Justin Trudeau's handgun ban is dead in the water.

He says the Provinces and Territories must decide whether they want a ban. It is not a matter for him.

The Liberal platform released earlier this week promises to:

"Set aside a minimum of $1billion to support provinces or territories who implement a ban on handguns across their jurisdiction, to keep our cities and communities safe."  

This changes their 2019 policy which was to

"Give cities the power to restrict - and even ban - handguns." (right)

The Cities of Toronto and Montreal have both called for a nationwide ban, insisting that a patchwork quilt of different policies on handguns across municipalities is impractical and unworkable. 

Our local Mayors in Newmarket and Aurora, John Taylor and Tom Mrakas, agree.

No handgun bans in Ontario

However, Ontario's Premier, Doug Ford, has made it crystal clear he would not legislate to ban handguns.

The Liberals have tried to get round the absurdities of their 2019 policy by transferring ultimate responsibility to the Provinces and Territories, effectively giving them a veto.  If a Province or Territory doesn't want to ban handguns then it simply won't happen.

Assault weapons

Over the past few days the debate has been entirely focussed on "assault weapons" and how these should be defined. 

But handguns are the biggest problem.

The most senior civil servant in the Ministry of Public Safety, Talal Dakalbab, told me earlier this year:

“Handguns are the most commonly used type of firearm in violent crime and gang related homicides.”

61.5% and 16.9%

Figures from Statistics Canada tell us there were 3,351 victims of violent crime involving a handgun in 2010. By 2018 the number of victims had soared to 4,601. This represents a staggering 61.5% of all victims of firearm related violence. By contrast, in the same year (2018) there were 1,262 victims of a rifle or shotgun assault, representing 16.9% of the total.

Despite being aware of this, the Prime Minister passes the parcel to the Provinces in full knowledge that some are implacably opposed to a handgun ban. 

So far as I am aware there are no detailed background papers or analysis, published either by the Federal Government or the Liberal Party, explaining how the policy is expected to work in practice.  The Liberal's gun control Bill (Bill C21) touted by the Prime Minister as game-changing legislation died on the Order Paper when he called the election and Parliament was dissolved. But questions remain unanswered.


Is the $1 billion offer time-limited or open-ended? To qualify for a slice of the money will the Provincial legislation have to be in a prescribed form, set by the Federal Government?

How will the $1 billion be apportioned? 

What happens if there is not a 100% take up? Will the opt-in Provinces get a bigger slice of the $1 billion?

What will this $1billion be spent on?

What estimates, if any, have been made of the cost of implementing and administering a Provincial handgun ban?

Does this opt-in opt-out handgun ban have any implications for the Criminal Code and on sentencing policy more generally? If so, what are they?

We could ask our Liberal candidate for answers to these questions.

But the self-styled "Voice for Fiscal Prudence" has no more idea than I do.

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Update on 5 September 2021: from the Sunday Star: Pressed on gun control Erin O'Toole still won't say which firearms he'd ban

Update on Monday 6 September 2021: from the Toronto Star: O'Toole reverses course on firearms ban

Update on 8 September 2021: from the Toronto Star: Conservatives and Liberals are both missing the biggest danger 


Elections Canada has now confirmed there will be six candidates running in the Federal Election in Newmarket-Aurora. 

The indefatigable Dorian Baxter has, once again, thrown his hat into the ring. And Andre Gagnon is the new People’s Party candidate, replacing Lana Morgan who filled that role for a bit more than two weeks.

Generally speaking, Newmarket-Aurora is a prosperous place but with pockets of deprivation and poverty. The median household income is $98,293 ranking it 35 out of Canada’s 338 ridings.


The latest polls say the riding is a toss-up between the Conservatives and Liberals. Of course, much can change between now and 10 September when advance voting begins but, as I tap this out, it looks too close to call.

Yesterday, the polling aggregator 338Canada.com put the odds of the Conservatives winning Newmarket-Aurora at 69%, the Liberals at 31%

The key to winning an election is to (a) identify where support lies and (b) get those supporters out to vote. At the last election in 2019, 67.3% of people on the electoral roll voted, a smidgeon more than the national average of 67%.

Getting out the vote

Persuading the non-voters to turn out can make the difference in a tight race but this is easier said than done.

Political parties look at past results as a guide to the future. But this has obvious limitations. The way people in Newmarket-Aurora voted on 21 October 2019 is no guarantee they will vote the same way in 2021. All the more so when 75% of the electorate say they believe this is an unnecessary election.

