TORONTO - Faced with questions about a rash of gun violence in some Canadian cities -- most notably in the Toronto area -- Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said his party has a plan to "strengthen gun control" and accused the Conservatives of being “in the pocket of the gun lobby.”

Speaking to a Kitchener, Ont., radio station on Monday, Trudeau said the Liberals have already improved gun control “in meaningful ways over the past year.”

“Unfortunately, the Conservatives have announced they're going to roll back those gun control protections which I think is moving in the wrong direction,” he said. “Canadians need to be safe. We're not in the pocket of the gun lobby like the Conservatives seem to be.”

Accusing a political rival of bowing to the gun lobby is common in the United States, where the National Rifle Association (NRA) wields significant political power. The NRA has donated large sums of money to U.S. lawmakers to advance its agenda and its role is hotly debated after every mass shooting in the country.

However, corporate donations are banned in Canada, which means lobby groups don’t have the power to influence political parties like the NRA does. 

And while Conservatives have taken meetings in the past with Canada’s two largest gun groups – the National Firearms Association and the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights, so have the Liberals. The lobbyist registry shows several such meetings were held with MPs, ministers’ staff and even members of the Prime Minister’s Office.

The Liberals announced in 2017 that they would allocate up to $327.6 million over five years and $100 million a year after that to fight gun and gang violence. The $100-million-per-year pledge was part of their 2015 election campaign platform.

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