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An employee stands behind the handgun display at Wanstall's Hunting & Shooting in Maple Ridge, B.C. after Canada's government introduced legislation to implement a "national freeze" on the sale and purchase of handguns, as part of a gun control package that would also limit magazine capacities and ban some toys that look like guns.JENNIFER GAUTHIER/Reuters

A large majority of Ontarians support a ban on handguns, according to a new election poll released Tuesday, just a day after the federal government tabled new gun-control legislation.

The poll, conducted by Nanos Research for The Globe and Mail, found eight in 10 Ontarians either support or somewhat support banning handguns in the province. Of those surveyed in the Greater Toronto Area, 82 per cent voiced support compared to 77 per cent in the rest of the province. Nanos randomly polled 501 residents between May 28 and 31 in advance of the June 2 election.

Gun control has been a point of debate throughout the province’s election campaign with parties offering different solutions on the matter. Mass shootings this month in Uvalde, Tex., and Buffalo have also brought the issue to the forefront.

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The Ontario Liberals have pledged to ban the sale, transport, storage and possession of handguns within a year of taking office in conjunction with a buyback program supported by the federal government. The gun-control legislation introduced in Ottawa on Monday would cover most of this commitment, but stops short of banning possession outright.

Responding to the plan, Leader Steven Del Duca said it was a good first step and, if elected, he would continue to push the conversation for a national ban on handgun possession.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said her party would collaborate with other levels of government to tackle gun violence and work to address root causes by expanding community supports and providing job opportunities for youth.

On the other side of the coin, Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservative Party don’t support a widespread ban, but have instead called for tighter security at U.S border crossings to cut down on smuggling of illegal guns, as well as stricter penalties. The party projects more than 80 per cent of guns used in crimes are obtained illegally.

The federal government earmarked about $312-million in last year’s budget to implement stronger border control measures to fight gun smuggling and trafficking, noting that more than double the firearms were seized at border crossings in 2021 compared to the previous year.

Despite the PCs being in opposition to a ban which has substantial support, Nanos Research chief data scientist Nik Nanos said that doesn’t mean it will translate into votes on election day.

“There’s still other issues like the economy and health care that are still exceptionally important,” he said in an interview. “Even though a significant proportion support banning handguns in Ontario, it’s not currently likely to be a deciding factor in the campaign.”

The polling also highlighted support from Ontarians to expand access to publicly operated long-term care homes with 78 per cent in favour of increasing funding. Just 2 per cent said funding for public homes should be decreased.

Long-term care was a major issue surrounding Mr. Ford and his government during the COVID-19 pandemic, accounting for more than 4,500 of the province’s roughly 13,000 COVID-19 deaths. While assisting in the response, the military found widespread cases of neglect and dehydration.

Both the Liberals and the NDP pledge to overhaul the system and end for-profit care homes if elected.

Even with strong public support for changing the system, Mr. Nanos said the opposition parties haven’t yet been able to successfully capitalize on the issue. The PCs have held a lead in the polls throughout the campaign.

“It’s not enough for it to be a vulnerability, it takes other parties to vigorously attack the Ford government on this and the attack on this has not been as vigorous,” he said. “It’s like Ford is getting a bye on long-term care homes as a potential ballot box issue.”

On the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 60 per cent of Ontarians said they support or somewhat support making COVID-19 booster doses mandatory. Widespread requirements to provide proof of vaccination for at least two doses to enter most indoor settings were removed by the government in March.

According to Nanos, the margin of error for the random survey is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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