The hon. member for Fundy Royal.
Mr. Speaker, this Thursday, Plaster Rock, New Brunswick, will host the 12th annual World Pond Hockey Championship. The event, often copied but never duplicated, will see 132 men's and women's teams descend on the Tobique for a weekend of fun and good old-fashioned hospitality.
Tournament chair Danny Braun and his organizing committee and hundreds of volunteers deserve special credit for making this event truly a world showcase. Teams will come from all over the U.S. and Canada and hockey hot-bed spots like the Cayman Islands and Puerto Rico to take part. Over the weekend, this little village of 1,100 people will see its population double. It anticipates 8,000 visitors.
World Pond Hockey has contributed significant dollars to community organizations, like the volunteer firefighters, school scholarships and the construction of a new arena.
This year my colleagues from Barrie, Westlock—St. Paul, Fundy Royal and Saint John will join me in New Brunswick as we take on the world on Roulston Lake in an effort to win but, more important, to not get hurt.
I thank all the people who give so much of their time to make this event a great success. I hope to see everyone on the pond, the way hockey was meant to be played.
Mr. Speaker, my purpose in this place has been to expand freedom by reducing the obstacles that government puts in its way. There are a number of different freedoms that we have. There is freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression. There is also something called freedom of enterprise. It has proven to be the most powerful machine for generating prosperity and opportunity in the history of humankind. While we might speak about it in those grand eloquent terms, we must also remember that it is expanded through the grinding hard work of officials who daily remove its obstacles.
One way in which obstacles to free enterprise and freedom of trade can be removed is through more access to choice for air passengers and more access to markets for air carriers. That is what the blue sky policy does. That is why I rise today to support this motion and its consequential contribution to freedom and free enterprise in our country.
I would like to congratulate the motion's sponsor, the member for Fundy Royal.
People need to have a little fun every now and then. I have had a busy day, Mr. Speaker.
Most industry players, including the Canadian Airports Council, the Montreal Economic Institute, the National Airlines Council of Canada, as well as the tourism industry and the entire business community, support blue sky.
Our role is also to represent concerned citizens. I think that in that sense, I am helping my colleague and his motion. That can be taken into consideration. He is not alone. He may have used the word “blue” a little too much. Nevertheless, we are supportive of the “sky” part, at least.
All the same, there are some facts that must be taken into consideration. In speaking to this motion, there is an opportunity to send messages. Those who vote in favour of the motion must take into account the fact that the western provinces, especially British Columbia, are concerned about the lack of progress to date in relaxing restrictions on air services between Canada and major destinations in Asia, such as India. That must be taken into account.
A number of bilateral air transport agreements negotiated under the blue sky policy are not as liberal as those negotiated under our southern neighbour's open skies policy. That may have to be taken into account.
I think that this is a step in the right direction. This is the right thing to do. We have to vote in favour of this motion.
The bottom line: Are they in favour of the free trade agreement or not? If they are against that motion, they are sending a clear message that they are against free trade. So we have to take that in order and that is the reason the members of this party believe in free trade. We believe in those accords. We signed the first one and we will be pleased to support our colleague from Fundy Royal.
Mr. Speaker, parliamentarians from all corners of the House have recently eclipsed the sometimes adversarial nature of the House by supporting the parliamentary fitness initiative.
Today we witnessed the first ever National Life Jacket and Swim Day on the Hill and the members for Etobicoke North and Sackville—Eastern Shore and others joined me in trying to bring about national health and fitness day, involving local governments across Canada.
To that end, I seek the unanimous support of the House for a motion to enable a fellow Conservative and I to swap positions in the order of precedence, specifically: That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, the hon. member for Fundy Royal exchange positions in the list for the consideration of private members' bills with the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country.
Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to ending the long gun registry. We are moving forward by abolishing this wasteful and ineffective program that has left Canadian taxpayers on the hook for close to $2 billion.
