The controversial bill to end the long gun registry passed to its second reading on Nov. 1.
156 Members of Parliament voted for bill C-19, including both of Thunder Bay’s MPs. Echoing the community’s grievances with the long gun registry, Bruce Hyer and John Rafferty voted in favor of the measure.
However, the MPs may have gotten more than they bargained for by crossing the party line.
This week NDP leader Nycole Turmel reprimanded both Hyer and Rafferty for breaking party solidarity. The party whip has suspended travel privileges for the members, as well as banning them from participating in Question Period, sitting on committees, and making public statements.
The Members’ responses have been surprising. Rafferty said that he was told this would not be a whip vote. When asked whether he would have voted in favor of C-19 had he known it would be a whipped vote, Hyer said that he probably would not have.
Hyer went on to say that he did not think he would be crossing the party line, as the NDP has no official policy for or against the long gun registry.
Turmel has responded to critics who are accusing her of being heavy-handed by saying that the NDP has a clear position on gun control.
The NDP wishes to address the concerns of rural, northern and Aboriginal Canadians while still providing police with the information they need to serve the public.
The NDP’s goal is to find a solution that benefits all those concerned.
Turmel accused the government of introducing a deliberately divisive piece of legislation and thereby working against the NDP’s policy.
She went on to say that “it has always been the policy of the New Democratic Party that government bills are subject to a whipped vote and on private members’ legislation MPs can vote on their conscience. Bill C-19, Ending the Long Gun Registry Act, is government legislation, and both Bruce Hyer and John Rafferty were aware there would be consequences if they broke ranks.”
The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters has issued an open letter in support of the MPs.
The federation argues that, in supporting the bill, Rafferty and Hyer were doing their job by representing the interests of their constituents. The letter also accused Turmel of overreacting to a sensitive situation.
“The long gun registry is an issue that has long divided rural and urban Canada. Mr. Rafferty and Mr. Hyer represent rural ridings where the vast majority of residents hunt and fish, and where sentiment against the long gun registry runs deep – something that Mr. Layton understood, regardless of his personal position on the issue,” the Federation said in their letter.