Madam Speaker, once again, it is a pleasure to rise in this place to give my comments in tonight's debate on Bill C-47, but before I do so, perhaps I can expand upon a couple of the comments made by my colleague from Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, who talked a little about the procedural aspects of what is happening tonight.
If anyone is actually watching these proceedings tonight, they would notice that there is no debate happening. We are scheduled for debate, we are supposed to be having debate, but “debate” means that there are two sides debating, and the Liberals have chosen not to participate in this debate. That is their prerogative, and they can certainly do as they wish, but from a procedural standpoint, I would like to point out a couple of items.
Number one, if the discussion on Bill C-47 collapses, and by that I mean if no further speaker stands to offer comments, it means that the bill would get passed. Why is that important? It is because, as the government knows, there was an offer made earlier tonight to members on the government side that if Bill C-47 collapsed—in other words, if no one got up to speak—and if the government would not introduce another bill, we would all go home. Not to make it appear that we do not want to do our jobs, the reality is that every extended hour we spend in this place is costing the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. The lights have to remain on, staff have to be here, security has to be here, the cafeterias have to remain open, and, ultimately, Bill C-47 will be passed. The government knows that, it has a majority, yet we sit here wasting taxpayers' dollars and not even participating in the debate.
I find it shameful that members on the government side who say they want to actively debate will not even comment on their own legislation. I will put on the record that the government is playing games here. We could all be cutting back on the expenses that taxpayers are being forced to pay, but Liberals do not see it that way, and I find that almost unconscionable. That is on the procedural side of things.
I will turn my remarks now to Bill C-47. I will make a couple of brief comments on the bill itself, which of course is about the Arms Trade Treaty. The reason I am bringing it up is the fact that any arms treaty should recognize the legitimacy of responsible gun owners who wish to own guns for their personal use, for their recreational and sporting activities, but the treaty does not recognize the legitimacy of that. For that reason, and that reason alone, I cannot support Bill C-47.
However, we should not be surprised, because this is just the latest in a long litany of Liberal attempts at gun control that have ended badly. The member for Sarnia—Lambton referenced it just a few moments ago when she talked about the failed Liberal long gun registry back in the 1990s and early 2000s. For those who have perhaps forgotten the history, let me remind them that in 1995, then justice minister Allan Rock introduced the long-gun registry as a piece of legislation in this place, ostensibly and purportedly, according to him, that it would save lives.
History has taught us many things, and one of the things it has taught us about this failed attempt at a good piece of legislation was that the long-gun registry did nothing to save lives. What it did do, as was found out in later years, was cost Canadian taxpayers billions upon billions of dollars. In fact, in 1995, the then justice minister, the hon. Allan Rock, stated in this place that, by his estimations, the long-gun registry, once fully implemented, would only cost $2 million a year. At that point in time, many people took him at his word, because there were no real records or precedents for what a registry of that sort would cost taxpayers, but, luckily, for the taxpayers of Canada, a former colleague of mine, Mr. Garry Breitkreuz, from Yorkton, Saskatchewan, knew that this figure of $2 million was obscenely low, that it certainly could not be anywhere close to that and that it would cost much more. Hence, for years thereafter, Garry Breitkreuz filed ATIPs, access to information requests, time after time, month after month, year after year, getting limited, if any, response from the government.
Finally, after years of diligent and persistent requesting of the government for pertinent information on the cost of the gun registry, it was revealed that the gun registry did not cost $2 million, but $2 billion.
What did it accomplish? Did it accomplish anything? Did it save lives? Well, I am here to argue that it most certainly did not. Why not? It is because the one fundamental flaw in the rationale and reasoning of Allan Rock, back in those days, supported by every Liberal in Canada is seemed, was that criminals do not register guns.
We have seen over the years an influx of illegal handguns and other guns coming across the border from the United States to Canada, but the people who brought these illegal guns across the border had no plans to register their weapons. Therefore, the gun registry legislation was absolutely worthless. To say it cost $2 billion for a worthless piece of legislation and call it obscene is being kind to the word obscene. It absolutely was one of the largest fiscal mistakes the former Liberal government has made in that party's long history.
I do not think the current government has learned anything from these past mistakes, because we see them time and time again trying to introduce legislation that would in fact be a back door gun registry. Whether it be Bill C-47, Bill C-71, or Bill C-75, we know that what the Liberals would love to see is another gun registry being enacted here in Canada. However, I can assure members that if they try to do that, if they try to force their position on Canadians, on rural Canadians in particular, legitimate gun owners would again be absolutely beside themselves. The first time the Liberals tried to force the gun registry on legitimate gun owners and on rural Canada, the reaction was visceral, and it will be again.
I will conclude with a true story that happened when I was on the campaign trail in 2004. During the campaign, when I was door-knocking, I did not know the gentleman living at the residence I visited, but I saw in my identification that he was a former RCMP officer. I naturally thought that he was probably going to be in favour of this. Well, how wrong I was. When I got to the door, I was met with hostility on every issue I brought forward to the point where I actually started losing my temper, which I normally do not do, particularly when I am door-knocking. It finally got to a point, after many arguments on different issues, that the gentleman asked me “What do you think you're going to do about the gun registry?” I said, “We're going to scrap it”. He said “I worked for the gun registry”. I said “Well, in that case, don't vote for me”. He said, “I won't, and get off my doorstep”.
I was laughing by the time I got to the sidewalk because it was so bizarre, but it just illustrates the visceral reaction that so many people have about this very contentious issue.
The gun registry that the Liberal government of the day tried to force down the throats of rural Canadians was something that should never have happened in the first place, but it did, unfortunately. However, for $2 billion in taxpayers' dollars, it is something that Canadians, particularly rural Canadians, will never forget, and because of that, when they see the current government introducing legislation like Bill C-47, Bill C-71, or Bill C-75, they harken back to the dark days of the 1990s when the Liberal government tried to force this obscene long-gun registry down their throats.
Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on the Liberal government.