The organization that has been fighting Canada's gun-control laws has offered election help to the Conservatives, and is bringing in a top gun from the U.S. National Rifle Association to show it how to be more effective, it said yesterday.
Larry Whitmore, director of sport development for the Canadian Shooting Sports Association, based in Vaughan, Ont., said in an interview that "we've asked the Conservatives to tell us which ridings they consider the close swing ridings that a little bit of input from some of our clubs and our members would maybe have an impact."
The organization will work for the Conservatives because they have been "the most reasonable with respect to the Firearms Act," and are seeking changes to the law "that will have more impact on criminals and less impact on legitimate gun owners," Mr. Whitmore said.
It will focus its attention in Ontario. "We don't seem to have a problem out West. Conservatives win quite a few seats out there, but Ontario is the battleground, obviously," Mr. Whitmore said.
William Spears, communications director for Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, said in an interview from Winnipeg that he knew nothing about the CSSA's plans to help the Conservatives, but "if they are Canadian citizens, I don't see any reason they couldn't offer their support to the Conservative Party."
At today's annual meeting of the CSSA in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, Glen Caroline, director of the grassroots division of the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action will conduct a seminar on grassroots political activism.
Ryerson University professor Wendy Cukier, who is president of the Coalition for Gun Control, said in a press release that "Canadians don't want the NRA interfering in our election."
But Mr. Whitmore said that the charge that NRA is getting into Canadian politics is "a lot of hogwash. They are doing a seminar on how to teach us to be more politically active and effective at the grassroots level. That's all it is," Mr. Whitmore said.
"This was scheduled months ago. . . . The NRA is the most powerful lobby group in the world. They are the experts on grassroots lobbying, how to elect candidates, how to get politically involved at the grassroots."
The training comes just in time for the organization with its 12,000 members across the country to get involved in the election campaign, he said.
"We're not a huge political force, but maybe we could be active in some swing ridings. We could get some clubs in the swing ridings to assist the local candidates. A lot of times, an election in a riding is won by the number of volunteers you have, not necessarily the party or amount of money you have," Mr. Whitmore said.
Andrew Arulanandam, director of communications for Institute for Legislative Action, would not say what Mr. Caroline will tell the CSSA.
"I'm not going to discuss the contents of our presentation with the media," Mr. Arulanandam said from Fairfax, Va.
He said that when the ILA receives requests for help from firearms' supporters in other countries, it goes whenever it can with its message that freedom and liberty ought not to be infringe and that enforcing existing laws against crime is more effective than restrictions on gun ownership, which "only affect law-abiding citizens."