In a week that rocked the federal election campaign, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole focused on guns and crime, leading the Tory leader to reverse his position.
Faced with the possibility of losing an election they hoped would result in a comfortable majority government, the Liberals blasted the Conservatives’ pledge to lift a 2020 Order in Council that banned certain types of semi-automatic weapons.
In Markham, Ont., On Sunday, Mr. Trudeau said: “Mr. O’Toole has made a secret deal with the gun lobby to overturn the ban on these assault weapons. military style ”, which had been used in a number of mass shootings in Canada.
“These guns have no place in Canada, but it is the choice that Erin O’Toole offers, to go back to a time when these guns were legal in our country,” Trudeau said. “This is not what Canadians want.
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The Liberals found an opportunity to stop the Tory momentum that defined the first half of the campaign.
And on Sunday, the Conservatives backed down. At a media availability at Canada Place in Vancouver, Mr. O’Toole announced that, if elected, his government would maintain the Order in Council during public review of laws and regulations.
“We will maintain the ban on assault weapons and we will maintain the restrictions that were put in place in 2020,” O’Toole told reporters.
“Our intention is to get politics out of this,” he said.
This is a complete reversal of the Conservative platform’s commitment to rescind the decree banning certain weapons, even before public scrutiny begins.
It remains to be seen whether the Conservatives’ new flexibility on gun control will defuse this problem in the days leading up to the debate in French on Wednesday and in English on Thursday.
Later that day, after Mr. O’Toole announced he had changed his position, the Liberal War Room issued a statement accusing the Tory leader of “saying anything to anyone to make matters worse. get elected ”.
With just two weeks before the September 20 poll, this federal election has already been more surprising and eventful than any in recent memory.
The Liberals seem to have been caught off guard by the Conservatives ‘decision early in the campaign to release a comprehensive and surprisingly progressive platform that focused on protecting workers’ rights, increasing health care spending, and offered a GST holiday in December.
The Grits also didn’t expect voters to be so unhappy with what many see as an unnecessary election, even as the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic gained momentum. A comfortable Liberal lead has faded, leaving the two parties neck and neck in the polls.
Mr. Trudeau and his advisers may think most voters have ignored the campaign as they profit from the last few weeks of summer, and that those voters will be alarmed by the Conservatives’ now reversed plans to relax control firearms.
Unlike his Conservative predecessors, Andrew Scheer and Stephen Harper, Mr. O’Toole enjoys being in front of crowds and meeting supporters. At a rally in Nanaimo on Sunday night, he projected confidence and energy, and happily spent over half an hour chatting and taking selfies with those who had stepped out.
Also unlike Mr. Harper and Mr. Scheer, by quickly changing position on a forum that is proving unpopular, Mr. O’Toole demonstrates a tactical flexibility that his predecessors notably lacked.
For his part, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh appears to be making the most of his second campaign as leader, focusing much of his attention on the Liberal record and Mr. Trudeau’s decision to call an early election during a pandemic.
On Sunday, he pledged his party to invest $ 1 billion as part of a strategy to break down barriers preventing people from getting vaccinated.
He also proposed changes to the law that would make it an aggravating offense to obstruct or assault a healthcare worker in the performance of their duties, following several anti-vax protests in front of hospitals across Canada. over the past week.
And Mr Singh pulled off a political coup this weekend when he sent a letter to other leaders participating in the debates to join him in shooting an ad urging citizens to get vaccinated. Mr. Trudeau and Mr. O’Toole quickly agreed.
Once the debates are over, the three men will sprint to the finish on September 20 in a much more competitive race than most would have predicted just three weeks ago.
With reporting by Laura Stone and The Canadian Press
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