Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will decide in mid-August whether to pursue a ban on handguns as part of a new legislative agenda he would outline in a fall Throne Speech, a senior official says.
Mr. Trudeau has asked a team of advisers to examine the pros and cons of proroguing Parliament and starting over with a fresh policies and priorities for the period leading to the election in October, 2019. The official said the Prime Minister wants them to report in time for the Liberal caucus meeting on Aug. 22 in Nanaimo, B.C.
The Liberal government has not had an agenda-setting Throne Speech since the first one, in December, 2015.
A proposal to ban handguns is under serious consideration, according to a senior official, who was not authorized to speak on the record. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and senior civil servants have been tasked with examining the idea of a ban, which Toronto City Council endorsed after a mass shooting this week that killed two and injured 13.
The Liberal government does not expect much opposition to a law banning handguns, especially among urban voters, the official said. Statistics Canada says 60 per cent of violent gun-related crimes in Canada in 2016 involved handguns.
On Tuesday, Mr. Goodale said any such changes to Canada’s handgun laws would require a “significant remodelling” of the Criminal Code. The code already imposes tough restrictions on handguns that include background checks, a two-day safety course, joining a shooting club to get a permit to transport the weapon and a waiting period if the buyer does not already own a gun.
The government tabled new firearms legislation in March that is still before the House of Commons. If Governor-General Julie Payette is asked to prorogue Parliament, the firearms bill would be changed to include a handgun ban, the official said.
The current firearms legislation would require gun retailers to retain records of firearms inventory and sales for at least 20 years and the buyer of a hunting rifle or shotgun to present a firearms licence.
Mr. Goodale also plans to raise the issue of a national requirement for health-care and other professionals to report certain mental-health issues to police when he meets with public-safety and justice ministers this fall. The family of Faisal Hussain, the suspect in the Toronto shooting, said he suffered from depression and psychosis.
Doctors, therapists, teachers and social workers can inform police if someone indicates they might harm themselves or another individual with a gun. Mr. Goodale would like to discuss with his provincial counterparts a Quebec law that requires these professionals to report such threatening behaviour to police.
A Throne Speech in the fall would also allow the government to lay out its competitiveness agenda and its plan to diversify trade away from the United States and break down interprovincial trade barriers.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau is holding consultations on how to respond to U.S. President Donald Trump’s tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks and keep investment dollars flowing into Canada. Mr. Trudeau has also shaken up his cabinet to focus on global trade and reducing domestic barriers. He appointed Manitoba MP Jim Carr to a renamed International Trade Diversification portfolio and handed interprovincial trade to new Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc.
The Prime Minister also plans to hold a first ministers’ conference to discuss the economy and interprovincial trade in the fall.
The senior official said another advantage of prorogation is that it would enable the Senate to reconstitute committees and remove Conservatives from key roles as chairs or deputy chairs. Senator Peter Harder, who is Mr. Trudeau’s leader in the Red Chamber, has made the case to the Prime Minister’s Office that a new Parliament would allow him to stack committees with independents, who are now the majority and more favourable to Liberal legislation.
The main argument against prorogation is that all government bills die on the order paper. A rule change in 1994 allows bills to be reinstated at the start of a new session at the same stage as before with the adoption of a notice of motion. However, the official said the government is concerned the Conservatives will try to thwart the reintroduction, although the Liberals – with their majority – would eventually prevail.
OTTAWA BUREAU CHIEF
The Globe and Mail, July 26, 2018