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Gun program a'billion dollar boondoggle', says Burton

The federal government's gun registry program is a "billion dollar boondoggle" which has accomplished nothing, says Skeena MP Andy Burton.
"It's such a mess, you can't really get a handle on it," Mr. Burton said last Thursday, just after the auditor-general released a report that said the gun program's costs will spiral to $1-billion by 2004. "It's 500 times over budget. Now, does that make you think about fiscal responsibility?"
The Liberals passed the gun registry legislation in 1995, requiring gun owners to register their weapons. At that time, the program was expected to cost $119-million with most expected to be covered by registration fees, leaving a total cost to taxpayers of just $2-million.
Mr. Burton said the Alliance Party had opposed the program from the outset, saying it would do nothing to stop criminals from using guns, and simply penalize ordinary gun owners.
The Alliance Party would scrap the legislation if it were elected, he said, despite the millions of dollars that have been spent setting up the registry.
"It's bad legislation, and it should be scrapped, that's the bottom line," he said.
Opposition MPs asked the government Thursday how much more it will cost to complete the gun registry and how much it will cost to administer annually, Mr. Burton said.
"They were asked clearly, eight times, in question period today, and they had no answer," he told the Observer from his Ottawa office.
But the biggest problem, he added, more important than the cost overruns and the flawed legislation, is that the Justice Department failed to inform Parliament about the huge expenses.
"The crux of the issue is, they hid most of the expenditures from Parliament," he said. "That is absolutely unacceptable."
However, groups like the BC Institute Against Family Violence warned Canadians not to let the auditor general's criticisms of the skyrocketing costs derail the gun registry program.
"One of the main objectives of the licensing and registration system is to ensure the safety and security of women - we must not forget this very important consideration when discussing the costs of the program," said the institute's executive director, Penny Bain. "The system is making a difference, one which we cannot put a price tag on, but which is very significant nonetheless."