New Democrat MPs want no shotgun wedding with the Tories on the long-gun registry issue.
Members from rural ridings who oppose the registry are working to distance themselves from the Conservatives on the issue, with at least one saying he's changing his vote altogether.
"Right now I'm telling the Conservatives I'm fed up with them. If they want to play this kind of politics, they're not playing it with me," Ontario NDP MP Charlie Angus said.
"I would prefer that we could work with [NDP Leader]Jack Layton's compromise ... if not, we're going to come to a vote, and chips are going to fall where they're going to fall."
Tories, including Commons public safety committee chairman Garry Breitkreuz, have been trying to persuade the NDP members to keep up their support for a private member's bill to dismantle the registry. The bill is expected to come up for a vote when MPs return to the House of Commons this month.
Mr. Breitkreuz wrote an email to every member of the NDP's rural caucus earlier this week, urging them not to cave to pressure to "flip-flop" on the vote.
"The vast majority of your constituents asked you to help scrap the long-gun registry then, and they have not changed their minds," Mr. Breitkreuz wrote. "If anything, they are even more resolute and growing in numbers today."
Another Tory MP, James Bezan, posted a folksy video on YouTube in which he expresses fear that the 12 NDP MPs will change their vote. Bezan, wearing a cowboy hat and a plaid shirt, is shot on top of his horse, "Woody." The video was removed from the site Wednesday, but reposted anonymously later in the day by someone who had captured it.
"It's time to tell Jack [Layton]to back off," Mr. Bezan says. "This isn't about his downtown, big-city NDP."
The gun registry issue threatens to hurt the NDP within their urban base if its MPs help make up the numbers necessary to push the bill through. The Liberals are looking to capitalize on that NDP headache, and the caucus is being whipped to vote against the legislation.
Earlier in the week, NDP Leader Jack Layton urged the parties to find a compromise that would close the divide between rural and urban Canada on the issue.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper rejected that notion during a appearance in Mirabel, Que.
"It's not a compromise. It's a proposal to continue the long-gun registry for duck hunters and farmers," Mr. Harper said.
Mr. Angus says the rhetoric being used by the Conservatives is turning him and others off.
He points to an opinion column Mr. Breitkreuz wrote, in which he says it appears police groups that support the registry "don't want Canadians to own guns."
"To that end, they need a database that will help them locate and seize those firearms as soon as a license or registration expires," Mr. Breitkreuz wrote in The Mark.
The Saskatchewan Conservative did not return a call to his office Wednesday.
Mr. Angus adds that Conservatives have campaigned on the gun-registry issue in NDP ridings, targeting them with negative advertising.
"I'm not going to stand beside Garry Breitkreuz while they call our police officers sinister, malevolent people who are coming to steal grandpa's gun," Mr. Angus said. "That's dangerous talk, it's Tea Party talk, and it does not reflect reasons why I wanted issues around the gun registry addressed."
Some in the NDP think the Conservatives would actually prefer if they lost the vote, so that they can continue to blame Liberal and NDP MPs in certain ridings of being against rural Canada.
Nova Scotia MP Peter Stoffer says the Conservatives had at least two prime opportunities during budget periods to eliminate the registry, but didn't do it.
"It would be an advantage to the Conservative if it failed because then they can go in the next election and say, you see, if we only get a majority we can get rid of this legislation," Mr. Stoffer said.