Debates of March 25th, 2003
House of Commons Hansard #77 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was gun.
- Government Response to Petitions
- Committees of the House
- Questions Passed as Orders for Return
- Question No. 136
- Business of the House
- ATS Automation Tooling Systems
- The Prime Minister
- Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority
- The environment
- Health Research
- Peggy Engen
- Elizabeth Grandbois
- Les Patriotes de Trois-Rivières
- Semaine de la Francophonie
- 75th Annual Academy Awards
- Wilfred Lebouthillier
- Dairy Industry
- Firearms Program
- Middle East
- Canada-U.S. Trade
- Canada-U.S. Relations
- Firearms Program
- Journée de la Francophonie
- Firearms Program
- Airline Industry
- Firearms Registry
- Airline Industry
- Divorce Act
- Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
- Youth Criminal Justice Act
- National Defence
- Airline Industry
- Presence in Gallery
- Points of Order
- Ways and Means
- Budget Implementation Act, 2003
- Committees of the House
- Business of the House
- Supplementary Estimates (B), 2002-03
- Interim Supply
- Transportation Amendment Act
- Criminal Code
- Employment Insurance Act
- Adjournment Proceedings
The House resumed consideration of the motion.
March 25th, 2003 / 3:35 p.m.
John Williams St. Albert, AB
Mr. Speaker, I do not know how many times we have to stand in the House and talk about waste, mismanagement, incompetence and everything else the Liberal government does before it gets the message. It just seems to be an interminable thing that we have to talk about this time after time.
We are we are now up to, I think, our third billion dollar boondoggle. Members may recall the HRDC billion dollar boondoggle a while ago where the government had to change its mind because the money was leaking through government coffers faster than it could leak through a sieve. Then we had the heating fuel rebate where the government spent $1.4 billion, of which only $400 million went to the people who needed it, and $1 billion went straight down the drain. Then of course we have our new billion dollar scandal courtesy of the Auditor General, that wonderful servant of the people, who has told us how bad the government is on managing the books.
If anybody wants to be horrified at the incompetence, mismanagement and everything else that--
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)
Order, please. It is very difficult for the Chair to hear the hon. member when members are talking. Could we please, colleagues, take our discussions outside, out of courtesy to the member and to the Chair.
John Williams St. Albert, AB
Madam Speaker, I appreciate you bringing the House's attention to the fact that everybody wants to hear what members have to say, especially when we are talking about what the Auditor General had to say on the government's incompetence.
For anyone who wants to read the horrific report on the management of the finances, one need look no further than the particular report that was prepared by the Auditor General and tabled last December. The whole nation was in an uproar. It is absolutely beyond comprehension to think that it got so bad. I will just take a few isolated items out of her report.
For example, her report states that program cost estimates have risen from $119 million to over $1 billion. How could it get so bad? It goes on to state that contrary to original announcements, the fees will not cover expenditures. Members may remember the minister of justice of the day, who is currently the Minister of Industry, telling us that we should not worry because this was a self-financing program and would only cost net $2 million because revenues will cover expenditures. From the start, the Auditor General said that would never happen and, contrary to the original announcement, that fees would not cover expenditures.
Members may recall that the Auditor General told us that Parliament was being kept in the dark. However it would seem to us here that not only were we kept in the dark, but perhaps we were being misled at the same time because the government knew, it had the facts, and it just did not deliver them to us here in Parliament.
The Auditor General goes on to say that from the start insufficient financial information was provided to Parliament. She went on to say that supplementary estimates were inappropriately used; that accountability for all program costs was not maintained; and that financial information provided did not fairly represent the costs. It was a litany of accusations, all documented and all supported with evidence.
The report goes on to state that in 1996 the department recognized that funding assumptions were unrealistic. It puts people off government when they know that this kind of thing goes on. People say that parliamentarians have a bad name. The reason we have a bad name is that the government keeps telling us these kinds of things and the information turns out to be misleading and not supported by fact. It is fiction. I could go on and on.
