Sunday, December 2, 2012

Trudeau, Firearms, and Policy Discussion - Fun!

On Friday, our intrepid federal Liberal leadership frontrunner Justin Trudeau said in front of a crowd of Liberals in Glengarry-Prescott-Russell that he felt that having a firearm was an “important facet of Canadian identity,” and that essentially, the old long-gun registry introduced by the Chr├ętien Liberals was “a failure.” He said, in what amounts to his second major policy point, that he wasn’t going to bring back the registry, which was canned by the Conservatives last year.

Understandably, some of our fellow Liberals felt that this wasn’t exactly justified. The blog “Cowboys for Social Responsibility” have come out pretty well against it, and many of the Prog Bloggers will soon be up in arms, I'm sure. You’d think this was some sort huge deal – even though, as we saw in 2011, 2008, and 2006, when the long-gun registry was in known peril, most Canadians didn’t give two hoots. A winning campaign issue it ain’t, though I do understand that it is an important one for some.

I disagree with Trudeau’s ideas about the long-gun registry, or that owning firearms is essential to the “Canadian identity” – we don’t include the right to bear arms in our founding documents, for example, nor have we had any major revolutionary action to justify the idolization of firearms in any way. One can make the argument that hunting is somewhat important to our earlier colonial culture, but except for a few rural communities and First Nations, hunting isn’t a large industry, nor is it important to many communities, especially the large urban cores. The “Canadian identity” argument is absolute hogwash, and I’m unsure where Trudeau heard it, but he needs to stop parroting it.

At the same time, there is a legitimate point that is being brought up by Trudeau that even I, as someone who eventually came around to supporting the long-gun registry after being skeptical for the longest time, still have. The question of whether the registry really gave us the right bang for the amount of bucks taxpayers put into it. Was making the required registering of rifles and shotguns, used mostly by hunters and sport shooters, really the most effective way of keeping these sorts of firearms under control? Did we actually have the right system in place? We were all ready to admit that the registry had some problems during the 2011 campaign – why can’t someone in the party go one step further and ask whether or not the initial idea was correct?

This isn’t an endorsement of Trudeau’s position – again, I supported the long-gun registry as it currently stands, and I’d prefer a Liberal government brought it back. But I also support ensuring that government regulations like the registry, which goes directly after the personal property of many Canadians, doesn’t take a few steps too far in the “way too burdensome” direction. We want to keep Canadians safe, after all, but we also want to respect their privilege to own and use firearms in a responsible manner, whether that is for hunting, for sports, or even for self-defence.

What I think the benefits of Trudeau’s idea on the registry and firearms coming forward is that we get to have a discussion within the Liberal Party. We’re a highly diverse party, and I don’t mean in simple culture or ethnic background – we have supporters from many walks of life, and all deserve a fair shot at being heard (so long as they’re reasoned ideas, and not kooky, unscientific ones with little to no evidence). This is the kind of discussion we need to have, so we can hash out what our broader party policy will end up saying. This kind of thing where a candidate sticks their neck out there to talk about and hopefully defend a policy or idea they support, whether its this long-gun registry or co-operation with other parties, and so on - that's good for the Liberal Party. I want to see more of it.

Remember, we aren't the monothlic NDP, who refuse to acknowledge the diversity of ideas within their party; nor are we the Conservatives, who dictate policy from the PMO. We're Liberals, and we're going to have a tough, soul-searching debate about the merits of a policy, goddamnit.

However, even so, I feel this is yet another Trudeau gaffe. The man keeps sticking his foot in places where it shouldn’t be. Like his earlier comments on Alberta, he may have a valid point somewhere in there, but the way it comes out of his mouth sometimes is completely messed up. I’m getting more and more nervous about his ability to lead this party, and about where my own vote will go come April 2013.


  1. We already have a right wing party pandering to the minority, so why do we need another? Trudeau keeps moving to the right and tries to drag the party with him. Harper will be happy as he knows that the ground that Trudeau wants to occupy is his and Mulcair will be happy as he will move to occupy the ground that Trudeau and Liberals would abandon. Trudeau's polling numbers show that his main gain would be in Quebec and Ontario, the two areas staunching supporting the registry. Watch the numbers plummet as this policy gaffe goes viral.

  2. Hm I don't know if Ontarians can be described as "staunch supporters" of the registry, though if there are such people, most Quebeckers would likely qualify.

    Anyways, you may be right Brian. Is this seeming move to the right on some issues the best way to attract support? Can we really compete with the Cons on their own turf in our weakened state? I dunno, all I want is reasoned policy. Question is whether Trudeau's ideas are indeed reasonable.

  3. You don't own guns, do you? If you did you'd never have written this sentence:

    ... respect their privilege to own and use firearms in a responsible manner, whether that is for hunting, for sports, or even for self-defence."

    You see, in Canada, owning any weapon for self-defence is illegal. When one does the firearms safety course it is made very clear that there are only two legitimate reasons for owning firearms: Sport shooting and collecting, with the latter being very difficult to qualify for. Did you know that you have to fill out forms and background checks to get a firearms licence and if at any stage you even whisper self defence your application will be denied. THAT is the Canada Liberals have delivered us.

    1. I don't own any firearms right now, no, but I do plan on it in the future - as a collector. Interesting point you bring up though, Rat. If true, then more than a little ridiculous - owning a weapon for strict self-defence should be allowable, at least in my eyes.