These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Cost to Complete the Registry

Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, yesterday the government was asked over and over how much it would cost to complete the firearms registry and how much to maintain it. Either unwilling or unable to answer that question, it has had 24 hours to go through its advisers and strategists, so I will ask the question again.

How much will it cost Canadian taxpayers who are paying the bill to complete the firearms registry and how much to maintain it?

Hon. David Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice dealt with these questions yesterday. He has taken very firm action in response to the Auditor General's report.

At his request, less than 24 hours ago, all parties of the House agreed to withdraw the supplementary estimates of $72 million. The minister has frozen discretionary spending. He has asked a private firm to audit the program and report in January. Once this happens, we will be able to come forward with more details.

Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the answer still is not forthcoming. I did ask two questions but I will make it easier for the minister answering for the government.

How much is it going to cost to complete the firearms registry? Just one question this time.

Hon. David Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice has acknowledged the criticisms in the Auditor General's report and has agreed to accept the recommendations.

What we cannot forget is the real end game here of the Canadian Alliance. The real end game of the Canadian Alliance is to undermine a law that is supported by 80% of Canadians, which went through this House and the Senate, and is working.

Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I wonder how many Canadians will still support the law when they realize that we were promised it would cost $2 million and it ended up costing $1 billion.

Let me ask the second part of the question since the minister is either unwilling or unable to answer the first part. How much will the annual cost be to maintain the registry when it is completed? That one is easier.

Hon. David Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, what is interesting to note is in the last 24 hours other people from the law enforcement community have come forward to support this law and how effective it has been at reducing crime with weapons. In fact, the commissioner of the RCMP said that the wider community in the country supports not only the law, but the gun registry.

The gun registry will continue. Any problems we have had with the administration of it will be dealt with and they will be dealt with very quickly.

Mr. Charlie Penson (Peace River, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, it is obvious the minister is not answering that question.

In fact, the minister yesterday stated that all major spending for this program had been frozen, yet he said the registry will remain operational. How is that going to work? The money has to come from somewhere.

Can the minister guarantee to the House that he will not be taking money away from front line police officers to pay for this gun registry of his?

Hon. David Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, if we looked back at some quotes over the last few years we would see a systematic attempt by the reform party, now the Canadian Alliance, to undermine the law passed by Parliament.

The former member for Crowfoot, remember him? He was another great member of the reform party. He released details about a loophole that would have allowed people to avoid the registry by leasing guns instead of buying them.

Another former reform member from Cypress Hills--Grasslands, remember him? He said, “There will be many thousands of people who will resist this law, even with the jail sentence staring them in the face. I will be in there and if I have to do a year, fine”.

That is what is really motivating the Canadian--

The Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Peace River.

Mr. Charlie Penson (Peace River, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, that does not address the issue of the Minister of Justice of the day saying it would cost $2 million and it is now running to over $1 billion. That is incompetence.

If the minister is determined to keep this program running, it is obvious it will have to be financed. Will the Minister of Justice tell the House what justice department program he intends to pilfer to pay for this latest billion dollar boondoggle?

Hon. David Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is quite evident that the Canadian Alliance has been taking its lead on this issue from the National Rifle Association in the United States. The Alliance should know that Charlton Heston is not really Moses, he just played him in a movie.

Unlike the Alliance, we do not believe that Canada with guns on the street is the way to the promised land.

Right Hon. Joe Clark (Calgary Centre, PC): Mr. Speaker, we know that yesterday the government was forced to back down from the $72 million increase for the firearms registry. This issue is not about guns. It is about unacceptable waste by the government.

On at least five occasions the government secretly shifted money to the firearms registry through the Treasury Board contingency fund and then repaid that money to the fund. Will the government give a commitment now that the Treasury Board contingency funds will not be used to fund the firearms registry? What we want is a guarantee that the government--

The Deputy Speaker: I regret, but the time is up. The hon. Minister of Transport.

Hon. David Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I think it was evident in the reply yesterday from the Minister of Justice that all appropriate measures necessary to deal with this unfortunate situation will be taken by the government. I think the minister should be taken at good faith.