The Shotgun Blog
Monday, June 22, 2009
Garry Breitkreuz, Candice Hoeppner, and Scott Reid discuss opposition attempt to kill Bill C-391 in secret
Last week saw some behind-the-scenes political machinations on Parliament Hill surrounding Bill C-391, an Act to Repeal the Long-Gun Registry.
On Monday, June 15, the Sub-Committee on Private Members Business met. The meeting was public, but Christiane Gagnon from the Bloc, Marlene Jennings from the Liberals, and Chris Charleton from the NDP seemed surprised when Conservative Scott Reid reminded them that their vote on C-391 would be part of the public record. They quickly voted to move the meeting "in camera" -- that's fancy parliamentarian lingo for "in private" (it's from the latin for "in chambers" according to Wikipedia).
But it was already too late. The public portion of the meeting made it clear that there were no procedural hurdles for Bill C-391, and that the bill had nothing standing in its way except a formal vote to allow it to go on the order paper for a debate in the House of Commons. In spite of this, the Bloc, NDP, and Liberal members indicated that they planned to vote against the bill anyways. Reid then promptly started to filibuster the meeting to prevent that vote.
We wouldn't know about any of this if it wasn't for the fact that the subcommittee was public. We posted a three-part YouTube series of the public portion of the meeting as soon as we could. You really should take a listen.
On Thursday of last week, three Conservative MPs held a press conference about Bill C-391, and the shenanigans being pulled during the subcommittee meeting. Along with Scott Reid, the press conference also had Garry Breitkreuz, who was responsible for Bill C-301, the one that preceded C-391, and Candice Hoeppner, who is responsible for Bill C-391. Here is the video of that conference:
Part 1: The press conference
Part 2: Questions
Posted by Matthew Johnston
Once again (and again and again) we get the WS hammering away on the NON-issue because their hammering away on the issue has become tired. Here, the story purports to be about the fact that the opposition parties tried prevent a vote on a bill IN SECRET (SHOCK! HORROR!). The fact that whether the vote happened in secret or not, the result would have been very public knowledge and the fact that even if the vote happened in secret there would be nothing preventing every Conservative who voted to move the bill forward from holding a press conference to state that view is ignored here, because that would show that in this case "in secret" is virtually meaningless. The fake story and fake outrage (OUTRAGE!) is about the "in secret" methodology. The real story is about whether or not the gun registry will be killed and whether or not that is a good thing. But we all know that story. It's old and tired and all the usual wing-nuts have had their say on it. But IN SECRET meetings!!! NEVER!!!
Previously, it was the outrage (OUTRAGE!) that a 72-year-old grandmother would be held subject to the same laws as any other citizen. SHOCK!!! HORROR!!! Oh, yeah. It was an abortion protest gag law she was arrested for breaking, so we can pretend that the reasonableness of abortion is not the issue and that the resonableness of the gag law is not the issue. We can dwell on the age and generational status of the lawbreaker.
I wonder what fake outrage will be next. Maybe it will be a revival of an old classic: accusing the opposition parties of attempting a coup. That one, at least, is hard to top.
Posted by: Fact Check | 2009-06-22 12:40:43 PM
That the subcommittee would vote on the basis of the merits of the bill, rather than on whether or not the bill is votable, is an outrage.
Look, you can disagree, but their job is to see whether or not bills meet the formal requirements before they can go to the House for debate and a vote. Their job is not to determine whether or not a bill will go before the House for any other reason. They can't substitute their judgment for the judgment of all the members in the House.
Doesn't it worry you that a committee of four people can decide which private members bill can go before the House, even if the bill meets all of the conditions for being deemed votable?
I don't often disagree with you, Fact Check, but I think you're wrong about this one.
Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2009-06-22 1:04:43 PM
If "in secret" is such a non-issue, Fact Check, why did the MPs in question insist upon it? And do you really expect to make your point more effectively by splashing your post with exclamation points and all caps?
Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-06-22 2:15:07 PM
We don't actually disagree on this one... so far.... The issue you raise is the question of what counts as a legitimate basis for a committee deciding whether or not something should go ahead to be voted on. On that issue, I agree that the committee should not make a decision based on whether they, the committee members, personally like a piece of legislation. (But, I hasten to add, I bet this happens all the time and is business as usual as members od all parties do things, so there is no special reason this case should get so much attention if process really were the issue.)
My reply to the post was to point out that the fact that whether such a decision was made "in secret" or not was a fake issue. The result of the vote, no matter what the vote was and how secretly it was voted on, must become public. Either the bill goes forward or it does not, so there can be nothing "secretive" about the result.
BTW, Jaws, do you think that 72-year-old grandmothers should be subject to the laws exactly the same way any other person is? Matthew's previous post (almost certainly dishonestly) suggests he thinks they should get a free ride. What say you?
Posted by: Fact Check | 2009-06-22 2:33:16 PM
Yes, but think about it from Matthew's, and the WS', point of view. This is an issue that is about process as well as guns. There is reason to be concerned about the process independently, but you can't fault the WS for paying particular attention when the issue is about guns. We'd do the same if it were another pro-liberty issue.
