Thursday 23 September 2010

Worth More Alive than Dead: Why the PM may have engineered Bill C-391 to fail

(The Meaning Of Children now available on Kindle!)

Everyone knows Bill C-391, the second so-called Conservative private member’s bill (PMB) to propose destroying the registry is really a government bill—after all, if it walks like a duck hunter and squawks like a duck hunter, chances are it’s a duck hunter. Never in Parliamentary history has the governing party hired billboards, set up websites, sent out flyers etc., in support of a private member’s bill. So why the subterfuge? Because clothing a government bill in PMB clothing means Mr. Harper could exhibit pretend outrage at the opposition’s whipping the vote, all while imposing party discipline in his own ranks (why else would all 10 Quebec Conservative MPs have voted with the government?).

But division among the opposition is not the reason Mr. Harper may be satisfied with the 153-151 outcome on Bill C-391: money is. 

While researching links between the Canadian gun lobby and the U.S. National Rifle Association (NRA), a vociferous and financial supporter of its Canadian branch, the imperative made famous by informant “Deep Throat” during the Watergate scandal popped into my head: “follow the money.” The NRA, America’s most influential lobby group, wields a shockingly large annual budget--$307 million USD. To give you a taste of what that buys in Washington, in addition to lobbying against virtually any and all gun restrictions, the NRA recently lobbied: against an appointment to the supreme court; to be exempted from a proposal requiring lobby groups to disclose donor lists, and; to graft a ban on insurance companies charging higher premiums for people with guns in their homes onto a health care bill. Also, for the NRA, gun control anywhere threatens gun owners everywhere; they’ve meddled in Brazil and at the UN, so why not Canada? This is the bull the Conservative Party welcomed into our Parliamentary china shop.

The long gun registry may be the best cash cow the Conservative Party’s ever had: why would they kill it? What if the failure of C-391 is what the government set its sights on all along, a milestone in their strategy to achieve a majority? With Bill C-391 defeated, Mr. Harper can shrug and tell supporters he gave it the old college try, but that the effort to squash the registry failed because of the “socialist coalition’s dastardly tactics,” like whipping a so-called PMB. This leaves the Conservatives free to exploit, once again, the registry as a key weapon in its fundraising arsenal, a war chest ostensibly necessary to gain a majority and so destroy the registry another day. 

The government denies the relationship between the NRA and their drive to destroy the long gun registry, despite the fact that the Public Security Minister’s Firearm Advisory Committee (FAC) includes Tony Bernardo, executive director of the Canadian version of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action (CILA) and CILA’s sister organization, the Canadian Shooting Sports Association. The CSSA/CILA Facebook page brags it has 4 senior organization members on the Public Security Minister’s 12-member FAC, and that most of the rest are CSSA members; that CSSA/CILA is “fully endorsed by the NRA and NSSF [U.S. National Shooting Sports Foundation],” that “CILA’s work has been personally endorsed by NRA Executive Vice-President Wayne LaPierre and former Presidents Charlton Heston, Kayne Robinson and Sandy Froman,” that “as a direct result of our lobby efforts, including CILA-coordinated conference calls between Ministers and major firearms manufacturers, we proved to the Canadian Government that they were being mislead by their bureaucrats,” that they “conducted an election poster campaign which was approved by the PMO - posters sent to all dealers, retailers, clubs and businesses; conducted a ‘train-the-trainer’ session for grass roots lobbying – facilitated by the NRA Director of the Grass Roots Division, Glen Caroline and we are now offering grass roots political action training to clubs and members…”

The NSSF, the other American organization CILA proudly associates with, has a board of governors representing a who’s who of major gun manufacturers: Smith & Wesson, Beretta, Winchester, Glock, Sturm, Ruger & Co., Colt’s Manufacturing, and Remington Arms. 

The $100,000 anti-registry video the NRA produced in 2000, “Gun Control in Canada,” features Tony Bernardo and John Perrochio, a “former gun shop owner” who laments that the Canada’s gun industry has dropped from 6,000 dealers to 875 and was “a $6 billion industry that has been annihilated by ignorant politicians and absolutely pathetic firearms legislation.” Follow the money indeed.

If C-391 had passed, Mr. Harper’s grateful gun lobby supporters may have decided that donating to the Conservative Party was no longer so important. So despite all the heat generated by Bill C-391, the Prime Minister had the strongest of motives not to destroy the long gun registry, because its continued existence will fill his party’s election coffers more assuredly than the converse: the gun registry is worth more to him alive than dead.

References (3min43secs into the video for John Perrochio’s quote)

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