Pundits and commentators tell us to expect an increase in advance voting and in mail-in ballots. The available evidence suggests that those who vote earlier tend to be more fixed in their political affiliation. 

The voting maps

The maps below show the voting on polling day on 21 October 2019. I have used the riding map of Newmarket-Aurora, produced by Elections Canada, as a template as is shows the boundaries of each polling district (the smallest unit for which figures are available). Each polling district is then colour-coded to show the level of support for the four main political parties. The voting data on which I rely is from Elections Canada.

What do the maps tells us?

The Liberal vote is fairly evenly spread across the riding, but preponderately on the West side of Bayview Avenue.

The Conservative heartland is in Aurora, notably in the southeast corner around the Frank Stronach properties. A high Conservative vote is more likely outside the urban core. The centre of Newmarket is not strong Conservative territory, nor are the main corridors.

The NDP vote is strongly concentrated in Newmarket and along the major corridors. The Green vote too is stronger in urban Newmarket but there is an even spread across the riding.

Older people are more likely to vote (always true)

There are also mobile polls which visit residential homes and care centres. The data shows high turnout (sometimes very high) at these locations. The political parties generally make these places a priority. Older people are more likely to vote than those in their teens and twenties.

Last night we saw the first French language debate between the Party leaders (other than the Greens who have no seats in Quebec). The commentators say there was no knock-out blow and they all, more or less, held their own.

But the momentum is clearly with the opposition parties.

The unnecessary election

The idea has now taken root that this is an unnecessary election.

Maybe this will change in the seven days before people start voting in the advance polls.

But if it doesn’t, the Liberals are toast.

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Updated on 4 September 2021 to include Newmarket Today profile of new PPC candidate Andre Gagnon.

  Liberal support in Newmarket-Aurora in the last Federal Election on Polling Day, 21 October 2019

  over 50% of those who voted on Polling Day voted Liberal

  45% - 49%

  40% - 44%

  35% - 39% 

  30% - 34%

  29% and under

  Conservative support in Newmarket-Aurora in the last Federal Election on Polling Day, 21 October 2019

    over 50% of those who voted on Polling Day voted Conservative

  45% - 49%

  40% - 44%

  35% - 39%

  Between 30% and 34%

  Below 30%


 NDP support in Newmarket-Aurora in the last Federal Election on Polling Day, 21 October 2019

   20% - 29% of those who voted on Polling Day voted NDP

  15% - 19%

  10% - 14% 

  5% - 9% 

  4% and under

Green support in Newmarket-Aurora in the last Federal Election on Polling Day, 21 October 2019

  10% - 12% of those who voted on Polling Day voted Green

G2   8% - 9%

   6% - 7% 

   4% - 5%

   3% and below



This is more than the pandemic election. It is about Afghanistan too.  

On the very the day Kabul fell to the Taliban – 15 August – the Prime Minister called an unnecessary election, two years early. 

Not perfect timing.

It is unusual for a foreign policy issue to intrude so dramatically into an election campaign but how can it not? 

Sanctuary for 20,000 Afghans

The Prime Minister’s promise to help 20,000 Afghans come to Canada never got off the ground, quite literally. The Americans told the Canadian military they needed the runway at Kabul airport to get their people out by 31 August so evacuations to Canada stopped

The promise that no Canadian would be left behind turned out to be hollow.

Now the Americans have gone, after 20 years and trillions of dollars and countless lives lost. It was a failed experiment in nation building in a country riven by tribal loyalties, feuding warlords and Islamic fundamentalists.

Imposing Western values

The West should never have gone into Afghanistan or, for that matter, Iraq. It is not our job to police or educate the world in our own likeness, impose our values or to save people from themselves.

If it were, we should be sending troops to Yemen or Somalia or any number of failed states around the globe. And if it didn’t work out as expected then the interventionist West would take in the casualties of the conflict.

On Sunday there was a thought-provoking opinion piece in the Toronto Star where Haroon Siddiqui called on Canada to take in 100,000 Afghans - should the Taliban allow them to leave. He says Canada took in 37,000 Hungarians after the 1956 uprising; 120,000 boat people post-Vietnam and about 50,000 Syrian refugees since 2015.

The displaced millions

In 2015 Germany - with a population more than twice that of Canada’s - allowed one million Syrians to settle if they were bona fide refugees. Incredibly, they had trekked from the Middle East through Turkey and across much of Europe to get there.

It was an astonishingly generous act to give sanctuary to so many. But what was the alternative? Turn them away?