The *outcome* of the vote wouldn't be secret. The bill would be killed. What would be secret would be the method by which the bill was killed. We wouldn't know that there were, in fact, no procedural grounds or basis for killing the bill. We would only know that the bill was killed. And what's galling, at least in part, is that three committee members could kill a private members bill without a legitimate procedural reason.
If it were secret, they could conceal this fact by saying something like "procedural concerns were raised at the discussion of C-391, and members felt that the bill should not go forward." Which would be true, but misleading. This is why the issue of it being in secret matters, and is not, in my judgment, a fake issue.
Everyone should be equal before reasonable and decent laws. When laws are indecent, then hauling grandmothers away heightens my sense of outrage. When the drug goons lock up some poor old guy suffering from cancer for smoking a joint, I think it's relevant that he's a poor old guy suffering from cancer. Maybe I'm criticisable on account of this, but I'm not so sure.
Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2009-06-22 3:49:48 PM
Actually, P.M., it doesn't matter who breaks the law; we are all accountable to it. Being old, or female, or Indian, does not diminish our responsibility, even if some court rules otherwise out of a misplaced sense of guilt. Granted some cases are more sympathetic than others, some violations more egregious than others, and so forth, but the time to take such factors into account is during sentencing, not when determining whether or not the person is guilty, as they have no bearing on that.
Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-06-22 5:15:43 PM
"...you can't fault the WS for paying particular attention when the issue is about guns. We'd do the same if it were another pro-liberty issue."
Which is exactly my point, and I do fault you (the WS collective "you") for it. If the only time you seem to get bothered enough about process to write about it (and in multiple entry bursts) is when it is also a pro-liberty issue, then that seems like pretty good evidence that you don't really care much (if anything) about process. You write about pro-liberty issues when process is not at issue, because liberty really is something you care about. Process, at least of this sort, is not something you really care at all about. But it is something you are happy to pretend to care about when a liberty issue is the real concern.
"The *outcome* of the vote wouldn't be secret. The bill would be killed. What would be secret would be the method by which the bill was killed."
Not at all. Conservatives were in the room when the discussion and decisions were made. If gun registry supporters publically claimed that procedural reasons were the issue, those Conservatives could very easily publically accuse them of lying and reporters could ask exactly what the procedural issues were, which means they would have to put up or shut up. There was no risk that what happened would be secret if all was done in camera.
"Everyone should be equal before reasonable and decent laws. When laws are indecent, then hauling grandmothers away heightens my sense of outrage."
Good. So you agree that there it is an emotional, not a rational reaction to be more outraged when it is a little old lady arrested for breaking the law. Which, again, was my point. Matthew's post was not about reasons we should be concerned. It was a simple attempt to use emotional manipulation to get people up in arms about the matter.
Posted by: Fact Check | 2009-06-23 6:06:34 AM
Fact Check writes: "Which is exactly my point, and I do fault you (the WS collective "you") for it. If the only time you seem to get bothered enough about process to write about it (and in multiple entry bursts) is when it is also a pro-liberty issue, then that seems like pretty good evidence that you don't really care much (if anything) about process. You write about pro-liberty issues when process is not at issue, because liberty really is something you care about. Process, at least of this sort, is not something you really care at all about. But it is something you are happy to pretend to care about when a liberty issue is the real concern."
This doesn't follow. Someone could care about process, but only become aware of it because of another issue that they care more about. It doesn't mean that you don't care about the issue, it just means that you fail to have all the time and resources necessary.
What you're witnessing is the ordinary constraints of time, attention, and opportunity costs -- we simply don't have the resources to address all of the issues that need addressing, that we actually do care about.
In addition, when no one else takes up the standard (ha), then continuing to raise the issue makes sense. Who else is busy reporting on what is going on with Bill C-391? I've been following this issue, and, in my judgment, there isn't enough coverage. I think Matthew and Jesse probably feel the same way. Which is why it makes sense for them to cover it more.
There's also a bit of charity lacking on your part. I've told you that I care about the process, even if my caring about process is secondary to my concern for individual liberty. Actually, concern for the process stems from my belief that transparency in government business -- whether committee or otherwise -- promotes individual liberty.
But that's an empirical belief, and it's not as easy to get worked up and interested in empirical convictions than it is to get worked up and interested in matters of first principles, or higher-order moral convictions. There's no "pretending" on my part.
I wrote: "The *outcome* of the vote wouldn't be secret. The bill would be killed. What would be secret would be the method by which the bill was killed."
To which you responded: "Not at all. Conservatives were in the room when the discussion and decisions were made. If gun registry supporters publically claimed that procedural reasons were the issue, those Conservatives could very easily publically accuse them of lying and reporters could ask exactly what the procedural issues were, which means they would have to put up or shut up. There was no risk that what happened would be secret if all was done in camera."
You're wrong, Fact Check. Reporters could not pursue the issue. When a meeting is "in camera," then everything in that meeting is secret, and an MP can be brought before the House for contempt if they don't keep what happened at the meeting secret. "In camera" is treated identically to meetings in a judge's chambers. No one is permitted to talk about what was discussed in a judge's chambers, and neither of the lawyers could claim that the other lawyer was lying. What was public, prior to the subcomittee meeting, was discussions about Bill C-301, and Charlie Angus has released a few press releases yapping about C-301 and Breitkreuz' non-appearance for debate on his bill.
Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2009-06-23 7:52:35 AM
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