From guns and gangs to safer streets: How each federal party plans to combat GTA gun crime

As Election Day nears, CTV News Toronto is taking a deeper look into the issues that matter most to local voters, breaking down the party promises as they apply to Battleground: GTA.

The Issue

As Scarborough resident Louis March surveys the park near his home, he explains what he calls the ‘playground test.’

“It speaks a very loud story about the safety within the city of Toronto,” he says.

His theory: when gun violence is up, in certain neighbourhoods, the swings and slides sit empty, even on the nicest of days.

“Parents are not letting their children out to play,” he says. “It’s not difficult to see it.”

“My two boys, my two grandsons, they basically stay in the house,” echoes Michelle Bowen, who is still shaken by a shooting in her Chester Le neighbourhood a few weeks ago.

“You can’t even go out of your house now,” she says.

“We need to step up and do something,” her neighbour Cliff Stunden maintains.

The Background

With 291 shootings in Toronto so far this year, and 28 people killed, it is clear that gun violence remains a major problem—one that federal party leaders are vowing to address.

March, who founded the Zero Gun Violence Movement group, calls political solutions to date reactionary, fragmented, and inconsistent; a national strategy that addresses root issues and stems the flow of illegal guns into the country is needed to affect real change, he says.

“The fact that gun violence continues to increase, trending upward, means that what government is doing is not working,” he says.

“It shouldn’t have to take people getting shot for this to be done,” Bowen adds.

The Liberal Promise

“Community safety is not up for negotiation with the gun lobby,” Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau proclaimed Sept. 5 in Markham.

Trudeau’s Liberal government banned the use, sale and import of assault-style firearms, and the party is vowing if re-elected to make it mandatory for the owners of barred guns to sell them back to the government or have them rendered inoperable.

The Liberals are also looking to crack down on high-capacity magazines, hike penalties for gun trafficking and smuggling, and spend $1 billion to help provinces and territories ban handguns.

The Conservative Promise

Weeks after his party pledged to scrap the Liberal ban on assault-style weapons, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole reversed his position—but maintained that he wanted a review of the firearm classification system.

“We have a plan to tackle this rise in illegal gun activity in our cities,” O’Toole said on Sept. 6

The Conservatives are also promising to hire an additional 200 RCMP officers to combat gangs and gun smuggling, and establish an entities list for criminal gangs.

They are pledging to overhaul the Firearms Act and strengthen firearm-related provisions in the Criminal Code, and expand programs to keep youth out of gangs.

The NDP Promise

The New Democrat promise on gun violence is more vague, the party’s platform noting that the NDP will “work to keep assault weapons and illegal handguns and assault weapons off our streets, and to tackle gun smuggling and organized crime.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is also promising to provide funding for anti-gang projects to deter at-risk youth from joining gangs.

“New Democrats believe in keeping people safe, keeping our communities safe, and that means making sure we have a program that actually works to keep these weapons off the streets,” Singh said on Sept. 6.

The Green Promise

The Green Party supports a ban on assault weapons and is pitching a program to phase out handguns by tightening eligibility requirements over time.

They also support a confidential buy-back program for handguns and assault weapons, a ban on large-capacity magazines, clearer regulation of gun storage, and tighter border controls to intercept illegal handguns.