Mr. Speaker, Canada's new government is committed to effective gun control. As the Prime Minister has said, “We want to make sure that what we do is actually effective”. That is why the government has proposed in Bill C-21 the repeal of Canada's costly and ineffective long gun registry.
The Minister of Public Safety has been very clear. The government will maintain registration of restricted and prohibited firearms, including all handguns and automatic firearms. However, non-restricted firearms, generally ordinary rifles and shotguns, will be removed from the registry if Bill C-21 passes.
The hon. member suggests that police speak with one voice in support of the long gun registry. However, that is simply not the case.
In April 2006, more than 11 years after the Firearms Act was introduced, the president of the Winnipeg Police Association said, “The Winnipeg Police Association has never supported the long gun registry”.
The Manitoba Police Association, which includes Winnipeg, Brandon and rural police associations, passed a motion in the spring of 2006 calling on Ottawa to scrap the registry.
The head of the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers stated in 2006, “We've been against it right from the beginning....That's been our position since 1994 and it hasn't changed”.
The deputy police chief of the Toronto police stated last year that, “The $1 billion could be better spent elsewhere”. He said, “It really has done nothing to solve the crime problem. The gun registry registers legal guns. Gangsters don't register their guns”.
Many other local and provincial police associations as well as working police officers across Canada oppose a long gun registry that focuses on law-abiding Canadians, not criminals. We need to remember that the firearms registry contains both firearm registration and individual licensing information.
Parties opposite have claimed that the government is in some way getting rid of gun control in Canada. That in no way represents the government's position.
All firearms owners will still be required to be licensed and will be screened for public safety. That will not change. Individual licensing information, critical for determining whether an individual may or may not lawfully possess firearms, will be maintained and will remain available to police across Canada.
In fact, the government is focusing resources more effectively on what works best in our system. That is why budget 2007 commits $14.2 million over two years to enhance screening new firearms licence applicants.
For the first time, this investment means that 20,000 new licence applicants and their two references will be interviewed by a firearms officer before determining that applicants should be issued his or her first firearms licence. That is a real investment in public safety and that is the difference between this government and the previous one. We want to focus on what works best and what is the greatest benefit to Canadians. We believe that rank and file police officers will join with us in meeting that objective.