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Canada John Ivison: Liberals put O'Toole on the defensive on gun control

02:15  05 september  2021
02:15  05 september  2021 Source:   nationalpost.com

Erin O'Toole goes for Canada's political top — but are years of wanting it enough?

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Erin O'Toole wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: Conservative Party leader Erin O'Toole speaks to supporters during an election campaign visit to North Vancouver, Sept. 3. © Provided by National Post Conservative Party leader Erin O'Toole speaks to supporters during an election campaign visit to North Vancouver, Sept. 3.

COQUITLAM, B.C. — The Liberal Party is trying to put doubts in the minds of the jury, as voters ponder the prospect of Prime Minister Erin O’Toole.

Those efforts were helped in no small part by the Conservative leader himself on Saturday.

O’Toole was in Coquitlam to announce his plan to get vaccination levels up to 90 per cent.

Quite why we were there remains a mystery. It is home to the closest race in the country — Conservative Nelly Shin won Port Moody-Coquitlam in 2019 by 153 votes, and was in attendance, but no reference was made to the location.

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  Recap: Leaders face off in first federal election debate This was the Montreal Gazette’s live coverage of tonight’s federal leaders’ debate in French – the first time all four federal leaders will share a stage. Questions/comments? ariga@postmedia.com Top updates: Leaders speak to reporters after debate Blanchet says ‘systemic racism’ label is used to bash Quebec Trudeau, Blanchet clash on climate What if it’s another minority government? Trudeau won’t rule out getting involved in a legal battle against Bill 21 O’Toole won’t say whether he’d give Quebec $6 billion for childcare Trudeau helps the ‘ultra-rich,’ Singh says Are all party candidates vaccinated? O’Toole doesn’t answer Leaders target Trudeau for calling electio

The Conservative leader had some good things to say about the fight against the Delta variant, particularly the need to de-politicize the vaccination process and treat people with compassion.

“Do we want public officials to promote an ‘us versus them’ approach at a time when we should be uniting together against the fourth wave?” he said.

“If you’re someone who is worried or is having second thoughts, I hear you. We haven’t done enough to assuage your fears.”

Justin Trudeau should take note — his approach has been to denounce vaccine sceptics, rather than to try to persuade them.

John Ivison: Erin O'Toole's promises may be a matter of expediency in this election

  John Ivison: Erin O'Toole's promises may be a matter of expediency in this election Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau on Friday defended his party’s work to end the ban on blood donation for gay men, saying he expects Canadian Blood Services will announce an end to the ban soon. Trudeau said his party funded research on the topic and will continue its efforts to bring an end to the restriction.

The Conservatives say they will appeal to patriotic values and be sensitive to the concerns of racialized Canadians, who may be suspicious of the health system.

But O’Toole’s message was eclipsed by continuing concerns about his gun policy — worries for which he has no clear answers.

During his vaccine announcement, he said he would “level with Canadians”. Minutes later he was asked whether it was fair to say he wants to allow lethal assault-style weapons that the Liberals banned in 2020, “yes or no?”

When a politician answers a “yes or no” question with anything other than a “yes” or “no”, voters tend to automatically want them whipped in wire and stewed in brine. It is not “levelling with Canadians”, it is a transparent attempt to mislead them.

O’Toole didn’t answer the question. “The assault weapons that the Liberals talk about when they’re trying to divide people, we are maintaining a ban on assault weapons,” he said.

John Ivison: O'Toole's reversal on gun policy may save his campaign

  John Ivison: O'Toole's reversal on gun policy may save his campaign Erin O’Toole delivered his morning press conference with his back to the Burrard Inlet but in political terms, his back was to the wall. The Liberals have found their wedge — gun control — and have been hammering it home with gusto. Justin Trudeau said on Sunday that O’Toole wants to take the country backwards on gun control. O’Toole has had difficulty registering a counter-argument because the platform he waves around with abandon is clear – the Conservatives will maintain the 1977 ban on automatic weapons but repeal the order-in-council from May 2020, in which the Liberals outlawed many semi-automatic weapons.

The Conservative do plan in their platform to keep in place a ban on fully-automatic assault weapons that was introduced in 1977. But they also want to overturn legislation introduced in 2020 by the Liberals to ban semi-automatic weapons like the Ruger M14 used in the Ecole Polytechnique shooting in Montreal and in the Moncton shootings in 2014 that killed five RCMP officers.

a group of people standing in a parking lot:  Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole arrives with his family to an election campaign visit to North Vancouver, B.C. © REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole arrives with his family to an election campaign visit to North Vancouver, B.C.

O’Toole said that there has been a 20 per cent increase in violent shootings during Trudeau’s time in government, largely by criminal gangs using firearms smuggled from the U.S. He said his plan targets the real risks by keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. But there is nothing to preclude doing that and keeping semi-automatic weapons off the market.

Pandering to the gun lobby in the policy platform was a mistake. O’Toole said a Conservative government would have a public review of the classification system. He could save himself a repeat of the Coquitlam debacle by saying that the 2020 ban will remain in place until that review is concluded — effectively punting the problem until after the election .

Gun control advocates unimpressed with O'Toole's policy change on Liberal gun ban

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But the real damage has been done. The Liberals have already taken to the airwaves with attack ads that accuse O’Toole of wanting to take Canada backward by putting dangerous weapons they banned back on the streets.

Ministers Harjit Sajjan, Bill Blair and Pablo Rodriguez were dispatched to repeat that message in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal on Saturday.

O’Toole said that Trudeau is trying to mislead and divide people by mentioning the National Rifle Association and U.S. gun policy.

But it’s clear he has jeopardized his prospects of forming a government by catering to the gun lobby here.

Liberal torpedoes on healthcare, mandatory vaccination, program cuts and abortion have failed to breach the hull of a Conservative dreadnought that has been cruising through this election.

But the guns issue should give O’Toole pause for thought.

If you say you are going to be “crystal clear” and then fall short of that ideal, people start to wonder what else you are not telling them.

jivison@postmedia.com

http://Twitter.com/IvisonJ

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