Ontario’s Liberal Leader, Steven Del Duca, deserves a round of applause for pledging to ban handguns within a year of taking office if the Party wins the  Provincial Election on 2 June. 

The Provincial Liberals say they would ban the sale, possession, transport and storage of all handguns in Ontario. 

Research on public attitudes to firearms, commissioned by Public Safety Canada and published last year, shows that 63% of Canadians want a complete ban on handguns.

A substantial majority of Canadians (70%) support moves to give municipalities the right to further restrict on prohibit handguns. (The Government though has now abandoned the idea of giving municipalities the power to ban handguns in their area. The Liberal 2021 Federal Election platform instead pledged to give Provinces the power to ban handguns within their jurisdictions).

Del Duca’s announcement will put gun violence into the heart of the campaign, drawing a sharp distinction between the Provincial Liberals and Doug Ford – who says he will never ban handguns.

Few details

However, the Toronto Star says the Liberal leader offered few details on how this would happen

No surprises there. 

The Federal Liberals have been working on their handgun policy for years, unwilling or unable to explain in simple, straightforward terms how the ban would operate in practice. We have all been treated to the dance of the seven veils.

Personally, I am strongly in favour of a national ban but the Liberals won’t go that far, preferring to download responsibility to the Provinces and Territories who would decide if they want a ban to apply in their patch.

No answers

In his December 2021 taxpayer-funded flyer, Newmarket-Aurora Liberal MP Tony Van Bynen told his readers the Federal Government would:

“Work with the provinces and territories that want to ban handguns”

Over three months ago I asked him if this would require Federal legislation and, if so, when we could expect it. I asked him to explain the process. Would the Minister of Public Safety reach out to the Provinces and Territories or does he expect them to approach him? 

Van Bynen – who sees his job primarily as a conduit between the government and the governed – couldn’t explain the process but said he would get in touch with the Minister. Now - weeks away from the start of the Provincial election campaign - I am none the wiser. 

The Minister of Public Safety, Marco Mendicino, is keeping his cards close to his chest just like his predecessor, Bill Blair, who was useless. As a former police chief, Blair's deeds never matched his words when it came to gun violence. (Photo right: Danielle Kane left paralysed by the Danforth killer, Faisal Hussain)

"Reinforcing the commitment"

On 1 March 2022 Mendicino told a meeting of the Commons Public Safety and National Security Committee that he was committed to working with the provinces that wanted to ban handguns but offered no details other than the promise of new firearms legislation:

“I want to reinforce the government's commitment to collaborate with the provinces who want to take action in banning handguns, an issue I discussed with my provincial and territorial colleagues last week at our federal, provincial and territorial conference.”

“While this committee studies the issue of gun control, illegal arms trafficking and the increase in gun crimes committed by members of street gangs, I look forward to your consideration and debate on new firearms legislation that we will table soon.”

Neither the Government nor the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Conference released a transcript of Mendicino’s update which was presented to the meeting on 23-24 February 2022. The most we have is this note from conference staff:

"At the request of provincial and territorial ministers, the federal government provided an update on its commitments to implement a mandatory buyback of banned assault-style weapons, and its intention to collaborate and provide financial support to provinces or territories that implement a ban on handguns." 

Where on earth is the sense of urgency?  The Federal Government endlessly kicks the can down the road when people - including Steven Del Duca - are hungry for the details.

Despite the foot-dragging in Ottawa, Del Duca has made it a campaign issue in Ontario.

Good for him.

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Update on 21 April 2022: Toronto Star editorial: "A step in the right direction"

Click “Read more” to see the exchanges in Committee which touch on the proposed handgun ban.

From the Commons Public Safety and National security Committee on 1 March 2022:

Ms. Kristina Michaud

    Minister Mendicino, we were talking about military‑style assault weapons and the buyback program. I was pleased to see your government commit to making it mandatory. This wasn't the case in the now defunct Bill C‑21, which proposed to make this program optional.

    Thank you for your openness to our proposal to define a firearm in the Criminal Code. I look forward to our discussions on this issue. The Bloc Québécois has been proposing this for quite some time. I'm glad to see the NDP agreeing with us. I think that this could be a good solution.

    I'd like to address the handgun ban. In the past few months, your government has suddenly decided that banning handguns is no longer within its jurisdiction. It kicked the issue to the municipalities. We can see that this move was counterproductive. In my constituency alone, there are 56 municipalities. If there were different regulations for each municipality, that would be unmanageable. The idea was to transfer the issue to the provinces, but none of them took the leap and decided to ban handguns.

    Don't you think that it would be more productive and effective for the federal government to take this on, since it has the duty to do so, and to develop a federal measure to ban handguns?

Hon. Marco Mendicino

    Ms. Michaud, I share your concerns about the handgun issue.

    I know that, in recent months, the situation has been very difficult for Montreal communities. Several tragedies have occurred. A number of people have died, and that's unacceptable.

    That's one reason why the federal government, through my department, has taken concrete action. For example, it has provided funding to Quebec and added resources to help the province. I just announced another program for Montreal last week. It's another example of the government taking action for Montreal and your province.

    Regarding the issue of the handgun regulations, I've been working, and I'm always ready to work, with my counterpart in Quebec, Minister Geneviève Guilbault. We spoke last week about solutions so that the province can put in place provincial regulations while complying with federal jurisdiction over firearms and handguns.

Ms. Kristina Michaud

    I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the witnesses who aren't here in person today. I'd like to thank the RCMP commissioner, Ms. Lucki, who often takes the time to join us. We greatly appreciate it.

    When we have the opportunity to meet with a minister, we like to ask questions.

    Minister Mendicino, I want to discuss the handgun ban. During the election campaign, your government, in order to evade responsibility for having said that the provinces would be in charge of this issue, decided to provide one billion dollars to address it. Some suggested that perhaps the billion dollars was for the gun buyback program. The parliamentary budget officer said that the buyback program could cost as much as $756 million, which leaves little money for the handgun ban.

    I'm curious about where that billion dollars is coming from. Can you break down the different budgets and tell us where the money will be allocated? 

Hon. Marco Mendicino

    Thank you for the question, Ms. Michaud.

    The government promised to invest one billion dollars in concrete measures to address the handgun issue. We'll use this funding in conjunction with the provinces.

    We believe that federal funding could be used by the provinces and territories, and they would appreciate it. However, we'll need to discuss what programs and initiatives they'll develop to deal with handguns.

    We must have a good faith dialogue with the provinces and territories to find concrete solutions that will work on the ground. We must be mindful of the perspectives of committees such as yours in order to develop a successful strategy.