Wednesday, November 04, 2009

For the gun registry: part III

The vote on the gun registry repeal tonight is a 2nd reading vote, so there's still time for the ultimate vote to come out in favour of retaining it. But it's worth considering at the moment how this is playing in Quebec and what the fallout might be down the road. This piece gives you a sense of some story lines that may be germinating: "Les liberaux hesitent a sauver le Registre des armes a feu."

For the Liberals, there's the potential embarrassment of having enacted the registry and now not having the tenacity to stand up for it. Such a major piece of legislation associated with the party, that may have had its administrative downsides but is nevertheless working now and has the support of police chiefs across the country. When growth in Quebec is a priority, it's difficult to see how such an issue reversal works for Liberals. Gilles Duceppe can bask in the solitary spotlight of having stood up for it in Quebec, to the exclusion of all others and he's doing so, he sees political value in it and rightly so:
"...puisque les Québécois sont majoritairement pour le Registre des armes à feu."
Il en a profité pour railler le manque de colonne vertébrale des libéraux. «Ce sont les libéraux qui ont voté ça, qui ont fait passer ça. Dans le temps, c'est [Martin] Cauchon qui était leur ministre de la Justice. [NDLR: C'était plutôt Allan Rock.] Je pense qu'ils devraient se tenir debout.»
Further, just last year, Stephane Dion made a big show on the issue in Montreal at Dawson College during the election, with the immediate concurrence then of the Bloc and the Quebec government:
Le chef du Parti libéral, Stéphane Dion, s'est engagé hier à remettre en place le registre des armes à feu et à interdire la circulation des armes d'assaut de style militaire, comme celle utilisée par Kimveer Gill au collège Dawson le 13 septembre 2006. Rapidement, le Bloc québécois et le gouvernement du Québec se sont dits favorables à cette proposition, alors que le Parti conservateur a rejeté l'idée.
There's something here if you want to stick with those roots in Quebec on this issue and grow in Quebec. Having enacted the registry following the Polytechnique incident and staked out a position as Dion did just last year in the wake of the Dawson College shooting, it seems that to let it go now would be backtracking on an institutional party history on the issue, one that is particularly connected to Quebec. Why would you break from that commitment in the eyes of Quebecers? This year, approaching quickly on December 6th, it's the 20th anniversary of the Ecole Polytechnique shooting. What a terrible, emotional time to be doing this. It could reverberate in Quebec.

Secondly, and following from the first, this issue gives Liberals the opportunity to show women's groups and women that they're the party who'll be there with them on this issue. The registry is a symbol that sends a message about violence against women. When you're getting headlines like this, "Grits tackling women's issues," build on it. When you release a Pink Book, build on it.

This is just second reading, and let's hope that there is still lots of time for the consequences of repealing the registry to really start to sink in. They may be much more profound than presently contemplated.

Update: Must read Globe op-ed today from Toronto police chief Bill Blair, "We lose the gun registry at our peril."