The release of the RCMP report on the long gun registry is another powerful tool for the pro-registry side. The frame is starting to gel, in a general sense another expert vs ideology debate. While I see no direct consequence for the government, primarily because many Canadians agree with their position, the gun registry is another example of a negative narrative. Supressing reports, not listening to the advice of those in the know, that theme is a dangerous one for Harper, and in that sense this debate could bite. However, the party with the most to lose here is clearly the NDP, and that conclusion raises a host of questions.
I have always supported free votes, more power for individual MP's, because that better reflects democratic will, constituent wants. When I say the NDP will pay a political price for not supporting the gun registry, this isn't a commentary on free votes, merely the OPTICS, which are undeniable, based on past experience. The Liberals are generally the party that suffers from the "internal" policy division presentation. I've always believed that dissenting debate is healthy, but I've watched time and again how the slightest prospect of division becomes a negative headline. When I say the NDP will pay politically if the gun registry falls because of a free vote, this isn't a criticism, it's a recognition. If people believe otherwise, then there is some new reality in Ottawa, which I've never seen.
We aren't talking about what is fair, reasonable or philosophically attractive, we are talking about the optics, important not to confuse the two. People will notice pretty much ZERO in the way of critical thought, when it comes to the supposed united Conservative front on the registry. Do people really believe every single Conservative MP favours killing the gun registry, no dissenters, no one that would vote to save it, if a true free vote allowed? Bullocks. But, the appearance is that of a monolith, no cracks, no division, unanimous and for some reason strong. In Ottawa, any second guessing is pure poison, you want the most seamless, consistent presentation.
The NDP are without question providing the best expression of democracy on this issue. While that allows a moral, ideological argument, it doesn't do much in the real world translation. The headline will read that renegade NDP MP's didn't follow the stated party policy, and in turn the gun registry died. In places like Quebec, nobody will applaud the allowance of a free vote, the overriding frame will be that the NDP helped Harper kill the gun registry. Is that right, is that fair? No, and it's also true that doesn't matter in the least, when it comes to the optical game. And, before anyone feels to bad for the NDP predicament, one must remember how partisan have RELISHED past opportunities to jump on the same, even though the same principles apply. All the parties know how events are reported, how certain facts override all other consideration, how it all comes down to the most superficial of analysis. It is that knowledge that doesn't generate any contradiction in the fundamental belief in the free votes, and the recognition that this vote could be a negative politically.