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Amendments to controversial gun bill may scare away Americans, outfitters say

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In Dale Clark’s estimation, the money brought into New Brunswick by non-resident hunters — Americans or others — has never been fully appreciated.

“It is a multi-million dollar industry in the province that is not being recognized by our government, federal or provincial,” said Clark, president of the New Brunswick Professional Outfitters and Guides Association.

“We have been put on — I don’t know how you say [it] — the backburner.”

Although the federal government has promised it’s not going after hunting rifles or shotguns, Clark and others say they fear that any further restrictions on semi-automatic weapons will have American hunters, or other tourists who typically bring their own firearms here, reconsidering their trips.

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Dale Clarke, president of the New Brunswick Outfitters and Guides Association, says hunting is a multi-million dollar industry that is often overlooked. (Submitted by Dale Clark)

According to the province’s executive council office, 3,600 non-resident hunters came to New Brunswick in 2019.

Bear hunting licences alone brought in more than $300,000 in sales before taxes, with 1,870 of them purchased for $160 a pop.

Now, after the industry saw a “very drastic decline” during the pandemic, Clark said the federal government’s Bill C-21 and its controversial amendment that would ban many hunting rifles and shotguns has put it under fire once again.

“I would say … that probably 75 per cent of our membership relies on bringing in non-residents,” he said.

Customer base only now starting to rebound

Rob Argue — who runs two hunting and fishing lodges in western and northern Quebec, as well as turkey hunting operations in eastern Ontario — said he has two rules he abides by in business, especially with Americans.

“I don’t talk politics and I don’t talk religion,” he said.

But talk of politics has become “almost impossible” to avoid in recent years, he said — including the topic of gun control.

“I think the more hiccups or complications that we have in the process for someone to come up, at some point they’re just going to say it’s not worth the hassle,” said Argue, who is based in Ottawa.

Three dead birds and a hunting rifle arranged on the mossy ground.
Argue, whose catch and hunting gun are displayed here, said he worries American hunters will decide traveling to Canada isn’t worth the “hassle.” (Submitted by Rob Argue)

Originally, Bill C-21 was proposed as legislation to ban handguns in Canada, but an amendment introduced by the government this fall added language that would create an “evergreen definition” of “assault-style” firearms banned by Ottawa.

Supporters of the ban have repeatedly expressed concerns about manufacturers evading the regulations by introducing new models. Critics, meanwhile, call the amendment an overreach.

“The point of the evergreen is to … alleviate some of the pressure on officials and experts to revisit this every year, every two years, or sometimes arbitrarily even longer than that,” Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said recently.

In response to criticisms of the amendment’s language, the minister said the government would be looking at some gun models “very carefully.”

Argue said most of his clients bring up typical hunting rifles like the Weatherby MARK V, a bolt-action rifle he said is common for hunting deer and would be prohibited by C-21.

Seeing other hunting rifles on the list, like the Webley & Scott wildfowl gun, also causes him concern.

While he said he doesn’t believe most Americans are tuned into Canadian politics enough to know what’s in the amendments, he worries about what might happen when they find out.

“I’ve been doing this for 13 years. I’ve never had Americans coming up that have had an issue at the border, because the firearms they’re bringing are very legitimate, reasonable firearms to bring to hunt the species that they’re hunting,” he said.

He estimates that before the pandemic, his American clients brought approximately $100,000 US annually to his business, Eastern Canadian Outfitters.

That customer base has only just started to rebound, he said.

In Quebec, 5,893 hunting licences for everything from black bear to wild turkey were sold to non-residents in the 2021-2022 season, although the province doesn’t track precisely where those hunters lived.

In 2020-2021, 3,753 licences were sold in Quebec, while 2019-2020 saw sales of 8,308.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said the government would be looking at some gun models “very carefully.” (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Federal Rural Economic Development Minister Gudie Hutchings, herself a gun owner, said last week that she and Mendicino met with the Canadian Federation of Outfitter Associations, which showed a willingness to work with the government on the legislation’s language.

She called the outfitting sector “a billion-dollar industry in Canada.”

She said that there’s a “99.99 per cent … chance” that “if you have a lever, a bolt, a break action, a pump action, it’s your grandfather’s gun that you’ve had for years … that is not going to be impacted [by] this,” she said. “We need to get the facts out.”

