The union representing Ontario's provincial police has released two attack ads targeting Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak – the first time in its 60-year history that it has produced a political attack ad.
Running 15 seconds a piece, the television ads feature a voiceover saying Mr. Hudak will tear up the union's contracts, which would lead to "labour strife and extensive litigation," rolling over images of the Ontario Provincial Police Association's collective agreement being physically torn apart by a man in a suit.
"This is not an endorsement of any of the other parties," said Jim Christie, president of the OPPA. "This is more of an education piece: This is what Tim would do to me. Do with that information what you will."
Mr. Christie said that although the group has never released a TV ad, it has always been political and lobbied on behalf of its members.
The province's police have historically supported the Conservatives, even openly campaigning for the Tories in the 1999 election. Their allegiance may have been shifting for a while: The organization gave the provincial Liberals $7,400 in donations last year, and nothing to any other party. But the OPPA – which represents 6,000 uniformed officers and nearly 3,000 civilian members – stressed the ads were an attack on Mr. Hudak specifically, not the PC party.
Mr. Christie said he has met with the PC Leader to discuss some frustrations with the party's positions, but his requests were not met. "We couldn't get anywhere with Tim so we made the difficult decision to voice our concerns."
The biggest issues for the union, Mr. Christie said, are potential wage freezes and a proposed change to the police pension plan. Since members aren't able to strike, they are especially reliant on their collective bargaining process, he said. The PC plans, he added, would override any negotiations or contracts currently in place.
The PC platform includes plans to cut 100,000 public-sector jobs, overhaul the arbitration system and freeze wages across the board for all public employees. Asked about the ads at a morning media event, Mr. Hudak said police won't be off the hook when it comes to wage freezes.
"Our police officers do an outstanding job and I respect the work they do," he said. "But if you're asking me am I going to give exemptions to anybody from our wage freeze, the answer is no."
The ads will be online and on television across the province until June 10, two days before the election.
While Mr. Hudak seemed unfazed by news of the ads, the Tory war room sent out a scathing response questioning the impartiality of the police force that is currently investigating two separate matters in the Liberal government: the gas-plants cancellation and finances at the Ornge air-ambulance service.
The OPP tweeted to clarify that the OPPA is a separate organization and that they do not support the ads or have any position in the election.
Police aren't the only emergency services personnel that have spoken out against Mr. Hudak. The president of the International Association of Fire Fighters took the unusual step last week of issuing a sharply worded call to action to Ontario members, exhorting them to fight against the Progressive Conservative campaign.
"I'm writing directly to you because at no time in the past have Ontario professional fire fighters faced such a grave threat as you do today," Harold Schaitberger wrote in the May 27 missive. "With fewer fire fighters left after Hudak's massive cuts, public and fire fighter safety will be put at risk."
Mr. Schaitberger wrote that Mr. Hudak's proposed cuts to the public sector would throw hundreds of firefighters out of work and the ones that remain would have their pay frozen. The IAFF did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The ads were removed temporarily Monday afternoon to edit sections where the voiceover identified the group as the OPP rather than the OPPA after some of the organization's members, the public and the police force alerted them to the slip, Mr. Christie said. The traffic to the site to view the ads was also overloading their servers, he added.