Madam Speaker, from time to time, I have been critical of the record of the Liberal government when it comes to fiscal matters. It has consistently shown that it has no clue how an economy works and what policies are good for Canadians.
In fairness though, I feel I must congratulate the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety for their unintentional boost to the Canadian economy with Bill C-21. It is so rare that a Liberal policy is designed to provide economic stimulus that I feel this is worth noting.
Maclean's magazine's Ottawa bureau chief Shannon Proudfoot featured an interview with gun shop owner Ryan Simper. He said that after this bill was announced, his store sold every handgun it had in stock. Apparently, there is no better stimulus for the economy than scarcity of a product.
Maybe if the Liberals truly want to stimulate the economy, they should try other bans and see if that helps. I encourage them to look for areas where there may be an abundance of supply and lagging sales, and see if they can help those sectors of the economy. Maybe if they banned broccoli, for example, it would help vegetable sales. In the absence of a true economic plan, such acts would at least show them to be doing something worth while.
Handguns are already well regulated in this country. Anyone who wishes to own one legally must take a safety course and undergo background checks. It is an extensive, time-consuming process, and one that gun owners understand is there to provide reasonable protections for society.
However, those protections, like this bill, do nothing to stop the flow of illegal handguns in Canada. Gun violence and gun crime problems in Canada do not come from those who have taken a firearms safety course and have been cleared for gun ownership after their background check.
Responsible handgun owners, the ones targeted by this bill, are collectors or target shooters. They are not criminals. Those who want to join their ranks should not be prohibited from doing so merely because the government does not know how to deal with crime and the flow of illegal firearms being smuggled into Canada.
To me, it seems that the government, not knowing how to deal with the problem, wants to pretend to show the public that it is doing something. This bill will not help, but the government will not admit that. I think everyone in the House can agree that both gun violence and gun crime are not acceptable in Canadian society. Where we might differ is how to best deal with the issue.
It has been my experience that the Liberals are so blinded by their ideology that suggestions for improvement to their legislation fall on deaf ears. Nevertheless, I would like to offer them some ideas to accomplish their goal of reducing gun crime in Canada.
The idea of strengthening border controls and authorities to combat firearms smuggling, trafficking and related offences is something we can all agree on. I call on the government to make that the focus of this legislation. Drop the attacks on legal, law-abiding gun owners and concentrate on those who are already breaking Canadian law.
I should also point out that there are contradictions in this piece of legislation. There are some individuals who will be exempted from the provisions and would still be allowed to purchase handguns. That includes elite sports shooters who compete or coach in a handgun discipline recognized by the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee. The exemption makes sense.
We Canadians are proud of our Olympians, and we have had some success at pistol shooting competitions. In 1984, Linda Thom won the gold medal in pistol shooting at the Los Angeles Olympics, the first Canadian woman to win an individual gold medal in the summer Olympics since 1928 and the first Canadian to win a gold medal in the summer Olympics since 1968. She was given the honour of carrying Canada's flag at the closing ceremonies.
As an elite shooter, she would still be allowed to purchase a handgun if this legislation were to pass unchanged. However, what about those who want to follow in her footsteps?
I cannot think of any sport where one becomes a world-class athlete overnight. It takes hard work, dedication and training, usually for years. Wayne Gretzky had to learn to skate before he could even begin to put a puck in the net. How will the next Linda Thom become available, or a future Canadian Olympian become an elite shooter?
Even members of the government must understand that it requires practice, practice and more practice for a shooter to reach the level necessary to compete at the Olympics. Under Bill C-21, new participants in this sport would not be allowed to purchase a handgun to practice with. Apparently, the Liberals have decided that this is one sport they do not want to see Canada excel in.
The Conservatives have always stood for common sense firearms safety and strong consequences for those who commit firearms offences. We do not understand why the government wants to punish law-abiding firearms owners and make it difficult, if not impossible, for those who might want to take up a sport such as pistol shooting.
The government was first elected in 2015, and gun crime has gone up steadily each year, despite its arbitrary bans and its complicated and expensive buyback program. This increase in gun crime is not because those who own weapons legally are suddenly turning to lawlessness, but because illegal weapons are being smuggled into Canada and used by criminals. It has taken seven long years for the government to understand that there is a problem.
This belated realization comes only after it blocked a Conservative bill to toughen consequences for gun smuggling. If only it had concentrated on crime and criminals, I could have applauded its better-late-than-never efforts. Instead, it is once again targeting responsible gun owners who have committed no crimes, which makes us wonder how serious it is about really being tough on crime. After all, this is a government that intends to remove through other legislation mandatory minimum sentences for robbery with a firearm, weapons trafficking, discharging a firearm with intent, using a firearm in the commission of offences, and possession of a firearm knowing its possession is unauthorized, and more.
Members will forgive me for thinking that this new revelation that gun smuggling needs to be dealt with is just a lot of words. There are already laws on the books to deal with such acts if the government has the will and the police have the resources to enforce them. If it were serious about crime, it would not be trying to target responsible gun-owning Canadians who have followed all the rules and restrictions that come with gun ownership. Of course, they are an easy target for a government that does not seem to know how to address the issues of most concern to Canadians.
Canadians are tired of false promises from the government. This bill once again proves that the Liberals do not understand where they should be focusing their efforts in order to protect the people of Canada.