The federal long-gun registry has finally begun to stare death in the face as it emerges from the Public Safety Committee. As every opposition member on the committee is staunchly supportive of the program, it is no surprise that it voted to recommend that the House not pass Candice Hoeppner’s Bill C-391.
The House of Commons is a bigger fish bowl however, and swimming in it are 21 opposition members who voted for the Bill at Second Reading. Of these were 12 New Democrats, 8 Liberals and 1 independent. All Bloquists voted “nay”. Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff has now promised to whip his rebel MPs into shape despite the convention that all private members bills be free-votes and Bloc is expected to vote as it did before. This leaves NDP leader Jack Layton unwillingly holding the proverbial bullets to shoot down the long-gun registry.
Will Jack Layton whip his caucus as well? Can he succeed? Will any whipped Liberals or (potentially whipped) New Democrats simply abstain or catch the “Ottawa flu’? Regardless of what happens, here is how the vote might go down:
|Same as 2nd Reading||164||137|
|Lib & NDP Abstain||144||137|
|Lib & NDP Oppose||144||157|
|Lib Oppose & NDP Abstain||144||145|
According to these figures, the Bill has a living chance of passing in most scenarios with the obvious exception of all opposition parties voting together. Even if both the NDP and Liberals where whipped, some of their dissenting members would feel tremendous pressure from constituents to break party lines and vote for the Bill regardless, or at the very least not vote in opposition.
In the last noted scenario – that of all dissenting Liberals falling in line with their leader’s whip and all dissenting New Democrats sitting on their hands – the bill would be defeated by a single vote. Since Second Reading however, pro-registry New Democrat Judy Wasylycia-Leis has resigned to run for the mayor’s chair in Winnipeg, bringing the vote to an exact tie.
Much drama awaits the fish bowl of Ottawa!