Tuesday, March 26, 1991

Royson James

p. A6.

Politician mount anti-Eng campaign

Would-be head of police board called "anti-cop"

Senior Metro politicians are joining forces to stop Susan Eng from becoming head of the police services board, even before the province names her to the post. The politicians say Eng's two years on the board have shown she doesn't have the experience and sound judgement to handle such a sensitive job.

"She's to antagonistic," said Scarborough Mayor Joyce Trimmer, one of those leading the charge to keep June Rowlands as chairperson. Trimmer has drafted a letter asking Premier Bob Rae to keep Rowlands and dump plans to replace her with Eng. She said she will seek a consensus among the six Metro mayors to add their signature to the letter.

New appointees

Rae hasn't announced Eng will get the post as yet, but Queens Park sources say the decision has been made. Rowlands is to stay on for one month after her term expires April 5. Rae is then to name two new appointees who will join Roy Williams, another provincial appointee to the board, and throw their support behind Eng for chairperson.

North York Mayor Mel Lastman, an unabashed police booster, said he will line up behind Trimmer to oppose Eng. He said he is against Eng because she wouldn't pledge allegiance to the Queen when she was sworn in as a member of the police commission in 1989. "It's the way she does things," said Lastman. "Her whole attitude towards this thing appears to be anti-cop."

But Toronto Mayor Art Eggleton, who is on the eve of a tough mayoral battle with Jack Layton in the November elections, tried to evade the issue yesterday. "No comment," said Eggleton, when asked if he will sign the letter. "I'm not getting involved with that. It's a provincial matter."

Just last December Eggleton ran for a Metro Council-appointed seat on the police services board, saying the agency needed reform-minded candidates like him. He was rejected when council chose Norm Gardner and Dennis Flynn.

Metro Chairman Alan Tonks is trying to lie low on the matter, but he has also written to Rae, asking him to keep Rowlands. "June has done an excellent job," said Tonks. "The province should take seriously the intercession on June's behalf."

Sources say a concerted anti-Eng campaign is being mounted to embarrass the new NDP government and short-circuit plans to push the police services board to the left. The strategy is to paint Eng as anti-police, hard to work with, abrasive and inexperienced, one strategist said.

Another source said, "Rowlands went to the Premier's office and raised a ruckus" after word leaked out she would be replaced by Eng. Rowlands painted Eng as potential trouble for the police and new government, the source said.

The two commissioners have had an icy relationship during their time on the police board.

In July 1989, Rowlands told a reporter that Eng and Williams were speaking for their communities (Eng is of Chinese origin and Williams is black), not the entire Toronto community. The comment set off Eng, who demanded an apology. She did not get it. Rowlands did not return calls by The Star on Friday and yesterday.

Eng, who has not admitted she is the Premier's choice for the job, does say she would welcome it. Yesterday she called the anti-Eng lobby misguided. Criticisms that she has been a controversial police commissioner miss the point that she had to be confrontational to get items on the agenda, Eng said. "With the new composition of the board, I don't think I'll have to impress them with the need for change," she said.

Alexis Yam, chairperson of the Chinese Business Association, said his group would welcome Eng's assistance in solving the Chinatown crime problems.

"Very proud"

"We are very proud to have someone like her on the board," Yam said. "She is a capable person and she understands the nature of community based policing."

The province appoints four of the seven members of the board. Metro councillors fill the other three seats. Metro politicians have always been angry that the province holds the balance of power on the police services board while Metro taxpayers pay 90 per cent of the $500 million police budget.

Former police commissioner Derwyn Shea said the province should either give Metro Council the balance of power or start paying most of the policing costs.

Toronto Police clippings... [Fiona Stewart]

Created: April 26, 1998
Last modified: February 15, 1999

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