Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Support Free Vote On Gun Registry

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I know many Liberal and NDP supporters are horrified at the prospects of the gun registry being repealed.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.


Jesse said...

But does holding free votes on the rare occasions when one or more of the party leaders decide to allow one so they can dodge responsibility for whipping caucus actually move us toward generally freeing up MPs to vote the way the want? Or does that require systemic change, with free votes just a fig leaf?

bigcitylib said...

Bullshit. Liberals are justifying a policy surrender.

Greg said...

Cutting to the chase, this gun registry would survive if more people supported it. Period.

Nonsense. This bill is about to pass because rural voters have a greater say in the House of Commons than urban voters do.

Greg said...

Let me be more precise. Rural voters are over represented and urban voters are under represented. If we had true rep by pop, this bill would be stone cold dead.

Steve V said...

That's another issue. The makeup is what it is.

penlan said...

"If we had true rep by pop, this bill would be stone cold dead."

But we don't & can't do anything about that right now.

I'm in agreement with Steve on this. In fact every single vote should be a free one so that the voice of the people is heard - each MP is supposed to represent their constituents but it rarely happens now & Harper rules with an iron fist so no Con MP's ever get to vote their conscience or the will of those they represent. He is the worst of all of the Party leaders in that area.

Greg said...

I'm in agreement with Steve on this. In fact every single vote should be a free one so that the voice of the people is heard

Voice of what people? The minority that is over represented? No thanks we have enough of that already.

JimmE said...

Steve, while I agree with much of what you say there is one flaw. I just spoke to my MP's office (a Reform-a-Tory) & was told that if members of that party were to vote against this bill "It would be noticed". So much for the premise of Free Votes.

JimmE said...


Prob. with " every single vote should be a free one" is the result is what we see in the US on the health care debate. The power lobbies corrupt what most folks want, & Americans get what the vested interests want.

Steve V said...


That happens anyways on the party level.

Mark Richard Francis said...

Steve is correct.

I have to say, whipped votes make it hard to tell where my MP stands on issues. My local MP as a person and a leader means more to me than party affiliation.

DL said...

If this is "free vote" you would think that there would be at least a couple of Tory MPs from places like Quebec City or suburban Toronto and Vancouver who would vote against the bill.

I assume the bill is free for the opposition and brutally whipped for Government MPs.

rgl said...

A free vote would kill the gun registry, not because it is the will of the voting Canadian public, but because no Conservative MP would believe in voting for anything but the party line, regardless of the constituent belief of the riding they represent. Conservatives in major urban centres outside of Alberta would interpret the free vote to mean they could vote on Conservative principles which they hold dear rather than what their constituents would expect from someone who supposedly represents them.

Define a free vote and then educate the MPs as to what this actually means. Then and only then would one get a meaningful vote. In this guise, a free vote is another tool to have the public see how weak the opposition is in reality.

Jay said...

How is this a free vote when the CPC has been advertising this very bill in swing ridings? That alone should have the party whip the vote. This is another game the CPC is being let off with.

Steve V said...

Why should the opposition takes its cues, based on what the Conservatives are doing?

Steve V said...

Should Nathan Cullen say, "well I was going to vote against the registry, but because the Cons are playing silly games, running ads, I'm going to support it". That makes no sense to me.

Greg said...

No Jack Layton should say the caucus is going to vote for the registry because it is our party's position.

Greg said...

Which btw Layton did say when it came to same sex marriage, which was another free vote.

Steve V said...

What's your point? The whole thrust of my argument, there are to many whipped votes, you just gave examples. So what?

Steve V said...

" My local MP as a person and a leader means more to me than party affiliation."

Mark, if there were more free votes, that actually fleshed out individual MP's for voters, then elections would have less to do with leadership, more to do with the riding, more to the qualities of the party representative. As it stands now, most people just see the color and vote accordingly, the face an afterthought.

Greg said...

My point is that I disagree with your point.

Steve V said...

That's fine, but you're really not saying anything with your rebuttal.

CuzBen said...

A good article on the subject of political deference from Harpers, June 2008.

