Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber -- really!

While our federal Conservative government has been whispering beguiling little fibs in our ears about the Privacy Act, my local Member of Parliament has been crowing about the vast sums of money Prime Minister Stephen Harper is going to save Canada’s hard-pressed taxpayers by scrapping the national shotgun and rifle registry.

In a scene no doubt being repeated in rural and suburban ridings across Alberta, Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber is so happy he promises there will be “dancing in the streets” once his party’s effort to kill the registry finally makes its way through Parliament. (I’m not making this up.)

Let’s just hope none of the dancers bring their sniper rifles, which will remain legal and untraceable thanks to the Conservatives’ profound commitment to the “privacy” and “property” rights of Canadians.

Indeed, as Canada’s Paraguayan-born minister of public endangerment declared in the House of Commons, “this information should never have been collected in the first place. To maintain the registry and the information is a complete violation of law and the principles of privacy that all of us in the House respect.”

For his part, Rathgeber also celebrated the government’s defence of Alberta’s great army of law-abiding gun owners, who only want to blow holes in old road signs and wildlife, who have been made to feel like criminals by being asked to register their weapons.

Now, I have to tell you, I’m coming around to the point of view expressed by Rathgeber and Vic Toews, the endangerment minister.

First of all, with a net annual operating cost of $66.4 million in the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the money the Conservatives save Canadians by shutting down the registry will now be available to buy us a little more than half of one completely unneeded F-35 stealth fighter! Kinda takes your breath away when you realize what a bargain we’ll be getting now that we’re not hosing away our money on that lame old sniper-rifle registry, eh?

Well, as that Great Canadian Barry Goldwater used to say, excess in the defence of privacy is no vice, right? (Barry was a member of the Reform Party, wasn’t he? And he did say something like that, right? Or am I thinking of Preston Manning?) Plus, we’ll need stealthy new jets to bomb the crap out of the next Mediterranean state that starts getting uppity. (Greece?)

Of course, this assumes that the price of a single F-35 won’t go up any more from the current guesstimate of $100-million-plus per plane — which could be a problem seeing as the bean counters at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., are trimming their orders because the cost of their version of the plane is now rocketing north of $115 million per unit. However, that’s with radios that work, which may account for the difference.

That could mean it falls to Harper and us Canadian taxpayers to keep Lockheed-Martin Corp. airworthy — their motto: “We never forget who we’re working for,” and it’s not you! — and that won’t be cheap. We may even have to give up public health care for a year or two to keep those suckers flying. Oh… wait…

Still, that’s nothing like those bad old Liberals spending more setting up the rifle and shotgun registry than they promised they would, is it?

Anyway, after our Conservative government stops running the registry, they also have a plan for the $2 billion we’ve put into it to date. Rathgeber’s party intends to burn this money in a big bonfire on Parliament Hill on Saturday to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day, marked each year on Nov. 5 to honour the last person to enter Parliament with honest intentions.

OK, that was a cynical little joke, and I just made up the bit about the bonfire, but the effect will be much the same except that under the Harper government’s plan we won’t actually generate any heat, which is a pity at this time of year in Ottawa.

But let’s get back to what really matters, the bruised feelings of all those poor gun owners, forced to register their deadly weapons. As Rathgeber — who normally likes to pass himself off as a hard-ass law’n’order type who’s a big pal of the police — put it in our local rag, “hunters have felt penalized and felt criminalized by a federal registry that seeks to turn legitimate gun owners into criminals.”

Well, jeeze, thank goodness the bright light of liberty and privacy is shining again here in Canada. You can wipe your tears, gun owners.

This got me thinking. My feelings are hurt every time I have to register my car or put a plate on it. I’m a law-abiding driver, for heaven’s sake, and I haven’t got the speeding tickets to prove it. Indeed, I’m the slowest driver in Alberta under the age of 90, and there are tailgaters with stressed heart valves all over central Alberta as a consequence.

Yet the Alberta government is determined to waste at least $16 million a year on an auto registry system just to make me feel bad! Replicate this irresponsibility across the country and we’ve got to be squandering something like $200 million a year just to harass and criminalize law-abiding drivers!

I’m sure that Rathgeber — who was once a provincial MLA until he got knocked off by a social democrat, making him pretty well unique in political annals of Alberta — will support shutting down this waste of money and needless interference in our God-given right to drive wherever we want at whatever speed we want. That is to say, in a manner we consider law-abiding until we get caught or smack into something.

And if someone bashes into your new car and bugs off without leaving so much as a business card under your wiper? Well, don’t worry about it! When we catch them we’ll throw them in one of those big new prisons Messrs. Rathgeber, Toews and Harper want to build.

That’ll make you feel better, right?

Just like knowing we’re protecting privacy and saving money on the rifle and shotgun registry will make the parents or spouse of the next police officer shot to death by a law-abiding gun owner feel better.

Seriously, people, we really need to stop re-electing these clowns!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...