Over the last decade, we have seen that the registry does not stop criminals from committing acts of violence because, as we know, it targets the wrong people. It targets law-abiding Canadians. Since its creation, the long gun registry has unfairly targeted the residents of my riding of Fundy Royal and has done nothing to prevent the serious crimes that have taken place in many of our communities. Instead, it targets hunters, farmers and sports shooters.
Our government is committed to putting the safety of Canadians first with real action on crime that delivers real results. We will continue to fight for safer streets and safer communities and we will do that by targeting real criminals.
Our government has always been clear. We will end the long gun registry and we will focus on real criminals who commit real crimes.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise today on behalf of my constituents of Fundy Royal to speak to what I think is a very important debate.
Because it took a long time to get to this point, I would like to thank a couple of people, one of whom is the member for Yorkton—Melville. The member led a long, detailed, very thorough fight for the rights of everyday hard-working, law-abiding citizens, the type of citizens who live in my riding of Fundy Royal. He is to be commended. As members of Parliament, we are dealing with the aftermath of this Liberal boondoggle that was created in the 1990s by individuals who, by all accounts, had an agenda. I recall the then minister of justice, Allan Rock, saying that he came to Ottawa with the firm belief that only police and the military should have firearms. That is truly an out-of-touch point of view. It gives us a perspective on the driving motivation behind the registry. Not only is it truly scary for our country, but it truly targets the wrong individuals.
I want to personally thank the member for Yorkton—Melville for standing up for my constituents as well as all Canadians during those days, finding out all the problems and attacking the cause of the many issues that were foisted upon law-abiding citizens. This is a culmination of that work.
I have a few questions that I think responsible parliamentarians have to answer when discussing any changes to the law. On the firearms registry, I have a few of questions. Who does it target? Does it work? Are taxpayers getting good value? I think those are some fundamental questions, and I will look at a few of those in my remarks.
Who does it target? As has been said by the previous speaker, as members of Parliament, whether we are in urban, suburban or rural areas, we know that the gun registry targets the law-abiding gun owner. It is the person who will send in the forms by email or hard copy or who will wait in lines.
When the registry was brought in, I remember seeing many of the law-abiding good people in my region lining up for hours at the McAllister Place Mall to go through the process of registering their firearms. Meanwhile, the Hells Angels, organized crime, gangs from the west coast to the east coast merely went about their business. I suppose some of them might have had a chuckle at the thought of all the law-abiding citizens in our country, many of them senior citizens, lining up to register their firearms, while they perhaps were about to go and buy a smuggled handgun out of the trunk of a car.
The registry was targeting the law-abiding citizen, not the bad guy. That is why, even then in the 1990s, right-thinking people knew that the registry would never work. It was predicted by the member for Yorkton—Melville, for example, that the registry would not work because, for that fundamental issue, it targeted the wrong people. How can we solve a crime problem if we do not target criminals? It has been the benefit of time, the passage of a decade and a half, that we have seen individuals who said all along that it would not work proven completely, 100%, right.
Although I have run on a platform of fighting against the registry in my political career, I would be the first to say that if I and my constituents thought this registry worked, if we thought it prevented crime, if we thought that it saved lives, we would have a different position. However we know, intuitively and with the benefit of the passage of time and the wonderful statistics that we have available to us, that the registry simply does not work because it targets the wrong people.
Does it work? The answer is a resounding no. We have seen this in some of the tragedies that have happened since the registry has been in place. The registry did nothing to prevent some of the crimes that took place.
I will move on to the final question. Even in light of the fact that it does nothing to prevent crime and it does not work, is it a good value? Are we at least paying very little for it? Is it not enough money to really be too upset about?
We know the Liberals have always been good with budgeting. That is one thing we will give them. We know at the time that the minister said the registry would cost net to the taxpayers about $2 million. Some people might have thought, since it was the Liberals saying this, let us go by a factor of ten and it might cost $20 million, or even a factor 100 and it might cost $200 million considering it was a Liberal estimate. In fact, we know, through the work of professors, from the work of the member of Yorkton—Melville in accumulating statistics and from the work of the auditor general, that the estimate for the cost of the registry rose to $2 billion. That is $2 billion for a registry that targets my constituents, law-abiding people and does not work.
