Toronto

Trudeau meets Toronto mayor, promises more gun control, mum on handgun ban

Housing, education and infrastructure included in approach to gun violence

Posted: August 13, 2019
Last Updated: August 13, 2019

Mayor John Tory and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, shown just before their Tuesday meeting at Toronto city hall, told reporters that a complete approach to stemming gun violence in the city is needed. (CBC)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Toronto Mayor John Tory met Tuesday and seemed largely in step about how to combat the city's recent spike in gun violence, calling for a complete approach that looks at issues like housing, education and infrastructure.  

In one area, however, the leaders have yet to fall in line: an all-out handgun ban, championed by Tory and long contemplated by the Liberals.

Toronto is on pace to set an annual record in shooting incidents and victims, with 14 separate shootings recorded over the recent long weekend alone.

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Pressed on the ban issue, Trudeau wouldn't commit his support, saying only his party's platform in the October election would include "strengthening gun control." 

Trudeau also said his government has already taken steps to "make it harder to transport and spread guns," pointing to this year's Bill C-71, which brought in enhanced background checks and mandatory record-keeping for retailers.

A 'holistic' approach

The meeting between the two politicians took place a day after the federal, provincial and municipal governments announced they would jointly offer $4.5 million to Toronto police to tackle gun crime.

On Tuesday, Tory said the key is "investment in kids and families," making sure the city is inclusive and taking a hard look at the legal system. 

"We have to address the root causes of gun violence and get much tougher with criminals who often laugh — literally laugh — at things like bail and sentencing," the mayor said.

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Trudeau made similar statements, calling for a "holistic" approach and listing recent investments made by his government. 

He also used the news conference as an opportunity to come out swinging at Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. 

Where was Doug Ford? 

Though Monday's cash infusion for police came from all three levels of government, Ford was not included in the meeting. 

When reporters asked why he was not invited, Tory jumped in to explain his meeting with Trudeau was one of series he was having with party leaders to learn more about how their policy plans would impact the city. 

In a statement after the news conference, Ivana Yelich, a spokesperson for the premier's office, said, "While the prime minister is focused on his campaign, we remain focused on addressing the issues that matter to the people of Ontario, and we will continue to seek collaboration with the federal government."

Though the man himself was absent, Ford and the provincial PCs — along with Scheer and the federal Conservatives — were raised frequently by Trudeau. 

At different points, Trudeau repeated his commitment to give money to legal aid in Ontario to offset provincial cuts, pointed out Scheer has pledged to roll back Bill C-71, and compared the two leaders as people who make commitments during elections and then "don't deliver." 

Speaking about a plan to build a community hub in the troubled Lawrence Heights area, the prime minister said the Ontario government was cutting services and refusing to collaborate with the federal government. 

"We have hundreds of millions of dollars available for these kinds of infrastructure projects through our bilateral agreement with the province," he said. "But 14 months after they took office, the Ford government still hasn't opened that stream for applications. That's not acceptable." 

Plan from police chief coming

Meanwhile, Toronto police have said the vast majority of recent shooting incidents were gang-related.

That was echoed by Ford last week, who said coming down harder on gangs, and not a handgun ban, is the solution. 

Ford said in a more recent statement the province's $1.5-million contribution comes from reallocating money previously earmarked for part of a four-year anti-gang funding effort.

Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders said Monday the funding announced yesterday is welcome, but did not say how it would be spent.

Saunders said he will lay out his plan to deal with gun violence in the coming days.

 

With files from The Canadian Press