Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville for his bill, Bill C-409. I am surprised, after having been here for seven years, that he is still sufficiently naive to believe that anybody over there cares or ever will care whether their laws are cost effective or not, but I give him A for trying.
The legislation that we are trying to get a sunset clause, namely Bill C-68, was based, as I recall very clearly, on public hysteria, prejudice, political expediency and on spurious, dare I even say duplicitous cost estimates; $85 million indeed. We said at the time that this was ridiculous. We have been proven right in spades.
The government has already spent more than four times that amount of money and it is nowhere with the program. It has managed to corral I think 800,000, or maybe even by this time a million, gun owners who have come forward to apply for their licences or who have received their licences, either a POL or a PAL, but there are at least, by the government's own estimates, another 2 million owners out there. Many people think there may be as many as 4 million. The government has 1,700 people trying to process paper in Miramichi. It is an impossible situation.
This is the old story of rolling the rock up the mountainside and it keeps rolling back down. They will never get this done in time for the deadline and when that deadline passes we will have at least a couple of million Canadians who will be deemed, under the provisions of Bill C-68, to be instant criminals. This is an absurdity.
I have only been here for seven years. I suppose I am a bit of a greenhorn in this place, but I do not know of any single piece of legislation that has created the degree of public anger, mistrust and pure bloody minded rage at government that this legislation has caused.
It has been on the books now for five years. To this day I cannot walk down the street in the town of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, where I have my office, without somebody accosting me and asking me what we are going to do about this loony legislation. It never dies. This is an area that is suffering from a lot of other real major problems, but this is the burr under the saddle. It is not good for government to have legislation that keeps a very large minority of the population in a constant state of agitation, and, believe me, they are agitated. I would think that anyone who lives in a rural riding, regardless of their party, would be well aware of that fact.
The parliamentary secretary in his analysis mentioned a couple of things which I really must comment on. He says that the background checks have been effective, and that people who should not have had guns have been denied the right to buy them because of these checks. However, what he fails to mention is that there really is not any solid connection between the availability of the checks and the legislation that we are talking about.
We have had background checks in this country for at least 20 years that I am aware of and they did not have to pass this nonsense. They did not have to bring in this bureaucratic monster in order to bring about something that was already there.
The parliamentary secretary also stated that if Bill C-409 were to become law, all Canadian gun laws would be sunsetted and Canada would be left with no licensing and no registration. Well, if that is true, I can only assume that the hon. parliamentary secretary is saying that all of our gun laws are useless because Bill C-409 would only sunset gun control laws that the auditor general proved were not cost effective at achieving their stated objective of saving lives and reducing the criminal use of firearms.
Again I have to ask: Is the parliamentary secretary saying that all our gun laws, going all the way back to 1934, are not cost effective? That is a terribly broad statement to be making.
When the legislation was first debated back in 1994, we believed that the government should at that time have done some really serious studies, some scientific evaluation of what the legislation might entail, what it might result in and whether it would be beneficial, cost effective or not. The government chose not to do that. At the time there were a couple of very important academic studies that had been done, one in Canada in Vancouver and one in the United States in Florida, that strongly—