Gun seizures fire up debate

Politics: Conservative nominees face off

By: Don Patterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 05, 2014 02:53 pm

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Macleod conservative hopefuls repeated calls for an inquiry into the RCMP’s seizure of firearms from unoccupied High River homes after last year’s flood during a debate in Okotoks last week.

Potential nominees John Barlow, Melissa Mathieson, Phil Rowland and Scott Wegner spoke to a crowd up to 300 people at a forum at the Foothills Centennial Centre on Feb. 28. They debated a range of issues from oil and gas pipelines, flood recovery and agriculture. The Okotoks debate followed similar events in Claresholm and Pincher Creek the two previous evenings.

However, the High River firearms seizure and gun-ownership rights dominated much of the discussion in Okotoks.

Rowland said doesn’t support the RCMP taking guns from empty homes after the flood. He said an inquiry needs to be held to learn how the decision was made.

“This is a property rights issue and the truth needs to be known,” said Rowland.

Mathieson said an inquiry would be worth the money and it’s needed to help residents get past the flood.

She said the issue doesn’t just matter for people who were affected in High River, it resonates with people across Canada.

“We need to regain trust in our RCMP,” said Mathieson.

Wagner said an inquiry needs to be held to resolve the issue. He is concerned the issue may result in people choosing not to leave their homes in future disasters, making it more difficult to respond to emergencies.

“A lot of the people now are saying they’re not leaving,” he said.

Barlow said he supports calling an inquiry into the firearms seizure, but he said the immediate priority needs to be getting people back into their homes.

“What will heal High River is getting people back in their homes and getting people back in their businesses,” he said.

Barlow said he supports the need to search houses after the flood to look for survivors or anyone trapped in their homes. However, he questions what happened afterwards as firearms were removed from homes as time went on.

All four were also quick to decry a move by the RCMP last week to reclassify Swiss Arms rifles as a prohibited weapon. The rifle has been legally sold in Canada for almost a decade. The move requires anyone who owns the guns to turn them in and they do not have any right to compensation.

Calling it “property theft by regulation,” Rowland said it’s disappointing the RCMP is able to reclassify firearms and require people to hand them over without compensation or due process.

“We cannot allow this to go on that they can take this without any compensation,” he said.

Mathieson said the RCMP should not be able to unilaterally determine what firearms are prohibited, while Scott Wegner said decisions about how guns are classified should be made by elected officials, not unelected bureaucrats.

All four also expressed support for the Conservative government’s work to build the Keystone XL Pipeline to ship Alberta bitumen to the U.S., but said it can’t focus on one market.

Wegner said Canada needs alternate markets for oil and pipelines need to be built to access Asia and other markets.

“I believe we need alternate access points, we need west, south and east pipelines,” he said.

Barlow and Rowland expressed support for increasing refining capacity in Canada, but also said the country needs to take advantage of international markets for energy resources.

Vote this weekend

The final vote to decide who will represent the Conservative Party in the Macleod riding in this spring’s byelection will be held over three days this week.

Party members in the riding will vote on March 6 in Pincher Creek, March 7 in Claresholm and March 8 in Okotoks.

The winner of the nomination race will be announced after the ballots are counted when the vote closes in Okotoks on March 8. will be counted after the Okotoks vote.

People must be members of the Conservative Party and must have purchased their membership by Feb. 10 to be eligible to vote. People must bring two pieces of ID to vote, with one including a photo.


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