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Liberal MP Bob Rae speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Friday, October 30, 2009. (Adrian Wyld)
Liberal MP Bob Rae speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Friday, October 30, 2009. (Adrian Wyld)

Inside caucus

Liberals get 'realistic' on gun-registry Add to ...

Michael Ignatieff is reconsidering his decision to allow his MPs to vote however they wish on private member's bills after the fiasco of the long-gun registry vote.

In caucus today, the Liberal Leader told his MPs that he is "taking under advisement" the recommendation by the Liberal Whip Rodger Cuzner to "control private member's votes," according to an inside source.

This issue arose as the result of a controversial vote this month when eight Liberal MPs voted for a Conservative private member's bill to scrap the long-gun registry - this, despite pleas by the Whip and the Leader for MPs to stand together and vote against it.

After all, the long-gun registry was brought in by the Liberals at a big political cost. There was criticism from observers and even grumbling within the party that the vote should have been whipped. The Bloc whipped its members to vote against the bill.

The vote exposed the weakness of Mr. Ignatieff in being able to lead his caucus in one direction. It also exposed important and potentially destructive splits between urban and rural MPs.

Mr. Ignatieff made his comments after an intervention by Toronto Liberal MP Bob Rae, warning of the divisive nature of issue. It is believed that the Harper Tories are using this as a wedge to disrupt the unity of the Liberal caucus.

The long-gun registry bill is now before an all-party Commons committee and Mr. Rae urged his colleagues to be "politically realistic," said the source, about putting forward amendments that may not pass.

He said that there is "no need" to do "great heroics" or "climb mountains" to try to push through amendments. He said that this issue can cause "internal damage" to the party, the insider said.

Mr. Rae, meanwhile, had this to say after the weekly closed-door party meeting: "I absolutely refuse to comment on anything said in caucus - my views on gun control are well known. I am a supporter of the registry. Period."

A new face appeared at caucus this morning, too, as Mr. Ignatieff's new chief of staff Peter Donolo addressed the troops. He officially took over his new duties yesterday and his first act was a major re-organization of the Opposition Leader's Office.

Mr. Donolo told MPs and Senators that "this is your caucus." He was not about to interfere and that he would drop in on caucus meetings again when "we double our number of seats."

Indeed, many Liberals seem pumped about the changes to the OLO, including Mr. Ignatieff who said that he was happy with the new team. The Liberal Leader said that the team has a great ability to consult, anticipate issues and to execute.

The new OLO lineup, Mr. Ignatieff said, according to the source, will strike a balance between public policy and politics. He also said he will be travelling, attending as many annual general meetings in the provinces as he can.

(Photo: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

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