Mayor David Miller is going to need a lot more than great hair to get himself out of the political mess Toronto's police services board dropped him in when it decided to show Chief Julian Fantino the door.
With Norm Gardner, the board's pistol-packing former chair, winning a new hearing on the matter of his permanent suspension by the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services (OCCPS), it could now be almost the end of the year before the dysfunctional board gets the replacement members it needs to take a real shot at working effectively.
This means it will probably be January before the board takes on the crucial task of finding the best person to replace Fantino when his term expires in March. Which also means the anti-Miller contingent of right-wing councillors who are using the top cop to get themselves a little publicity will have six months to make Miller's life miserable with their demands that Fantino's contract be extended by a few years.
"I think this matter is going to get ugly," says Michael Thompson, the councillor for Ward 37 (Scarborough Centre). "It's not ugly yet, but there are a lot of things simmering right now, and they're going to boil over. At that particular point in time, I'm hoping common sense and cool heads will prevail."
According to the ardently pro-Fantino councillor, common sense would dictate that since the police board made its decision on the chief's future, the die is cast and the time has come to start looking for his successor.
"If I had a vote, I'd vote to keep the chief," says Thompson, "but the board has made a decision. I may not be in support of that particular decision, but I still have to respect it and I do." Even if was the result of a 3-3 tie vote.
Alas, councillors like Georgio Mammoliti, Frances Nunziata, Mike Del Grande, Mark Grimes, Denzil Minnan-Wong, Cesar Palacio, Rob Ford and Bill Saundercook aren't about to adopt Thompson's approach.
There's simply a lovely war to be waged with the perceived left.
The chatter around City Hall early this week had councillor Pam McConnell, the police board's vice-chair, cancelling a planned vacation in order to make the civilian oversight body's next meeting on July 29. I mean, why give the pro-Fantino side (councillor Case Ootes and provincial appointees Benson Lau and Hugh Locke) the upper hand against councillor John Filion and departing chair Alan Heisey?
McConnell denied the cancellation rumours and said her departure was imminent.
"I really don't think anybody needs to be on red alert about who will be at the board meeting and who will not," she added. In other words, the vice-chair will be back in time for the sit-down session.
But even with McConnell in attendance, there's almost certain to be controversy. No one's going to be too surprised if a motion to begin the search for Fantino's successor is shot down by Ootes, Lau and Locke. Just like the three votes of Heisey, Filion and McConnell were enough to nix a contract extension for the chief.
And so it will likely go through the fall and into the winter. While the city and province will name replacements for Heisey and Lau in September, it appears unlikely Gardner will be gone and a successor appointed to bring the board up to its full seven-member complement before December 5, since OCCPS is seeking leave to appeal the Superior Court of Justice ruling against its "tainted" judgment.
There are rumblings that Gardner has told the minister responsible for provincial appointments to the police services board that he'll step down if someone picks up the legal bills he's run up fighting his suspension since June 2003, when OCCPS began investigating his acceptance of a handgun from a Scarborough firearms dealer and thousands of rounds of ammunition from the police force's training facility.
But Monte Kwinter, the minister of community safety and correctional services, wouldn't comment on the speculation earlier this week.
"We've had conversations, but I'm not prepared to discuss the conversations that I've had," he said.
"It's unfortunate that there is this particular situation where we have one (board) member not able to participate," Kwinter noted. But under current legislation, he's powerless to do anything about it.
"Under the Police Services Act, they have the authority to conduct their own affairs and to set, really, their own rules as to how they vote and what they don't do," the minister said.
This will be little comfort to Miller, who expects to face a barrage of motions at council next week from the handful of councillors who've been pushing a "keep-the-chief" Internet petition in a bid to have council demand the police board reconsider its Fantino edict.
The mayor insists it would be "inappropriate" for council to try to force the board's hand - even if the decision on the chief's contract was made under less than ideal circumstances.
"It was the right decision," Miller said. "Let's move on."
That's going to be a lot easier said than done. And getting it done with a minimum of political bloodshed will be considerably more difficult than stopping construction of a bridge to the Toronto Island Airport.
This will be a serious test of Miller's mettle.