If Rob Ford wants additional resources to fight gun crime, he should try finding them in his own city budget.
That was the message Premier Dalton McGuinty delivered at a Queen's Park press conference Monday afternoon, following a meeting with the mayor and Police Chief Bill Blair to address the spate of gun violence that has shaken the city in recent weeks.
The premier emerged from the sit-down offering a commitment to extend provincial funding for the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) indefinitely, but rejected Ford's request to expand the program and hire more police officers.
The TAVIS initiative supports four 18-officer teams trained in rapid response and anti-gang tactics, and is maintained by $5 million annual funding from the province that had been set to expire next year. McGuinty's announcement means the program, which began in 2006, will continue, but no new officers will be recruited.
McGuinty called the decision to make TAVIS funding permanent "an immediate response" to this summer's gun violence, which has left 4 people dead and at least 23 others wounded in the past week alone.
"These teams are doing good work. They've contributed to nearly 22,000 arrests. We need to keep this going, so we will," McGuinty told reporters.
But with Ford expected to ask the prime minister for federal anti-gang funding at a meeting with Stephen Harper on Tuesday, McGuinty urged the mayor to consider coming up with city money to fight crime instead of relying solely on other levels of government.
"It seems to me that the mayor of the city of Toronto, and the council itself, should also in fairness dig a little bit deeper and bring something to the table in terms of addressing this challenge," McGuinty said.
Ford has faced criticism for not supporting city initiatives designed to tackle the roots of gun crime. At this month's city council meeting, he was the lone vote against $16 million in community grants aimed at enhancing neighourhood safety, race relations, and recreation. He later described the grants as "hug-a-thug" programs.
The mayor has also attempted to reduce police resources since taking office. Last year he sought to cut the 2012 police budget by 10 per cent as part of an across-the-board effort to shrink government. After pushback from Blair however, the mayor assented to a .6 per cent increase but instituted a two-year moratorium on hiring new officers.
After Monday's meeting, Ford described securing permanent funding for TAVIS as "a huge accomplishment" that would make the city safer.
"I asked for funding for TAVIS and [the premier] said yes, we're going to continue funding TAVIS," the mayor said.
"That's exactly what I asked for and that's exactly what we got."
That assessment conflicted with statements Ford made earlier in the day on talk radio, in which he called for the hiring of more officers and warned that "money talks and BS walks."
"It's essential that we get more TAVIS officers," Ford said on the John Oakley Show.
"I'm going to go in there, I'm going to ask for $5 or $10 million," he continued, "and I want to be able to give that to chief Blair and tell [the] chief, go hire police officers and lets get the streets cleaned up and let's start getting the gangs and gun off the streets."
At Queen's Park on Monday, Chief Blair said he did himself not ask the premier for more officers, but welcomed the commitment to extend support for TAVIS, which he described as a successful program that has prevented crime in at-risk neighbourhoods.
The force is examining how to effectively use the resources it has to tackle gun crime, including redeploying officers from low-risk neighbourhoods to priority areas.
In addition to the extension of TAVIS funding, McGuinty announced the province would invest $500,000 to support better coordination between GTA and provincial police forces, and inject another $500,000 into Toronto community groups.
He has also asked youth services minister Eric Hoskins and corrections services minister Madeleine Meilleur to consult police, community groups, and youth leaders for strategies to prevent gun violence. The pair will report back in 30 days.