NDP's Thibeault to switch gun registry vote

NDP MP Glenn Thibeault says he will switch his vote to oppose a Tory backbencher's bill to repeal the federal long-gun registry.

NDP MP Glenn Thibeault says he will switch his vote to oppose a Tory backbencher's bill to repeal the federal long-gun registry.

A Toronto gun shop owner checks out the scope on a hunting rifle in this file photo. NDP MP Glenn Thibeault says he will vote against a Tory backbencher's bill to scrap the federal long-gun registry. ((Kevin Frayer/Canadian Press))
Speaking Tuesday in his northern Ontario riding of Sudbury, Thibeault said he would stand with NDP Leader Jack Layton, instead of supporting the "fear-mongering rhetoric of the Conservatives or the empty promises of the Liberals."

"When I originally supported the bill, it was to send it to committee so we could amend it," Thibeault told a crowd of supporters. "But there were too many parliamentary games going on. We couldn't get any amendments."

Thibeault was one of 12 NDP MPs and eight Liberals who helped Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner's bill pass second reading last November. He joins NDP colleague Charlie Angus in announcing he would change his vote and support the registry.

Several Liberal MPs who previously supported the bill have announced they would switch their votes after Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff declared it a whipped vote, meaning MPs must vote with the party leader or face disciplinary measures. 

Layton, who has faced blistering criticism for allowing his MPs a free vote on Hoeppner's bill, has said his party will introduce legislation in the fall session to improve the registry and address concerns raised by northern and rural Canadians.

Hoeppner hopes to keep votes

Hoeppner, who embarked on a summer tour to promote awareness of her bill, said she's disappointed with Thibeault's switch. She added she hopes to convince some Liberal MPs to maintain their support, while also holding onto the NDP members who backed her bill in the past.

"I recognize I'm up against some well-organized, well-financed, politically motivated organizations," she said.

The Conservatives have denounced the long-gun registry, which was introduced by the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien in 1995, as wasteful and ineffective.

If passed, Bill C-391 would scrap the registry and destroy existing data within the system on about seven million shotguns and rifles.

A vote on a motion passed by the House public safety committee to scrap Hoeppner's bill is scheduled for Sept. 22.

With files from The Canadian Press