CoteGauche: Long Guns and Deregulation

If the LGR falls, it will be yet another sector where the public interest has been sacrificed over fear of “big government”. Fear of “big government” has caused more harm than any “big government”, at least a democratic one, has ever done. Deregulation was so in vogue in the 1990’s that even democrats, 3rd way socialists and liberals were rushing to deregulate everything.

Not that I’m a fan of large bureaucracies, wasteful programs or over-regulation, but where there is a vital public interest and where market forces or self regulation are insufficient to achieve the public good, regulation is required.

We saw this happen with the US financial markets. Actually, this last financial crisis is the 3rd one in 20 years resulting from ill-advised deregulation. But many are too young to remember the S&L crisis of the late 1980’s and the dot-com/Enron debacles of 2000. How long will we have to wait until the conservatives start pushing to deregulate the Canadian banking and financial sectors again?

IF you are a little fuzzy the S&L crisis, or the Junk Bonds debacle you have probably never even heard the short term fall out from airline deregulation in the late 1970’s. The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 – while probably a good idea, led to the air traffic control strike of 1981 as an explosion of new airlines and cheaper air travel took its toll on the inadequate and antiquated ATC infrastructure and over-worked controllers.

Deregulation is partially responsible for the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and was contributory to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. Meanwhile, some of the deepest offshore wells ever conceived are being planned off the Canadian Atlantic and Arctic coasts. Of course the oil companies are saying that a Deepwater Horizon type of catastrophe couldn’t possible happen here, so there is no need to pre-drill relief wells or require better blow out protectors.

Deregulation of energy markets (under democrat Governor Pete Wilson) drove the richest and most populous state in the US to the brink of insolvency. I lived in California while utility rates shot up 1000% for some users and the State practically bankrupt itself trying to buy over-priced gas and electricity futures.

Energy, transportation, education, healthcare and public safety (gun registry) are areas of vital public interest. The government has an obligation to be involved. Those pushing the anti-big-government agenda need to stop with the fear mongering.

The 80% of Canadians who live in urban areas are well served by a long gun registry. The burden of a fairly lightweight (operationally) and unobtrusive service on the 20% of rural Canadians who bear this burden is not so high that we should allow the LGR to be dismantled.

Jack Layton should act in the public interest and whip the NDP caucus on this crucial up coming vote. This is not a hill he should sacrifice his principles on.

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