Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my esteemed colleague from Nipissing—Timiskaming.
I am delighted to rise today and speak to Bill C-42, the common sense firearms licensing act. This is a fantastic step forward for law-abiding firearms owners across Canada and across Alberta. I am proud to be able to stand here today and support it.
On behalf of the law-abiding firearms owners in my riding of Macleod, I would like to thank the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness for moving forward on this important legislation, and I would remiss if I did not thank the member for Yorkton—Melville, from my home community. This member has carried the torch for years, standing up for the rights of law-abiding gun owners and against needless red tape.
Today we have heard comments from many hunting and sport shooting groups from across Canada supporting this legislation. We have heard from the Canadian Police Association in support of this legislation. I have heard from residents across southern Alberta who are supporting this legislation. That is because it follows our Conservative government's views on firearms policies. These policies should be safe and they should be sensible. Overall, this bill continues our focus on pursuing common sense firearms legislation, something that has been lacking for far too long.
The focus for my comments today will be answering some questions I have heard while discussing this important legislation with residents in Macleod as well as across Canada.
Some have asked why these changes are being made now. As we have heard today, some of the people here in this House seem to believe this is pandering in advance of an election. This could not be further from the truth. This bill is not about somebody's hobby; it is about an important economic driver across this country. In fact, sport shooting and hunting is a billion-dollar industry in Canada.
It is also about a way of life, both in rural Canada and in urban Canada. There are literally millions of Canadians from all walks of life who enjoy participating in these heritage activities. For them, this is not something about a so-called gun lobby; this is about enjoying a treasured way of life.
Some have also asked why we are combining different licences and giving new rights to possession-only licence holders. Some have also argued that the effect of this proposal would be that they would be required to take a mandatory safety training course.
Let me be clear. This proposal would simplify the firearms licensing system by allowing experienced firearms owners to be able to purchase new firearms if they so choose. There would be no new training requirement for these individuals.
This bill would also eliminate red tape by combining the PAL and POL licences.
I have heard questions during the debate about why there should also be a six-month grace period at the end of the five-year firearms licence. This six-month grace period would protect law-abiding firearms owners from becoming paper criminals overnight as a result of an administrative error. I have already had several residents in my riding of Macleod bring up this issue just in the last few months. No other licence comes with as steep a penalty as a minimum of three years in prison for forgetting to renew. That is why this change is so important. It would allow time for individuals to come back into compliance with the law.
Some have asked why we would mandate a base standard for firearms safety training. Should not those who can pass the test simply be allowed to get their firearms licence?
We believe there is no substitute for learning in a classroom. Firearms safety is extremely important. I think all of my colleagues in the House would agree with that statement. Canadians understand firearms safety is essential to owning a firearm, which is why four out of five applicants for a firearms licence already take advantage of available training.
As a result of an authorization to transport being made a condition of a restricted licence, some people have asked whether it would be a requirement of getting a licence to be a member in good standing of a shooting club or shooting range. The clear answer to this is no. There would be no requirement in law for individuals to maintain a membership at a gun range in order to transport their restricted firearms.
The reforms contained in this bill are safe and sensible. They strike an appropriate balance between tackling the criminal use of firearms and removing red tape for law-abiding citizens. Unfortunately, our Conservative government is the only one that will stand up for law-abiding hunters, farmers, and sport shooters. We have seen all too well that the Liberal Party still embodies the comments made by former justice minister Allan Rock, who said he came to Ottawa with the firm belief that only police and the military should have guns.
The Liberal member for Trinity—Spadina said “emotional reasons” from firearms enthusiasts were not a good enough reason to continue to allow the sale of ammunition. Can we imagine that? If the Liberals had their way, there would be no more hunting and no more sport shooting.
Last fall I had the opportunity to attend and visit Canada's national biathlon training centre in Canmore. I had the opportunity to work with some of Canada's top shooters on the shooting range in Canmore. While I was there, it was interesting to see hundreds of youth from across southern Alberta there training and competing in biathlons. They were outdoors enjoying the sport they loved and obviously staying out of trouble.
If it were up to the opposition, there would be no more Canmore biathlon club, because Canadians simply would not have access to ammunition. Because Canadians could not hunt, there would be no more Pheasants Forever Canada, which is one of our most dedicated conservation organizations and focuses on habitat restoration, public awareness, education, and land management policies and programs.
The views of the opposition are shocking and ignore the real, effective, sensible ways to combat gun crime. What our Conservative government believes in is taking firearms out of the hands of those who are predisposed to commit crimes and in putting those who do commit crimes with firearms behind bars for a very long time.
However, the opposition stalls or outright opposes every measure we bring forward to crack down on gun, gang, and drug crime. Rather than putting criminals behind bars, their philosophy seems to be in favour of making law-abiding hunters register the guns they use to hunt pheasants. It is absolutely illogical, but the Liberals and NDP are determined to bring back the long gun registry in one form or another, no matter how they dance around it here today.
We will not let that happen.
The member for Malpeque said it best when he said that gun control cost the Liberal Party in rural Canada at least 60 seats.
Our Conservative government will never turn our backs on rural Canadians and I will not turn my back on law-abiding gun owners in my riding of Macleod. I call on the opposition members to reject their tired old rhetoric and to support these safe and sensible measures.