By PATRICK HUNTER
John Tory is now mayor of Toronto. It has been a challenging struggle for him to get to this point. A previous attempt to lead the City fell through. An attempt to lead the province as leader of the Progressive Conservatives also fell through. Becoming an MPP also fell through.
So, here we are in 2014. Tory is mayor, and the conservative elements have been given the key roles in the city’s executive committee. It probably does not look much different from the previous administration under Ford.
Right off the top I have to talk about the removal of Michael Thompson from the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB). It is not that I support Thompson and all his views. A few years ago he was hauled on the carpet for advocating “stop and search” of Black youth. I am not sure if he has recanted that position, but there are indications that he may have come to his senses on that. The unfortunate reality is that he is the only Black member of Council and, ideally, he should be bringing a perspective as an elected official to the TPSB. He was, I believe, the only person of African descent on the Board as well.
I bring this forward because, face it, the Toronto Police Service and the African Canadian community in Toronto do not have a history of positive relations. It would seem to me that keeping an African Canadian on the Board would be a good idea. Tory doesn’t seem to share that concern.
In his State of the City remarks last week, here is the closest reference to the relationship between the Black community and the Toronto Police Service: “There are significant items on the near term Toronto policing agenda including the 2015 budget, the current collective bargaining negotiations and the selection of the new Chief. All of these must and will be approached in a responsible manner with a view to enhancing our status as a safe city which respects diversity and accountability.”
See what I mean? You are left with the picture that the relationship between the Black community and the police is fine and requires no significant input that will hold the Board and the Service accountable in the relationship with the Black community.
Tory has decided to take his seat on the Toronto Police Services Board. As mayor, that is his right. Most previous mayors have appointed a close ally to take that seat. Perhaps there is something in this. We will have to see.
There is an interesting coincidence – well, let’s call it that – between Tory and the Fords. They spent a lot of time posing for pictures with members of the Black community during the campaign. Now that the campaign is over there is no sense that the concerns of the Black community are represented in the State of the City perspective.
Transit and housing are of key interest to the Black community. That is not in dispute. And these are of topical interest to most of the residents of our city. But just once, one would like to see that our elected officials take into account the specific concerns of the Black community.
Let me hasten to add the following: It does not mean that the only problem that exists between the Black community and the rest of Toronto has to do with the police or with housing. There is youth unemployment and a host of other matters to consider. So, at this juncture, let me give Tory the benefit of the doubt that he will act to recognize the special challenges of the Black community. After all, he has just taken office. We should let him get a chance to see how the seat feels. I am just saying that it would have been nice to see some acknowledgement of our concerns.
So, over the next few weeks, there will be periods of adjustments as the new members of Council find their way around the Council Chambers, and the veteran members figure out where they stand in the new regime. I suspect that much of the serious business of governing will not begin until after the New Year.
The new executive committee will of course be working, I expect, to develop a strategic plan that would reflect the new mayor’s wishes. From this, I expect that we will be learning more about the finer points of the Mayor’s vision for the City and how he plans to get us there.
This is the beginning of a four-year relationship, folks. Let us see what we shall see.
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