenced by the most powerful gun lobby in the world. He also accused Harper's Conservatives of playing "the worst of right-wing Republican wedge politics" in an attempt to "pick off eight or 10 ridings" with the gun registry.
McGuinty also called on the prime minister to disclose details of what he called a "nudge-nudge, wink-wink relationship" between the NRA and current and former Conservative MPs, staffers and party members.
"Look, it's an extremist group," McGuinty said. "It takes the possession and use of firearms to an extreme level. Everyone knows that.
"They're not scary. They're perfectly transparent. But if they're going to exercise influence over the Conservative Party, the Conservative Party should come clean … and admit what those relationships are."
In hot water
He cited a 2006 Canadian Shooting Sports Association town hall hosted by Conservative MP Garry Breitkreuz that featured a keynote speech by former NRA president Sandra Froman on abolishing the long-gun registry.
But the Conservatives said Breitkreuz did not host the event, and was invited as the then co-chair of the parliamentary outdoors caucus.
"He is in no way connected with the NRA," Conservative Party spokesman Fred DeLorey said in an email to CBC News. "Leave it to the Liberals to never let the facts get in the way of a good smear."
Earlier this year, Breitkreuz also found himself in hot water when a news release from his office called the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police a "cult" and "politically motivated" for supporting the long-gun registry. He later apologized and forced the aide who sent it to resign.
NRA supported anti-gun registry group
Documents and correspondence obtained by the CBC show the NRA has provided logistical and tactical support to organizations such as the Canadian Institute for Legislative Action (CILA), the lobbying arm of the CSSA, established in 1998 to lobby Ottawa to shut down the registry.
The NRA provides the Canadian gun lobby group with "tremendous amounts of logistical support," and while the NRA's constitution prevents it from providing money, "they freely give us anything else," Tony Bernardo, an Ontario gun advocate and CILA's executive director, said in Canadian Firearms Digest in July 2001.
In 2000, the NRA paid $100,000 for an infomercial about what it called "the Canadian situation" that aired on The National Network in the U.S., according to Bernardo, who appeared in the video.
MPs are scheduled to vote on whether to scrap Conservative backbencher Candice Hoeppner's private member's bill calling for the repeal of the registry on Sept. 22.
Breitkreuz sent out emails to 12 NDP MPs who initially supported Hoeppner's bill, asking them to stick with the Conservatives in scrapping the long-gun registry.
Instead, many of those same MPs are now voting against scrapping the registry to protest Breitkreuz's tactics.