Timing of Bill Blair’s Liberal bid gets curiouser

Can the timing of former Toronto police chief Bill Blair's decision to run for the Liberal nomination in Scarborough Southwest.


Can the timing of former Toronto police chief Bill Blair’s decision to run for the Liberal nomination in Scarborough Southwest get any curiouser?

While his appearance in Ottawa for a media op alongside Liberal leader Justin Trudeau Tuesday raised eyebrows and questions about the party playing favorites with its nomination process, less noticed but just as odd was the appearance of an ad in the Globe and Mail the same day announcing Blair’s appointment to the Scarborough Hospital Foundation board.

The board, which raises funds for medical equipment at the Scarborough Hospital, doesnt usually purchase advertising space every time a new member is appointed, but the decision to do so this time was not political, says board chair Paul Torrie.

The decision to run an ad was because of Blairs stature and his ability, Torrie says. The boards focus is raising the profile of the hospital and raising money. Were not political. Were not involved in the political process.

Torrie says the board was aware that Blair may enter politics when they formally appointed him on April 14. A week later, they met to notify him and then made arrangements for the ad which appeared on April 27.

Although the ad coincided with Blairs announcement Blair formally declared his intention to run only the day before Torrie says that the board had been wooing Blair since last year not only because of his public profile, but his experience with fundraising for the United Way and Covenant House.

Blair appears in uniform in the ad below a quote from the former chief noting his Scarborough roots and saying he is “very pleased to have the opportunity to help the hospital continue to grow and serve the people of my community.” The hospital is located just outside the Scarborough Southwest riding.

There’s nothing inherently illegal about the ad, but at least one Liberal candidate in the Scarborough Southwest riding is noticeably miffed by the publicity and support Blair appears to be getting. In an op-ed to the National Post, Michael Kempa wrote that having a star candidate dropped on your head feels like an open-handed slap to the mouth. It stings.

Kempa, who has been campaigning in the riding since March 2014, doesnt believe Blairs advantage is unfair, but it is daunting for him to compete against. In an interview with NOW, he says that he, too, does what he can to boost his own public profile through newspaper columns and radio interviews. Its part of the air war candidates play to reach voters.

Its great for Bill Blair. Its obviously to his advantage that he can command this kind of public attention and create awareness around his campaign, says Kempa. But its a significant challenge for me to try to match that level of public profile.

Dan Harris, the incumbent NDP MP in the riding, says all hospitals are looking for prominent people to fill their boards to help raise funds. Harris says he was more surprised to see Blair and Trudeau together.

[Blair] makes the announcement and then almost instantly, there are already photos of the two of them together. [Trudeau] wouldnt call him a favourite, but theyre standing side by side on stage. And to my knowledge, that kind of attention has not been accorded the other potential nominees, Harris says. Itll certainly be interesting to see how they sort it out.

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