What could we do with $1 billion? How many police could we put on the streets with $1 billion? We could put hundreds on the streets. What other ways could we improve the policing and the safety of our communities with $1 billion? There are endless ways.
Today on Parliament Hill the Canadian Police Association is visiting parliamentarians and telling them about what it needs. I had a visit from members of the Canadian Police Association in my office this very morning. They told me that they needed to get rid of club fed, the prison with the golf course and so on, where people can enjoy life in prison. They said that they did not think that was why prisoners were sent there.
The association also told us how it needed more money for community policing. I did not hear it asking for more money for the gun registry because it knows this thing does not work. The chief of police for the City of Toronto said that he had given up on the registry because the money was being wasted and it was going down a big, wide sewer when it could be used for community policing.
I know the cities of St. Albert and Edmonton need more police but the government wants to waste money on an ineffective registry that cannot, will not and does not work. What more can I say about this infamous program?
However, today is the day. Members may remember last December, just two days after the Auditor General brought out her damning report, when the government said that because the program had the country a bit upset it would pull the $72 million more that it needed off the table because some Liberal backbenchers might not support that. The government thought it was in trouble.
However we read in the paper last Wednesday that at the caucus meeting the Prime Minister said that this would be a confidence motion and that Liberal backbenchers would have to vote for it. Liberal backbenchers would have to hold their nose, even if it smelled, and vote because their jobs were on the line and he might call an election. He tried to scare his people. The bad news is that they seem to have listened to him. It seems that they were scared. Democracy has failed again.
There are some quotes from today's National Post. The member for Thunder Bay—Superior North in talking about the vote tonight, about whether we will give them that $59 million that the Liberals now want to keep the registry going, another $59 million on the registry instead of policing, said, “I'm in a dilemma”. I thought he was sent here to make up his mind but he says he is in a dilemma. “I've always thought that the role of members is to blow the horn”.
It is not to blow the horn, it is to use his head. I would hope that he would use his head and say to his constituents back home who say they do not want this registry, as their representative, “I will vote against this tonight. Why should I spend another $59 million on a vehicle that is broken?”
I hope that when he runs for re-election the people who are running against him, and it does not matter what party it is, say, “Do you remember back on March 25 when you voted for another $59 million of our money for that broken system that does not work? Why should we vote for you if you will not listen to us?”
The member for Nipissing is quoted in today's National Post as saying, “We have to see it through to the end. It is a disaster”. I am not talking about whether he has recognized that the registry is a disaster or the fact that trying to hold together as a family over there is a disaster. I do not know what the disaster is he is talking about but the way the government runs the registry is a disaster.
I thought we lived in a democracy, yet the Prime Minister stood up in caucus last week and was reported in the paper as saying that members have to vote for this thing or they are out of the party. That is no way to run a democracy.
The members on the backbench over there should have the freedom to make up their minds whether they like this idea or not, the same way as members on this side of the House have that liberty. They should be able to stand and say they object to $59 million being thrown against the wall and wasted the same way as we have.
Time is short. In less than a couple of hours we will be voting on this. There is not much time to visit all the Liberal backbenchers one by one, so I appeal to them collectively to think about what they are doing. The $59 million is $2 for every man, woman and child in this country. That could buy a lot of public safety. That could buy a lot of policing. That could buy a lot of community support. That could buy many things to make our streets safer. This will not.
I hope those members are held accountable by their constituents when they go back home and tell them how they listened to the Prime Minister rather than listening to their constituents and voted the way the Prime Minister wanted them to so he could stay in office for another 10 months or whatever it is, rather than representing the people who sent them here to act wisely and well. It is a bad day and a sad day. I hope they vote the program down.
