Peter Stoffer. I assume that everyone knows the name by now. For the seven people out there that don’t watch any news in Canada (and those of you that can’t access Canadian news at all), he’s the NDP Member of Parliament for the Sackville - Eastern Shore riding here in Nova Scotia who has had a long history (as in his entire political career) of denouncing and calling for the abolishment of the Long Gun Registry. He’s also the same fellow who voted against scrapping that same LGR on September 22, 2010. His was the deciding vote, and he’s taking a lot of heat on the issue.
Why did he do it you ask? His answer is that 62% of his constituents, when polled on the issue, were in favour of maintaining the Registry.
Now, before we discuss Mr. Stoffer’s woes, its time for me to have a little rant. The LGR cost one billion dollars to set up. Was there some mismanagement of the set up? You bet your Canadian butt there was. Is the final cost of the set up grossly higher than its original projected set-up cost? Affirmative. But scrapping the LGR based on the money already spent to create it is ridiculous. That’s like burning down your house because the contractor’s final bill was higher than the estimate. In other words, its insane.
Set-up costs aside, the LGR costs four million a year to maintain. Lets be honest folks, in the grand scheme of government spending, that’s a drop in the ocean. Four million a year to maintain this registry vs. 181 billion spent in 2009 on healthcare. 181,000,000,000.00 That’s a lot of zeroes. And our GDP is about 1.3 trillion dollars.
Now, I know what you are thinking, 181 billion for something as essential as healthcare is money well spent. And you are right. Universal healthcare (and no, we’re not going to discuss the accuracy of that title, nor the quality of that care) is generally regarded as a necessary issue, but registering firearms is perhaps a bit less necessary. So let’s compare that to the budget spent, just in Nova Scotia, on registering vehicles. The Registry of Motor Vehicles (a division of Service Nova Scotia) has an approximate budget of 20 million. And Nova Scotia ain’t that big folks. Assuming that is roughly proportional across the country, that would mean we spend about 600 million dollars of tax money to maintain a vehicle registry. Vehicles, of course, are designed for transportation. Guns, of course, are designed to kill things.
Does registering your firearm mean you are being criminalized? The ever witty Bruce MacKinnon said it best with his cartoon in today's issue of the Chronicle Herald so I won't bother to answer it beyond that.
A lot of folks, probably all responsible gun owners, argue that there isn’t a lot of use to the LGR. Yet the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police voted unanimously in favour of supporting it. They said that police in Canada make approximately 11,000 inquiries a day to the LGR as part of investigating crimes. 11,000 a day. That’s 4,015,000 inquires a year. That’s a buck an inquiry. If even one of those inquiries either prevents a death or solves a murder, that’s money well spent.
Now, back to Mr. Stoffer and his “flipflopping” as has been described in the media.
Mr. Stoffer doesn’t like the LGR. Still says he doesn’t like the LGR, even though he voted to keep it. He’s vowed to try and fix it, to make it better. He still hates it. But here’s the thing folks - when we elect people to represent us in government, we elect them not to present their own ideology and opinions, but to represent our ideologies and opinions. And if 62% of Mr. Stoffer’s constituents wanted him to vote in favour of keeping the LGR, then he had an ethical obligation to - wait for it - do his job and represent that opinion.
Was he pressured? Maybe, maybe not. Is he lying about the 62%? Maybe, but I’ve seen no proof of that. Is the figure skewed in some way? Possibly, but again, I have seen no proof of that. And until I do, I just want to say bravo Mr. Stoffer. Thank you for being the one politician that remembers what his job is. Thank you for putting your constituents ahead of your personal views. Thank you for remembering what democracy is all about. Maybe your example will remind the rest of your colleagues. And if I ever have the chance to do so, I’ll gladly vote for you.