Organizers with both the federal Liberal and Conservative parties say they've reached out to Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair about a future in politics, as the chief himself mused publicly about serving the community "in another capacity" after he leaves the force.
Chief Blair said in a speech Tuesday that he intends to continue working in public service – his contract with the Toronto Police Service ends next month – but would not say whether this means a jump to politics. At the same time, Liberal and Tory party organizers told The Globe and Mail they've approached the chief to tell him they would like him as a candidate in the coming federal election.
"I'm a little reluctant, by the way, to talk about the future because when you're wearing this uniform and doing this job, you've got to stay focused," Chief Blair told the Yonge-Bloor-Bay Business Association in a speech Tuesday. "Perhaps a few months from now, I'll have an opportunity to continue to serve this community perhaps in another capacity."
When a member of the audience shouted "What party are you running for?" the chief sidestepped the question.
"Another thing I believe very strong is that this job that I have, the uniform that I wear, should never be used for any other purpose than the one it was intended," he said. "The day after I finish that job? I'll think about some other things. For now? Just this."
Ontario's Police Services Act prohibits municipal police officers from seeking public office unless the officer is on a leave of absence.
A senior organizer in the Liberal Party said that after the party approached Chief Blair to run, he responded by asking them to come back to him after his contract ends.
A Conservative organizer, meanwhile, told The Globe that the Tories have also met with Chief Blair to tell him that he would be welcome as a candidate for their party.
The event Tuesday, an "appreciation breakfast" for the chief, was also attended by Ontario Environment and Climate Change Minister Glen Murray.
"I don't have any intel, but I've always admired his public service ethic," Mr. Murray said about speculation over the chief's future. "Public service – when you put on a uniform – is putting your life on the line for the kind of community you want … Wherever he decides to go, I'm sure he'll bring that character and his commitment to excellence from his former job."
Chief Blair would only say Tuesday that he's been approached "about a lot of different things," but indicated his desire to continue working with local communities.
"This job has afforded me the opportunity to work with some really cool people in every neighbourhood in this city," he said. "I've loved what I've been given the opportunity to do as police chief and I want to continue in some capacity."
The chief, who has spent much of his career emphasizing the importance of community policing, has in recent public appearances broadened his message, speaking about the importance of social inclusion and strong communities.
Chief Blair is just one of three outgoing big-city police chiefs leaving their roles amid speculation about a future in politics. Vancouver police Chief Constable Jim Chu announced last month that he is resigning after seven years at the helm of the force. And just last week, Calgary Police Service Chief Rick Hanson announced his intention of resigning, as well.
Chief Blair's last day with the force will be April 25, which is almost exactly 10 years after he was first appointed head of police in Canada's largest city.