John Baird is blaming "Toronto elites" for pressuring rural opposition MPs into switching their vote to save the long-gun registry. This, as Conservative Party strategists issued a memo to their supporters darkly suggesting the Liberal-NDP coalition is alive and well and fighting hard to save the controversial program.
As next Wednesday's vote approaches, the rhetoric over the future of the long-gun registry is escalating. The Harper Tories are trying hard to paint this as a fight between rural and urban Canadians.
Under the headline, "Michael Ignatieff's Coalition is working hard to save the registry," the memo says: "On September 22, MPs from all three parties will have a choice. Will they stand with their constituents - the law-abiding farmers and hunters unfairly targeted by the registry?
"Or will they follow Michael Ignatieff and his Coalition partners who are determined to maintain the registry regardless of the cost and effectiveness?"
The Government Houlse Leader, meanwhile, told reporters at a Thursday news conference laying out the Conservative agenda that he is disappointed for his opposition colleagues, "who had fought so long, so hard, so passionately against the registry."
"[They]are now feeling the pressure from the two Toronto leaders, Mr. Ignatieff and Mr. Layton," Mr. Baird said, referring to the 20 opposition MPs - 12 New Democrats and eight Liberals - who voted last November with the government to scrap the registry. Those who switch their votes, he added, will have to answer to their constituents.
In a separate news conference later Thursday morning, NDP Leader Jack Layton told reporters his caucus now has the numbers to defeat the Conservative private members bill. Five of the 12 New Democrats who voted l with the government on second reading are switching their votes and more are expected to follow in coming days.
Michael Ignatieff is ordering his MPs, including the eight who originally voted to kill the registry, to oppose the Tory bill or face punishment. The Liberals have repeatedly said all of their MPs will vote as a block to save the registry.
Mr. Baird, meanwhile, isn't so sure. "We'll see how it goes on Wednesday," he said.
"We'll see whether people in fact do show up but, you know, we're all accountable. If we make clear and unambiguous promises in our constituencies and then face pressure from Toronto elites, we'll be accountable for that."