Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has declared war on violent gangsters, vowing to lock up or chase out of the city the kind of “thugs” who opened fire during a Scarborough street party Monday night.
“We must use every legal means to make life for these thugs miserable, to put them behind bars, or to run them out of town,” Mr. Ford said in a statement released after 6 p.m. Tuesday. “We will not rest until being a gang member is a miserable, undesirable life.”
The statement was a stark departure from Mr. Ford’s public comments earlier in the day, when he calmly told reporters that the mass shooting was “isolated.”
“Toronto's the safest city in North America,” Mr. Ford said from Danzig Street, the scene of a gunfight that killed two and injured 23, including a toddler, Monday night.
“I assure you, Toronto is not like Detroit. People should come here and enjoy this great city.”
While Mr. Ford tried to reassure Torontonians and tourists, politicians of every stripe and from every level of government rushed to suggest solutions to a gun problem that has lately seemed anything but isolated.
Premier Dalton McGuinty said he spoke to Mr. Ford and Police Chief Bill Blair on Tuesday, and invited them to get together with officials in his government to compare notes on what they can do to avoid a repeat of the fatal shooting.
“We can’t possibly prevent every kind of tragedy from happening,” Mr. McGuinty told Toronto radio station Newstalk 1010. “But we’ve got to ask ourselves, are we taking all the reasonable measures we can and should to protect Torontonians....We’ve all got a stake in building a safe and strong Toronto.”
Meanwhile, three federal Conservative ministers touted their government’s tough-on-crime policies in a statement, while left-leaning city councillors demanded more programs for at-risk youth and tighter gun control in the wake of the tragedies.
Monday night’s bloody shootout came after a June 2 shooting at the Eaton Centre food court that killed two and injured six and a June 18 shooting on a Little Italy patio that killed one and injured another.
“Every time a bullet is fired in this city my resolve is doubled and tripled,” said Kristyn Wong-Tam, one of council’s most vocal gun-control advocates.
Ms. Wong-Tam last week persuaded city council to vote in favour of intervening in a local legal clinic’s effort to keep data from the scrapped long-gun registry. Council decided to intervene against the wishes of Mr. Ford and the advice of the city’s top lawyer.
Councillor Adam Vaughan, a supporter of that move who is also championing a bullet ban, suggested the mayor is burying his head in the sand when he calls the Scarborough shootout isolated.
“I find his indifference very troubling and I think it is a significant pattern tied to decisions he’s championed,” said Mr. Vaughan, a frequent critic of Mr. Ford. “It’s not a point of moving on – I think we need to move on this issue.”
Monday night’s shooting took place just outside the priority neighbourhood of Kingston-Galloway, one of 13 poverty-stricken pockets the city has earmarked for extra funding for social services.
Much of the city, provincial and private-sector funding for the priority neighbourhoods is expected to dry up next year.
Asked if he believed in extending the funding, Mr. Ford replied: “We have to create jobs for this generation. The best social program’s a job.”
Mr. McGuinty said he will consider reinstating one-time funding of about $35-million that had been earmarked for programs in priority neighbourhoods. “It’s a matter of making choices,” he said, adding that the money will have to come from other programs.
Like his brother, Councillor Doug Ford said he still thinks Toronto is safe. But the tragedy on Danzig Street makes him question that belief.
“This shouldn’t be happening in Toronto,” he said. “It puts a black eye on us because we all believe we still live in a relatively safe city, but it’s hard to keep defending that when this happens.”
With a report from Karen Howlett