NDP under pressure after gun vote

Thu Sep 23, 2010 5:32pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The New Democrats put on a show of unity on Thursday, a day after a parliamentary vote on gun control revealed splits that could hurt the small opposition party in the next election.

The House of Commons narrowly voted on Wednesday night to maintain a law requiring mandatory registration of rifles and shotguns, which is deeply unpopular among rural voters. Six of the NDP's 36 legislators, mostly representing large rural constituencies, voted against.

The split left the party in the sights of both the governing Conservatives and the main opposition Liberals in the run-up to an election expected some time in the next year.

The Conservatives -- who need to win another 12 seats to gain a majority in the 308-seat House of Commons -- enjoy widespread rural backing and want to scrap the registry on the grounds it is ineffective and expensive.

NDP leader Jack Layton convened a special meeting of his parliamentary caucus on Thursday morning to insist there were no problems inside the party and to denounce what he called Prime Minister Stephen Harper's divisive governing style.

"We are truly the united, democratic and truly Canadian political party ... we're not interested in short-term politics," Layton said to applause.

"He (Harper) only plays partisan politics. He only wants to divide and rule ... he sets Canadians against each other, urban against rural."

Conservatives predicted after the vote that, although they had lost, they would pick up seats in the next election. The government has notably ramped up its attacks on the opposition in the last two weeks.   Continued...

<p>New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton (C) receives a standing ovation from his caucus while speaking during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa September 20, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>