Ottawa police union endorses PCs
Carding changes, police oversight top issues among members, OPA president says
The Ottawa Police Association has picked a side in the Ontario election, and its president is making no apologies for firmly throwing the union's support behind Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservatives.
"The police association represents the interests of the members as well as the profession of policing, so part of our role is to advocate, even lobby," said Matt Skof. "It's no different than doctors' or nurses' associations."
The relationship [with the Liberals] has had a lot of tension.- Matt Skof, OPA president
Skof said two key issues for his members are changes to street checks and the passing of Bill 175, the Safer Ontario Act, which overhauled the oversight of police in Ontario. Both happened under the Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne.
The Ottawa Police Association (OPA) has said the restrictions on street checks have led to an increase in violent crime in Ottawa.
As for the Safer Ontario Act, Skof said it opens the door to the privatization of certain police tasks, such as traffic control.
"It's been a very difficult time. The relationship [with the Liberals] has had a lot of tension," Skof said.
The recently launched PC platform includes a pledge to "fix Bill 175 ... and treat our police with respect."
"The only platform that's resonating with our membership right now is very clear, it's the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario," said Skof.
While Skof said this is the first time he's endorsed a political party during his six years as president of the OPA, it's not an unprecedented move among police unions in Ontario.
During the 2014 provincial election, the Ontario Provincial Police Association, which represents all civilian and non-commissioned uniformed members of the OPP, launched an attack ad campaign against Tim Hudak, then leader of the Progressive Conservatives.
Skof said the association's support doesn't necessarily reflect the views of the Ottawa Police Service.
"It is a big distinction between the police association and the police service."
The Toronto Police Services Board forbids the police union from making political endorsements.
Informed of that policy Thursday, Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board, said it's something Ottawa might consider.
"We've never looked at that in Ottawa because there have never been any local controversies here. But maybe we should look at what other jurisdictions are doing and develop a policy for the future."