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Harper promises support during ‘tough time’ for Toronto
Published Tuesday, July 24, 2012 6:51AM EDT Last Updated Tuesday, July 24, 2012 4:06PM EDT
Prime Minister Stephen Harper sat down with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to discuss the city’s guns and gang problem on Tuesday, promising to do whatever he could for the families affected by a spate of recent violence.
“This is a tough time for the city of Toronto,” Harper told Ford in front of reporters ahead of a closed-door meeting. “I certainly want to pass along our condolences to anyone affected by the recent criminal activity.”
Both Ford and Harper left the hour-long meeting without speaking with reporters.
Harper shed some light on the meeting during a later media appearance in Oshawa, saying that he urged Ford to ensure the municipality works with the province to tackle gun crime.
“I made some specific suggestions to the mayor, as he did to me, and we’re both going to look into some additional measures that we can also take,” Harper said, though he didn’t go into any further detail.
Harper pointed to legislation before Parliament, specifically Bill C-43, which would make it easier to deport non-citizens involved in crime.
He also said strengthening U.S. border security so illegal hand guns don’t make it into Canada was a “No. 1” priority for the government, as were tougher penalties for offenders in gun crimes.
“I think the events in Toronto underscore why these penalties are essential, why it is essential to have tough and certain penalties for gun crime,” Harper said.
Going into his morning meeting with the prime minister, Ford had said he would seek financial support from the federal government in his war against street crime.
On Monday, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced that the province would provide $12.5 million in provincial anti-violence funding, $5 million invested directly into Toronto.
McGuinty said the city also has to find money to help fight the gun program, following a meeting with Ford and police Chief Bill Blair.
"It's a very complicated problem and there's no one, magic solution," McGuinty said Monday. "Any effective response will consist of a variety of different initiatives."
The majority of provincial funding – $7.5 million – will go toward a provincial anti-violence initiative. Another $5 million will go toward extending the funding for the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy, known as TAVIS.
TAVIS employs 72 officers trained to prevent gang-related violence and is responsible for nearly 22,000 arrests since its creation in 2006.
McGuinty also promised to invest $500,000 to improve co-ordination between OPP, Toronto and GTA police forces, and another $500,000 to support Toronto community groups.
Ford said the provincial funding promise was a “huge victory” for the city and he planned to make a similar funding request from the federal government when he met with Harper on Tuesday.
There was no indication that Ford received any additional funding after his meeting with Harper.
Ford’s gun summits with provincial and federal leaders were convened in response to a heightened level of gun activity in the city over the first half of 2012. There have been more than 200 shootings in Toronto so far this year, highlighted by a public Scarborough shootout last week that killed two and injured 23 others.
Following the fatal shooting, Ford declared war on street criminals and claimed he would throw anyone convicted of a gun crime out of the city.
Ford vowed to lobby for more funding for police but has turned his back on what he calls “hug-a-thug” social programs.
Ford claimed that he would throw criminals out of the city and promised to speak with Harper about using “immigration laws” to remove criminals from Toronto.
Ford later tried to clarify the statement, explaining that he did not mean to imply that foreigners were responsible for Toronto’s gun problem.
The premier and other politicians and community leaders have also appealed to the federal government to ban handguns. McGuinty said the ban would send an “appropriate signal” in changing the country’s gun culture.
With files from Emily Senger