Peter Adams Peterborough, ON
Madam Speaker, I am a little confused by my colleague's remarks. I am someone who supported the legislation in the first place. I believe it addresses a very serious problem. I believe it is addressing that problem remarkably effectively, despite the obstruction from the other side and the deliberate encouragement by the other side to block up the system which will increase the expense.
As a supporter of it, I was particularly embarrassed by the Auditor General's report which the member has just been reading from. I was saddened by the fact that additional moneys have been obtained for this program without proper attention to the House of Commons and that I did not know.
I will confess that I should have been more vigilant. I should have watched the supplementary estimates. I should have known. I would have encouraged the further expenditures but I would have watched them more closely.
I must regret that I did not do that partly because I rely on the official opposition members to do that kind of thing. I really do. I think it is their job. In previous Parliaments they have held the government to account.
We, the people on this side, commissioned the Auditor General to report four times a year instead of once a year. My colleague is the chair of the public accounts committee. He has access to all the books of the government. He and his colleagues missed this completely until our Auditor General came forward with it.
I believe the member for St. Albert is particularly at fault in this respect as chair of the committee. He is the only opposition member who is chair of a committee and that is deliberate, so that he can keep his eye on the public accounts and he missed it.
I have confessed my share of the blame in this program which I support. Will the member confess his own as chair of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, as a member of the official opposition which is supposed to hold the government to account, as a member of the official opposition which encouraged through false information and so on the clogging up of the system and therefore increased its expense? He had to rely on the Auditor General whom we commissioned to report every three months instead of once a year to get this information.
Where was he during this time? Can I rely on him more in the future to keep his eye on these things so that I will know when these valuable programs are being mishandled?
John Williams St. Albert, AB
Madam Speaker, the Auditor General says Parliament was kept in the dark and that member is still in the dark over there. He is stumbling around. He does not know what he is bumping into.
Let me be perfectly clear. The member for Yorkton--Melville has stated in the House that he has filed hundreds and hundreds of access to information requests and he has been denied each and every one. He has been up in the House on questions of privilege because he has been denied the information that he has demanded from the government and he would not get a thing.
The member would suggest that the opposition has not been doing its job when Parliament has been kept in the dark. How can the member stand there and accuse the opposition? As parliamentarians we all have the collectively responsibility of holding the government accountable. What has the member done to ensure value for money on this? I am sorry, but it is a big round zero.
That unfortunately is what we get from that whole side over there. What the government wants, the government gets. If there is the slightest murmur that the government is not going to get what it wants, it is reported in the paper that the Prime Minister thumps the desk in caucus and says, “You have got to give me what I want because I am the boss”.
I would hope that each and every one of the people elected to represent their constituents, leaders of their communities, would say, “Wait a minute. Unless we feel this is a good deal, there is no deal”. That is the message that I have to give to them. I hope that they learn it and it sinks in because in less than two hours from now they are going to be voting on giving $59 million more into a sinkhole that does not work.
That is the point. We are pouring money down the drain for nothing. Canadians deserve better.
Peter Adams Peterborough, ON
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Scarborough East.
I am pleased to join the discussion on gun control. My view is that it is good public policy that has been handled badly from a financial point of view. I deplore that, as I tried to express to my colleague. The fact of the matter is that we do have a system which although it is incomplete, is up and running and is already producing and has been producing valuable results for some years. Those results will be even more valuable once the program is complete.
Like all good public policy, this policy was designed to address a very serious problem, one which is still with us. It can be quite simply expressed.
During the 25 years beginning in 1974, which is the most recent quarter century, 40,030 people died from gun injuries in Canada. During the same time, roughly 1,000 a year were injured. To give a sense of that, in 1997-98, 767 people were injured by guns in Canada.
If we add the injured and the dead together over the 25 years, it amounts to more 66,000 people, more than the population of the city of Peterborough which I very proudly represent with the county of Peterborough. That represents three dead and two injured today as we speak. I am assuming today is an average day. Three will die and two will be wounded from guns today. That applies seven days a week, 365 days a year.