It reminds me of a time I called John Baird's office and said "Mr. Baird" to which I was quickly and sternly corrected by a chirpy staffer.

"That's MINISTER Baird."

Oh. So sorry. I should have called him "Mr. Douchebag" like I usually do.

Steve V said...

That's funny.

JimmE said...

If this were a true free vote, I may be more inclined to your conclusion. This is not a free vote (see the quote I noted earlier). So we find ourselves in a mugs game, of being the saps who accept back-door Reform Party policy in the name of a so-called free vote. Free vote on this bill is really a canard and a waste of time & effort, this should be a whipped vote.

The result, if this passes is we shall see more so-called Private Members bills that bring more Reform Party policy forward.

Mike said...

Steve where do you draw the line and why?

This bill has real consequences for policemen on the front line and for all those who people who have been victims of crimes at the hands of long guns. Policemen will tell you first hand stories of how this has saved lives. And if costs almost nothing anymore to maintain (not to mention the money wasted on building it up should it be abolished).

If we whip other votes why not this?
Would you say the same thing if the next free vote were the re-imposing the death penalty or abolishing same-sex marriage? How about a private member's bill on abortion?

Steve V said...

Any measure should have the support of a majority of MP's. If Canada moves to the right on day, then we will have to confront these issues, because the populous, through their wants, will pick representation which reflects this ideology.

In the current climate, nobody is going to introduce the death penalty or repeal abortion, because people don't support it. As for same sex marriage, didn't we see individual MP's expressing their own viewpoint? How did that turn out?

Steve V said...

Libs who voted to kill registry:

Andrews (NF), Bagnell (YK) D'Amours (NB) Simms (NF) Russell (NF) Rota (ON) Martin (BC) Easter (PE)


Allen (ON) Angus (ON) Ashton (MB) Bevington (NW) Cullen (BC) Thibeault (ON) Stoffer (NS) Rafferty (ON) Maloway (MB) Hyer (ON) Hughes (ON) Gravelle (ON)

JimmE said...


Thanks for posting the names of the EVIL DOERS. I am canceling my Victory Fund contributions, & will not be working for a Liberal in the next federal election for the fist time since 1968. Rather, I shall be working to have all of these so-called Liberals & DIPPERS defeated in the next election. I don't give a rat's rear who wins in these ridings, as long as these fellow travelers find new employment.
Keep up the good work.


JimmE said...


File this under WTF...

1/4 of the EFFING DIPPER CAUCUS voted with the Knuckel draggers??!!!

So much for the Progressive Alternative or what ever other lie Do-nuth'n Jack pulls out of his ARSE.

So as long as I have this straight, Jack kills the Martin government & with it Social Housing, Kyoto, Kelona Accord, Universal Daycare, Urban Transit, & Funding for Cities. Not only now does he support the present PM - but lets half his caucus show up to kill the gun registry. Have I got it about right?

So how does this guy look himself in the mirror every morning (cause you know that takes up most of his time before he gets to the office)??


Reform-A-Tories sleep well!

Dippers, get an effing job!

rockfish said...

I'm reluctantly in agreement with Steve; but there is an immense caveat.
Rural opposition MPs were not only following the wishes of a large portion of their voters, but were also under seige by the CONs campaign to smear them as 'anti-rights' and 'anti-rural' representatives. It was a smear and a threat that worked, obviously. We know how forceful, whether used loudly or by stealth, the gun lobby and gun groups can be.
Now turn that on its head. Should not Liberals (and NdPers and Blocees) use that same tactic and deluge urban ridings where CONs have a seat, and hit at this diverging message -- a vast number of women, social and church groups, etc., have all had their voices nullified. Despite the opinion of the Police Chiefs of Canada, despite Canada's falling murder rate, despite the fact that since the legislation there has been few Montreal massacres in Canada, while the US continues to see those tragedies repeated, the CON MPs chose to ignore their constituents' wishes. They chose to support the gun lobby.
I think turn-about is fair play.

weeble said...

Not sure why they 'killed' it...they were doing nothing to support it so it was effectively dead in any case. This seems more of a publicity stunt than anything.
I am pleased to see free votes as it allows us to see how well our MP represents us, or how they feel our riding is speaking. If we disagree, we can discuss it...its positive politics.

rockfish said...

