A showdown that was widely anticipated between the Ford brothers and police chief Bill Blair didn’t happen at Wednesday’s budget committee meeting.
Mayor Rob Ford, who was the target of a police investigation stemming from the alleged crack video, hadn’t even shown up at Toronto City Hall when the committee – which is reviewing the city’s 2014 operating and capital budgets – broke for lunch at 12:30 p.m. The mayor was touring a public housing apartment building following tenant complaints.
Blair and the chair of the Toronto Police Services Board were before the budget committee to give a presentation on the force’s $957.6-million budget, which includes $10.3 million for 360 new police officers. The force currently has 5,290 police officers.
The 2014 budget is 3.1 per cent or $29.1 million more than the 2013 operating budget.
Blair said the officers that the force will be hiring “are simply to replace those who’ve left in the past three years.” On average, the 165 officers retire or resign from the force each year.
Doug Ford, who is a budget committee member, was courteous with Blair, asking him how much the force would save if officers didn’t have to show up to court due to electronic reports and whether the police were going back to four deputy chiefs instead of three.
The Ford brothers have said they will vote on the police budget, despite their recent criticism of Blair.
In an interview with Conrad Black that aired on Monday, the mayor suggested some of his recent controversies are rooted in political differences with Blair over budget cuts he had once requested of all city departments.
Blair has denied such allegations by stating that his job is to investigate “without fear or favour.”
Ford has been under scrutiny since May, when the Toronto Star and Gawker.com reported that a video apparently showed the mayor smoking from a crack pipe.
After a string of denials, Ford stunned observers last month by admitting he had smoked crack in one of his “drunken stupors.”
The mayor is also facing allegations he offered purported gang members money and a car in exchange for the video – unproven claims contained in a police document that’s part of a guns and gangs investigation.
On Wednesday, the police chief was asked by Coun. Michelle Berardinetti about his feelings on decriminalization of marijuana, which some campaigned for in B.C.
Blair said the job of the police is to enforce the law and they will do that until legislation changes. But he added that the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs has recommended a ticketing scheme to the federal government.
With files from The Canadian Pres