Toronto

Jennifer Keesmaat puts handgun ban, 911 improvements at heart of public safety plan

Jennifer Keesmaat is backing a ban on handguns and assault weapons, while also vowing to beef up the city’s 911 system if elected mayor.

‘We need action now,’ former chief planner says after summer marked by gun crime

Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto's former chief planner who is running for mayor in October's election, announced her five-point community safety plan on Monday. (CBC)

Jennifer Keesmaat is backing a ban on handguns and assault weapons, while also vowing to beef up the city's 911 system if elected mayor.

Keesmaat, Toronto's former chief planner, unveiled her five-point public safety plan Monday at Scarborough's Alton Towers, where two girls were shot and injured while using a playground in June.

Keesmaat's plan supports several ongoing initiatives, including Toronto police's modernization effort intended to lead to more neighbourhood-based work, while also pledging to provide economic activities for youth in need, something her rival, John Tory, has also said he'll do.

However, Keesmaat is still criticizing the current mayor for not doing more to keep Torontonians safe. For example, she points out Tory opposed a handgun ban during his last election campaign but now, with the city struggling with a rash of gun violence, he supports the move (although the final decision would rest with the federal government).

"John Tory called it 'an empty gesture' and waited four years to act. We need action now," Keesmaat said in a news release.

In an email, Tory's campaign said Keesmaat's call for a handgun ban amounts to "simply riding coattails."

"Mayor Tory has championed tougher bail laws and gun restrictions. Because of his leadership, the federal government is for the first time ever seriously considering a handgun ban for cities," the statement added.

Concerns over 911 system

Keesmaat also said the police hiring freeze, part of the force's modernization plans brought in during Tory's term, has diminished the quality of the 911 system to the point that it often falls short of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) guideline of answering calls within 10 seconds 90 per cent of the time.

"Toronto isn't meeting that standard," she said.

"I will bring Toronto up-to-code to meet the NENA standard so that when our neighbours are faced with emergencies, they aren't left on hold."

Keesmaat didn't say how much that will cost.

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