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Ignatieff won't force MPs to back gun registry

As many as six Liberal MPs will vote with the Conservatives today to kill the long-gun registry and Michael Ignatieff is doing nothing to stop them.

Never mind that the Liberals created the registry at a big political cost. Mr. Ignatieff is arguing that because this is a private member's bill, his MPs can vote their conscience. More likely, however, he knows he can't control his caucus on this very tricky issue, one that does not sell in rural communities.

Some Liberal MPs, meanwhile, are not happy with Mr. Ignatieff's refusal to show strength, believing that on important private member's votes, such as this one, the leader must take a stand.

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The registry came into effect in January of 2001. The Liberals lost votes and seats in the 2000 and 2004 election campaigns; the Tories have remained strongly opposed to it.

Today's bill was tabled by Manitoba Tory MP Candace Hoeppner. She believes she is close to winning the vote. The Tories have been working hard in opposition ridings, trying to convince voters to push their MPs to support the legislation.

Ms. Hoeppner needs between nine and 12 opposition MPs to win. It is expected that some NDP MPs will also side with the Tories. And it appears the Bloc is whipping its vote.

After caucus today, Mr. Ignatieff said he supports the long-gun registry, "Yes, yes", he said, adding that it was also important to create a system that works in all parts of the country.

"All members of our party support the principle of gun control. The issue is to find a system of gun control that works for all Canadians, that works in rural Canada, that works in urban Canada," Mr. Ignatieff said.

He said the Liberals are working on that but he wouldn't say how or with what.

And he also explained why he wasn't whipping the vote: "I respect the democratic rights of members. I've got a caucus that has a very strong and passionate commitment to gun control."

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Instead, he accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of using this bill for "no other purpose than to cause mischief with the other parties."

"And the issue is that the Conservative Party is using this as wedge issue. They have no respect for the issue of public safety."

When in doubt, blame the other guy.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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