Mr. Speaker, the gun registry debate has gone on for a number of years, since before its creation, to its creation, to its eventual slow demise and death under the government, to this most radical posture that the current government has taken. I find we are now at a point where the government's ideology has fully taken over any sense of balance or common sense.
I say ideology because when a government says that its mandate, which it believes it has, to do something, in this case destroy records that were paid for by Canadians, was implied in the last election. The Conservatives did not talk about it. They did not ask any Canadians about it. However, it is implied. That is the most dangerous set of principles for a government to run on because, if it believes things are implied, it can read into any decision that voters may or may not have made to arrive at a conclusion that is convenient to the government of the day.
The Conservatives do have a mandate to end the long gun registry. In the unfortunate and broken electoral system that we have, a party can win with less than 40% of the vote but end up with virtually 100% of the power. That is something that we in the NDP seek to correct so that voters can see their votes actually reflected in the government that sits in this place. If there has ever been an example of a government abusing its power and its very thin marginal endorsement from voters, it is the present government on this issue.
The Conservatives hold up the privacy of the people we seek to represent and yet I have a letter here that the government is now aware of from no other person than the Privacy Commissioner of Canada who says that the act permits the disclosure of personal information under an agreement or arrangement between the Government of Canada or an institution thereof and the government of a province for the purpose of administering or enforcing any law or carrying out any lawful investigation.
There are no privacy concerns. One would suspect that the Privacy Commissioner of Canada would be the authority on any concerns with respect to privacy, otherwise, why set up the office? Why pay the salaries and have the staff if we are not going to listen to the advice of an officer of Parliament?
It seems, unfortunately, and too typical of the government to take an issue and then run to the extreme by suggesting that a $2 billion bonfire on Parliament Hill of all the records that have been assorted and assembled would somehow make that $2 billion come back.
I have an interesting moment for my Conservative colleagues who raised the issue of cost. It has been a fair criticism of the long gun registry because it was promised at a much lower cost than it eventually realized. Whether it was between $1 billion or $2 billion, it cost too much. That is a fair and honest concern.
However, we asked the government how much it would cost to delete all the records, because it is not a simple matter of hitting a button to delete seven million records. Each one needs to be done individually. The RCMP says that it is not sure of the exact number but that it would be many millions. When we asked the government if it had an estimate on the cost of destroying all of these records, it said “no, never mind, it is worth it“. Does that sound familiar to the ones who set up the registry in the first place, “no, never mind, it is worth it?”
The Conservatives have now flipped to the other side and, because of their ideology, they cannot find their way to have a simple and honest conversation with Canadians who paid for this data in the first place. The Conservatives cannot tell Canadians that they are going to burn this data and spend many millions more destroying it.
For heaven's sake, the government claims to respect the authority of the provinces and we have a province is clearly asking for the data.
Quebec has publicly asked for the data from the registry. Quebeckers paid for it. Why is this government telling Quebeckers that they need to pay again to get this information, to have a gun registry? It is ridiculous and stupid. This government will now say anything to the people of Quebec. It is saying that it is the Conservative government. It used to say that the opinion of Quebeckers was important. What an insult. It is ridiculous and it makes no sense.
We also see that the government, in its own legislation that it crafted up around Bill C-19, has to take an entire section to subvert and overcome Canadian law that says we cannot destroy records. It seems like a good law, does it not, that a government, whatever its ideological stripe, whatever its persuasion, whatever mandate it perceives, should not be capable of destroying records that were collected from the Canadian public. Does that sound familiar at all?
I wonder if next the Conservatives will destroy any of the votes that the farmers across the Prairies took in respect to the Wheat Board because they did not like the results of those votes. Let us destroy those records too because it is not in line with the ideology and the so-called mandate of the government.
It is anti-democratic. It is against the institution of what this place represents that from time to time we collect records from Canadians, criminal records, health records, in this case gun registry records. It is not for the government of the day to write laws that subvert other laws that exist for good reason.
What is the precedent being set by the government? That if the Conservatives find something inconvenient, they will simply write into legislation, “Never mind all those things we said about keeping records, that should be borne into our laws and Constitution of this country. We will simply override them because it fits our world view”.
The government spends so much of its time claiming that it defends the brave men and women of our law enforcement departments across the country. Then a law enforcement official comes forward and says, and my good colleague from Ontario will know this, “We would like access to the data”.
We have the letter from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police saying, “It is fine that you are shutting down this registry, but please allow us access to the data”. Suddenly the government is not so interested in respecting or listening to the police of this country. Suddenly the government says, “Never mind the expertise or the officials, the folks who run our police department. They do not know”. All the Conservatives have to say is, “I have spoken to police officers who, off the record, say the gun registry is not important to them”.
However, through their own democratic institutions, the people they put forward to head up their police associations, those people are on the record as saying, “Please allow us access to the data to do our jobs”.
It comes to a point where ideology clashes with common sense, and we are at this point with the government. We seek from the government a moment of common sense because there are those like myself, my friend from Western Arctic and others who have for years campaigned and voted on ending the long gun registry because that represented the position of the constituents I represent in northwestern British Columbia. That was their clear and express purpose, and I think we should always maintain that bind, but the Conservatives have inserted into the bill, unlike the last provisions the last time the House voted, a poison pill into the legislation, making it a poisoned bill, and they know exactly what they have done.
The Conservatives are giving the shout out to the most ideological, the most radical elements of this conversation for no good reason because the law-abiding hunters and farmers of this country who use guns to either feed their families or protect their homes, those of which I represent in northern B.C., those people do not care if Quebec wants to set up its own registry, if Montreal wants to enforce a different set of regulations around gun ownership, or if Toronto wants to enforce a more serious provision through the provinces, why, for heaven's sake, would the government care?
When I talk to people in northern British Columbia, rural Canada, they say that they have had their disputes with the registry, but if folks in Winnipeg want to have a different set of rules and guidelines directed to them by their province, so be it. Why would the government intervene? For a government that claims to respect the authority and jurisdiction of provinces, of which the cities are a product, why step in between?
The Conservatives have poisoned the well. They have made this an unsupportable piece of legislation, and there must be Conservatives across the way who campaigned on this, and as well as their right and intention, that understand that the precedent being created here is a dangerous one. It is a damaging one to the fabric of what this country stands for, which is simple and basic representation, that the burning of records is done by a government that holds on to an ideology of the most severe nature.
We should look through the history books. What governments burned records? What regimes burned records? There are not many. This government is about to become one of them. Do the Conservatives not have any pause?
That is right, my friend says. He would like to associate himself with other governments which, through the course of history, have burned public records. Now he scoffs. He cannot figure himself out. We are either for the burning of public records or we are not, and what we have arrived at here is a government that has lost its way.
The practice of wedge politics, of dividing one group of Canadians from another, rural versus urban, the west versus the east, Quebec and all the rest, has to stop. It is destructive and harmful. It does not serve any greater purpose other than some narrow, ideological partisan interest and it has to stop.
Change the bill, correct it, end the ideological attack and make some sense to all Canadians.