Canada's Trudeau says more gun control needed after Toronto area shootings

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday promised tougher action on gun control if he is re-elected next month after a recent string of deadly shootings near Toronto, Canada’s biggest city.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a Liberal party election campaign event in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada September 12, 2019. REUTERS/Candace Elliott

“Far too many communities and families are facing terrible tragedies because of gun violence and it is really important that a government show leadership on that,” Trudeau told reporters during a campaign stop outside Toronto. Canadians head to the polls on Oct. 21.

The Toronto area has been rocked by recent gun violence. On Saturday, a 17-year-old was killed by gunfire in the community of Mississauga and five other people were wounded. Another person was killed early Monday morning in a shooting on a major highway in Brampton.

All parties are aiming to make gains in and around Toronto in the election. Toronto mayor John Tory has repeatedly called for a handgun ban to help reduce gun violence in the metropolitan area.

Trudeau has so far refused to say if his Liberal Party would impose such a ban. But he vowed he would have more to say about gun control later in the campaign.

In a radio interview on Monday, Trudeau accused the Conservative Party, his main opponent, of being “in the pocket of the gun lobby.”

Conservative Party spokesman Simon Jefferies, in statement on Monday, said party leader Andrew Scheer and the party itself would always defend responsible, law-abiding firearm owners.

“We believe that we must take a thoughtful, serious approach to this issue and pursue measures that actually reduce crime,” he said.

Last year, Scheer promised to put more police officers on the streets, crack down on gangs, and develop tougher background checks for new gun owners and better information-sharing to track guns used in crimes.

Trudeau’s remarks came at the start of what is expected to be a full week of campaign announcements by all five national political parties in an election where polls show the Liberals face a tight re-election battle.

Trudeau, who first came to power in 2015, also promised in his comments that he would create up to 250,000 more spaces for before- and after-school childcare while reducing parents’ fees by 10% if he wins.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, the Conservatives, who plan to focus their campaign on the economy and affordability, promised Canadians a “universal” tax cut. The tax rate for those with an annual income under C$47,630 ($35,958) would be progressively reduced to 13.75% from 15%.

Such a tax cut would cost more than C$7 billion per year starting in 2028, according to estimates from the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

The Conservatives have also promised to revive two tax credits that allowed parents to claim up C$1,000 per child for fitness or sports-related activities and $500 per child for arts and educational activities.

In a blow to the Conservatives, the union representing Ontario’s education workers, including custodians and education assistants, said on Monday members had voted 93% in favor of job action as soon as Sept. 30 following recent budget cuts by Premier Doug Ford’s conservative government.

Meanwhile, organizers said on Monday that Canada’s Maxime Bernier, leader of the right-wing Peoples Party of Canada, will participate in two official debates next month after initially being told he was not invited.

Additional reporting by Steve Scherer and David Ljunggren in Ottawa, editing by Steve Scherer, Bill Berkrot and Tom Brown