Andrew Scheer, the head of Canada’s main opposition Conservative Party, vowed on Friday to crack down on gun violence if he won a Oct. 21 election, and he also accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of being weak on crime.
Polls show the Conservatives have a chance to beat the ruling Liberals but to do so they must make inroads in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, where shooting deaths have spiked this year amid clashes between gangs.
Trudeau is trying to recover from images showing him dressed in blackface and Scheer faces challenges of his own. After the Globe and Mail newspaper reported on Thursday he also holds U.S. citizenship, he announced he would renounce it.
Scheer said the right-of-center Conservatives would introduce a five-year minimum mandatory prison sentence for violent gang crime, with a new five-year minimum mandatory prison sentence for possession of a smuggled firearm.
They would also identify known gangs as criminal entities and take steps to disqualify gang members from receiving automatic bail when they are arrested, he said in a statement. The Conservatives have also pledged to stop weapons being smuggled in from the United States, he said.
“I will lead a government that honors its most sacred duty – to keep its citizens and their streets safe,” Scheer said.
“Justin Trudeau has failed in this regard and all of his proposed measures to fight crime simply will not work.”
Trudeau last month pledged to ban military-style assault rifles and said Ottawa would work to give municipalities the ability to further restrict or ban handguns.
Trudeau last month accused the Conservatives of being “in the pocket of the gun lobby”, citing the party’s refusal to take a similarly hard line on assault rifles.
Tougher regulations have the potential to cause a political backlash in a country where 2 million people are licensed to own a firearm. The Conservatives tend to do well in rural areas where hunting is popular and many farmers have guns.