Bill Blair at the door

He wasn’t knocking on the door. He was in an SUV.

One of the members of the Lberal team had come to our front door and we immediately said we wanted a sign.

I had planned to wait until I returned from my vacation, perhaps getting a sign sometime around Labour Day. Today? well as the last day of August, with a guy at the door,  why not, we figured.

What we didn’t figure on was the candidate coming up to us and saying hello. I always put signs on my lawn because I’m a bit of a loud-mouth. I always take a position, which means I always have a sign. But since when does the candidate come and say hi?

We were a bit astonished, and maybe also a bit star-struck. Bill Blair is a tall friendly guy, one of the most recognizable people in this city over the past decade even without his police uniform. We shook hands, a kind handshake rather than the bone-crusher assault you might fear from such a big strong guy.

And he stood at the door talking to us for a good 15-20 minutes. I kept expecting him to need to run off but we had a wonderful conversation like none I’ve ever had with a politician, possibly because Blair isn’t a politician.

Now please note, I say that as a compliment.  Bill Blair may be running for office but he is not a politician.  In the ugly attack ads that try to suggest Justin Trudeau “isn’t ready”, i figure they might be right only in the sense that he isn’t ready to be the usual sort of politician.   After all, who needs the usual sort of politician?

Neither Trudeau nor Blair resembles the old-style politician: thank goodness.

At the doorway, we talked about several things, a rambling conversation. Rob Ford came up, because in our neighbourhood most of the signage (in the election that he won, that is) was for Ford, whereas we supported Smitherman.

I feel very lucky, as we were given some remarkable moments of insight in our conversation. Blair told us that the three parties all approached him about running.

  • The NDP asked him.
    Blair said he’d been a friend of Jack Layton, a man Blair clearly admired, but that’s not who the NDP is anymore he said. Forgive me if my paraphrase is off, but I was a bit starstruck listening to what Blair had to say.
  • The Conservatives asked him.
    Blair said the Harper Conservatives said “they’d let me run for them”. And then what? Blair more or less said he couldn’t abide a situation where he’d be a robot always on a tight leash, told what to say, with no autonomy. Mike Harris also came to talk to him (trying to persuade him to run for the Conservatives), and this was, I think a warmer conversation where Blair admitted he could not see himself working in the Harper government. As a person who never liked Harris’ policies, I have to say, I admire very much what Blair reports as Harris’s very gentle reply: that old MH said “have a good look and decide which one you admire the most, and then follow him”. Which brings us to the third party.
  • The Liberals asked him.
    And the thing Blair remarked upon at this point was that Trudeau said he wanted him to be part of his team. Trudeau recognized Blair’s huge expertise in law enforcement. And Blair spoke of his excitement that so many talented people were being brought together to form a strong team.

There was more said at the door than this of course. There was a big conflict between Harper and Blair (and other police chiefs, with whom he was in a solid consensus) concerning the long gun registry. Police chiefs wanted it kept but the Harper government wanted it gone, and so of course it went. Blair jokingly told us that Harper said Blair was a “leader of a cult”. The police chiefs a cult??

What a weird thing to say.

Trudeau and Blair (click for Ottawa Citizen piece by Mark Kennedy)

I’ve talked about attack ads. Whatever their purpose or affiliation I don’t like them. They are the ugliest kind of manipulation, distorting the conversation. Shouldn’t our political discourse be about vision rather than harping on mistakes, about possibilities rather than covering your butt? Yes the average person is probably too afraid to step into the public eye, too afraid to submit to the kind of scrutiny that one gets in attack ads. That in itself is one of the things wrong with attack ads.  Politics should be open to average people too. Anyone with ideas should be welcomed into the conversation. If I had my druthers the spending limit would be much much lower, so that anyone with an idea could immediately get into the race. Why are we limiting our conversation to the guys who have tons of money?

