Leef fires blanks in gun registry fight

There are many weighty issues this federal election. Canada's role in supporting Syrian refugees. Competing schemes to help parents raising young children.

There are many weighty issues this federal election. Canada’s role in supporting Syrian refugees. Competing schemes to help parents raising young children. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations. Electoral reform. And so on.

So, naturally enough, Yukon’s MP has dedicated a good part of his campaign to huffing away about a piece of legislation that was shot dead and buried more than three years ago, and for which there is remarkable consensus across Canada’s political parties to keep it that way.

We’re talking, of course, about the long-gun registry.

Our Conservative MP, Ryan Leef, seems to have dedicated a good chunk of his campaign war chest to blasting away on the issue. The person in his sights is his Liberal opponent, Larry Bagnell, who, during his own stint as MP, once helped to prop-up the long-gun registry after previously telling voters that he opposed it.

A full-page colour advertisement that Leef’s campaign placed in Wednesday’s newspaper features a large, red-tinged face of Bagnell, with the following words over top: “If Larry Bagnell comes back, the gun registry comes back.” Another caption proclaims, “Only a vote for Ryan Leef will stop a long-gun registry.”

This is misleading. In truth, the Liberals have long ruled out bringing back the gun registry. But you wouldn’t know that from looking at the ad.

Instead, the only context is a Dec. 2012 quotation from Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau: “If we had a vote tomorrow, I would vote once again to keep the long-gun registry.” The ad neglects to include the rest of Trudeau’s quotation from this time, in which he goes on to say that the registry was a “failed policy” because it was “so deeply divisive for far too many people.”

Taken as a whole, Trudeau’s message at this time seemed confusing and self-contradictory, but the Liberals have had nearly three years to clarify it: they haven’t entirely renounced the gun registry, but they have repeatedly promised they won’t bring it back.

The NDP have adopted a similar posture. Their leader, Tom Mulcair, said as recently as Dec. 2014 that he would bring the registry back in a modified form, but the party reversed itself on the subject soon afterward.

Of course, politicians have been known to say one thing and do another. But beyond the fevered imaginations of some gun enthusiasts, it’s hard to envision the return of the gun registry, widely derided as a billion-dollar boondoggle that treated law-abiding hunters as criminals. Conservatives are essentially asserting there is a secret scheme to do so, without offering a shred of evidence to support this theory.

This must feel like payback – for years, their party faced similarly paranoid attacks from left-wingers who claimed that Stephen Harper, upon seizing a majority government, would quickly ban abortion and much else that has not come to fruition. Now Conservatives are able to accuse the opposition parties of harbouring their own “secret agenda.”

Bagnell should certainly be judged on his past voting record. But the vote he cast in favour of the gun registry is not the simple morality tale that his detractors make it out to be. Bagnell faced the choice between going against his word and expulsion from his party. Yes, he could have walked away from the Liberals to sit as an independent. But in doing so, he would have given up the benefits of party membership that helped him lobby in the best interests of his riding. This is a genuinely difficult trade-off.

Of course, this is all old news to anyone following such things. Bagnell cast his controversial vote five long years ago now, and everyone has by now formed their own opinion on it. It was the focus of Leef’s run for office four years ago. Now we’re hearing the same arguments all over again. When will it end?

This all must say something about the gun registry’s symbolic potency. During the long-running debate over it, partisans on both sides never worried too much about sticking to the facts.

Some of the registry’s more hysterical detractors were sure it was part of a broader government plot to take away everyone’s guns. The largely urban, liberal-minded Canadians who defended the registry as an important crime-fighting tool never had much in the way of evidence to support their views, either. In truth, gun-related crimes had begun to decline in Canada long before the registry’s introduction, and have continued along this trajectory since the registry was scrapped. And it was often lost in the debate that even after the gun registry’s disappearance, Canada’s gun licensing laws remain on the books.

But the most important thing to remember about the gun registry is that it’s dead, and nobody is campaigning to bring it back. Leef’s eagerness to suggest otherwise simply creates the impression he just doesn’t have that much else to say.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dawson the dog sits next to the Chariot Patrick Jackson has loaded and rigged up to walk the Dempster Highway from where it begins, off the North Klondike Highway, to the Arctic Circle. (Submitted)
Walking the Dempster

Patrick Jackson gets set for 405-kilometre journey

Liberal leader Sandy Silver speaks outside his campaign headquarters in Dawson City following early poll results on April 12. (Robin Sharp/Yukon News)
BREAKING: Minority government results will wait on tie vote in Vuntut Gwitchin

The Yukon Party and the Liberal Party currently have secured the same amount of seats

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: The Neapolitan election

Do you remember those old bricks of Neapolitan ice cream from birthday… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Exposure notice issued for April 3 Air North flight

Yukon Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has issued another… Continue reading

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Runners in the Yukon Arctic Ultra marathon race down the Yukon River near the Marwell industrial area in Whitehorse on Feb. 3, 2019.
Cold-weather exercise hard on the lungs

Amy Kenny Special to the Yukon News It might make you feel… Continue reading

lwtters
Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Most Read