Toronto police funding 'huge victory,' says Mayor Ford

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford declared victory after getting an assurance Monday from the province that funding would continue for a special police unit charged with addressing the root causes of violence.

Rob Ford awaits meeting with PM

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty agreed to continue funding the Toronto anti-violence intervention strategy (TAVIS) unit following a meeting Monday. (Michelle Siu/Canadian Press)

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford declared victory after getting an assurance Monday from the province that funding would continue for a special police unit charged with addressing the root causes of violence.

Funding for the Toronto anti-violence intervention strategy (TAVIS) unit comes from the province, and Ford said Monday that Premier Dalton McGuinty committed to extending that funding on a permanent basis.

"I think that's a huge victory for the taxpayers of Toronto," Ford said in brief remarks after a meeting Monday afternoon with the premier and Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair that was called in the wake of a recent spate of violent gun crime in the city.

"I take Mr. McGuinty at his word. He told me straight out and no, there was no BS. I wasn’t going to sit there and listen to it," Ford said. 

"I asked for funding for TAVIS and he said, 'Yes, we're going to continue funding TAVIS.' That’s what the people want. People want to live in this great city, which it is, and people want to come here and create jobs and have a safe environment to create jobs."

Chief Blair said the funding commitment from the province will allow police to build on what TAVIS has already accomplished and to plan future deployments.

"This is a program that has value, this is a program that works," Blair said, when speaking to reporters after his afternoon meeting with the mayor, the premier and other provincial officials.

"And today we were assured of that funding going forward into the future."

McGuinty urges city to help with funding

McGuinty, meanwhile, announced an additional $500,000 in funding to improve co-ordination between Toronto police, other GTA police forces and the Ontario Provincial Police. He also said $500,000 in funding to community groups will be "fast-tracked," in addition to continued funding for TAVIS.

The premier also called for the city to "dig a little deeper" when it comes to solutions for fighting gun crime, be it through increased policing or more community support. He said it "would be great" if the federal government could "come to the table with something."

"But I also have asked the mayor to give some thought to the municipality coming to the table, I think in particular to better support either police services, stronger community supports or a combination," McGuinty said.

McGuinty's commitment means the province is going to continue to fund the TAVIS unit to the tune of about $5 million annually. However, Ford has not achieved his objective of being able to hire more officers for the unit as a result.

Also attending the Monday meeting were Ontario Attorney General John Gerretsen, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Madeleine Meilleur, and Minister of Children and Youth Services, Eric Hoskins.

Opposition critics suggested that the promise of continued funding was not doing enough to stem gun violence.

Progressive Conservative MPP John Yakabuski called the announcement a "soft strategy" in dealing with the recent shooting incidents in the city

"Part of dealing with this problem in dealing with Toronto and anywhere is making sure you're prepared to face these gangs face on," he said. "We're at war with these gangs."

Skepticism on the street

While the political leaders met at Queen’s Park, police could be seen patrolling an east-end Toronto neighbourhood where a shooting on July 16 left two dead and 23 wounded. Police have made only a single arrest in the Danzig Street shooting.

That shooting is what compelled Ford to meet with the premier and the police chief on Monday to discuss ways of preventing similar violence.

And while the mayor believes more police on the street are the answer, east-end residents say if that were true they would already be seeing results.

While there are "a lot more police than there used to be," the violence is getting worse, Nicolas Russell told CBC News.

Neo Tapologo said people are scared about the potential for violence, but an increased police presence isn't the solution.

"We don’t really need police officers, we need more youth workers," said Tapologo, a mother who lives in the area.

The mayor has previously disparaged youth outreach initiatives as "hug-a-thug" programs, while the premier has said a balanced approach is needed, with a need to invest in both social programs and police initiatives.

In another development, Ford will meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Toronto on Tuesday to discuss gun crime.

With files from The Canadian Press and reports from the CBC's Jeff Semple and Steven D'Souza