In truth, the West’s nation-building interventions around the globe, often well-meaning and with a noble purpose, have proved disastrous, displacing millions of people who are now knocking on our door.

We may get the debate that Haroon Siddiqui wants.

But I rather doubt it.

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Update on 1 September 2021: from the Toronto Star: Hundreds still seek passage to Canada. And From the Globe and Mail: Left Behind.

This is the pandemic election no-one wants and, if the pundits are correct, we could see a huge increase in the number of people voting by mail, determined to steer clear of Polling Stations.

Yesterday, Ontario’s chief medical officer, Dr Kieran Moore, told us the vaccination rate in the Province has stalled at around 75% and, as a result, we could be seeing 1,200 new daily covid cases by mid-September. To be safe he wants to see 90% vaccinated. 

It is hardly surprising then that Elections Canada is planning for up to 5 million people voting by mail – out of a pool of 27 million potential voters.

Mail-in voting

Here in Newmarket-Aurora in 2019 only 3.3% of voters cast a so-called “special ballot” which can be used by people who are away from their home riding or who are at home but prefer to vote by mail.  This was up from 2.5% in the Federal Election in 2015.

The Greens saw their mail-in ballot vote increase four fold. The NDP saw a 60% increase.

People who want to vote by mail in this election will be able to apply to Elections Canada by 6pm on Tuesday 14 September.

The numbers voting at Newmarket-Aurora’s four Advance Polling Stations soared from 10,675 in 2015 to 15,352 in 2019 – from 18.8% of the total votes cast to almost a quarter, 24.8%. In this election voting in advance starts on 10 September.

Practical Consequences

These changes in voting behaviour have practical consequences. For a big chunk of the Newmarket-Aurora electorate, the election campaign is effectively over on the day they vote. 

The political parties have to front-end their campaigns – identifying their likely supporters and getting their key messages across sooner rather than later.

The Conservatives and the NDP have already published their election programs but, mysteriously, the Liberals hold back, saying they will do this closer to the Party Leaders Debates on 8 and 9 September. 

Preparing the ground

I can see why the Liberals believe there is no rush - but they are dead wrong. Team Trudeau has spent months preparing the ground, releasing new (or re-packaged) policy proposals, but most people only sit up and take notice once the campaign is under way.

The Newmarket Chamber of Commerce tell me they plan to host a candidates debate on the core issues affecting the business community and, more broadly, the economy and it will be virtual. I applaud the Chamber for taking the initiative and how I wish other groups would organise their own debates, as the climate change watchdog, Drawdown, did in 2019. 

Debates are important

Election debates are important – though I believe the virtual format, while necessary at the moment, is very much second best. They tell us if candidates can think on their feet. They tell us if candidates are familiar with current issues and have a grasp of policy detail without having to leaf through huge ring binders on the table in front of them. But the questions they are asked by the moderators are important too. 

No patsy questions please! And allow the candidates to quiz each other.

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The Elections Canada office for Newmarket-Aurora is at 16655 Yonge Street, Suite 4, Newmarket L3X 1V6. 


















Update 25 August 2021: The authoritative polling aggregator 338canada.com has now moved Newmarket-Aurora out of the likely Liberal win category to a toss-up between the Liberals and the Conservatives.

Update on 29 August 2021: from the Globe and Mail: Mail-in ballots are changing how parties run their campaigns

The Liberal Candidate for Newmarket-Aurora, Tony Van Bynen, touts himself as someone deeply concerned about health issues. 

He was on Southlake’s Board for nine years. 

So why is he refusing to comment on the dire situation in Southlake Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit which has been described as “a travesty of modern health care” by the hospital’s medical director of critical care services, Dr Barry Nathanson?


Van Bynen says he was excited to be appointed to the Commons Standing Committee on Health “as health is an important issue in Newmarket-Aurora”.  

He trills he is

“honoured to represent Newmarket-Aurora’s health priorities…”

His flyer tells us:

“This will be a great opportunity to think back on my days as a board member for Southlake Regional Health Centre and voice our community’s health priorities and concerns.”

It is clear from the reporting that the crisis has been many years in the making so what did Van Bynen do about it? If anything.

Crisis in Intensive Care

When was he first made aware of the crisis in intensive care? Was he concerned? What representations did he make? And to whom? And to what effect?

If we can't get answers to these simple straightforward questions in an election campaign - where Van Bynen is running as the voice of Newmarket-Aurora on health issues - then we never will.

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Update on 1 September 2021 from Newmarket Today: nurses demonstrate outside office of Christine Elliott