The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Feds restore long-waived gun licence fees, expect $18 M annually in revenue

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OTTAWA - The Conservative government is ending a seven-year waiver on gun licence renewal fees next month in an effort to collect about $18 million annually from firearms owners.

New changes to the firearms regulations were quietly posted in the Canada Gazette on the weekend that restore the $60 licence fee for non-restricted weapons.

The Conservatives brought in a two-year waiver on the fees in May 2006 and had extended it every year until now.

"The government will not renew the current fee waiver in the current climate of fiscal restraint," said the Canada Gazette post, dated April 13.

Two other measures that the government says are designed to encourage compliance with firearms regulations will be extended by one year, however.

Gun owners who let their possession-only licences expire have been allowed to re-apply since 2008 without having to pay to go through a firearms safety course, as the regulations require. That break continues to May 2014.

And an amnesty on criminal charges for failing to licence or register non-restricted weapons for people "who were taking steps to comply with these requirements" has also been extended.

The Canada Gazette notes that although the long-gun registry was ended by legislation last year, it remains in effect by court order in Quebec. And the amnesty provisions are pitched as a means of keeping Quebecers registering those rifles and shotguns.

"Accordingly, the extension of the Amnesty Order would encourage compliance by owners of non-restricted firearms with the licensing requirements across Canada, and in Quebec, with the registration of non-restricted firearms," states the government document.

The Conservatives ended the long-gun registry last spring for a savings of about $2 million annually, a figure confirmed in documents prepared for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews but never publicized by the government.

Last September the Conservatives began phasing back in the higher $80 licence fee for restricted and prohibited weapons that had been waived.

In May 2012 Conservative MP Candice Bergen told the House of Commons that the fee waivers were being phased out, but she framed it as the government providing "extra time" for people to renew their five-year licences at no cost.

"This is good news for law-abiding gun owners and good news for taxpayers," she said at the time.

According to the Canada Gazette, non-restricted gun licences alone are expected to bring in $18 million in additional revenue each year.

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