The federal government's reflexive secrecy has added a sorry footnote to the saga of the federal long-gun registry.
The Canadian Press reports the RCMP sat on the news agency's request for information about the million-dollar cost of dismantling the registry for almost a year, even though the Mounties had a detailed accounting available.
The RCMP has finally released the information, 11 months after CP made its Access to Information request, but not before apparently vetting it with the office of the minister of public safety.
In the meantime, the Mounties wouldn't admit there even was a breakdown of the costs, saying only it would be paid for out of the RCMP's budget.
According to the information provided to CP, the estimate forecast $425,000 to change the National Firearms Centre's information system and online databases, another $300,000 to go through and destroy paper records of non-restricted firearms registrations, $50,000 to change policy manuals and forms and $150,000 for communications materials.
The estimate doesn't include the cost of Ottawa's court fight against Quebec's attempt to preserve the data on its gun owners so the provincial government can create its own registry.
The RCMP breakdown is in line with the government's promise that its controversial decision to abolish the registry would cost about $1 million, CP said.
There's a kind of symmetry here, given that from the registry's inception almost two decades ago, fights over its cost have run parallel to the debate over its necessity.
The Liberal government of Jean Chretien passed toughened gun-control legislation in the wake of the 1989 Montreal Massacre, when deranged anti-feminist Marc Lepine used a semi-automatic rifle to kill 14 women at École Polytechnique, wound 10 others, then commit suicide.
Besides tightening restrictions on some guns and banning high-capacity magazines, the law required all gun owners to be licensed and it expanded firearms registration to include all rifles and shotguns.
While supported by gun-control advocates and most police, the long-gun registry was opposed by the shooting community, as well as many living in rural areas who saw it as an unnecessary impingement on their way of life.
Critics also questioned the government's claims the expanded registry would be largely self-financing through registration fees. As this CBC News timeline shows, the government said it would cost about $119 million to set up but the fees would cut the cost to taxpayers down to $2 million.
But costs mushroomed and by 2002 then-auditor general Sheila Fraser warned they would hit $1 billion by 2005, with fees cutting that by only $140 million.
Critics seized on the figure as reason to kill the registry. During their minority mandates, the Conservatives undermined the registry with amnesties and fee waivers that cost taxpayers millions. Once they won a majority in 2011, the Conservatives made good on a longstanding promise to abolish it.
The government claimed ditching the registry would save hundreds of millions of dollars, but the Globe and Mail reported in 2010 that an independent analysis done for the RCMP the previous year concluded abolition would save only about $1.5 million.