That is the public policy. These were not people who were shot or wounded in variety store or bank holdups. This is a matter of domestic violence across the country. That is the problem which this particular legislation addresses.
To do it, under gun control, there is a two part system. There is the licensing of the gun owners and the registration of the guns. My colleague opposite, even though he is the chair of the public accounts committee and knows better, tried to suggest that all the cost involved in the program goes to the registration. That is not the case.
The opposition, it seems to me, all support the licensing of gun owners and $2 out of every $3 that we are talking about is in fact to do with the licensing and $1 out of every $3, and I agree it has been too high, in the first 10 years of the cost of the program, is projected to be for registration.
Let us think about the licensing which it seems to me the members support. Licensing is like licensing people to drive cars. It is a program that screens people who, because of mental instability, a criminal record or something of the sort should not own guns. It also trains people in the use of guns, the same way that we train people to drive cars. It is working. The opposition loves it and seems to think it is worth $2 out of the $3 being spent on the program.
Almost two million gun owners are now licensed. Between them they own well over five million guns. Under screening, 7,000 firearms licences have been revoked. That was over a period of five years only. That is 50 times more than were revoked through screening in the previous five years. Also as a result of licensing, 29,000 people are now prohibited from owning firearms as compared with only 15,000 just a few years ago. Licensing works.
To summarize, rigorously screening and licensing firearms owners reduces the risk for those who pose a threat to themselves and others. As I mentioned, already there is evidence that the system has been effective in preventing people who should not have them from having guns. Licensing of firearms owners also discourages casual gun ownership. Owning a firearm is a big responsibility and licensing is a reasonable requirement. While not penalizing responsible firearms owners, licensing encourages people to get rid of unwanted weapons and the like. That is one side of the program.
The analogy is between having a chain with a padlock and a key. With a chain and a padlock, one can close a farm gate without locking it. In this case the key to locking the farm gate is registration. There are two things. The licensing is ineffective without the registration and the registration is ineffective without the licensing.
In terms of the registration, let me give some sense of this because some colleagues keep saying that it is the gun registration program that they are against, not gun control.
Registration increases the accountability of firearms owners by linking the firearm to the owner. This encourages owners to abide by safe storage laws and compels owners to report firearms thefts where storage may not have been a contributing factor. Safe storage of firearms reduces firearms in the black market, break-ins and so on. It reduces unauthorized use of firearms, heat of the moment use of firearms and accidents, particularly involving children. Registration changes the behaviour of the owners.
Registration provides valuable ownership information for law enforcements, the police, for example, approaching a home for any circumstance. There have been many concrete examples of police officers finding registration to be valuable already. They use it because it is tied in with CPIC, 2,000 times a day, .7 second response time. They find it very valuable and they support it.
Now the police never rely entirely on information contained in the registry, partly because it is still incomplete; it is working but it is incomplete. It is helpful to know whether firearms may be present when they receive a call for domestic violence or something of that type.
Registration facilitates proof of possession of stolen and smuggled firearms and aids in prosecution of those matters. Previously, it was very difficult to prove possession of illegal rifles and shotguns. Before this legislation came in, if I was a licensed owner, driving down the 401 in my pickup and I had 100 shotguns in the back, the police could stop me and ask whose guns they were. If I said they were mine, they would ask if I was a licensed gun owner. If I said yes, the police would say, “Very good. Carry on with this pickup full of shotguns”.
Now if the police had caught me coming over the border to the 401, they would have thrown me in jail for life. However, as long as I was licensed, before this legislation came into effect, I could have piles of shotguns in the back of my pickup. Therefore registration is extremely valuable in tying the owner to the gun. Registration allows police officers to follow up on thefts and things like that and to track the guns back to the registered owner.
