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Killing gun registry a victory for 'salt-of-the-earth people,' Tory MP says

OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

Manitoba MP Candice Hoeppner, shown on Oct. 5, 2011, championed the Conservative effort to scrap the long-gun registry. (Dave Chan/Dave Chan for The Globe and Mail)

Candice Hoeppner’s dream is finally coming true: to see Canada free of a long-gun registry.

“It’s going to be so nice,” said the Conservative MP from Manitoba who as a rookie two years ago famously championed scrapping the registry. She was nearly successful at the time, losing the vote by the narrowest of margins.

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“It’s going to be something else to see the bill introduced and to know that we’re going to able to pass it,” she told The Globe in a recent interview.

Just after lunch Tuesday, Ms. Hoeppner – who was promoted to parliamentary secretary to the Public Safety Minister – will be with Vic Toews and Maxime Bernier, the Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism, at a farm in Richmond, Ont., to announce the legislation to end the registry is being introduced. And with the Conservatives now enjoying a majority government, the bill will be passed.

She promised as much during the election campaign when she went into Liberal and NDP-held ridings to criticize what she characterized as a wasteful and costly registry that criminalized law-abiding citizens. Ms. Hoeppner told voters that if they brought the Tories back with a majority the registry would be gone. Promise made; promise kept.

In addition, she said committee hearings dealing with the new legislation will now be able to showcase witnesses from the “other side.”

“There were a lot of people we weren’t able to bring forward” because the opposition held the majority on committees during the minority Parliament. “[I]look forward to more police officers on the front line fighting gun crime and seeing what they have to say. ... [The opposition]had the majority so they limited what we could do in terms of witnesses,” she recalled.

Ms. Hoeppner is an unlikely proponent of scrapping the registry. She doesn’t own or shoot guns but she represents a rural riding where there are lots of hunters and farmers. And she says she’s been heartened by the number of people who have thanked her for taking on the cause.

“I will tell you there were so many times I would have these big gruff guys come up to me with tears in their eyes and say ‘Thank you so much for what you are doing. We really had nobody ever do this for us and work on behalf.’”

Farmers and hunters, she added, are the “strongest environmentalists in the country.”

“They’re upstanding citizens who work hard. They take their kids and grandkids out hunting and shooting and those kids, by the way, probably aren’t involved in gangs in the streets,” she said.

“These are good salt-of-the-earth people and for so long they have had really nobody in government who has been able to make any changes on their behalf. So it really was very gratifying to know how thankful they were and how much it meant to them to have someone who was going to be promoting good policy, policy that was fair and wasn’t targeting them.”

Rick Mercer joins ‘It Gets Better’ fray

Just as he did last spring in encouraging young people to vote in the federal election, Rick Mercer is taking on bullying.

In his latest “rant” on The Rick Mercer Report, which airs Tuesday night, the comedian speaks movingly and pointedly about the case of Jamie Hubley, the gay Ottawa teen who committed suicide after being bullied and humiliated.

Mr. Mercer encourages gay athletes, soldiers, policemen and – yes – cabinet ministers to speak out. He says gay adults don’t need role models but gay teens do. In addition, he calls on schools to hold a good old-fashioned assembly to address bullying.

Last week, Conservative ministers, MPs and staffers joined the “It Gets Better” campaign. The Tories, including Labour Minister Rona Ambrose, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, appeared in a video encouraging gay youth to stand strong in the face of bullying because life will improve as they get older.

The effort won praise – but also criticism.

Scott Brison, the openly gay Nova Scotia Liberal MP, complained to the Commons the next day that the Conservatives have fought and voted against advancements of gay rights in Canada, from pension benefits to marriage to funding for Pride parades.

Dan Savage, the U.S. sex-advice columnist and gay-rights activist who started the “It Gets Better Campaign,” was also unimpressed. “It's going to take more than a video to undo the damage done by Vic Toews and Canada's conservatives,” he wrote on his blog. “This was, quite literally, the least Vic and his fellow conservatives could do. The very least.”

That criticism was echoed by Toronto Star national affairs columnist Tim Harper, who argued that “beyond the video, this government could use its majority to highlight the problem of bullying and homophobia in Canadian schools.”

But as Chris Selley points out Tuesday in the National Post, the backlash is likely doing more harm than good. “Let’s assume that Canadian teenagers care what politicians and activists think, and that they read the newspaper,” he explained. “What message are they hearing? One group of respectable-looking adults tells them it gets better, and another group shows up to say the first group is full of it. So does it get better or not? How is this helping?”