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New Democrat MP Peter Stoffer fields questions on his decision to change is vote on the gun registry at a news conference in his Fall River, N.S., office on Sept. 20, 2010. (ANDREW VAUGHAN/The Canadian Press)
New Democrat MP Peter Stoffer fields questions on his decision to change is vote on the gun registry at a news conference in his Fall River, N.S., office on Sept. 20, 2010. (ANDREW VAUGHAN/The Canadian Press)

NDP's Peter Stoffer changes mind, will vote to keep gun registry Add to ...

Nova Scotia MP Peter Stoffer will vote to maintain the controversial long-gun registry.

The vote on the registry, which has tested the unity of the Liberal and New Democratic parties, is scheduled on Wednesday.

Mr. Stoffer, a New Democrat who represents the Halifax-area riding of Sackville-Eastern Shore, had refused to say which way he would vote. In a lengthy statement Monday morning, he said he would break from his long-held position and vote to support the gun registry, even though he sees it as "a failure in principle and politics."

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"At the end of the day, I have to represent my constituents. I have to give careful consideration to both sides, even though my long-held views are very well known and very public," he said in Fall River, Nova Scotia.

Mr. Stoffer said 62 per cent of those who live in his riding support the controversial gun registry. And he called his own actions a "failure of leadership in this riding."

"It is unfortunate that I have failed them, it is unfortunate that I did not do my job accordingly or properly," he said.

Mr. Stoffer noted the gun registry is deeply divisive and lamented that rhetoric on the issue has "split our country."

"There is no question that both sides have played politics on this issue, including myself. There is no question that both sides have used misleading statistics, in order to bolster their case," he said.

NDP Leader Jack Layton says he has persuaded enough of his MPs to change their vote and thwart the Conservatives. But the vote is expected to be close and no one is venturing a prediction on the outcome.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff will compel his caucus to vote to save the registry. Eight of his MPs defied his party's position on a similar vote last spring.

Mr. Layton saw 12 of his MPs - about a third of his caucus - vote with the Conservatives.

"I adamantly oppose the long gun registry ... but unfortunately, this debate is no longer just about the long gun registry. It is about wedge politics of the worst kind," Mr. Stoffer said Monday. "I have to heed to the wishes of my employers - the majority of my constituents - to vote the way that they wish me to."

But Mr. Stoffer was immediately savaged for such "betrayal" by the head of the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters. Tony Rodgers dismissed the rationale given by the MP for changing his vote - that the majority of his constituents want to keep the registry.

"If this is so then how did he get elected the last three times when people knew that he wanted to abolish the registry," he said.

Mr. Rodgers also said it seemed obvious Mr. Layton is whipping his caucus surreptitiously.

"The truth about what Layton said [to his caucus]in Calgary will come out some day," he said. "Members of his caucus will feel the backlash of having missed an opportunity to demonstrate they could make a democratic difference and support law-abiding firearms owners."

The Tories also pounced on Mr. Stoffer. Calling his move a "major flip-flop," Fred DeLorey, the Conservative Party's director of communications, sent email to parliamentary reporters containing links to YouTube clips of the NDP's past statements on the issue.

"The first one is him getting angry at the suggestion that he supports the long-gun registry," Mr. DeLorey said. The other shows Mr. Stoffer saying he wants to scrap the program.



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