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article imageIgnatieff vows to defend 'integrity' of gun registry Special

By Jeff Lindstrom     Apr 26, 2011 in Politics
Vancouver - With opinion polls showing his support falling, Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff strongly defended gun control on Tuesday while condemning the Conservative government's record on helping crime victims.
Standing across from the city's police headquarters Ignatieff told a Vancouver news conference on Tuesday that "we are serious about gun control" and vowed to maintain the "integrity" of Canada's long-gun registry.
He referred to the 1989 shootings at Montreal's École polytechnique in which a lone gunman shot 14 women.
"You have to have a gun control system, and we have fought and defended it," he said.
Conservative Party leader and incumbent prime minister Stephen Harper "is clearly in politics to abolish it, and he's going to do so with the help of Jack Layton," Ignatieff said.
As he has done in the past Harper said during this month's election campaign that he wants to abolish the long-gun registry.
Last year New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton followed his party's tradition on private members' bills and allowed a free vote on a Conservative MP's bill to scrap Canada's mandatory long-gun registry.
The bill was eventually defeated by two votes.
Despite their reservations and previous votes six NDP members of parliament from rural ridings changed sides and voted to stop the bill from proceeding further in the House.
"That just means if you care about public safety, if you care about gun control you've got to support the Liberal Party on the second of May," Ignatieff said, adding that "if you care about public safety you want to be smart about crime."
"We can't get the criminal justice problem solved by importing failed strategies from the United States, mega-prisons that are not going to make us safe, [and which] reproduce the failed experiments of the United States," he said.
Ignatieff called for investments in crime prevention and victim services, although he offered few details.
Notes released today on the Liberal party's website said the platform included treating "first-time failures" to register firearms as "a ticket, not a crime."
All licence fees would be abolished and the registration process "would be streamlined."
The release also criticized the federal government's "Victims of Crime Initiative" for spending more money on advertising than payments to crime victims.
In his spoken remarks Ignatieff also condemned the Harper government's approach to victims of crime by citing an article in today's Toronto Star.
The Star article quoted the first Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime as saying, "My sense is they created the office because it made a good press release."
Ignatieff said, "The Toronto Star is reporting today that the person appointed to the Victim Services Board ended up leaving because he thought the whole thing was a publicity stunt."
The article does not say that the ombudsman left because he was disappointed.
It says that Steve Sullivan's "federal appointment to a three-year term as ombudsman ended last April. He was replaced in August by Sue O’Sullivan, a former deputy police chief in Ottawa."
Ignatieff ended the English-language portion of his prepared remarks by saying it was time to "be serious" about marking imported guns.
"In 2006 the Liberal government wanted to get all guns coming into the country marked," he said. "For five years the Conservative government has done nothing on this issue."
"If you're serious about standing up for the police, helping the police do their jobs to keep us safe you've got to mark guns and you've got to defend the gun registry and that's what we're saying today," Ignatieff said.
After making some remarks in French Ignatieff answered questions from reporters.
An English-language reporter asked about polls that show growing support for the NDP, shunting the Liberals to third place.
Ignatieff said his town hall meetings have been filled with people wanting to get rid of Harper and his government.
He said Harper's government had increased the deficit, wasted money during the G8/G20 summit, and lost Canada's chance for a seat on the United Nations Security Council.
He said 60% of Canadians want to get rid of the "Harper regime." He said that voting for Layton's NDP or Gilles Duceppe's separatist Bloc Québécois would ensure a Conservative minority government.
"The only party that can actually replace the Harper government with a compassionate, progressive, responsible alternative is the Liberal Party of Canada," he said.
The reporter asked in a follow up if Ignatieff felt "squeezed" between Harper and Layton.
Ignatieff said the country had been governed for 140 years by governments at the centre of the political spectrum, prompting Canadians to support the "big red tent" since Laurier.
"Canadians don't want a government of the left, they don't want a government of the right," he said.
A French-language reporter asked about the gun registry.
Ignatieff repeated that he would defend the "integrity" of the registry but work with MPs to find a compromise including decriminalizing the failure to register.
"But Good God," he continued in French, "we have to find a solution so that we can live together in the common defence of public security."
Answering a follow-up question he said in French that Harper is unable to compromise and Layton is unable to maintain party discipline on crime issues.
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