Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and his top campaign aide tried to distance them from one of the country’s controversial firearms lobby groups after the Liberals tried to attack the Tories for striking some sort of deal with what the Liberals refer to as the “gun lobby.”
The Conservatives have been under fire on the issue of gun control since last Thursday’s French-language leaders debate. During the debate, O’Toole appeared to contradict his own party’s platform on gun control and, on Monday, he reaffirmed what he first said on Sunday that, if his party forms government, it would keep current Liberal restrictions on some assault-style weapons and complete a review of those restrictions.
“I’m the leader, and we will have an approach focused on public safety, focus on maintaining restrictions in place and having a review of our classification system that removes the politics from this, the politics that Mr. Trudeau always tries to employ to mislead and divide people,” O’Toole said.
Indeed, the Conservative Party took the rare step of amending its platform to match what O’Toole is now saying. The PDF of the party’s platform available on its web site last week is slightly different on page 46 than the PDF now on its web site. The change includes an new footnote to their promises on gun control which reads: “All firearms that are currently banned will remain banned.”
A party spokesperson, Cory Hann, said the platform change was done “for the sake of openness and transparency” in order ” to clarify the position as Mr. O’Toole stated.” Hann said there were no other amendments to the platform.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, campaigning Monday in Welland, Ont., took several shots at O’Toole for his weekend flip-flop on guns.
“When Erin O’Toole tries to pretend that he’s reversed his position, the gun lobby continues to stand with them and support him because they know what he intends to do because he made them a promise,” Trudeau said.
“Canadians are beginning to know what those of us who watch them in the House (of Commons) have known for a long time about Erin O’Toole, and that is he’ll say anything to try and get elected.”
The Liberal campaign war room provided an audio recording to Global News Monday morning that featured, among others, Fred Delorey, who is currently the Conservative national campaign manager. The audio recording was made in 2018 when DeLorey was registered to lobby on behalf of the National Firearms Association (NFA).
On the 2018 recording, made in Hamilton, Ont., Delorey and others are giving a presentation to NFA members about the kinds of services DeLorey could provide and DeLorey is encouraging the group to mobilize politically to defeat Liberal MPs.
“We’re going to be building something here — a permanent structure within the NFA,” DeLorey said in the 2018 recording. “To really to give ourselves a much louder voice in the ridings as well, a much louder voice, to make sure that politicians are hearing us loud and clear.”
According to the federal lobbyists registry, DeLorey met with many Conservative politicians but also lobbied Liberal politicians as well as aides in Trudeau’s PMO.
Nonetheless, DeLorey severed his business relationship with NFA more than two years ago, before the 2019 general election. DeLorey would go on to be the campaign manager for O’Toole in the 2020 Conservative leadership race and when it came time for the NFA to endorse a candidate, the NFA looked past DeLorey and O’Toole, and endorsed Derek Sloan instead.
In February, MPs on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and Security voted to condemn comments made by NFA president Sheldon Clare, a rare rebuke by a parliamentary committee. Conservative MPs on that committee abstained from the vote.
The vote was sparked by Liberal MP Pam Damoff, who asked her committee colleagues to condemn comments Clare made on a videoconference call in February.
Clare had referred to a phone call he received from an unnamed person who, he said, “suggested that we needed to revisit our old woodworking and metalworking skills and construct guillotines again. And that would really be the best kind of committee of public safety, to get that re-established. They want to make it about public safety. The sound of this person’s voice is not one that is joking. He was not joking. … that’s what this person told me.”
“This kind of language is dangerous. Sharing these comments on their platform … can lead to violence,” Damoff told the committee at the time. Damoff is running for re-election in the Ontario riding of Oakville North–Burlington,
O’Toole, on Monday, said the Conservative party has no agreement with the NFA.
“Nothing. There is zero quid pro quo,” O’Toole said.
DeLorey, through a party spokesman, confirmed that he had never made any formal arrangement with the NFA.
Not only that, but O’Toole’s office said Monday the NFA will be shut out of the review panel O’Toole wants to convene to reconsider the list of restricted or prohibited weapons.
Nonetheless, the NFA is supporting the Conservatives. Or at least it was at the beginning of the campaign.
“We need to stop the virtue-signalling Liberals and get a government in there that is actually going to work for all Canadians. And I think that the only way we’re going to do that is by defeating them and getting in a Conservative government, which, has actually made some commitments to help the firearms community,” Clare said in a video posted to the group’s YouTube channel on Aug. 15, the day the election was called.
“We’re launching a major election third party campaign to target specific seats across the country that we believe are at risk of going one way or the other. So, we’ve identified seats on the margins. And we’re going to focus our advertising and lobbying efforts in those areas.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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