Blair – retiring to Parliament?

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Patrick Hunter By Patrick Hunter
Wednesday April 29 2015



I kept thinking – I’m going to ignore this, I’m going to ignore this. In the end, as you see, I am not. I can’t. The former chief of the Toronto Police Service announced, one day after shedding the uniform, that he will seek the nomination to be the federal candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada in the Scarborough Southwest riding. I guess the invitation from the Prime Minister to become a Senator either arrived too late, or never came.

I would have thought the former chief would have grabbed his family and taken off for a vacation somewhere to let the grass grow under his feet a little. Not so. It’s on to the next thing.

Sure, the rumour mill has been buzzing for quite some time that Bill Blair was been courted to run for office. He remained tight-lipped about his future until after he had proverbially sent his uniform to the cleaners as prelude to storage. Now the cat is out of the bag.

So, is it becoming a trend now for ex-chiefs to run for office? Okay, maybe it’s too early to think of it as a trend, but his predecessor, Julian Fantino, made the move after an eyebrow-raising stint as chief in Toronto. Fantino made the move, got elected and was given a portfolio. Fortunately for us, it was not solicitor general or justice.

I don’t want to seem to be retiring Mark Saunders so soon after his taking over the chieftainship, but you have to wonder whether that would be a next move. Or, given the missing of that brass ring, is politics a possibility for Deputy Chief Peter Sloly? (You saw it here first.)

Anyway, back to Blair. Blair is not Fantino. In other words, I suspect that he would probably make a better cabinet minister, should he and his party ever get to that point. That is assuming he can toe the party line – living within the boundaries set by the leader of his party, Justin Trudeau.

I mention this because of all the discussions (revelations?) about his relationship with the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB), his civilian bosses when he was chief. Maybe that’s why he wants to run – to make sure that he is in the driver’s seat. But he will still be governed by caucus solidarity rules which can be a wing-clipper.

To be fair, Blair has not yet won the nomination. Tim Weber, a former journalist at CTV, is seeking the nomination as well. Dan Harris of the New Democratic Party (NDP) currently holds the riding. Wikipedia reports on a Forum Research poll, prior to Blair’s announcement, that Blair was showing a 39 per cent advantage over Harris’ 29 per cent.

You have to feel bad for both Weber and Harris. Blair is what one would call a star candidate, no matter how much you think he – shall we say – disappointed our community. Name recognition and profile, and a fairly successful role as chief would give him an advantage, and the party would want to do anything in its power to ensure that he is the successful candidate. Of course, they would have to do it by stealth – at least, so you would think. Weber doesn’t stand a chance.

The next step would be that the Liberals would have to win the next election. Blair gives the impression that he would not be satisfied with being a member of the opposition, let alone the third party. I can’t help but think that the personal prestige he is taking away from being chief would be “come down”, sitting on the opposition benches.

As for the Toronto Police Service, over the next few weeks, we will see more on what movements – policy and administratively – Chief Saunders has in mind. The current chart shows Jim Ramer as Acting Deputy Chief. There has not been a woman as deputy chief in a while. It could be that Ramer will be confirmed, or someone else.

With that possible exception, the confirmation of a new deputy chief, there probably will not be any major shifts as Saunders settles into his command. Saunders should be aware that the community is watching him closely. I would urge him not rush into anything yet. Get the lay of the land before moving. I would also urge him to seek out some sound political and strategic advice – both inside and outside of the Service.

Shifting focus, while we are celebrating the historic appointment of a Black chief of police here in Toronto, the United States is celebrating the appointment of Loretta Lynch as the first African-American woman attorney general. Ms. Lynch was sworn in on Monday, succeeding the first African-American to hold the office, Eric Holder.

The prevailing belief is that the new attorney general will be strong and will carry on where Holder left off. She will have her hands full, no doubt.

I wish her well.

Email: / Twitter: @pghntr

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