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A gun owner checks the sight of his rifle at a hunting camp west of Ottawa on Sept. 15, 2010. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
A gun owner checks the sight of his rifle at a hunting camp west of Ottawa on Sept. 15, 2010. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

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Tories turn Google against rural MPs <br/>in gun-registry feud Add to ...

1. Searching for more firepower. Stephen Harper's Conservatives have begun running a series of Google ads on the Internet, targeting the opposition MPs who initially voted with them to scrap the long-gun registry.

Although it appears they no longer have the numbers to win next Wednesday's vote, the Tories are refusing to surrender. In addition to the ads, the party is making calls into all of the opposition MPs' ridings; thousands have already been made and more will come over the weekend.

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And Prime Minster Stephen Harper is to visit Thunder Bay on Friday. The Northern Ontario city is home to two NDP MPs, John Rafferty and Bruce Hyer, both of whom voted last year to kill the registry.

The Google ads, meanwhile, are designed to target constituents in the ridings of the opposition MPs as they surf on the Web for information about the registry and their federal representatives. The Tories say it is the first time they've used this kind of advertising.

They target 20 opposition ridings, belonging to the eight Liberals and 12 New Democrats who voted with the government to support Manitoba Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner's private members bill. And so far so good.

More than 40,000 hits have been recorded for ads targeting Northern Ontario MP Carol Hughes, the Tories say. She voted with the government on second reading but announced Thursday she will support Jack Layton's compromise initiative and vote to save the registry.

Here's how the ads work: If one of her constituents searches her name or the words, "long-gun registry" or "registry" or other programmed key words, the Tory ad is displayed.

"Help scrap the registry: Hunters and farmers aren't criminals and we need your help; www.ScrapTheRegistry.ca," is the text that pops up on the same page as search results for Carol Hughes.

As well, the Tories have placed articles on the web that come up if the MP's name is searched: "Tell MP Carol Hughes: You expect her to scrap the registry like she promised," on says.

"These ads are only available to people surfing the net in her riding," a senior Conservative Party official told The Globe.

So, if you live in Peter Stoffer's Nova Scotia riding, you would see ads geared toward ensuring he doesn't switch his vote, as some expect him to do Monday. But you wouldn't see the ad in Ms. Hoeppner's riding.

"The vote hasn't taken place yet, so it's not too late for these MPs to do the right thing and vote to scrap the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry as they told their constituents they would," the Tory official said. "I just hope they remember who they're supposed to be working for."

Right now, however, it appears MPs have their minds made up - five of the 12 NDP MPs have now changed their votes. NDP Leader Jack Layton says there are others, but he is allowing them to announce their decisions on their own time.

Michael Ignatieff, meanwhile, has ordered all of his MPs to vote to save the registry. The Liberals say all eight of their MPs who initially supported the government will fall in line next Wednesday.

2. Pot meet kettle. Government House Leader John Baird was recently at the Toronto International Film Festival for the opening night screening of Score: A Hockey Musical. There he was - swanning with the Toronto elites.

And a week later he was bashing that same crowd. In a news conference Thursday, Mr. Baird blamed the " Toronto elites" for pressuring opposition MPs from rural ridings into switching their votes on the long-gun registry.

Opposition MPs and pundits jumped on his remarks, suggesting it is not good strategy to insult voters and alienate urban centres when the party is trying to widen its tent. But Mr. Bairdlater explained he was referring to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and NDP chief Jack Layton, who both represent downtown Toronto ridings.

The Government House Leader noted they are dictating how MPs, such as Larry Bagnell, the Liberal MP from Yukon, must vote - regardless of what his constituents might think. Mr. Bagnell represents a rural riding and had voted on second reading to scrap the registry; now he has to change his vote or face punishment from his leader.

Mr. Baird, however, neglected to mention the fact his boss was born and raised in the city Canada loves to hate. In fact, Stephen Harper is the first prime minister since Lester B. Pearson to hail from Toronto.

Follow on Twitter: @janetaber1

 

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