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The Cost of Confiscation: Millions of Dollars, No Sense

Monday, February 8, 2021

The Cost of Confiscation: Millions of Dollars, No Sense

Last November, Bill Blair, the federal Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, refused to answer questions about the costs associated with the Liberal Government’s gun ban and confiscation program imposed by Order-in-Council on May 1, 2020.

Minister Blair’s department is responsible for implementing the ban and overseeing the confiscation of previously lawful firearms from millions of Canadian hunters, sports shooters, farmers and hobbyists before a two-year “amnesty” period ends on April 30, 2022.

An initial cost estimate of CDN$250 million was given shortly before the Liberal’s gun ban and confiscation law was announced, although Minister Blair had earlier quoted a program cost of between CDN$400 - $600 million. Since then, though, the scope of the ban has expanded considerably: the RCMP has added, to the list of “prohibited” firearms, thousand of guns that weren’t specifically included in the May 1st Order in Council.   

At least one part of the cost is now public. After two prior tenders failed to attract private sector interest, at the end of December IBM Canada Ltd. was awarded the government contract to “develop a range of options and approaches to inform the design and implementation of a potential buyback program for recently prohibited firearms.” The award notice has a listed value of just under CDN$1.2 million and an end-date of March 31, 2021. As indicated in the original tender notice, this “study and design” phase does not include “initiating the delivery of the buy-back program.”

Conservative MP Glen Motz (Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner), speaking at a November 25 meeting of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU), repeatedly pressed Minister Blair for the cost of the confiscation program, referring to the initial $250M estimate. Starting at 16:06:35 in the video, he asks, “Do you have the numbers for the total costs of what this buyback program will cost Canadians?” “Can you provide us an estimate of what the administration costs for the RCMP and your Public Safety Department will be to run this program? Any idea whatsoever?” “How much do you estimate it will cost, of taxpayer dollars, to now pay back the confiscated firearms owners…?” (Getting somewhat impatient with the lack of answers, he adds a softball question, “[H]ow much [do] you estimate it will cost to buy back the guns from criminals lined up to turn in their illegal firearms?”)

While throwing around clunky phrases like “cost effective in a different way,” “real good public value,” and the intent to “very responsibly fulfill our responsibilities” to licensed firearm owners, the minister declined to provide anything even close to an actual number.  

As we’ve pointed out before, given the track record that Liberal gun-control measures have in Canada, the economic impact of this program is of interest to all Canadian taxpayers, regardless of the specific harm it will cause to licensed gun owners and the firearm industry. Who can forget the spectacularly pointless national gun registry, which started out with an estimated price tag of CDN$2 million but ended up costing taxpayers at least CDN$2.7 billion?    

According to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), a grassroots advocacy group pushing for lower taxes, less waste and accountable governments, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has already broken the National Debt Clock by running the debt beyond a trillion dollars. “Our National Debt Clock no longer has enough digits to display the size of our federal debt, because nobody ever dreamed the debt would grow this big.” The CTF adds that the “federal debt is currently increasing by over $10,000 per second, $43 million per hour or $1 billion every day. Each Canadian’s individual share of the federal debt is over $26,000.”

Consistent with its mission of eliminating government waste and useless spending of millions of taxpayer dollars, the CTF calls for “scrap[ping] the gun ban and buy back.” Not only was it “wrong” to impose this program without a vote of the country’s elected representatives, this “expensive policy arbitrarily bans and buys guns owned by law-abiding Canadians” without taking away “illegal guns from criminals.” The group has also joined in a court challenge brought against the measure by Cassandra Parker. 

In a podcast on the federal ban and confiscation program, Todd MacKay, Prairie Director of the CTF, mentions (at around the 24:25 mark) that the CTF did an analysis of the funding that would be necessary given the initial estimates of approximately CDN $200 million. “We’ve talked to some of our counterparts in New Zealand. Based on that, we’re guessing that it’s going to go well over a billion dollars.”

Humorist P.J. O’Rourke once wrote, about government waste, that contrary to the popular perception of sloth and inefficiency, “[e]normous effort and elaborate planning are required to waste this much money.” This program is possibly off to a fine start. One source estimates that over CDN$3 million was spent last year to mail licensed gun owners a form letter that had no legal effect and was later the subject of a retraction or clarification on the RCMP website.             

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