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Liberals highlight contrast with Conservatives on abortion, guns

O’Toole is outlining a plan to build key infrastructure, promising to end delays and get shovels in the ground
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau reveals his party’s election platform during the Canadian federal election in Toronto on Wednesday, September 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Justin Trudeau aimed Wednesday to distinguish the Liberals from Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives with promises to enshrine abortion services in the Canada Health Act and toughen measures to ban an array of firearms.

The pledges came in a Liberal re-election platform with $78 billion in new spending, more than three times the direct new revenues promised over the next five years.

During a campaign stop in Toronto, Trudeau called the platform a detailed and responsible plan that would chart a course out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is the plan that Canada needs to be even more ambitious,” he said.

“These are the things that allow Canada to move forward, and that’s the choice I’m putting forward to Canadians right now.”

O’Toole and the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh, meanwhile, chided the Liberals for making big promises but not following through with action.

“I want to remind folks the Liberals have taken this strategy again and again,” Singh said. “Why deliver on things when you can just campaign on it anyways? Why get things done when you can just promise it?”

O’Toole outlined a plan to build key infrastructure, end delays and get shovels in the ground for world-class public transit, roads and 5G telecom networks.

He accused the Liberals of sitting on billions of unspent money.

“Justin Trudeau loves making promises,” O’Toole said in Ottawa. “He’s had years of announcing and reannouncing the money he planned to spend. But six years later, he has little to show for it.”

Trudeau accentuated policies that set him apart from the Conservatives, emphasizing the Liberal plan to work with the provinces toward $10-a-day child care and ensure federal public servants and people travelling by plane or train are vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Liberal leader tried to put even more policy distance between himself and O’Toole with the new platform promises on guns and abortion.

In 2020 the Liberals banned the use, sale and importation of more than 1,500 models of what they consider assault-style weapons.

Legislation introduced last February proposed a buyback of these firearms, with owners allowed to keep them under strict conditions including registration and secure storage of the guns.

The Liberal platform suggests the bill, which died at the election call, would be amended to make it mandatory for owners of the banned weapons to either sell them back to the government or have them rendered inoperable at the government’s expense.

The bill also would have given municipalities the power to ban handguns. The Liberals are now saying they would expand that authority to entire provinces or territories, a plan that still falls short for those who wanted a truly national ban to avoid a patchwork of handgun laws.

The Liberals have earmarked $1 billion to help provinces that move to ban handguns in 2022.

The Conservative election platform says the party would scrap the May 2020 ban on a wide variety of guns and review the Firearms Act with input from police, gun owners, manufacturers and the public.

On abortion, the Liberals plan to leave no room for doubt it is a medically necessary procedure under the Canada Health Act by including it in a regulation.

The promise comes after New Brunswick saw its health transfer payments clawed back by about $140,000 this year for charging fees for abortion at a private clinic.

“Canada is a country where we stand up for women’s rights,” Trudeau said. “And I will not allow others to limit those rights.”

Singh campaigned in Quebec, where his party is hoping to boost its seat count following a dismal showing in the last federal election.

READ MORE: Tories target Trudeau on economy as new StatCan figures show recent contraction

— With files from Mia Rabson, Allison Jones and Stephanie Taylor

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

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