Hamilton Police Association hires lobbyist to influence Ford government

The union representing Hamilton police officers has brought on a lobbyist to influence the provincial government. It appears to be the first time the union has ever done so, according to the Office of the Integrity Commissioner's lobbyists registration.

Police union says lobbying isn't related to local budget. One policing expert calls lobbying 'abnormal'

A person standing next to a truck
Jaimi Bannon is the president of the Hamilton Police Association. (Submitted by Jaimi Bannon)

The union representing Hamilton police officers has brought on a lobbyist to influence the provincial government.

It appears to be the first time the union has ever done so, according to the Office of the Integrity Commissioner's lobbyists registry.

The registry states the Hamilton Police Association's (HPA) goal is "to raise awareness with the province regarding oversight and adherence to the Police Services Act by the Hamilton Police Service and Hamilton Police Services Board."

It was also categorized as lobbying regarding policy and or programming.

The subject matter of the lobbying includes pandemic response, justice and law enforcement, labour, municipal affairs, pensions, rural affairs, taxation and finance.

The lobbying targets include numerous ministries and minister's offices. It is also targeting two members of provincial parliament (MPP) in Flamborough—Glanbrook's Donna Skelly and Hamilton East—Stoney Creek's Neil Lumsden, the two local MPPs with the governing party.

A man smiling.
Leith Coghlin, the managing director of EnPointe Development Inc., is lobbying the Ford government on behalf of the Hamilton Police Association. (Bereavement Authority of Ontario)

The consultant lobbying on behalf of the police association is Leith Coghlin, the managing director of EnPointe Development Inc.

HPA president Jaimi Bannon told CBC Hamilton the lobbying "does not involve the 2023-24 [police] budget" but wouldn't say anything else.

Coghlin also declined to clarify the purpose of the lobbying, pointing back to the description in the registry.

Jackie Penman, spokesperson for the police service, said it was a question for the police association.

Kirsten Stevenson, spokesperson for the police board, said on behalf of chair Pat Mandy the board had no comment because the union hasn't sent correspondence to the board on the matter.

Move to lobby is 'unique and abnormal': police expert

"It's definitely unique and abnormal," said Scott Blandford, the program coordinator of the policing and public safety programs at Wilfrid Laurier University who also spent 30 years policing in London, Ont.

He told CBC Hamilton it's unclear exactly what the issue behind the lobbying could be, but said it may be a sign the union has a "fundamental disagreement" with a policy direction or strategic direction the police services board had asked the police service to pursue.

Blandford said it could also have to do with the city's police budget — but the police board supported the police service's $196-million "maintenance" budget, which is a $12 million increase from last year.

Some city councillors, meanwhile, have mulled over whether they will approve it.

Bryan Evans, a Toronto Metropolitan University professor in the politics and public administration department, said while police associations don't do a ton of lobbying, he doesn't think HPA's lobbying is necessarily unique.

He said it's impossible to tell why the union is lobbying, but thinks it could have a broad range of objectives, which is why HPA is targeting a whole host of minister's offices from the minister of the attorney general to finance to mental health to tourism.

"It's a pretty common strategy," Evans said.

Evans said HPA likely has localized goals because it is doing the lobbying itself, as opposed to leaving the lobbying to a larger, provincial police association.

Other police associations lobbying the province

Hamilton's police union isn't the only one to lobby the province this year.

The Windsor Police Association had Coghlin lobby the province between March 2022 and Jan. 26, 2023 under the topic of policy or programming.

That also seemed to be the first time Windsor's police union had ever lobbied the province.

The reason was "to advise the province on operational control, conduct, discipline, health and safety, oversight, performance, and policy impacts at the Windsor Police Service affecting Windsor Police Association Members."

Among their lobbying targets was the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, an independent, quasi-judicial agency that hears appeals, adjudicates applications, conducts investigations and resolves disputes about the oversight and provision of policing services.

Toronto Police Association, meanwhile, has a lobbyist actively in the province's ear.

The subject matter of the lobbying falls under the category of "regulation" and includes "pandemic response" and "municipal affairs."

The reason is to offer "advocacy and support" to the union's members but to also "work with Municipal Affairs officials to ensure the importance of policing to the City of Toronto is understood and that resources are not diminished."

The union's targets include the office of Premier Doug Ford, the cabinet office and the Special Investigations Unit.

The Ontario Provincial Police Association has five active lobbyist registrations, four of which are through Pathway Group Inc.

The Police Association of Ontario has three active lobbyist registrations, the Ontario Association of Police Service Boards has two and the Ontario Association of Police Service Boards has one.

In total, there have been 75 lobbyist registrations from police associations, police academies or police boards since 1999, according to the Office of the Integrity Commissioner's lobbyists registration.

The Police Association of Ontario and the union representing Ontario Provincial Police officers have lobbied the most.

Municipal police services have hired lobbyists 12 times.

In one case, a police services board lobbied, which is the Police Services Board for the town of Stratford, Ont.


Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.


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