Friday, January 28, 2000

Bruce DeMara and Rebecca Bragg

p. A1.

Police union slammed by council

True Blue campaign makes them see red

Toronto City Council last night unanimously condemned the Toronto Police Association's fundraising campaign as an affront to democracy.

In a rare show of solidarity, councillors put aside their political differences to brand the Operation True Blue campaign as nothing more than harassment and intimidation of the part of the police union.

Today the Police Services Board is to hold an emergency meeting to decide whether to seek an injunction to stop the campaign.

Fearing that police surveillance of councillors may have already gone too far, council also moved that the city's corporate services department be asked to hire a security company to search out and neutralize listening devices, if any, planted in the offices of councillors.

After the council vote, police association president Craig Bromell said the union campaign would continue.

"Our position hasn't changed," he said, adding he had yet to talk to Mayor Mel Lastman or police chair Norm Gardner about the development at council yesterday.

After the meeting, both Lastman and Gardner said that, if necessary, they would have no qualms about asking the public not to donate money to the campaign.

Unless it is a positive campaign, I won't have anything to do with it, and what they're doing is negative," said Lastman, adding that 400 calls on the issue had been logged so far in his office — all against the campaign.

Angry calls hit city hall

Gardner said that while points of view for and against the action had been accorded equal weight on talk shows this week, "The calls I'm getting are 99 per cent against."

Councillors also took a overwhelmingly negative view of Bromell's fundraising initiative and most were careful to draw a distinction between the union's stance and that of rank-and-file police officers.

Lastman, the last speaker in a three-hour debate, told council he was very concerned about people saying "the police" when they are referring to the union.

Gardner (North York Centre), chair of the police services board made the same point, saying, "The majority of police officers are not supportive of the True Blue campaign. In fact, many are embarrassed by it."

Said Anne Johnston (North Toronto): "It's my impression that you can't negotiate with a bully."

She moved the issue be debated after council had convened to discuss this year's capital budget.

Like other councillors, Johnston said her office had been flooded with calls from constituents worried that they might be inviting police harassment they didn't donate to the campaign.

"The people of Toronto are begging us as a group to stand up and be counted on this issue," she said.

David Miller (High Park) said that because the telemarketing campaign had been especially active in his ward, he also received "incredible" numbers of calls from the public.

"Every single one of those phone calls has said, "This is wrong. I'm scared," Miller continued. "If I say no, are they keeping me on a list somewhere as somebody who doesn't support police?"

Howard Moscoe (North York Centre) called the campaign "unquestionable fascist," a view shared by Ila Bossons (Midtown), who said "the disgraceful mess reminds me of 1932."

So far, however, legal opinions on whether the union is or isn't within its rights to pursue such a campaign have varied.

According to city solicitor Ossie Doyle's interpretation of the Police Services Act, the union may raise funds for only a limited range of causes.

"I think they've crossed the line, yes," he said.

But Lastman agreed that Doyle's might not be the only legal interpretation possible. "We (the city) have a legal opinion that our chances of winning are great but so do they," he told reporters.

"I don't think Bromell just lies down and dies. This guy is persistent, stubborn and doesn't mind being called a bully."

At Queen's Park, solicitor General David Tsubouchi said he will not interfer in a "local labour issue."

He said it is up to the Toronto Police Services Board to do something about the fundraising campaign.

Attorney-General Jim Flaherty said he was concerned that donors might be given the impression they will be given preferential treatment by police.

"I am always concerned about one law for all. that's one of the fundamentals of the rule of law," Flaherty said.

Toronto Police clippings… [Fiona Stewart]

Created: October 8, 2000
Last modified: October 8, 2000
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