Travers: Rogue Conservatives wreck gun registry strategy
Silencing the shrillest Conservative voices has long been a Stephen Harper problem. They cost his party votes and credibility back when Cheryl Gallant was still allowed to fume publicly about gays and abortion. Now Garry Breitkreuz is threatening to turn the Prime Minister’s win-win gun registry strategy into lose-lose by ranting about a police plot.
Harper had a very good thing going until Breitkreuz aired the reds-under-beds fear that identifying long-gun owners is the slippery first step toward a total ban. Before that conspiracy theory tilted the debate, the Prime Minister was poised to seize the political advantage no matter what the outcome of this month’s Commons vote.
If legislation killing the registry passes, Harper would trumpet finally making-good on a long-standing promise. If it’s defeated, he would use the loss to strengthen the argument that the Conservatives can’t advance their agenda without the majority mandate he so desperately wants.
All in all, the Prime Minister seemed to have the angles covered. He kept the registry alive long enough to win a second election while tapping resentment to fill Conservative campaign coffers. Then he limited any potential loss of political capital by using a thinly disguised private member’s bill — not the full force of government legislation, backed by the threat of a confidence vote — to threaten its death.
But that was before Manitoba’s James Bezan hee-hawed his way on to YouTube — complete with horse and cowboy hat — and Breitkreuz mused about a clandestine police scheme to wrench guns from cold Canadian hands. Along with looking and sounding foolish, the two Conservative MPs exposed the soft underbelly of a Harper strategy that once seemed bulletproof.
Instead of a risk-free run at the registry, Conservatives now face layered and linked dangers. By attacking police chiefs, Conservatives created a contradiction within their law and order agenda. They gave wavering opposition MPs compelling as well as politically safe reasons to save the registry. And they recklessly boosted rival Liberals by dividing the NDP.
More on link