When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for snap elections a couple of weeks ago, the polls were looking pretty good for his Liberal Party. Since then, however, the fortunes of Trudeau’s party have seen a steady decline in the polls, while the Conservative Party is gaining ground. At the moment, most polling shows Conservatives with a small lead over the Liberals, though not enough to obtain an outright majority. Still, Trudeau’s clearly in trouble, and on Wednesday his party unveiled an election platform chock-full of goodies and giveaways to Canadian voters. For gun owners, however, it’s what the Liberals are promising to take away that’s most concerning.
In the last Parliament, the Liberals left several key bills in limbo, seeing them die when the election was called. The 2021 platform includes promises to revive these initiatives, some of which are leftover unfulfilled commitments from the 2019 election platform.
Among the bills you could expect to see re-tabled, and perhaps re-worked by a re-elected Liberal government are: the online harms legislation aimed at tamping down hate speech online; the Criminal Code changes meant to reform mandatory minimum sentences; and a bill meant to strengthen the Official Languages Act.
Specifically on gun control, the Liberals are vowing to:
- Introduce stricter laws on banned assault weapons to make it mandatory for owners to either sell the gun back to the government or have it “rendered permanently inoperable”;
- Ban the sale or transfer of high-capacity magazines that can hold more than the legal number of bullets; and
- Earmark $1 billion for provinces and territories who move ahead with handgun bans.
Keep in mind that Canada is in the midst of a two-year amnesty for owners of those banned modern sporting rifles, though Trudeau’s government is still unsure how much the planned compensated confiscation effort will cost. The legislation that would formally establish the mechanism to collect hundreds of thousands of lawfully-purchased firearms from Canadian gun owners never made it past second reading in the House of Commons before it went on summer recess.
That means that gun control is most certainly going to be an issue in the upcoming election, and Trudeau is playing to his base with his plans to impose criminal penalties on commonly possessed arms and accessories. The big ticket item however, is the billion dollars Trudeau wants to earmark as giveaways to provinces that would impose an outright ban on the ownership of handguns.
Believe it or not, Trudeau’s plan hasn’t appeased the gun control lobby in Canada, which has been lobbying for a federal handgun ban instead of allowing provinces and territories to impose a ban if they choose. Trudeau and the Liberals are attempting to triangulate their position; go hard enough after legal gun owners that the anti-gun forces in Canada will back the Liberals over the New Democratic Party, while claiming that the Liberals anti-gun efforts still respect Canadian gun owners.
One problem for the Liberals at the moment is that some on the Left say Trudeau’s not doing enough with gun control, while others say the prime minister is aiming at the wrong target.
Jooyoung Lee, a University of Toronto sociology associate professor and authority on gun ownership and gun violence, said it’s time for the federal government to take an active hand in supporting community-based programs and investing in the most vulnerable communities.
“This is the kind of stuff that has a better track record in terms of reducing gun violence,” he said, arguing the “symbolic” and “performative” measures outlined in the Liberals’ plans won’t do much to counter gun and gang violence.
The NDP’s platform is heavy on promoting the kinds of community-based programs that Lee mentions, while the Liberals are focused on the more old-school gun control ideology of criminalizing aspects of gun ownership itself. The Conservatives, meanwhile, are running squarely against the idea of handgun ban or the implementation of Trudeau’s ban on so-called assault weapons, and are vowing to repeal the “assault weapons ban” approved by Parliament earlier this year if given the chance.
Expect a close election when voters head to the ballot box on September 20th, and don’t be surprised if Trudeau’s gun ban plans play an outsized role in the results in many parts of the country. If Conservatives run strong in the country’s midsection and the NDP and Liberals end up splitting the vote in the more urban and Leftist cities, gun owners have a chance to put a stop to Trudeau’s anti-gun campaigns before they lead to any confiscation of firearms or new gun bans.