When Bill c-391, an act to repeal the long-gun registry, came to a vote on second reading last November, it was passed by a count of 164-137. Those 164 votes in favour included 143 Conservatives, 12 New Democrats, eight Liberals and one independent.
C-391 is now due to return to the House for a final vote when the House returns this fall and the vote seems set to be very close.
How close? Well, let’s see.
At present, the party standings in the House are as follows: Conservatives 144, Liberal 77, BQ 48, NDP 36, Independents 2. For the purposes of a vote though, Speaker Peter Milliken’s seat would only be in play in the event of a tie.
One seat, Winnipeg-North, is already vacant, owing to the resignation of the NDP’s Judy Wasylycia-Leis. She voted against Bill C-391 on second reading. Two other seats could be vacant by the time a vote is held—those belonging to Conservative Inky Mark and Liberal Maurizio Bevilacqua respectively. The former has already announced he will seek municipal office, the latter is expected to do likewise any minute now. Mr. Mark voted in favour of c-391, Mr. Bevilacqua against.
There are at least two other developments of note since that second reading vote. First, Helena Guergis has been expelled from the Conservative caucus. Her vote in favour of C-391 though seems safe. Second, after proposing three changes to the gun registry, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said all Liberals will be required to vote against C-391. That conceivably moves eight votes from yes to no and adds two who had abstained into the no column.
Joe Comartin, the NDP’s justice critic, has speculated that nine of the dozen New Democrats who voted for C-391 are prepared to do so again. Conceivably, the other three are leaning towards no.
So. Let us attempt some math (and I’ll ask readers here to point out any errors in my addition).
1) If Mr. Bevilacqua and Mr. Mark’s seats are vacant at the time of the vote, nine New Democrats vote in favour and if all other MPs are present and vote as expected, C-391 would pass 154-150.
2) If only Mr. Mark’s seat is vacant and the above is the same, C-391 would pass 154-151.
3) If only Mr. Bevilacqua’s seat is vacant and the above is the same, C-391 would pass 155-150.
4) If neither are vacant and the above is the same, C-391 would pass 155-151.
In scenarios 1, 3 and 4, the no side needs three more votes. In scenario 2, it needs two more votes.
In scenarios 1 and 4, two more no votes would result in a tie, leaving Speaker Peter Milliken to cast the deciding vote.