Ontario Premier Doug Ford is calling for more full-time police officers on Toronto’s transit system and urged voters not to support mayoral candidates who previously voted to “defund” the police, after a spate of violent crimes including the death of a 16-year-old boy over the weekend.
Mr. Ford, who previously said he wouldn’t get involved in the coming mayoral race, on Tuesday said city hall should give police more resources and repeated his call for federal bail reform to prevent accused people from committing further criminal acts.
“We need full-time police officers in the busiest transit system in Canada. We need to give them the resources and give them the help,” Mr. Ford said at an unrelated provincial postbudget announcement about skilled immigrant workers at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
“Enough’s enough with this crime. I’ve never seen anything like this. That should be the number one issue for any mayoral candidate. And the mayoral candidates that say they want to cut funding for the police, they want to defund the police, don’t vote for them. Simple as that.”
While the Premier said mental-health issues remain a concern, he said front-line officers also need resources to stop crimes. He said the city is down about 550 uniformed officers since 2010, but wouldn’t say whether the province will commit more funding for policing. Toronto Police Service spokeswoman Stephanie Sayer on Tuesday confirmed that the number of uniform officers has decreased by more than 600 positions between 2010 and 2021. Civilian staffing levels increased by 160 positions over the same time period.
Toronto police put more than 80 officers working overtime on patrol in the Toronto Transit Commission in late January in response to a spate of violence in the system, but ended those shifts two weeks ago.
Toronto Police Service spokesman Victor Kwong said that while the overtime shifts have ended, on-duty officers are deployed to the city’s transit system for “pro-active patrols.” Meanwhile, the TTC is considering extending temporary measures introduced at the end of January that added 50 security guards and 20 community safety ambassadors to the system.
Mr. Ford on Tuesday repeated his call for bail reform, noting all 13 premiers have called on the federal government to strengthen the system to prevent repeat offenders from being released. Ottawa has signalled that it will move forward with “targeted reforms” to the Criminal Code that would update Canada’s bail system.
The Premier said he’ll be speaking to Andrea Magalhaes on Tuesday about her 16-year-old son Gabriel Magalhaes, who police say was killed in an unprovoked stabbing at a west Toronto subway station over the weekend.
“I’m so, so sorry for her loss. It’s heartbreaking,” he said.
Jordan O’Brien-Tobin, 22, who is facing one charge of first-degree murder, has an extensive history of criminal convictions in both Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador, according to court records obtained by The Globe and Mail. Police said he doesn’t have a fixed address.
Mr. Ford added Tuesday that there are only “one or two” people he believes could actually run the city of Toronto, but didn’t specify any names. Former Toronto police chief Mark Saunders, who ran for Mr. Ford’s Progressive Conservatives in the 2022 campaign, recently declared his candidacy in the June 26 contest.
“We can’t have anarchy in our cities, people being scared to get on our subway, go walk down the street,” Mr. Ford said.
In a statement, Mr. Saunders also criticized the federal government’s “catch and release” bail policies that have “put repeat violent criminals back on the street, only for them to recommit offences.” He added that a call to defund police “is definitely moving in the wrong direction.”
Toronto city councillor Josh Matlow, who proposed a motion in 2020 to cut the police budget by 10 per cent, has also declared he is running.
In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Matlow said there are other issues to focus on, including poverty, housing, racism and mental health.
“What is evident, is that successive governments have failed our kids, our city and its communities by not investing into the root causes of violence that we’re experiencing,” he said.
He said the “defund the police” movement is being used by politicians such as Mr. Ford to “hyperbolically bash people who they have political differences with.”
City councillor Brad Bradford, who is also exploring a mayoral bid, previously supported Mr. Matlow’s motion. But he has since reversed his stance, voting to increase the police budget in five successive budgets including by $48-million this year.
“Rising crime and violent attacks on the TTC demands real action so people feel safe across the city. Just this morning Brad shared that the TTC has $15-million from the reserve fund to deploy, yet current plans are to only spend 10 per cent. That’s not good enough, Toronto needs action now,” said Jamie Ellerton, a member of Mr. Bradford’s team.
Ana Bailão, a former councillor who is also running for mayor, said Mr. Ford “needs to put his money where his mouth is.”
“Making our city safer means working together with police, EMS, and community partners. It means both officers and additional TTC and mental healthcare workers. We need to fix services like the TTC so they’re safe, reliable, clean and convenient. We need to make sure Wi-Fi works and service cuts are reversed,” she said.
“That costs money. Doug Ford should spend less time telling Torontonians how to vote, and more time telling us how he’s going to help.”
With a report from Canadian Press