Registration is critical in enforcing licensing. Without registration, believe it or not, there would be nothing to prevent a licensed gun owner from selling an unregistered weapon to an unlicensed individual. I could own, as a licensed gun owner, 1,000 guns. I could give 30 of them to my neighbour who had been turned down for a licence and no one would ever know that those 30 guns belonged to me.
Illegal guns start off as legal guns. Registration helps to prevent the transition from legal to illegal ownership and helps to identify where the transition to illegal ownership occurs.
My general point is that we do have a good program, which has been too expensive I do admit. However it is one which is already clearly producing results.
If we look at the gun crime figures of all sorts in the last 25 or 30 years, we will discover that in Canada there has been a steady decline in most of them throughout that time. However there are only two periods in that time when there was a marked rapid reduction. One was in the middle and late 1970s, following the last major gun control legislation, which most people appeared to think was very good. The second was, extraordinarily enough because it is still incomplete, in the late 1990s and the first part of this century. In that time there has been a marked decline in virtually all gun crimes, in gun thefts, in gun injuries and in gun murders and gun deaths of all sorts.
Colleagues should listen carefully to this. For the first time in the last years of that decade, handgun murders exceeded long gun murders in Canada. This had never occurred before in history. This legislation is aimed at long guns. It is not aimed at taking guns away from legitimate owners. It is aimed--
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)
Ten minutes does pass rather fast. Questions and comments, the hon. member for Selkirk--Interlake.
Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB
Madam Speaker, it is hard to deal with everything of course. Time is very short so I just have a couple of comments.
The member talked about the handguns used in murders. They certainly have been. The majority of them are illegal handguns that are not registered, and of course that system has been in for the last 50 or 60 years.
In the City of Toronto, near Peterborough and Scarborough, murders are often committed with handguns by various criminal elements and the registry has not stopped that. In fact police resources are being used to register guns. The victims of crimes in Toronto are afraid to make complaints to the police. The police find out about it, they go to the victims, or the victims' family or whoever and ask if they would come in and testify, and they say no. They are terrified of the criminals.
The police cannot protect them because they do not have enough resources. The police are off registering guns and making 2,000 inquiries a day. I do not know why they are sitting in their offices or in their cars making these inquiries. One would think there would be some arrests. However that is the truth of life in Toronto. People are more terrified of the criminals than they are confident of getting help from the police. Could the member talk to that for a minute?
Peter Adams Peterborough, ON
Madam Speaker, I have heard my colleague speak like this before, and I understand he was a police officer. I also understand that he was often faced with violent situations other than domestic crime. As I mentioned, however, handgun murders in Canada at the moment are slightly exceeding long gun murders, at roughly 100 a year. However the two are still in the same ballpark. That is 10% of the murders from guns of all sorts, so he is talking about 10%.
Second, he is talking about illegal guns. I would point out that car theft is a serious problem. It is a problem which sometimes when people joyride or otherwise results in death and injury. I understand that. However I would suggest to my colleague that if the cars were not registered, there would be far more cars stolen and there would be far more accidents from cars having been stolen than there are at present.
I am not suggesting that one piece of legislation can cure all these problems. There always will be illegals. My colleague should talk about long guns instead of handguns. He would agree that handgun murders are down because of handgun regulations, incomplete though they are. I hope he would agree that long gun murders and other deaths will go down as this other registration system and the associated licensing system become complete.
I hope he will vote for the additional moneys today so we do not throw away an already good program simply because, as I have accepted, it has been mishandled financially.
Jim Gouk Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC
Madam Speaker, I have a very simple question for the member, if he is able to answer it. He mentioned that there were some 1,300 firearms deaths in a year. I believe that was his figure. Would he concede that even with this program fully running, some of those will still occur? If he agrees with that, could he give me a general estimate of what percentage he thinks will be saved by this program?