Americans supply nearly half of northern Ontario’s hunting revenue

The concerns of outfitters like Clark and Argue are shared by Laurie Marcil, executive director of Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario, also known as the Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters Association.

Her organization represents the tourism interests of a huge swath of northern Ontario past North Bay — much of it a long drive from the American border.

Despite the government’s assurances, she said she believes hunters will be hit by the proposed law. She also warns that Americans will hesitate about coming to Canada if C-21 becomes law as it’s written now.

She pointed to a report from 2014 that said 12,000 American hunters contribute to northern Ontario’s economy annually. While that’s only 15 per cent of the total number of North American hunters spending time in the province’s north, the report says American hunters contribute $17.5 million to the region’s economy — almost half of the region’s entire hunting revenue.

Marcil said northern Ontario needs their business.

“They buy everything here,” she said. “So you’ve got grocery stores, gas stations, you’ve got the outfitters themselves and their businesses and their jobs that they’ve created.

“So it’s a pretty all-encompassing impact that they have on these northern communities.”

According to more recent numbers from Ontario’s Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry, 6,871 non-residents had purchased at least one 2022 hunting licence as of Dec. 14.

In 2019 — before the pandemic — 11,284 non-residents purchased at least one hunting licence in Ontario.

The ministry told CBC News that non-resident hunters are mainly American, although anyone who buys a licence and doesn’t reside in Ontario would be included. It said it didn’t have an estimate of how much those hunters contributed to the province’s economy.

It also did not include in those figures individuals who purchased a three-year small game licence in 2020 or 2021.

The ministry said it is unable to confirm whether those hunters actually travelled to the province — only that they purchased a licence.

Clark said many of New Brunswick’s lodges have suffered as a result of the pandemic, and the outfitters and guides he works with are seasonal workers.

Clark said attracting people from out of province means more than just money in outfitters’ pockets. Over the last three years, he said, workers in the industry have struggled and the average outfitter unlikely to qualify for government support programs.

He said the amendment to C-21 isn’t needed and represents another blow to the industry.

“Once [Americans] become aware of what’s going to be implemented, then yes, it’s going to be a big impact,” he said.

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Petr Pavel: Polyglot, war hero, and the new Czech president – Euronews

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Ex-general Petr Pavel has won another gritty campaign — this time at the ballot box.

The bearded 61-year-old, a decorated veteran who took part in a high-stakes peacekeeping mission in the Balkans and represented his country as a top-tier NATO general, was voted Czech president on Saturday, beating billionaire ex-prime minister Andrej Babiš.

With the ballots from 97% of almost 15,000 polling stations counted by the Czech Statistics Office, Pavel had 57.8% of the vote compared with 42.2% for Babiš.

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Though Czech presidents wield little day-to-day power, Pavel will have influence over foreign policy and government opinion, as well as the power to appoint prime ministers, constitutional judges and central bankers.

True to his military past, he has vowed to bring “order” to the Czech Republic, a 10 million-strong EU and NATO member, hammered by record inflation and economic turmoil due to the Ukraine war.

“I can’t ignore the fact that people here increasingly feel chaos, disorder and uncertainty. That the state has somehow ceased to function,” Pavel said on his campaign website.

“We need to change this,” he added. “We need to play by the rules, which will be valid for everyone alike. We need a general sweep.”

From Communist to war hero

Following in his father’s footsteps, Pavel underwent a military education in former Czechoslovakia, which was then ruled by Moscow-backed communists.

He joined the Communist Party, like his billionaire rival Babiš, and soon rose through the army ranks, studying to become an intelligence agent for the oppressive regime.

Critics fault him for his communist past, though Pavel has defended himself by saying party membership was “normal” in his family and called it a “mistake”.

When the Iron Curtain crumbled in 1989, Pavel chucked out his party ID but went ahead with the intelligence course.

Amid the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Pavel — trained as an elite paratrooper and holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel at the time — helped evacuate French troops stuck in the midst of combat between Croats and ethnic Serb paramilitaries in Croatia, earning him the French Military Cross for bravery.

“We got into several tense situations and he always managed them with deliberation and calm,” said retired Czech general Aleš Opata, who served with Pavel.

