NOTE: Versions of this article also appeared in the Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen, Saskatoon Star Phoenix, Windsor Star, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Regina Leader Post, Kingston Whig-Standard, Vancouver Sun, and Victoria Times Colonist.

PUBLICATION:              National Post

DATE:                         2004.12.02

EDITION:                    All but Toronto

SECTION:                  News

PAGE:                         A1 / Front

BYLINE:                     Tim Naumetz, with files from Robert Fife

SOURCE:                   CanWest News Service

DATELINE:                 OTTAWA

ILLUSTRATION:     Black & White Photo: Peter Thompson, New York Times /Canadian Firearms Centre says most of the program costs went toward licensing. 

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Gun registry not ready until 2007: 12 years after bill passed

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OTTAWA - The federal gun registry won't be fully operational until 2007, 12 years after it was approved by Parliament and at a price tag the Conservatives say will now reach more than $1.4-billion.

The registry was announced in 1995 and was to cost no more than $85-million.

The Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness disclosed the new readiness date this week in response to a written question Saskatchewan Conservative MP Garry Breitkreuz tabled in the House of Commons.

"It is anticipated that all components of the firearms program now planned or under development will be fully implemented by December 31, 2007," the department said.

The new timetable means the firearms program will have cost a minimum of $1.4-billion by then, said Mr. Breitkreuz, who represents Yorkton-Melville.

"That is 12 years after the legislation was passed," Mr. Breitkreuz said in an interview. "They have always made commitments to us about timelines, and it's never happened. I'm not a bit sure they are even going to keep their 2007 commitment."

Shortly before the election in June, the federal government said it would cap spending on the registry portion of the program at $25-million a year beginning next year.

He said it will likely be impossible to keep that commitment. He noted the government originally promised the firearms program would cost no more than $85-million.

"The cost overruns have been absolutely horrific," he said. "If we would have known back in 1995 when we were debating this that it was going to go over even that, it would never have been approved."

The government also tabled figures showing, contrary to earlier claims, the licensing portion of the firearms program takes up only about one-third of the scheme's annual cost.

The licensing portion cost $40.2-million in 2002-03 and $59.6-million in 2003-04. From 1995 to 2002, the licensing portion cost a total of $396-million, the government said.

The Canada Firearms Centre has always insisted the majority of the firearm program costs went toward the licensing provisions, not the registry portion that has caused most of the resentment from gun owners.

In July, it was revealed the registry is being cited by an American publication as a case study in incompetence and financial mismanagement.

Baseline, a U.S. magazine which conducts case studies on information technology, published an analysis of the gun registry titled Canada Firearms: Armed Robbery.

''What was supposed to be a relatively modest information technology project ballooned into a massive undertaking. At last count, the program had amassed more than $1-billion in costs, and the system has become so cumbersome that an independent review board recommended that it be scrapped,'' Baseline wrote.

Costs soared out of control as a result of bureaucratic errors, poor planning, unforeseen expenses and an increasingly complex computer system, Baseline noted.

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BREITKREUZ COMMENT

 

The Liberalsí most recent guesstimate has pegged the total cost of the firearms program at $1,055,400,000 as of March 31, 2005.  But the Liberals have failed to comply with all of the recommendations in the Auditor Generalís December 2002 exposť on the program.  She told the government to provide Parliament with estimates of the cost of enforcement and the cost of compliance as required by Treasury Board Regulatory Policy.  According to reports prepared by the Library of Parliament Research Branch, enforcement and compliance estimates add hundreds of millions to the costs of the program.  Add to this the fact that the governmentís own reports on the economic cost and the cost-benefit analysis have both been declared Cabinet secrets.  Liberals are still keeping Parliament and the public in the dark.