Despite the heat that many municipal issues have generated during the Toronto mayoral debates, it was a federal issue that sparked heated exchanges in today’s edition.
Residents and supporters gathered at St. Michael’s College, Oct. 20, for a mayoral debate hosted by Newstalk 1010 (www.newstalk1010.com) and moderated by former politician John Tory.
The candidates addressed homelessness, accessibility in the city and cleanliness, but when raised, George Smitherman’s and Rob Ford’s differing views on the federal long-gun registry touched off a heated exchange.
“The gun registry was a billion dollar boondoggle,” Ford said. “The gun-toting bandits that carry the guns don’t register their guns.”
Candidate Smitherman challenged Ford over his support for Toronto police Chief Bill Blair, who’s in favour of the program. Ford rebutted by referring to the eHealth scandal, suggesting that Smitherman and a billion dollars “seem to get along.”
If elected Toronto mayor, Ford said he would sit down with the federal Conservative government, that recently tried unsuccessfully to eliminate the gun registry.
“If it’s going to cost a billion dollars to go after farmers and hunters, I’m sorry, but they’re not the criminals,” Ford said.
Joe Pantalone (http:// www.mayorjoe.ca) supports the long-gun registry program. His children were involved in a school lockdown, yesterday, after a shooting near Christie Pits. Pantalone used the scenario to emphasize the need for more gun control. He said the only people who should have guns in Toronto should be the police officers.
“Guns kill people, they don’t belong in our city,” Pantalone said. “You have to keep (the registry). It helps police catch criminals.”
He spoke about gun control on a national level and criticized the federal government for not spending enough to close the U.S.-Canada border to illegal gun imports.
“It really is unforgivable that we have a federal government that really thinks it’s OK to have guns in our society,” he said. “It’s a serious problem.”
Smitherman stated he’s favoured the gun registry his whole life. He says the investment has already been made and police rely on it.
“The Toronto police chief, and police chief’s across the country say that on a daily basis, they use the gun registry thousands of times … to protect frontline police officers,” he said. “Good enough for them, good enough for me. I support it.”