Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty held a press conference after meeting with members in the communtiy, in an East Scarborough Boys and Girls Club on Friday, July 20, 2012.
Credits: Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency
TORONTO - Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's "hug-a-thug" dismissal of youth programs is simplistic and wrong, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Friday.
"That's unfortunate," McGuinty said of Ford's quip, in which the mayor argued social and recreational funding for at-risk youth and neighbourhoods doesn't work.
"That's short-sighted and it reflects a lack of understanding that this is a complicated problem. I think we've got to beware simplistic, short-sighted solutions."
The disagreement shows how far apart the two men are just days ahead of what's been dubbed the Summit of the Gun at Ontario's legislature, where they hope to come up with a unified response to the bloody shooting Monday on Danzig St. in he city's east end that left two innocent young people dead and 23 people with bullet wounds.
McGuinty said there's reason to believe such programs can cut down violence, although he also said social spending needs to be balanced with more money for police and enforcement as well.
"Until recently, crime has come down in Ontario," the premier said.
"The rate of recidivism - that is offenders who repeat after they have been convicted - that rate has also come down in Ontario.
"Overall youth crime has come down by about 14% in Ontario in comparison to the country as a whole it has come down by about 5% during the course of the past decade. So we have been going in the right direction."
McGuinty made the remarks after visiting with community leaders at the East Scarborough Boys and Girls Club, near to where the shooting happened.
"The smartest way to deal with crime is to be tough both on crime and the causes of crime," McGuinty said, adding "there is real merit" to Ford's request for more police resources.
Banning handguns would also help, McGuinty said.
"I think that's an important part of the solution, but it's hardly the be all, end all," McGuinty said.
"Police resources are important. Community policing, in particular, is important. Programs that reach out to young people that engage them that ensure that they have opportunity that they can be productive and that they have a sense of hopefulness when it comes to their future - that's important as well."
A handgun ban would require the help of the federal government, and while that help is unlikely considering the Conservatives' recent dismantling of the long-gun registry, McGuinty said someone from Ottawa is expected to join him when he meets with Ford and Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair Monday.
Ontario Tories sided with Ford on the need for more cops and slammed the handgun ban as useless.
"Gang members do not take the time to register their illegal handguns. We need to target the thugs directly, and their complete disregard for the rule of law, especially as their criminal behaviour has no bounds, spilling into crowds at the Eaton Centre and community gatherings," PC MPP John Yakabuski said in a letter to McGuinty.