One more point -- someone should be calling the CONs on their lack of consistency here; they dug deep into their pockets to advertise in opposition rural ridings to 'scare' that MP into supporting this bill. Why didn't they do the same in opposition-held urban and suburban ridings? Is it because they find no support there for this? Or is it because their message only plays well in the sticks? Eliminating/loosening restrictions on guns seems to fly in the face of their law-and-order meme... But the next time someone is murdered in a rural community (where there doesn't seem to be too much gang violence, it should be mentioned) will the media ask the government the tough questions? I admit this is a decent channel-changer for the CONs, but I just see that there could be a bounce-back if the opposition chooses to go there.

Mike said...

Steve were there a free vote to repeal same-sex marriage in THIS Parliament what do you expect the result would be?

Would you be ok with that, if that's the next Con private member's bill to come forward?

This is a dangerous game to allow free votes with there are immense policy consequences that go against what our PLATFORM said in the last election.

And let's remember that far more people vote by party than by candidate.

To give you an example Tom Wappel was one of the most MOST Conservative Liberals in caucus. I bet he would have voted to repeal the gun registry. Yet he represented an urban safe Liberal riding! Michelle Simson was his replacement and she voted against Bill C-391. This idea that the MP magically reflects the wishes of their constituents in a free vote is a bit of overgeneralization.

Let's remember if the gun registry is repealed it's NEVER coming back, that's a fact.

Our official party position is in support of the registry and that it saves lives. To allow the reigstry to die without any fight whatsoever flies in the face of that position. What other official party positions could be abandoned in the name of the "tradition of free votes on private member's bills"?

It's a slippery slope Steve so be careful what you wish for....

Steve V said...


Same sex passed without the support of all Liberal MP's. Not sure why the fear mongering is relevant now.

Mike said...

Steve same sex passed in the last Parliament by about 20 votes if I recall. Since then the Libs lost, and the Tories gained, more than enough seats to reverse that margin. If the next private member's bill is a repeal of same sex marriage would you call for a free vote?
What a bill that bans gays from adopting children or teaching in schools?
Or a revival of the Ken Epp abortion bill (which would have passed in the last Parliament without a whip being used against Liberals in favour)?
More than likely an upcoming private member's bill will be abolishment of the wheat board. Not a big issue for you I'm sure but one that affects the livelihood of many people and where again we have an official position to support it that was in our platform. Free vote there too?
Is there anywhere where you'd draw the line?

Steve V said...

"Since then the Libs lost, and the Tories gained, more than enough seats to reverse that margin."

Dude, that's called democracy. Everything is under constant threat.

Mike said...

"Dude, that's called democracy. Everything is under constant threat."

So then it's legitimate in your view if gays gain and lose the right to marry based off the results off the latest election?
What about the right to adopt or teach in classrooms? (they are banned from both in some U.S. states so it's not inconceivable some so-Con Tories might not propose the same here).

There is a simple fact that you ignore here: I guarantee that a huge majority of voting Canadians have no idea as to the personal views of the candidate when they vote. What they know at least a little better is what their party stands for. Candidates get elected on party coat tails. If that weren't true we'd see more independents win and Tom Wappel would have lost in Scarborough years ago for his ultra Conservative views (his successor is on the opposite end of the spectrum and got a pretty much identical share of the vote).

Therefore candidates who owe their jobs to parties should have to adhere to the platform the party ran on. On issues where the platform is silent, sure have a free vote, but the Wheat Board, Gay rights, the gun registry our issues where our party position is extremely clear. These MPs would not have their jobs were it not for that party, that's just a simple fact. Were there open nominations coming up for those 8 Liberals I suspect at least some would lose their nominations. But there won't because the party again protects them. Some gratitude shown in return....

I know free votes sound nice, what value is a platform if it can just be flaunted whenever an MP feels like it?

Jesse said...


It's legitimate unless it's unconstitutional. That's how democracy works, even when we don't like it.

Gay marriage, fortunately, is, in my opinion, constitutionally required.