For it before he was against it (II) - Macleans.ca

For it before he was against it (II)

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Two footnotes to that footnote, taken from a pair of subsequent stories Joan Bryden wrote for Southam. In the first, the future prime minister comments on the threats he received after his vote in favour of the gun registry. In the second, Mr. Harper explains why he switched his vote and why he no longer believes it entirely necessary to survey constituents before voting.

THE GUN CONTROL DEBATE: U.S. bombing sends political shock waves north

The Ottawa Citizen
Fri Apr 28 1995
Page: A3
Section: News
Byline: Joan Bryden
Source: Southam News

The horrific bombing in Oklahoma City has cast Canada’s gun control debate in a new — and disturbing — light. MPs have become increasingly alarmed by the extreme language of some gun lobbyists. The rhetoric echoes the virulent, anti-government conspiracy theories espoused by the heavily-armed private militias under examination after last week’s bombing of a federal building in America’s heartland…

Calgary Reform MP Stephen Harper, one of only two Reformers to support the bill, has also received “threats against my person or family.”

Both McTeague and Harper stress that the majority of gun owners are law-abiding folks whose legitimate concerns about the bill should not be denigrated by the extreme rhetoric of a few radicals. “While in a vague kind of way I see the connection (with the views spouted by U.S. paramilitary groups) and I see that element here, I don’t think generally speaking it’s representative of gun owners or even of the gun lobby in this country,” Harper says…

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MPs walk a tightrope: MPs are increasingly pulled three ways. Voters demand MPs reflect their ridings, but they also want MPs with the courage of their convictions and political parties that stand for something and keep their promises.
The Hamilton Spectator
Sat Jun 24 1995
Page: A11
Section: News
Byline: By Joan Bryden
Source: SOUTHAM NEWS

MPs can be excused for feeling a bit schizophrenic these days. They’re being pulled in three different directions by disgruntled voters who increasingly want MPs to reflect the views of their constituents but simultaneously sneer at politicians’ lack of principles and trounce parties that don’t appear to stand for anything.

In essence, MPs are being asked to represent their constituents, their own convictions and their parties at the same time. But what’s an MP to do when those roles conflict?

… Calgary Reformer Stephen Harper surveyed his constituents and found broad support in principle for gun control. He supported the bill at second reading. He then conducted another survey, in which he explained the details of the bill, and found a majority opposed to critical elements. He voted against gun control at third and final reading and faced accusations of flip-flopping and/or rigging the survey to get the result he wanted.

… Mr. Harper, however, is not so sure that constituents should be consulted directly on complex, technical issues that defy easy Yes or No answers. He consulted them on gun control because he promised he would. In retrospect, he’s not convinced it was a wise move. “I would certainly use this method on a moral issue. It’s harder on a technical issue.”

Mr. Harper also believes there is no need to double-check with voters between elections on the primary planks of a party’s platform, for which it has received a “mandate”…