As the Liberals begin to roll out spending on a multimillion-dollar plan to combat a rise in gun and gang violence in Canada, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer unveiled his own platform pledge to crack down on gangs, including tougher criminal penalties for gang members.
In duelling news conferences Thursday, the Liberals and Conservatives each tried to paint their own measures to combat guns and gangs as the most effective.
The Trudeau government announced a plan to spend $86 million on expanded intelligence and border-security measures for the RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency – part of a five-year, $327-million funding promise made earlier this year to stop criminal gun and gang activities.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said gun violence and organized crime are serious problems in Canada and that the Liberal government’s approach is to focus on prevention, ways for gang members to get out, and enforcement – being “smart on crime” versus soft on crime.
“It takes a multi-dimensional approach and we all have to pull together as a coherent team,” Goodale said.
“You need the community-based activity. You need the enhanced police activity. You need the stronger activity at the border. It is a comprehensive, coherent plan, plus you need the backup of legislation like Bill C-71,” he added, referring to the Liberals’ anti-firearms legislation, which is still making its way through Parliament.
Scheer, meanwhile, said he wants more punitive measures against gang members. He wants to impose tougher jail sentences and limit parole and bail opportunities for gang members who are repeat and violent offenders.
“Conservatives will take action to make it easier for police to target gang members and put them behind bars, where they belong,” Scheer told reporters in Brampton, Ont. “We’re going to put an end to the revolving-door prison system and take these violent thugs off of the streets for good.”
The announcements came hours after a mass shooting in a California bar Wednesday night, in which a gunman killed 12 people and then himself.
Canada has experienced a rash of deadly gun incidents this year, including a mass shooting on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue in July that killed an 18-year-old woman and a 10-year-old girl and injured 13 others.
This has led to calls for Ottawa to ban handguns and assault weapons, including from both Montreal and Toronto city councils.
Federal consultations on a possible ban are ongoing, Blair said, and he expects to deliver a report on the idea by the end of the year.
Scheer firmly rejected a handgun ban, saying Thursday it would amount to symbolism over substance.
“It’s lazy government to ask law-abiding people to follow more laws. It’s harder, more challenging to get real criminals off the street,” he said.