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Tories bring down debate-limiting 'sledgehammer' on gun registry

A rifle owner walks through a hunting camp near Ottawa on Sept. 15, 2010.


Stephen Harper's government is shutting down debate on its bill to scrap the long-gun registry, making the fifth time in only 35 days it has moved for closure or time allocation on controversial pieces of legislation.

Opposition MPs criticized the government's move as an "outrageous abuse" of Parliament.

"We have seen a more excessive use of closure, a more excessive use of the sledgehammer," NDP MP Peter Julian told the House as MPs debated the time-allocation motion in the Commons Thursday. He said the government is showing an "appalling level of arrogance unparalleled in Canadian parliamentary history."

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Government House Leader Peter Van Loan brought in the time-allocation motion Thursday morning. Easily passed by the Conservative majority by a vote of 145 to 117, it limits debate on the bill to scrap the long-gun registry – which was only introduced in the House Wednesday – to three days.

Opposition House Leader Joe Comartin noted that the Conservatives, who had criticized the previous Liberal government's use of closure and time allocation, are now on course to break their record.

In the 37th Parliament, he said, the Liberals moved to shut down debate nine times over 212 sitting days. This is the fifth time in 35 days that the Tories have done so.

"Is [the Prime Minister]trying to match the record set by the previous Liberal government or is he willing to finally take a look at his practice and say this is wrong, this is wrong for democracy, give us more time for debate," Mr. Comartin said in the Commons.

Manitoba Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux said prohibiting the opposition and even government backbenchers to debate the bill does not create a "healthy environment" in the House.

But the Conservatives defended their move, arguing that many of the bills they're pushing through have already been debated in previous Parliaments – "literally for hundreds of days," Mr. Van Loan said. He argued that the Tory agenda was well communicated during the May election campaign, and Canadians gave them the mandate to see it through.

Championing the bill is Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. He was on his feet Thursday, defending the time allocation-motion, arguing, too, that the issue is hardly complex and it has been well aired.

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"It's a straight up and down question – do you want to continue the long-gun registry or not?" In addition, he argued that parliamentarians have been debating the registry's survival since 1995.

"We are clear and we are providing a rather generous three days," Mr. Toews said. "This is not a complex bill."

But Mr. Julian noted that MPs have had a grand total of three and a half hours of debate and four minutes of opposition discussion on the bill itself. "That is the sum total of the last five years," he said.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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