Peter Adams Peterborough, ON
Madam Speaker, first, if my colleague would go to the website and look at the statistics, he would see that there already has been a significant reduction. While it is incomplete, I easily could stand and say that in four or five years there will be this sort of reduction, if I could predict that. I truly cannot do that. The fact is that while incomplete, the behaviours of thieves and other illegal uses of guns and the behaviours of gun owners have changed to the point where there is a marked step, for the first time in 20 years, in the reduction of gun crimes.
It really suggests to me that in literally a few years time, when this program is complete, I will be able to say to him that there has been truly a very significant reduction in gun crimes of all sorts because of this linked system of licensing the owners and registering the guns, therefore tying the guns to the owners.
John McKay Scarborough East, ON
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this matter, which is of course quite controversial.
This is not a debate about policy. That has been done. We have had three elections in the past number of years. Each time gun control was a significant element of that election and each time the government was returned with a significant majority. It appears that the Canadian people have spoken on that issue, not once, not twice, but three times. As I see it, this is not a debate about the policy of gun control. Rather this is a debate about the costs of gun control. On that there has been some significant controversy.
The first point I want to make is with respect to the actual costs themselves. The second point is with respect to the ambiguities that are in the costs. The third point is that in retrospect the things that we have done appear to be quite dumb and we might have made better decisions on.
First with respect to the costs, I would point out that the Auditor General has done a very good job and a real service to this Parliament and Canadians in querying government spending. I think she has done that and held the government's feet to the fire in asking that the government account for its spending in this area. On the face of it, her position appears to be quite justifiable.
I will read from her notes, which state, “The Department of Justice did not provide Parliament with sufficient information to allow it to effectively scrutinize the Canadian firearms program and ensure accountability. In 1995, the Department of Justice told Parliament that the program would cost taxpayers about $2 million. The Department now says that by 2004-05, the costs of this program could amount to more than $1 billion. This chapter is an audit of the costs of this program and did not review the program per se. It is not about gun control. We express reservations about the cost estimates. Due to significant shortcomings in the information, we stopped our audit”.
On the face of it, going from $2 million to $1 billion should raise the concern of every member in the House, both on the opposition side and the government side. Not only must we be good stewards of the public's money, but we also must appear to be good stewards of the public's money.
Getting at the numbers appears to be, frankly, devilishly difficult. A consensus figure seems to be that over the past seven years the government has spent something in the order of $688 million or roughly $100 million a year. That sounds like a lot of money and in fact it is a lot of money. During that time revenues from the program have been about $75 million. That leaves the actual costs in and around $613 million over seven years or $88 million a year. Again that is still a lot of money.
Prior to 1993 and prior to the election of this government we already had a firearms acquisition program. On that program we were already spending $30 million a year. During the seven year period we are talking about, which has been a period of controversy, the government, whether it is this government or any other government, would have spent something in the order of $210 million regardless.
I am trying to compare apples to apples. The extra money that was spent over the past seven years was approximately $400 million, and that again is a lot of money. In fairness, it is not $100 million a year, rather it is about $58 million a year. That, in my view, is what we are debating; whether this is an appropriate use of $58 million per year over the last seven years and is appropriate going forward.
These are the numbers as best as I can determine them. It is not about $1 billion and it is not about $2 million. It is about $688 million less $75 million that we have acquired by way of revenues, less $210 million that we would have spent anyway or somewhere in the order of $400 million over seven years or about $58 million a year. It is still a lot of money but nowhere close to what the extremists would have us believe. That is my best handle on the costs as a sort of working member of this caucus. Now I will address some of the ambiguities of the costs.
I am not an accountant. There are a lot of things that go into these numbers about which reasonable people might well disagree. For example, the Auditor General argues that the Department of Justice is misleading when it neglects to include the extra costs of incarceration due to the sentencing of criminals who use guns in the commission of their crime. The Criminal Code is pretty clear that if persons use a firearm during the commission of a crime they will receive extra time.
Should that be included in the figures? Is that a cost of gun control? Should time before the parole board, because persons actually change their parole eligibility and, therefore, they are spending more time in prison, and those costs also be included in the costs of gun control? Are these costs appropriately allocated to the costs of gun control?
