The Toronto Police Association yesterday gave its controversial blessing to a slate of municipal politicians topped by mayoral candidate John Tory.
"We feel that Mr. Tory has the community's safety and interest at heart. He has one of the best, if not the best, law-and-order platforms from our perspective," Rick McIntosh, the association's new president, said last night. "We are very proud to be able to endorse Mr. John Tory."
The former Rogers Cable executive is the only mayoral candidate to get the nod from the police union. Mr. Tory, who has promised to hire 400 more police officers, accepted the support and has said he would take endorsements from groups or people who support his platform.
The Toronto Police Association, the country's largest municipal police union, with 7,000 members, is being criticized for publishing the list of endorsements. Critics say the list violates the Police Services Act, which prohibits police from engaging in political activity.
Mr. McIntosh said that because the police-association executive is paid by the union, and not the public, they are exempt from the rules. He added that the endorsements are only recommendations for association members.
The police union formally endorsed 17 candidates, including Mayor Mel Lastman, for city council in 2000. In 1997, it backed Mr. Lastman for mayor. During those elections, the association advertised endorsements in newspapers, but there are no plans to do the same this year.
Two mayoral candidates, David Miller and Barbara Hall, have publicly said the union shouldn't be allowed to support political candidates. "I don't believe they should be endorsing people," Mr. Miller, the race's front-runner according to recent polls, told reporters yesterday. "But as individuals, they are entitled to their opinions, of course. And it's up to them to decide their own political decision."
Paul Copeland, a lawyer with the 300-member Law Union of Ontario, has written to both the city's Police Services Board and the police force to complain that the union's political endorsements are illegal and dangerous.
"I'm not happy that they [the police]just say, 'Well, we are above the law and we are going to do whatever we want,' " he said.
Bruce O'Neil, a spokesman for the Ministry of Community Safety, said the province has no plans to weigh in.
"It's a local issue between the Toronto Police Services Board and the Toronto Police Association. It's inappropriate for the ministry to interfere or comment on the issue," he said.
The Toronto Police Services Board, the civilian overseer of the police, has asked for a legal opinion on the matter but it isn't expected to be released until well after the Nov. 10 election.
"I think a lot of people respect the police and they respect the fact that the police might think that some councillors are more attuned to crime issues than others," said Doug Holyday, one of the council candidates the union is backing.
Toronto police endorsements
The following municipal candidates have been endorsed by the Toronto Police Association. X denotes those not incumbents.
Mayor: John Tory
Rob Ford -- Ward 2, Etobicoke North
Doug Holyday -- Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre
Gloria Lindsay Luby -- Ward 4, Etobicoke Centre
Peter Milczyn -- Ward 5, Etobicoke-Lakeshore
X Mark Grimes -- Ward 6, Etobicoke-Lakeshore
Mike Feldman -- Ward 10, York Centre
Frances Nunziata -- Ward 11, York South-Weston
X Joe Renda -- Ward 12, York South-Weston
X Hortencia Fotopoulous -- Ward 18, Davenport
X Tim Flynn -- Ward 25, Don Valley West
Case Ootes -- Ward 29, Toronto-Danforth
Mike Tziretas -- Ward 31, Beaches-East York
Denzil Minnan-Wong -- Ward 34, Don Valley East
Gerry Altobello -- Ward 35, Scarborough Southwest
X Michael Thompson -- Ward 37, Scarborough Centre