Candice Hoeppner, political scientist - Macleans.ca

Candice Hoeppner, political scientist

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Speaking in the House before the vote to eliminate the long-gun registry last week, Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner recalled how she had introduced similar legislation in the last Parliament. She then proceeded to gloat.

Unfortunately, some individuals on the other side of the House broke faith with their constituents. They told their constituents they would vote to end the long gun registry but they did not. Instead, they voted in the interests of their party bosses. However, every cloud has a silver lining. We decided that we might have lost a battle but we were determined that we would not lose the war. We made an effort to get out and talk to Canadians. We knew that we needed a majority government. We needed a mandate from Canadians in order to end the wasteful long gun registry, and that is exactly what we received.

Listening to Michael Ignatieff’s demands that all Liberals vote to keep on criminalizing law-abiding gun owners meant that we exchanged Liberal Larry Bagnell for the Conservative member for Yukon. It meant that we exchanged Liberal Anthony Rota for the Conservative member for Nipissing—Timiskaming. It meant that we exchanged Liberal Mark Holland for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, the Conservative MP for Ajax—Pickering. They were great trades.

It was not only the Liberals who lost. Listening to the big union bosses in the backroom of the NDP did not work out so well for some of those members either. The good people of Sault Ste. Marie made what some would call an MP upgrade from Tony Martin to the Conservative member for Sault Ste. Marie.

This is an interesting version of recent electoral history.

A total of six New Democrats who originally opposed the long-gun registry subsequently voted against Ms. Hoeppner’s bill. All six were reelected, four of them by larger margins.

Of the seven Liberals who were whipped into voting against Ms. Hoeppner’s bill and subsequently ran for reelection, three were reelected. Keith Martin did not seek reelection, but his riding was subsequently won not by the Conservatives, but by the NDP.

Ignoring all other factors then, the long-gun registry could only, conceivably, be said to have swayed four of a potential 14 ridings to the Conservative side.

The references to Mark Holland and Tony Martin are curious. I don’t ever recall it being suggested that Mr. Holland once wished to eliminate the long-gun registry, so it’s unclear how he could be accused of breaking faith with his constituents. Presuming he supported the registry all along, it’s equally unclear why he would have been elected in 2006 and reelected in 2008 if eliminating the registry was the forefront of concerns in Ajax-Pickering.

Mr. Martin’s story is complicated. He opposed the registry in 2004 and 2006 when he was elected and reelected respectively. In 2008, he supported the registry and was reelected with a larger share of the vote. In 2011, while still supporting the registry, he was defeated. Cause and effect would seem rather difficult to prove.