The knives have been unsheathed and the end is near for police services board chair Norm Gardner. After a tumultuous 18 months at the helm, it's the price Gardner will have to pay for letting police union boss Craig Bromell's band of black-suited merry men run amok through our fair city. Corny bravado But who could have foretold that some of the same people whose backroom wheeling and dealing put Gardner in the chair would now be calling for his head?
Gardner, it seems, has become an embarrassment. The corny bravado -- the Stormin' Norman vanity plates on his Corvette, the gun collection, the time he shot a guy trying to rob his bakery, his special permit to carry a Glock -- has worn thin.
The time has come to cut him loose and reward former Tory municipal affairs minister Al Leach for his loyalty during the imposition of amalgamation.
Gossip travels fast in the corridors around police headquarters, and Norm Gardner has heard the whispers that there are people gunning for him.
"I'm aware that there've been rumours flying around on various issues," he says. "There's no credibility (to the rumours) whatsoever. I know what's taking place."
Perhaps. But that secret meeting Mayor Mel, police union boss Craig Bromell and Chief Julian Fantino had without Gardner is an ominous sign.
Important police business was being discussed.
"When deals are being made, Norm's usually in on it," says former police services board member Olivia Chow.
Unless, of course, the plan is not to have Gardner around.
"He's in big trouble," is the appraisal offered by one City Hall insider.
Word is, Gardner would have preferred not to run for re-election this fall. He was hoping to resign his council seat, leave it to his Tory friends at Queen's Park to reappoint him to the board and fix it so he'd remain chair for another three years. A nice $90,000-a-year plum for all those years of loyal service.
Already appointed But rumour has it the province has decided it wants Al Leach in the chair. He's already been appointed to the board.
Of course, the city does control four of the board's seven seats. But our dear mayor is apparently in on the Leach deal.
"It's already been cooked," says the insider. "That's all there is to it."
Leach himself is coy about the prospect. All this talk is news to him -- or so he says.
"My friends know more than I do," he says. It's clear, though, that he's interested. "Never say never," he says.
Lawyer Jeff Lyons, the Tory fixer, is a little more forthcoming on the Leach question. He will admit after some prodding that, yes, he's heard "some grumblings" about Gardner. And that if he were in Gardner's position he'd be "concerned."
How did Gardner end up on the outside looking in?
His cozying up to the police union didn't help. Gardner promised he'd retire the pompoms and not be an unabashed police cheerleader.
But when push came to shove over the union's True Blue operation, the fundraising effort to target political opponents, Gardner was the last to criticize it.
"He was always kissing their (the police union's) ass," says one politico.
Not good form for someone who's supposed to be acting as a civilian watchdog over the police.
Provide balance More than a few movers and shakers at City Hall, including some in the mayor's inner circle, were disturbed. "We wanted someone on there who was willing to challenge the cops," says one. "Not necessarily to second-guess the cops, but provide a balance.'
Gardner is adamant that he has safeguarded his independence.
"Jealous backstabbers" all of them, he says.
"The morale of the police department is better than it's been for a long time," he continues. "I've brought the black community to the table. That gets overshadowed and ignored because I try to have good relations with the police union. I'm not afraid (to take the union on) but I'm not there to create controversy just for grandstanding purposes."
Indeed, Gardner has managed to win some supporters in the black community who were horrified when he was chosen as chair.
Those little favours he did to get computers for the Jamaican Canadian Association and find hotel rooms for that stranded delegation from Trinidad and Tobago, not to mention the private meetings he's held to hear the concerns of community leaders, have apparently gone a long way.
"People think he's been making a genuine effort," says activist Lennoxx Farrell.
Behind Gardner's gun-toting, cowboy-booted exterior is a sort of charming guy -- someone you wouldn't mind having a beer with. No, two. But he hasn't helped his own cause. There were conflict-of-interest allegations when he didn't tell fellow board members that he was questioned by internal affairs, the FBI and an Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms unit in the U.S. in a probe into the force's gun registry.
Al Leach probably looks like a breath of fresh air to Tory powerbrokers -- he knows the municipal scene, hangs out with all the right people and has no maverick bad habits.
"You're not going to see him learn to ride a police motorcycle," says one of his supporters. "You're not going to see him packing a gun. You're not going to see him support the police organization for whatever they want. And he's certainly not going to be in bed with Bromell."
Bromell, someone Gardner could count on to put in a good word, has been keeping a low profile since the public fallout over True Blue. He's also got his own re-election in December to worry about. He did not respond to requests for comment. Ditto the mayor's office.
Gardner, meanwhile, is facing a tough re-election battle of his own against John Filion in Willowdale.
"Certain things end up falling a certain way, you get to do what you want," he says philosophically. "If not, big deal."
You'd think the public stink over True Blue, the Toronto police union fundraising effort to target political opponents, would keep councillors from accepting Police Association endorsements come this November's municipal election.
But -- surprise, surprise -- more than a few politicos have had a change of heart, even after council voted unanimously not to accept Police Association endorsements.
Here's a look at which candidates in the most hotly contested city council races will be saying yes and which will be saying no to police union endorsements.
WARD CONTENDERS WILL YOU TAKE THEIR
ENDORSEMENT AND CASH? ENDORSEMENT AND CASH?
PARKDALE- David Miller Hell, no.
Bill Saundercook Fails to respond to several requests for comment. Finally, assistant calls. "We're sort of confused," he says. We'll consider that a yes.
EGLINTON- Anne Johnston Absolutely not.
Milton Berger Probably not. "I don't want to get involved in that," says Berger.
WILLOWDALE John Filion "If somebody wants to say, "We like you,' I'm not going to say,
"No, you don't.'"
Norm Gardner You bet.
BROADVIEW- Gail Nyberg "It's not going to happen."
Case Ootes You bet. "True Blue was a huge mistake," says the deputy mayor. "But that's behind us now."
BEACHES- Sandra Bussin A qualified no. "If they put it out on EAST YORK a sheet of paper, I guess that's their business."
David Moll Noncommittal. "I don't want to say yes or no at this point."
ETOBICOKE Mario Giansante "It's the kiss of death," his assis- CENTRE tant says.
Gloria Lindsay Luby Won't be seeking union endorse- ment. We'll read that as a maybe.
ST. PAUL'S Rob Davis "I would proudly accept," he says.
Joe Mihevc The guy who moved the motion to
have councillors' offices swept for
police union bugs? No way. EDM