Canada -(AmmoLand.com)- So how does one pay tribute to the retiring federal Member of Parliament who played a pivotal role in not only ridding Canadians of the hated long-gun registry, and through it all, championed the rights of law-abiding gun owners across the country for over two decades?
You throw a party, of course!
Over 200 guests packed a hall in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, on August 28th to pay tribute to out-going Yorkton-Melville M.P. Garry Breitkreuz who is wrapping up 22 years of public life on October 19. Organized by the local Conservative Electoral District Association, fellow Saskatchewan M.P. and friend David Anderson (Cypress Hills-Grasslands) MC’d the event while House of Commons’ Speaker, Andrew Scheer, (Regina-Qu’Appelle) was special guest speaker. Along with a number of current and retired members of Parliament, local mayors, long-time supporters, friends and family, Garry was recognized for the tremendous work he has done both in his constituency as well as for his national efforts fighting for the rights of Canada’s gun owners.
Reflected in the many speeches by colleagues, friends and family was Garry’s opposition to the Liberal government’s sweeping firearms legislation in 1995, Bill C-68 and in particular, the long-gun registry. And through all the challenges his work would bring, Garry’s faith, his unwavering support for his party, his team spirit, and willingness to help others were seen as steering him well in his political life.
The CSSA’s very own Tony Bernardo took a few moments to thank Garry for his years of outstanding work and leadership on behalf of law-abiding firearm owners across Canada. Bernardo spoke of the recognition – both nationally and internationally – that Garry has received for his efforts, noting several awards from organizations such as the World Forum on the Future of Sport Shooting Activities, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, Safari Club International, and of course, the CSSA.
Looking back on an exceptional career:
Many e-news readers may not know that Garry was a reluctant politician, at least at first – he really didn’t want the job – he was a teacher by trade and had no thoughts of becoming a member of Parliament. But he was encouraged to run for the nomination of the Reform Party back in 1991, and he only agreed on the condition that the party could convince at least other three candidates to run against him for the nomination.
In the end, five people ended up running for the Reform Party in Yorkton-Melville, and well over a thousand party faithful gathered for the nomination meeting in April of 1992. Against all odds, Garry won the nomination on the first ballot. He was dumbfounded, utterly speechless. He credits his team – many of whom continued to support him through six subsequent elections and under two other party banners.
A year and a half later, Prime Minister Kim Campbell called a federal election, and Garry faced yet another hurdle. He was running against the NDP’s long-sitting member, Lorne Nystrom – a seat regarded as the safest in the province for that party.
Garry took this task to heart. He saw our national deficit and debt as a moral and ethically bad situation and worried for the future of his children and grandchildren. So in the year and a half before the election call, he rallied his team and began to work hard. He literally wore out a few pairs of shoes door-knocking throughout the entire constituency. And in the end, against all odds, he was elected Member of Parliament for Yorkton-Melville.
Of course, the best leaders need to be good listeners, so as an MP Garry began listening to his constituents. When the Chrétien government introduced broad firearms legislation (including a long-gun registry) back in 1995 in response to the college campus shooting at L’École Polytechnique, Garry had to take those listening skills to a whole new level.
At that time, then Liberal Justice Minister Allan Rock had outraged the firearms community with these infamous words: “I came to Ottawa with the firm belief that the only people in this country who should have guns are police officers and soldiers.” Garry’s constituents were angry.
On a cold winter’s night at an overflowing town hall meeting in Preeceville, Saskatchewan, Garry’s constituents challenged him on Bill C-68 and his thoughts on gun control. They asked him to scratch beneath the surface on the new gun control bill and to report back.
And so it began.
Garry and his staff began digging, and it quickly became evident how unfair, ineffective and costly the bill really was. Armed with his research, Garry faced one of his greatest hurdles: convincing the naysayers in his own party that taking on the gun issue was the right thing to do. It was no easy feat, but keeping the issue on the front burner, Garry won the day and held the portfolio in both the Reform and Canadian Alliance parties. Stephen Harper would eventually appoint him Official Opposition Critic for Firearms and Property Rights in recognition of his commitment and talents. But more importantly, Garry kept the Liberal government’s feet to the fire.
Now comfortable with his role in Parliament and after many years of extensive research, including more than 550 Access to Information requests, Garry’s persistence finally paid off when he exposed the hidden costs of the long-gun registry at more than a $1 billion.
Those findings then led to a financial audit of the gun registry by the Auditor General of Canada in 2002 and in December of that year, the A.G. confirmed what Garry had been saying for years: that the registry had cost taxpayers more than 500 times the original estimate. It was a huge vindication for Garry who had faced his share of skeptics on the issue over the years.
Over the course of his career, Garry Breitkreuz became a household name as one who would fight for the rights and freedoms of Canadians, and his work continued behind the scenes when the Conservatives formed government in 2006.
Garry himself an angler, hunter, sport shooter and all around outdoorsman, decided early on in the Conservative mandate to form a group of like-minded MPs who could promote Canada’s outdoor heritage activities. He founded the Parliamentary Outdoor Caucus, an all-party caucus that seeks to protect and promote fishing, hunting, trapping and sport shooting as acceptable, traditional, environmentally sustainable outdoor heritage activities. To this day, it remains one of the largest caucuses on Parliament Hill.
After a couple of failed attempts in a minority Parliament, Garry was delighted to finally see the long-gun registry repealed by Parliament in 2012 – what he considers his greatest achievement in an impressive career.
Garry worked closely with Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney in 2014 to formulate the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act – that bill passed in June 2015. He acknowledges that there is much more to do and that will come with a re-elected Conservative government.
Looking back on his 22 years in Parliament, Garry credits his success to his Christian faith, his family and his supporters. He is a firm believer in honesty and doing what is right.
When opposition members would try to distract him from his message during debate in the House, Garry said: “They can lie louder, but I can tell the truth longer.”
In the end, he attributes the support and patience of his supporters to having made a difference in the history of Canada. According to M.P. Wayne Easter, the Liberal Justice Minister under Paul Martin, the Liberals lost some 60 seats in the 2011 election over the firearms issue giving the Conservative Party the edge it needed to form a majority government.
Garry summed it up this way: “If you hadn’t worked hard to get me elected – that wouldn’t have happened. My family, my staff, firearms organization leaders and members – those who organized hundreds of meeting, who distributed all the news release we put out that bypassed the national media and eventually made the issue a huge election issue – they all deserve credit.”
Team effort all the way and humble to the end. That’s Garry Breitkreuz, the best friend Canadian gun owners have ever had. You will be sorely missed in Parliament, but your work and your legacy will live in the hearts of trustworthy Canadians. Enjoy your well-deserved retirement!
“Allan Rock said he came to Ottawa with the belief that only the police and military should have firearms. I believe that firearms ownership is a right, but a right that comes with responsibilities.” – The Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety
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The CSSA is the voice of the sport shooter and firearms enthusiast in Canada. Our national membership supports and promotes Canada’s firearms heritage, traditional target shooting competition, modern action shooting sports, hunting, and archery. We support and sponsor competitions and youth programs that promote these Canadian heritage activities.
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