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'Smart-alecky' Liberals unload both barrels on gun registry

The battle over the future of the long-gun registry continues to escalate as the Sept. 22 vote approaches, with Jack Layton caught in the crossfire.

Thursday's episode of the shooting match saw Michael Ignatieff's Liberals issue a news release mocking NDP and Tory arguments to scrap the registry, while a former New Democrat pronounced on Mr. Layton and his horribly messy political conundrum.

"Jack is in a really painful leadership moment here," Robin Sears, a former national director of the NDP turned Toronto strategic consultant, told The Mark in a video interview. "He is in one of those classic damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't political vices."

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The NDP Leader announced this week he will not whip his caucus to vote against a government MP's private member's bill to kill the long-gun registry. Twelve New Democrats supported the bill on second reading; the registry will die unless several of those MPs change their vote - something the whip would have accomplished.

For his part, Mr. Ignatieff is getting tough with his caucus, threatening to punish eight MPs who initially supported the bill if they don't fall into line when the House resumes sitting. The Liberal Leader has accused Mr. Layton of showing weak leadership for not doing the same.

But Mr. Sears argues the NDP Leader could not have whipped the vote. "If he had tried and failed that would have been a leadership failure," he said.

The political consultant argued that, regardless of the outcome of the vote, Mr. Layton's efforts to find compromise and "Jack's cool-under-pressure handling of it ... is probably going to help him get through more successfully than it looks now."

Mr. Sears was not so generous in his characterization of Mr. Ignatieff, referring to him as a "little too smart-alecky, partisan" on the issue. Which brings us back to the latest Liberal salvo:

"Just consider how silly some of the Conservative and NDP arguments against registering firearms sound when you replace firearms with common sense items that Canadians are used to registering," the news release says.

"Criminals won't register their dogs anyway, so what's the point?"

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"The government wants you to get a fishing license so they can seize all of your fishing poles!"

"There was a boating accident last week, and the boating registration scheme did nothing to prevent that from happening!"

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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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