I do not know about other members, but when I am trying to figure out the costs of this program I had not anticipated that the extra costs of sentencing, parole, et cetera, would be something that should be included in the program. I would respectfully submit that reasonable people might well disagree over that.
The other thing that comes into it is the extra policing costs. Under the firearm acquisition certificate program the policing costs were picked up by the local police forces. Now, the federal government picks up the costs. Should they also be included in the costs of the gun control program? Is that a figure that should be in the program or is that a figure that should be out of the program? Again, accountants will disagree about how this should be accounted for, let alone MPs, and other reasonable people.
Having said that there are some costs which are difficult to analyze and having said that there are some ambiguities in the costs which make it even more difficult to analyze, let us look at some of the dumb things that were done in the past few years. One of which was the implacable opposition of certain provincial governments, including a constitutional challenge to the legislation, which delayed the start-up of the legislation in the first place.
Maybe that could have been anticipated. It seems in retrospect that this is something that should have been anticipated. However, that is something that we know going forward that even if the federal government wins the case, which it did, there will not be a very happy provincial government cooperating with the federal government in the application of this program. That is a kind of cost that should have been anticipated and was not anticipated.
Similarly, should costs be included for members of particular gun lobbies that are absolutely dead set against this program regardless and have a significant ability to derail the system, to clog it up, et cetera, and in fact running up the costs? Should a government have recognized this in advance? Possibly, in retrospect, it should have.
Similarly, the government has gone through three elections. It has gone through a huge debate, enormous controversy in caucus, and it is left so that the provinces are opposed and gun groups decide the direction of this particular policy. I would respectfully submit that no government, regardless of its political stripe, could do that.
Finally, on costs of about $400 million over seven years, I will try to compare apples to apples. The new enhanced firearms controls of the FAC process was put in place by the previous Conservative government and that accounts for about 35% of the costs. The new costs are in the licensing. As the previous speaker said, the two go hand in hand. The registering and the licensing go hand in hand and that is where we get our public safety benefit.
Unlike the previous speaker from Peterborough who spoke eloquently about the public safety benefits that are derived from this program, I have not spoken on this issue.
It seems strange to me that, for instance, the chief of the Toronto police force would say that this is not much of a program when the program is being hit 2,000 times a day, most significantly by his own police force. We have the support of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association, and the Canadian Association of Police Boards. I appreciate the overwhelming support by the police.
The costs are significant, but they are comprehensible. There are some genuine ambiguities in the cost and in retrospect some of them--
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)
Questions and comments. The hon. member for Yellowhead.
Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB
Madam Speaker, I sat and listened to my colleague very intently as he described the last three elections. I feel almost ashamed that I have to give him a bit of a history lesson on the last three elections since he has been in the House quite a bit longer than I.
If I recall, the election of 1993 was not fought on gun control. Gun control did not come in until 1995 and after. The 1993 election was fought on the removal of the GST as promised in the red book. It had nothing to do with gun control.
I find it absolutely astonishing that an individual from the other side would stand in this place and try to explain that gun control should be supported because it was promised to the electorate over three elections. In fact, the two elections after that were not won on gun control. They were won primarily because of the strength of the economy. It was luck of the draw.
I find appalling the misleading information coming from a member in this House. His debate as far as supporting a gun registry has cost $1 billion to date and will be another $1 billion before this thing is off the ground and running smoothly. What really disturbs me, as a senior health critic, is the fact that this money would supply 238 MRIs in this country and operate them for a full year when we only have 110 operating.
The government has turned its back on health care over the last decade and yet will stand in this place and say that gun control should be supported. I say cut the losses now before we bury another $1 billion of taxpayer money into something that will absolutely not save one life in this country.
I would like to have my hon. colleague's response to some of his misleading comments with regard to this registry.