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Jane Taber

Tory MP takes election-style aim at long-gun registry Add to ...

Candice Hoeppner is an asset, not a headache, for Stephen Harper, succeeding where other women in his caucus have failed - Lisa Raitt and Helena Guergis come to mind.

A year ago Saturday, the 45-year-old mother of three and rookie Manitoba MP introduced a private member's bill to fulfill a long-held Conservative promise to scrap the long-gun registry.

Last November it passed second reading with the help of eight Liberal and 12 New Democrat MPs. Now in committee, her bill is return to the House next month.

What isn't clear, however, is what support she will have on third reading. Usually MPs are allowed to vote their conscience on a private member's bill, but Michael Ignatieff is whipping his Liberals to vote against it, while the NDP has not said how it will proceed.

"I've worked on quite a few campaigns where we did win handily but I never was happy until everything was done, the ballots were counted and we had that victory in the bag," says the former Harper political organizer.

She was elected in 2008 and she likes to win. "With that in mind, there is a part of me that thinks 'you know what, maybe we can do it'," she says. "But I keep thinking, do not rest, do not stop, until it is done."

And so Ms. Hoeppner is running her bill like she runs an election campaign - strategically and methodically.

"In the House of Commons your voter is the opposition MPs so their pressure will come from their constituents. So I am trying to get my vote out."

How she is going about that is proving controversial.

It was revealed this week that she is sending letters to individual homes in the ridings of the eight Liberal MPs who voted in favour of scrapping the registry. "Dear Friend," she begins, and goes on to explain that Mr. Ignatieff is "forcing" their MP to support the registry after they did the "right thing" on second reading by voting with her.

Her letter is a clever way around the recent ban on the use of taxpayer-funded partisan flyers called "10 per centers."

In mid-March, MPs - with the exception of the Conservatives - supported a Liberal motion to abolish the practice of mailing the partisan pamphlets to voters outside of their ridings.

It was deemed too expensive, the flyers too aggressively partisan; estimates were the practice cost up to $10-million each year.

There is a view among some opposition MPs that her letter-writing campaign goes against the spirit of the ban.

She disagrees: "I have completely complied with the rules of the House." She says she has sent between 500 and 800 letters to people in the eight Liberal ridings who have indicated to her they are interested in the issue. (Taxpayers are picking up the tab for the postage - 57 cents a letter.)

"My goal is that they put pressure on their MP to support my bill," she says.

As a woman, Ms. Hoeppner says she was initially criticized for tackling the registry, which "isn't sort of a typical so-called women's issue."

"But I think there are a lot of Canadian women, like me, just kind of common sense - hey this is a lot of money being wasted - we want gun control but this isn't gun control."

It focuses her view, too, that many constituents in her rural riding are opposed to the registry.

Ms. Hoeppner, who decided to get into politics 10 years ago because she was "just mad at the Liberals," needs 155 votes for her bill to pass. That means every one of her 143 Conservative colleagues must show up and at least 11 of the NDP MPs must vote with her.

Since the Liberals vote is being whipped, it is expected the eight rogue Liberal MPs will support their caucus. It is still a mystery what the NDP will do.

"I think there are a lot of those 12 that still say they will support it, if a free vote is allowed," she says.

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