Conservatives target gun registry again

The Conservatives are once again promising to kill the gun registry. And Ryan Leef, the party's candidate for the Yukon, is using the pledge to take potshots at Larry Bagnell, the territory's Liberal MP.

The Conservatives are once again promising to kill the gun registry.

And Ryan Leef, the party’s candidate for the Yukon, is using the pledge to take potshots at Larry Bagnell, the territory’s Liberal MP.

“We were told one thing at our doorstep and another thing in Ottawa,” Leef said on Monday. “What an MP tells you, Yukoners should be able to take to the bank.”

Bagnell, who was first elected in 2000, has long opposed the gun registry. But he helped prop-up the registry during a whipped vote in September after he was warned by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff that he’d be turfed from the party if he didn’t.

It wasn’t an idle threat.

When Bagnell previously broke party ranks to vote against the registry, he lost his job as chair of the rural caucus as a result.

It’s hard for a rogue MP to accomplish much, said Bagnell. To be banished from his party over a gun registry vote “would be bad for the Yukon.”

Bagnell has always told voters that he wouldn’t split from the Liberals over the gun registry, he said.

Leef vowed to honour the wishes of Yukoners ahead of his party.

“I think that’s pretty naive,” said Bagnell. “There’s not a single Conservative MP that’s stood up to Stephen Harper.”

The Conservatives also promised to create a hunting and wildlife advisory committee. It would be comprised of members of hunting, fishing and conservation groups, and would make recommendations to government on endangered species, wetland protection and nature conservation, said Leef.

“For too long, government caused problems for rural Canadians that common sense could solve,” he said.

Leef made the announcement from his campaign office on the corner of Hanson Street and Second Avenue, surrounded by about 25 supporters, including Yukon’s Senator Dan Lang, a Conservative appointee.

It was Leef’s first campaign announcement since winning the Conservative nomination. Peppered with conservative talking points, much of his speech sounded like it had been written by Harper.

Leef warned the economic recovery was “fragile,” criticized the decision to topple the governing Conservatives as “unnecessary,” and encouraged voters to send Conservatives back to power with a “strong, stable” majority government.

Leef also echoed Harper’s assertion Ignatieff would form a “coalition” with the NDP and Bloc Quebecois.

Ignatieff has ruled out forming a coalition – although he hasn’t excluded the possibility of striking a loose partnership to form a minority government.

Leef attacked the Liberals’ pledge to build a new hockey arena in Quebec City as a “billion-dollar waste,” adding, “I want an arena in Ross River, not a coliseum in Quebec.”

Naturally, Leef also blasted the federal gun registry as a “wasteful” assault on hunters and farmers. The Conservatives have unsuccessfully tried to kill the registry several times.

Police chiefs argue the registry is a useful law-enforcement tool. Some frontline officers dispute this, noting that few criminals register their weapons and that urban gangs prefer illegal handguns to hunting rifles.

Liberals note that all types of gun deaths have declined since the registry was brought into force. They neglect to mention that gun deaths began to fall in 1979, well before the Liberals’ introduction of gun registry in 1995.

What is indisputable is that the registry has infuriated the many rural Canadians who have refused to register their firearms.

If Conservatives succeed in removing the gun registry, Canadians would still require a licence to obtain and use a gun. Existing safety rules for storing and transporting a firearm would stand. And separate rules would apply to restricted weapons, such as handguns.

Bagnell estimates a “slim majority” of Yukoners continue to support killing the registry, although he’s seen the number of vocal supporters grow since last autumn. If he had another free vote to cast on the matter, he suspects he would oppose the registry, but he said he would consult with Yukoners first.

But Bagnell prefers to talk about the many spending announcements in the Liberal platform, which was unveiled Sunday. They include money for green home renovations, support for seniors and students, affordable housing, and a lot more.

Bagnell’s already visited 12 communities and all of Whitehorse’s subdivisions. He plans to hit Carmacks, Ross River and Faro this week.

“I run all campaigns like I’m one vote behind,” he said.

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