How can we allow something like that to continue? The short answer is we cannot. That is why I am very pleased that we have a government now that is committed to doing the right thing in ending this abomination to the taxpayer.
In a previous Parliament we had a private member's bill, Bill C-391, that would get rid of the gun registry. Members on this side of the House supported that private member's bill. Interestingly enough, we heard a lot of members opposite, who used to go into their riding, maybe to their fish game clubs or sports shooting federation, say that they were against the registry, that they would fight against it and vote against it. Some members said all of those things, except when it actually counted. When it came time to vote on the bill, the members opposite, in just enough numbers, voted to defeat it.
It was there and then that I and my colleagues came to the realization that the only way to defeat the registry was to form a majority government. That is why I am very glad that on May 2, our government was elected with a clear mandate. It was a mandate to act to protect everyday law-abiding citizens. It was a mandate for safer streets and communities and to end the wasteful long gun registry.
Unlike my friend, I did register my firearms. One of them was very common in New Brunswick and coast to coast. It was an old .303 Lee Enfield rifle. It is one that our military has used for decades. In fact, in the north people continue to use them, but those rifles will be replaced now.
Since those rifles did not have a serial number that would be appropriate for the registry, I received in the mail an orange sticker that had a number on it with instructions from the Registrar of Firearms to affix the sticker to the old Lee Enfield rifle. I never did put it on the rifle, but I kept that sticker as a reminder of all the absurdities that came from the registry and the fact that it targeted the wrong people. I keep that as a reminder to stay dedicated, as we all have, and to keep moving forward in the right direction.
For our part, our government will continue in our battle against crime to target the cause of crime. In our view, that is the criminals. Canadians are with us on that. We will continue to fight for safer streets, safer communities and we will do that by targeting criminals. We are going to end the targeting of law-abiding citizens by ending the gun registry.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Fundy Royal.
I congratulate the Minister of Public Safety, the member of Parliament for Provencher, for bringing forward Bill C-19. This is an incredible day. Finally, there is a government bill before the House for debate. After all the long years that I have been advocating against the long gun registry, finally we have this opportunity not only to debate the bill, but to vote on it and successfully remove the long gun registry.
I also want to thank the member for Portage—Lisgar, who is also the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, for all the work she has done on the gun registry and for bringing forward Bill C-391 in the last Parliament which we had hoped to get through the House until it ripped my heart out to see it defeated by one vote. However, I know that she has continued to fight for the removal of this wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. She has travelled across the country to hear from Canadians from coast to coast to coast about the horrors of having to deal with such a bureaucratic process, one that made criminals out of law-abiding citizens.
Finally, I have to thank my friend, the member for Yorkton—Melville, for all of the work he has done right back to 1993-94 when this registry was first floated by Allan Rock, the minister at that time, and the Liberal government. The member for Yorkton--Melville has been one of the stalwarts. He has fought against this ineffective and wasteful use of taxpayer money and has ensured that we do the right things in fighting crime rather than penalize citizens who happen to own long guns, whether they are farmers, hunters, or sportsmen.
I was fighting Bill C-68 going back to 1995. The Senate committee was travelling across the country taking testimony on Bill C-68. I appeared before that committee when it was in Manitoba, in Interlake in my riding.
People in my riding of Selkirk—Interlake have long opposed this gun registry. It created a huge stir. There were public protests. Organizations were set up. I joined the Manitoba Firearms Coalition. People wanted to fight this huge impediment to their freedoms and their rights as citizens. Unfortunately, Bill C-68 has pitted rural Canadians against urban Canadians.
Maybe it is not fair for me to say that urban Canadians all support the gun registry, because there are plenty of hunters and sports enthusiasts who live in urban centres who also oppose this long gun registry. Over the last few years as we have been out campaigning, we have been hearing from Canadians in urban centres. They know it is not working. They know the registry has not reduced crime. They have seen gun violence and gang violence in the streets rise. They know the registry is a waste of money. They want more resources put into policing services. They want more money put into gang prevention. They want more money put into youth at risk. They know those will be the right investments, rather than wasting money on a bureaucracy, on a registry that has no impact whatsoever in reducing crime in this country.
