Mr. Speaker, I have been involved with this file since I became the justice critic for my party in 2003, a little over eight and a half years ago. It is the one file that I can point to where there is very much misinformation, and I have to say that almost all of it is coming from the Conservative side of this chamber.
Any number of other countries have taken the same route that we have. Over a period of time, we have moved from total non-regulation of firearms to significant incursions into the right to own a firearm and how a firearm could be used. It has been a progression.
Today, if the bill becomes law, we wil be going through a regressive stage. It would be a regressive stage for this country and a regressive stage in the international arena.
I will start my comments today by describing how irresponsible this move by the government is on the international stage.
We have signed an international treaty through the United Nations that requires us, starting in 2012, to report annually all of the small firearms in the country. If the bill becomes law, we would have absolutely no way to meet that requirement. We have also signed an agreement with the Organization of American States that binds us, again, to issue a report each year on the number of small arms in the country. In both cases, this is an attempt by the international community, and I think a reasoned and progressive attempt, to bring the trade in small arms weaponry under control.
We see what happens when it gets out of control. We do not have to go off the continent; we simply have to look at the massacres occurring in Mexico at the current time. Weaponry is being smuggled in from the United States and, in one case, transferred by a government agency.
We are seeing regular massacres, but these weapons could be controlled. The United States has come online with the agreement and signed it, and so has Mexico. We are going to see some reasonable attempt to control the use of small arms on this continent because of these treaties.
However, we would not be part of that if the bill becomes law. Again, it is grossly irresponsible. I have yet to hear anything from the government as to how it is going to deal with this problem. The government not only would not keep the records, but it would totally destroy the records. There is absolutely no way we would be able to meet the international requirements that I assume we signed in good faith.
I will go on to what the member for Portage—Lisgar terms the “myths” that have grown up around the gun registry.
It is false to attribute the figure of $2 billion entirely to the registration of long guns in this country. That is grossly overinflated. In 2006-07 the Auditor General had a figure of $900 million to develop not only the long gun registry but the registry of handguns and prohibited weapons and the licensing of individuals for the right to own a gun. It was a package. At that time the cost was around $900 million.
By 2010, that figure was moving toward about $1.2 billion.
The $2 billion figure actually comes from one of the proponents of this legislation from the Conservative side. He has, in effect, made up numbers, making some gross assumptions on police expenses for using the system. It is a fallacious type of analysis in terms of any meaningful economic analysis of the use of the system. That is where the figure comes from, and again, it is grossly fallacious in terms of what it has actually cost.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety said we cannot believe any figures, but I am prepared to believe the $4 million figure on what it is costing now on an annual basis. That figure came initially out of a report from the Auditor General. It was confirmed repeatedly in annual reports from the RCMP.
The parliamentary secretary sat in the same hearings I did over the last 18 months. She heard the RCMP officials give that figure on a repeated basis. She never was able to challenge them with regard to that $4 million figure, nor has anyone else. Officials know how the system works. They know how much it is costing, which is $4 million annually for the registration of long guns in this country. That is the current figure. That is all we are going to save if we get rid of the long gun registry, $4 million. The $4 million figure is from the RCMP, and it is valid. No one could challenge the RCMP on it at committee.
One of the costs the Conservatives never talk about is how much it is going to cost to destroy the records.
I spent a fair amount of time working with the people who work in the registry. They described to me what they are going to have to do. One of the costs in that $1.2 billion figure over the years occurred when we merged the two systems. We used to have one system of registration of handguns and prohibited weapons and another separate system for the long gun registry. We eventually merged them around 2005. As we were doing that, we created a single system. That is where some of the problems were: when we did that, we identified a number of dates of registration and other information, such as addresses, that were not correct. That situation has been progressively corrected over the last five years.
We merged those two. To now take them apart is going to require an estimated two to five persons per year for a two-year period, and it will cost millions of dollars, because we cannot just destroy the whole system, because doing so would destroy the registration of handguns and prohibited weapons. It would have to be done on an individual registration basis, and it is going to take that long and cost that much.