Watch Conservative platform to ‘fill in the blanks’ on gun policy: O’Toole
COQUITLAM, B.C. — Hunters and sport shooters have been unfairly caught up in the Liberal government’s bans on “assault-type” weapons, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said Saturday as he was sued by questions about his party’s gun policy for the second day in a row.
The issue has been a source of confusion since Thursday, when O’Toole first said he would uphold the ban on “assault weapons” during a French-language debate. He also denied that he would legalize the weapon used in the 1989 massacre at Montreal’s École Polytechnique.
His statements were widely seen as a pledge to uphold the ban on some 1,500 firearms that the Liberals dubbed “assault weapons” when they made them illegal last May.
O’Toole reiterated his promise to keep the ban on Friday, but a party spokeswoman later released a statement saying the ban in question was actually on full-fledged “assault weapons” that are in place since 1977.
The party platform promises to abandon the May 2020 executive order that banned a wide variety of firearms and to review the gun law with input from police, gun owners, manufacturers and the public. O’Toole, for his part, has remained vague about what exactly he is referring to, even when repeatedly pressed on the issue in recent campaign appearances.
During a stopover in Coquitlam, British Columbia, O’Toole said Canadians could check out his party’s platform to “fill in the blanks” on his gun policy.
According to the platform, the party would repeal Bill C-71, which expanded background checks for people applying for a firearms license, created new record-keeping requirements for gun retailers firearms and restricted the transport of firearms.
The platform also says a Conservative government would repeal a May 2020 executive order, which banned more than 1,500 models of firearms, including the popular AR-15 rifle and the Ruger Mini-14 used to kill 14 women in the Polytechnic university.
Asked about the effect of this repeal, O’Toole said Canada needs a “fair” and “targeted” approach to public safety.
“There are people — sport shooters, hunters, target shooters — who have been caught up in an approach that Mr. Trudeau has taken that doesn’t actually keep Canadians safe,” O’Toole said. .
A Conservative government would also overhaul Canada’s firearms classification system, he added.
“We will … show Canadians that we can focus on keeping Canadians safe without dividing Canadians,” he said.
“Assault” or “assault-type” firearms are familiar descriptions, and what falls into either category is the subject of debate among firearm users.
Facing questions about why a Conservative government would legalize the gun used in the Polytechnique shooting, which was also in the possession of the man who killed 22 people in Nova Scotia in 2020, O’Toole said that the real problem is the smuggling of firearms into Canada and accused Trudeau of importing controversial gun rhetoric from the United States.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Liberal candidate Bill Blair, a former Toronto police chief who was public safety minister when the law was signed into law, accused O’Toole of “pretending he didn’t not committed” to maintaining the liberal ban, as well as being beholden to the gun lobby.
“I think an overwhelming majority of Canadians recognize that there is no place for these weapons in our country,” he told a news conference in Toronto. “Mr. O’Toole finds it hard to admit to Canadians that he made this unholy pact with the gun lobby. He must be accountable.
O’Toole said he would target gun violence by organized crime groups, including street gangs, and take steps to facilitate the seizure of legally acquired firearms “if there is a health risk mentally or for safety”.
Also on Saturday, O’Toole promised to work with provinces to create a national system to prove that residents have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Provinces have a series of systems of proof of vaccination, QR codes, vaccine passports, we will respect what the provinces are doing, we will partner with them to ensure that we have this for Canadians’ foreign travel “, did he declare.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called for a national system and criticized Trudeau for not putting one in place sooner.
Trudeau said Ottawa would certify provincial passports for vaccines, but noted that creating a full federal program could take a year.
O’Toole said he wants to see at least 90% of eligible residents vaccinated against COVID-19 and is committed to covering the cost of employee time off to get vaccinated as well as transportation to vaccination clinics for those who need support.
O’Toole also pledged to roll out a nationwide recall strategy that would initially target the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
O’Toole, who advocates for federal workers as well as air and rail travelers to be vaccinated or required to submit to COVID-19 testing, said vaccination should be encouraged, not mandated.
“You don’t win people over by threatening them, you win them over by reaching out, talking to them, understanding their fears, answering their questions,” he said.
Shortly before the election call, scheduled for Sept. 20, the Liberals announced plans to make vaccinations mandatory for federal employees as well as air and rail passengers.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 4, 2021.