QUEBEC - In the first step of what could become a federal-provincial battle, the Quebec government has sent a letter asking Ottawa to let it keep the data from the soon-to-be-destroyed federal long-gun registry.
The province's political parties are united on the subject, with Premier Jean Charest expressing the same opinion as his political opponents Thursday.
The provincial legislature, for the fourth time since 2006, passed a unanimous motion asking Ottawa to keep the registry.
The premier called the federal move less than reasonable.
Quebec says it's asking politely for now — but it hasn't ruled out the prospect of legal action if the Harper government turns it down.
"We will use every means at our disposal, which we deem useful, to let Quebec's point of view be known," Charest told reporters.
"We are analyzing the means at our disposal to ensure that Quebec's point of view be properly heard."
The federal government says it can't help, because the Privacy Act forbids collecting personal data for one purpose then transferring it to be used for another purpose.
It also says it wants to erase the data to prevent future federal governments from ever reviving the registry.
And the data has been gathering dust and is now out of date anyway, the government says, alluding to the lack of enforcement of the registry.
"The data is inaccurate and unreliable — a situation that's getting worse with time," Conservative cabinet minister Peter MacKay told the Commons.
"The reality is that this registry does not work."
Some of Charest's political opponents are urging him to immediately file a request for a court injunction to prevent the records' destruction.
That's the same suggestion floated by federal Liberal MP Denis Coderre on Thursday.
The encouragement to act quickly was fuelled by the Harper government's move to limit debate on the registry bill — which is being fast-tracked through the House of Commons.
The NDP called it an abuse of Parliament. The Conservatives countered that the registry debate had gone on long enough, having lasted more than a decade.
For now, Quebec's premier is relying on public debate as his forum to fight for keeping the data. He characterizes the federal action as unreasonable.
"If the federal government decides it wants to abolish it, good sense dictates that it should be able to keep the data, work with us and transfer it to us so Quebec can, then, apply and keep the information that's there."