I am a licensed firearms owner. I acquired a PAL, a possession and acquisition licence. I took my hunter safety course in 1976 when I was about 14 years old. The hunter safety course is what actually prepared me to get my PAL. I am a licensed firearms owner; however, I have never registered a firearm. I do have a firearm, but it is not registered. I have made that statement before in the House because, as a matter of civil disobedience, I have always said this is a wrong thing. That firearm does not have any impact on the safety of people. It is the people who handle the firearm that are the issue.
If we want to look at reducing crime or reducing accidents that happen from handling firearms, we need to do more in the areas of safe storage, safe handling, in training the people who are going to be using firearms. That is where we would get the biggest bang for our buck.
We know from the statistics that since the late 1980s we have seen a reduction in accidental shootings. We have seen a reduction in misfired guns. We have seen a reduction in suicides that have been caused from long guns.
We have seen reductions in those events because people are practising safe storage. Those firearms are under lock and key. Ammunition is stored separately under lock and key. It is more difficult for children to access those firearms. It allows time for cooling off in instances of heated debates between friends or family members. It allows people to think about what they are doing as they are reaching for a firearm they may want to use in an illegal way.
Much misinformation has been propagated by opposition members and we really need to set things straight. They talk about policing services accessing the gun registry thousands of times a day. They are not actually accessing the registry. They may be checking an address or licence plate and that automatically goes into the firearms registry. If they are looking at a serial number of a gun, it accesses the licensed firearm owner. That is not going to change. There still will be a complete list of everyone who has a licence to possess a firearm in this country. That will not change. We know that police officers on the front line can still enter an address or licence plate number into a computer and they will be told whether an individual is a licensed firearms owner.
Police officers will have to deal with every individual as if he or she owned a firearm. We do not want to give them a false sense of security. They have to assume in every situation they go into that there are firearms present. We know that criminals do not register firearms. We know that criminals do not get licences under the current legislation. Criminals do not have possession and acquisition licences for firearms. We know that to be a fact. In every situation for their own self-interests, police officers have to enter a premise or approach a vehicle as if the individual had a gun.
There is all this talk about homicide rates dropping because of the gun registry. We know that homicide rates have been on the decline since the early 1970s. Since the registry came into being in Canada, the rate has stabilized at just under 1.9 murders per 100,000 people. There will not be a huge impact, because homicides have been stable on a percentage basis for the last dozen years or so since the registry has been in place.
If we look at the population of licensed firearm owners, the murder rate is only .38 per 100,000 owners of firearms. These are the most law-abiding citizens in the country. These are individuals who have gone out of their way to become licensed firearms owners and to get the training they need to own firearms. They are the ones who respect the laws of the land. Why are we targeting these individuals when there are so many other people who are involved in gangs, drugs and illicit crimes? Those are the individuals we need to invest in finding, tracking and getting off our streets to make our neighbourhoods safer.
Professor Gary Mauser has said that of all the murders that have been committed since 1997, less than 2% of them have been committed by licensed firearm owners and the guns that were registered to those individuals only represented 1.2% of homicides. The question then becomes, was that a good use of taxpayer dollars? Over $2 billion was spent to track 1.25% of those who committed homicides in this country and owned long guns. That is ridiculous.
In Vancouver in 2003, of all the guns that were taken off the street, 97% of them were illegal handguns that were smuggled in. We have to start looking at the big issue. Let us quit focusing on one group in society that we, unfortunately, made into criminals because they did not register their firearms. Half the guns on the streets today are still not registered. Let us do the right thing and get rid of the long gun registry and invest in front-line policing.
The electoral district of Fundy Royal (New Brunswick) has a population of 69,471 with 54,978 registered voters and 149 polling divisions.
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