He later studied at military training schools in Britain, gaining a master’s from King’s College London.

After his country joined NATO in 1999, Pavel soon climbed through the alliance’s ranks, becoming its top military official in 2015. 

With a chest full of decorations, he retired in 2018.

What are his political views?

Pavel ran as an independent and was the strongest of the three candidates backed by the liberal-conservative coalition SPOLU of now-former President Miloš Zeman.

He has argued for better redistribution of wealth and greater taxation of the rich while also supporting progressive policies on issues such as same-sex marriage and euthanasia.

Positioning himself as a counterweight to populism, Pavel anchors the Czech Republic in NATO and wants to align his country with the European Union.

“The main issue at stake is whether chaos and populism will continue to rein or we return to observing rules… and we will be a reliable country for our allies,” he said after narrowly winning the first election round.

A staunch supporter of Ukraine, Pavel’s political rivals have alleged he would drag the country into a war with Russia.

“I know what war is about and I certainly don’t wish it on anyone,” said Pavel. “The first thing I would do is try to keep the country as far away from war as possible.”

Often sporting jeans and a leather jacket, Pavel is a polyglot, speaking Czech, English, French and Russian, and loves motorcycling.

He holds a concealed weapon licence, allowing him to carry a firearm, and he is married to a fellow soldier, Eva Pavlová.

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Canadian and American Politics

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THIS SURVEY EXPLORES CANADIANS’ AND AMERICANS’ PERSPECTIVES ON CANADIAN AND AMERICAN POLITICS.

Our latest North American Tracker explores Canadians’ and Americans’ perspectives on Canadian and American politics.

It examines Canadians’ federal voting intentions and Americans’ approval of President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris.

Download the report for the full results.

This survey was conducted in collaboration with the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS) and published in the Canadian Press. This series of surveys is available on Leger’s website.

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CANADIAN POLITICS

  • The Conservatives and Liberals are tied: if a federal election were held today, 34% of Canadian decided voters would vote for Pierre Poilievre’s CPC and the same proportion would vote for Justin Trudeau’s LPC.

AMERICAN POLITICS

  • 42% of Americans approve of the way Joe Biden is handling his job as president.
  • 40% of Americans approve of the way Kamala Harris is handling her job as vice-president.

METHODOLOGY

This web survey was conducted from January 20 to 22, 2023, with 1,554 Canadians and 1,005 Americans, 18 years of age or older, randomly recruited from LEO’s online panel.

A margin of error cannot be associated with a non-probability sample in a panel survey. For comparison, a probability sample of 1,554 respondents would have a margin of error of ±2.49%, 19 times out of 20, while a probability sample of 1,005 respondents would have a margin of error of ±3.09%, 19 times out of 20.

THIS REPORT CONTAINS THE RESULTS FOR THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS AND MORE!

  • If federal elections were held today, for which political party would you be most likely to vote?  Would it be for…?
  • Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way Joe Biden is handling his job as president?
  • Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way Kamala Harris is handling her job as vice president?​
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Legault won’t celebrate 25 years in politics

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Premier François Legault does not intend to celebrate his 25-year political career this year.

He became Minister of Industry in Lucien Bouchard’s PQ government on Sept. 23, 1998, but was elected on Nov. 30 of the same year as the representative for L’Assomption, the riding in which he is still a member.

In a news conference on Friday at the end of a caucus meeting of his party’s elected officials in a Laval hotel, the CAQ leader said that neither he nor his party had any intention of celebrating this anniversary.

“I don’t like these things,” he said.

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He pointed out that he is still younger than the former dean of the National Assembly, François Gendron. And smiling, he alluded to the U.S. President.

“I’m quite a bit younger than Mr. Biden, apart from that!” he said.

Legault is 65 years old, while the President is 80.

However, Legault is now the dean of the House. According to recent data, he has served as an elected official for 20 years, 6 months, and 27 days so far.

The premier was quick to add, however, that he has taken a break from politics.

He resigned on June 24, 2009 as a member of the Parti Québécois (PQ), then in opposition. But he was elected as an MNA and leader of the then-new Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) on Sept. 4, 2012.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Jan. 27, 2023.

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