Everyone is always lamenting how individual MP's have little real power in our current system. MP's generally tow the partyline, taking directives from the various leadership groups. Rarely, are MP's allowed to express their own view with a vote, based on their ridings particularly "bent" and/or their personal decision. In Canada, the notion of MP's having internal freedom is seen as weakness and divisive. A look down south shows that independence of legislative members, despite party affiliation, can be a healthy exercise that is actually more representative.
I know many Liberal and NDP supporters are horrified at the prospects of the gun registry being repealed. To that concern, I would argue that the will of parliament is being respected. If the opposition parties are divided in their perspective, that in and of itself speaks to validity of arguments on both sides. Why should the "rural" point of view be excluded within the opposition perspective? Why should parties, which claim to represent all Canadians, voluntarily suppress opinion which runs counter to the official line?
Cutting to the chase, this gun registry would survive if more people supported it. Period. The fact many opposition MP's don't, well that's democracy in the purest sense. I think we need to separate our personal want from the larger questions here. A free vote isn't a betrayal of anything, it's an organic exercise, that best expresses the will of Canadians. If we could move beyond the "embarrassment" argument, everytime a leader can't manage to force kneejerk, lockstep support, we might find progress in our parliamentary system.
If the gun registry fails, it isn't a failure of Layton or Ignatieff, it isn't an affront. Simply, it's individual MP's exercising a power that they should receive more often. The registry lives, if it has the votes of our elected representatives, falls if it doesn't. I'm fine with that, seems a better process than the autopilot MP existence we see most often.