I would respectfully suggest that until such time as John Tory explains why he accepted the illegal support of the Toronto Police Association (it is not a union), he does not deserve the support of Toronto voters. Section 46 of the Police Services Act prohibits municipal police officers from engaging in any political activity except as the regulations under the act permit. Regulation 554/91 allows some limited political activity, but says that during a campaign, police officers cannot "...express views supporting or opposing: a candidate in the election or a political party that has nominated a candidate in an election.'
Rick McIntosh, the head of the Toronto Police association, and his predecessor, Craig Bromell, claim they are not police officers and that the prohibition on political activity does not apply to them. As a lawyer, I would be interested in seeing a legal opinion on which they base that assertion.
My own legal view is that they are police officers and are bound by the legislation and the regulation. Albert Cohen, then director of litigation in the Toronto city solicitor's office in an opinion for city council dated September 19, 2000, said "that the members of the executive (of the Police Association) who are police officers retain that status while on leave and, in (his) opinion, are still subject to the legislative restrictions on political activity."
Section 46 and Regulation 554/91 were carefully drafted, after a number of court decisions on the political rights of public servants, to strike the important balance of allowing some limited political activity by police officers while respecting the need for police to be, and be perceived to be, completely impartial and independent of influence or control by partisan interests.
It was thought that unrestricted involvement by police in partisan political activities might lead to a situation in which the roles of the law and the justice system as essential instruments for the achievement and maintenance of peace, order and justice could be undermined.
Further, that participation in partisan political activities by the police posed a danger that police may come to exert undue influence over political decision-makers, such that they become a force capable of controlling the authorities that should in fact be governing them.
In the 2000 municipal election, the Law Union of Ontario took its concerns about the illegal endorsing of candidates by the Toronto Police Association to Chief Fantino and the Toronto police services board. No action was taken by Chief Fantino or by the board, then led by Norm Gardner.
This year the Law Union again asked the chief and the board to stop these illegal endorsements. The chief, I am told by Jerry Wiley, the lawyer for the Toronto police, has referred the matter to the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services (OCCOPS).
I doubt that OCCOPS will deal with this matter before election day on November 10. The Police services board has done nothing other than invite the Law Union to make a deputation to the board on November 13, three days after the election.
On behalf of the Criminal Lawyers' Association, its president, Ralph Steinberg, has written Chief Fantino and the Toronto police services board. Steinberg said that "the endorsements represent a violation of Section 46 of the Police Services Act and Regulation 554/91 of the Police Services Act."
He went on to say that "it is the view of the Criminal Lawyers' Association that the activity of the Toronto Police Association in endorsing political candidates is a violation that adversely affects the democratic process."
So far the McGuinty government has been silent on the issue, even though the Toronto Police Association endorsed the Eves government in the recent provincial election.
In the spring of this year, at his request, I met with John Tory in his office at Rogers Communications to outline for him my views on policing matters in Toronto.
I talked about what I perceived as problems with the board, the chief, crime issues in the city and the actions of the Toronto Police Association. Tory seemed well informed on the issues and interested in what I had to say. I came away from the meeting quite impressed.
I am less than impressed that last week, in advance of the Association listing the candidates it endorsed, he said he would welcome the support of the Toronto Police Association. I believe that he knows this is illegal.
John Tory owes it to the voters of Toronto to explain, in detail, why he thought it proper to accept this support and why he believes that the legislation does not apply to Rick McIntosh and the other officers on the Association executive.
It is customary for the mayor of Toronto to sit on the Toronto police services board.
How effective will Tory be on that board after being endorsed by the Association?
Paul Copeland is a Toronto human rights lawyer.