2 NDP MPs back final Commons vote to kill gun registry

Two NDP MPs broke party ranks to vote with the government in the final House of Commons vote on scrapping the long-gun registry.

The northern Ontario New Democrat MPs broke ranks for 2nd time

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews urged opposition MPs to defy party lines and support the bill to end the long-gun registry during a vote on its third and final reading. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Two NDP MPs broke party ranks to vote with the government Wednesday night in the final House of Commons vote in favour of scrapping the long-gun registry.

Bruce Hyer, MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North, and John Rafferty, MP for Thunder Bay-Rainy River, voted with the Conservative Party on a bill that will end the long-gun registration requirement.

Bill C-19 passed 159 to 130 and now goes to the Senate for another round of votes and committee hearings.

Rafferty and Hyer broke party ranks during a vote on the bill in November and were disciplined by interim leader Nycole Turmel at the time.

Turmel said Wednesday following a caucus meeting that "there will be consequences" again for any MPs who don't vote with their party.

She said the NDP has always been against abolishing the registry. She would not, however, commit to bringing it back if the NDP forms government in the next election. Turmel said the NDP will have a new leader after the March 24 convention.

"This will be discussed with the new leader and then the decision will be made," Turmel said. She encouraged the Quebec government to "move fast" to do what it can to maintain the data in the registry. Quebec's government wants to maintain its own registry once the federally managed one is gone and has threatened legal action.

Opposition urged to support bill

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews urged opposition MPs to vote with the government.

At a morning news conference to mark the occasion, he said MPs have a chance to "do the right thing" and abolish the registry.

"I want to take this opportunity to encourage them to vote in accordance with the wishes of their constituents rather than voting according to party lines," Toews said.

The public safety minister described the registry as a "billion-dollar boondoggle" created by the previous Liberal government and said money should be spent on more effective ways of cracking down on gun crime.

"It does nothing to help put an end to gun crimes nor has it saved one Canadian life," said Toews.

Supporters of the registry argue the opposite and have pleaded with the government to maintain the requirement to register long guns. Opposition MPs and proponents of the registry were surprised to learn when the bill was introduced in October that it not only seeks to lift the registration requirement for long guns, it provides for the destruction of records in the existing database.

"Tonight our government will vote to put an end to the waste, and again, I would encourage all members in the House to do the same," he said.

Toews was joined at the news conference by his parliamentary secretary, Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner, whose private member's bill in 2009 to abolish the registry was narrowly defeated.

She blamed opposition MPs for the defeat, saying they "caved in to their political bosses instead of standing up for their constituents."

The Manitoba MP went on to name NDP MPs Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton, Alex Atamanenko, Nathan Cullen, Dennis Bevington, Claude Gravelle and Carol Hughes as MPs whose constituents want the registry gone.

Hoeppner warned that if they don't vote in accordance with their constituents' wishes they risk not being re-elected. She said it was important to name these MPs in order to hold them accountable for their decisions.

When will the data be destroyed?

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews was asked during Wednesday's press conference when the data would be destroyed. Here is the exchange with a reporter:

Q: Do you know when exactly the data will be destroyed after the bill is adopted?

Toews: All I can indicate is that we have made a commitment to get rid of the registry and that includes disposing of the data.

Q: How long will it take, do you know?

Toews: That's all I can say at this point.

Q: You don’t know?

Toews: Yes I know.

Q: How long is it?

Toews: As soon as it's possible after the gun registry is in force.

Q: But what's possible?

Toews: We'll see

"I urge all members from the opposition to review the facts, to listen to their constituents and in particular, to listen to Canadians from rural parts of Canada, from remote parts of Canada, law-abiding Canadians who use firearms for legitimate purposes, and remain law-abiding Canadians," she said.

She accused the opposition of wanting tougher laws for farmers, hunters and sport shooters and of opposing tougher laws for "violent criminals and repeat offenders who prey on our children."

Quebec MP Maxime Bernier was also at the news conference with Toews and Hoeppner and was asked whether the encouragement for opposition MPs to vote on the bill in accordance with their constituents also applies to Conservative MPs from Quebec, given the province's position on the registry.

Celebration planned to mark the vote

Bernier said his riding, and those of his Tory colleagues in Quebec, support the government's efforts to abolish it.

"We are very sensitive to Quebecers' feelings on this, and I think most Quebecers want this government to have legislative measures that are effective in fighting crime, and that's what we're doing," he responded.

Bernier said that Wednesday night after the vote there will be a party with colleagues to mark the bill's passage in the House of Commons and to celebrate the government keeping a campaign promise. He didn't mention where it would be held or who is expected to attend.

Other Conservatives played down the party and said it was a small gathering for Hoeppner and some supporters.

Turmel said the decision to hold a party shows arrogance and is insulting to victims of gun violence.

Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae agreed, telling reporters it is "inappropriate" for Conservatives to be in a celebratory mood.

"I think it's a big mistake for the Conservative Party ... to assume that all Canadians share their sense that this is a cause for celebration," he said.

He said his caucus would be voting in support of the registry.

The Coalition for Gun Control issued a statement Wednesday saying victims are "outraged" that the bill is about to take another step closer to becoming law. It also said it wouldn't give up its fight against Bill C-19.


Meagan Fitzpatrick is a multi-platform reporter with CBC in Toronto. She previously worked in CBC's Washington bureau and covered the 2016 election. Prior to heading south of the border Meagan worked in CBC's Parliament Hill bureau. She has also reported for CBC from Hong Kong. Follow her on Twitter @fitz_meagan