A messy chapter of the nearly year-long feud between Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s family and the head of police has come to an end, after Chief Bill Blair says he has accepted an apology and is dropping legal action against Councillor Doug Ford.
Chief Blair told reporters at a news conference Thursday that the dispute between himself and Councillor Ford has been “resolved,” after the councillor sent a public letter of apology – his second apology in as many days – for accusing the chief of deliberately leaking information about the mayor as “payback.”
“Anyone in this job has to be prepared to expect criticism and attacks. It comes with the turf. But lies that go to your heart of your integrity cannot be tolerated,” Chief Blair said Thursday.
“When someone just makes a bald-faced statement that’s clearly and demonstrably a lie, you have to stand up to that … That’s what I chose to do.”
On top of the apology and retraction, Councillor Ford has also agreed to make a $1,000 donation to Covenant House, a charity for homeless youth on whose board Chief Blair sits.
Thursday’s apology by Councillor Ford, the outspoken brother and ardent defender of Mayor Rob Ford, marks a reversal from his initial response to the notice of defamation.
After he was served on Monday, the councillor appeared unfazed, telling reporters “I’m shakin’ in my boots.” And when he made his first apology attempt on Wednesday – rejected by the chief because the wording had not been agreed upon in advance – he added that “there’s always a reason for my comments.”
But by Thursday morning, the councillor had changed his tune. In a statement sent to reporters just minutes before Chief Blair’s news conference, Councillor Ford wrote that he wanted to “dispel any suggestion” that the chief deliberately leaked that police were ready to subpoena Mayor Ford in the case of alleged drug dealer Alessandro Lisi – which the councillor had earlier said was “payback” for the chief not having his contract renewed.
“I have no information or basis to suggest that Chief Bill Blair was personally aware of any provision of such information to the media and I apologize to Chief Blair if my comments suggested or implied in any way he was,” the statement said.
It also lauded Chief Blair as “an honourable public servant and a person of high integrity” – a departure from the councillor’s recent comments about the head of police.
In the year since Chief Blair said he was “disappointed” by a video that purportedly shows the mayor smoking crack cocaine, he’s been repeatedly slammed by the Fords as “political,” and accused of having “gone rogue.”
The chief’s comments Thursday mark his first public appearance since the police board announced in late July that it wasn’t renewing his contract for a third term.
“I had hoped to be renewed, and I wasn’t,” Chief Blair said, whose contract runs out in April of next year. “I accept their decision, and I thank them for the consideration.”
He also didn’t rule out the possibility of putting his name forward for consideration again, after October’s municipal election and an inevitable shakeup of the police board – though he added later that it wasn’t something he was actively considering.
The chief also declined to weigh in on who should succeed him as the head of Canada’s largest municipal force – only encouraging the board to search far and wide.
“I can tell you that there are some extraordinary police leaders within the Toronto Police Service and across the province of Ontario and across Canada,” he said.
“I hope that appropriate consideration will be given to their skills, their abilities, and what they can bring to the job.”