Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House this afternoon to speak to the private member's bill introduced by my colleague from Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies. I know that introducing a private member's bill is no easy feat. One needs to consult constituents, do research, and work with the folks who draft the legal text of the bill. I therefore congratulate my colleague on his hard work.
This debate brings back good memories in a way. A few years ago, when I was on the other side of the House, I was our party's public safety critic, so I sat on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. My fellow committee members and I looked at many issues related to gun control.
One thing I learned from dealing with this issue as public safety critic a few years ago was that the gun licensing system, the regulations surrounding gun ownership, and the administration of gun ownership are indeed complex areas. No doubt, from time to time, there is a need to improve the procedures and the rules and regulations surrounding gun licensing and gun ownership.
I will be voting against the bill. It is not because I do not believe that the hon. member approached this in a spirit of good will. No doubt his motives are honourable and serve the interests, views, and desires of his constituents. However, as a parliamentarian, I do not feel that there are any compelling reasons for me or the House to support the legislation.
I understand, when we talk about these matters, and all matters in the House, that there are different perspectives motivated by different circumstances and reasons. I am not a gun owner, so obviously, I do not see the issue from the same perspective as some of the members across the way. I do not know many gun owners. I must admit that I represent a suburban riding on the island of Montreal. There are many gun owners, but probably not as many as in my colleague's riding. The gun owners I do know are exemplary citizens. They are the community volunteers. They always provide a helping hand and would give someone the shirt off their back. Perhaps that says a lot about gun owners. It says that at their core, they have a very responsible civic attitude. However, that is not the point here for me.
From my perspective, the current system, as it exists, is not a heavy burden for gun owners. I understand that I might feel differently if I were a gun owner. However, I do own a car, and I understand that it can be annoying from time to time to have to go to the licence bureau, sit there, and wait for my number to be called to renew my licence. Whenever I get the notice in the mail, I have to rejig my schedule. We are all pretty busy here and understand that it is sometimes hard to find that hour or hour and a half to go to the licence bureau to renew a licence. However, I do it, because I understand that it is part of being a responsible car owner, and quite frankly, I am glad that everyone else is doing it. I understand that circumstances change, people's health might decline, or whatever, and I am very pleased that there is an automatic system in place that checks to make sure that everyone who is driving a car is fit to be driving a car.
I feel the same way about this. As a non-gun-owner, I feel safer knowing that there are rules in place that require individuals to take the very minimal step of renewing their licences and providing additional information every five years.
If I were a gun owner, I would say that I am a great guy, responsible, I do not need to do this every five years. I get that. However, it provides the rest of us with a sense of security to know that there is a system in place and that it is fairly rigorous.
The other problem, as was mentioned by the parliamentary secretary, is that there are some aspects of the legislation that are not clear. That is especially with regard to the article on suspension, which would happen if one did not renew his or her licence every 10 years, according to this bill. That would be a new concept under the Firearms Act.
I heard the parliamentary secretary mention it, and it is perhaps not a concept that is well enough developed. In theory, a suspended licence would prevent someone from purchasing ammunition, for example, and it would prohibit the transfer of ammunition to someone with a suspended licence. However, given that the licence would not say it is suspended, as far as I can tell, there would be no way for a retailer to know whether a licence is valid or not. Having vendors call to verify that a licence is not suspended every time ammunition is sold would be tremendously burdensome for vendors, and therefore might not occur. That is one problem that I have with the legislation.
The system we have now has achieved a certain balance. Again, I do not feel compelled to upset that balance for the time being. When our government came into power almost two years ago, we did make some small changes to the system that was in place. We did not do what many people feared or believed we might do.
Let me just go over some of the very minor amendments we made to the firearms regulation in Canada. They were not only minor amendments, but also wise. For example, we stopped the previous government's practice of contradicting law enforcement experts on weapons classification. We also reversed the ministerial directive that allowed gun manufacturers to determine the classification of their own products. That seemed to make sense. I think it makes sense to most Canadians. We also upgraded Canadian laws dealing with the transportation of restricted and prohibited weapons. We are dealing more effectively with background checks, and the inventories kept by vendors.
We created a more representative Canadian Firearms Advisory Committee. It is important that this committee not be more heavily weighted toward one particular group in this debate than another. Therefore, we named retired Supreme Court Justice John Major as the chair, and both Lynda Kiejko, an Olympian sport shooter from Calgary, and Nathalie Provost, a survivor of the Polytechnique shooting, as vice-chairs.
I think we have taken a very moderate approach to improving administrative procedures. As a Liberal, I believe that procedures and laws and institutions can always be made better. I think that is what my hon. colleague from Peace River thinks and why he has presented this private member's bill.
However, I must say in conclusion that at the end of the day, I do not feel compelled to support these changes. That is why I will not be voting for the legislation. Nonetheless, I look forward to listening to the rest of the debate.