And the polls? I wonder about that. The early lead enjoyed by Mulcair reminds me a lot of the early lead enjoyed in Toronto’s mayoralty election by Olivia Chow. At first, when everyone was in terror of the bogeyman (someone named “Ford”), Chow’s candidacy was welcomed. In due course when the electorate got a better look at the field, saw Tory and Chow, and realized that they didn’t need to fear a Ford, that changed. I wonder if the same dynamics might be at work among those wanting “anyone but Harper” in the Prime Minister’s Office? Mulcair may have solid support in Quebec, but as this super long election campaign goes on I wonder if voters will discover Trudeau’s team?

Blair is not at my door anymore. No, but he is knocking on the door of Parliament.  I believe he’ll win in our riding, a star candidate whose support transcends party lines. Every party wanted him.

I know who I am voting for here in Scarborough Southwest.

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19 Responses to Bill Blair at the door

  1. Dan Harris came by our place! We were a little busy, so we politely said that we did not have much to say. Perhaps that is the new trend, at least around here?

    • barczablog says:

      Then again maybe you were doing him a favour…? conversation is very old-fashioned. Erika and I talked his ear off, but he was a very polite listener.
      ….and now (re-reading next morning) i understand what you meant (sorry Jamie!). Is it a trend? i think it’s likely an indication that the Scarborough SW race is a tight one. And so these two candidates (at least) are running hard.

  2. What did he have to say about having been the CinC of a gang of armed thugs who held Toronto at gunpoint for a week and illegally locked hundreds of people up in wire cages? Some kind of weird definition of “Liberal”.

    • barczablog says:

      I didn’t ask (although i did think of asking). It was more of a love-in than a grilling session, and come to think of it, much the same as if he were a singer i was interviewing. I’ve wondered, yet I’m not sure he was truly CinC so much as keeping quiet/following orders within a chain of command. In a friendly encounter on a doorstep i think one has the opportunity to get more truth sotto voce than one can get in a grilling before a bunch of cameras, and i was happy with what i heard. If he were about to be your PM it might be a relevant question, but he will again be part of a team, and I trust them as much as anyone running.

      Yet it’s hard to know who’s liberal or conservative from what’s being offered in the campaign, not when the one supposedly furthest left is the one pushing hardest to balance the budget.

    • Funny (or not) – same thoughts went through my mind as I was reading this piece. I actually thought I was reading wrong when I saw first, that Lesley was endorsing this candidate and second, that he was running for the Liberals! But it was very enlightening to read of Blair’s encounters with the various parties…and that he isn’t able to stomach being part of Harper’s “team”. Also disheartening to note Mulcair’s kowtowing to this whole balanced budget trope – like any country can even obtain that!!! I’m really hoping though that somehow voters will be able to figure out which candidate to vote for as to not split the vote so that we end up with Harper again. Not quite sure how to navigate that…

      • barczablog says:

        Hey there Gianmarco..! I love the way you personalize this, perhaps as a man who has huge media sensitivity & literacy, you see beyond the words to the person. I always find it very special reading your comments. I am above all a strategic voter wanting Harper gone, but i wont deny that i prefer the Liberals and Trudeau. I suspect the NDP strength in Quebec may give them a huge leg up (the way Quebec once gave the Liberals an edge, and later the Tories under Mulroney), but even so I hope for a minority (either Liberal or NDP… please not Conservative). I MISS PARLIAMENT, i miss bills in the House that are explicitly for a purpose, rather than Trojan Horses designed to sneak an initiative past proper scrutiny. I remember the Red Book Chretien used to bring the country back from huge debt under Mulroney (why do i feel like a senior citizen invoking something from the 1990s, as though that were another century..?….well yes it was another century but did everyone forget?), and completely trust the liberals to do it again. There was huge pain in the ’90s, big cuts to transfer payments, just as Wynne’s attempts to balance her budget are causing grief in some sectors. But it’s not austerity, it’s a thoughtful combination of cuts & initiatives. Hudak or Harper dont make me feel confident, not when the financial incentive money always seems to go to Conservative ridings.

  3. SSW_girl says:

    I met the NDP candidate and Blair at the same time at the Jane’s Walk this year.  This was a community led walk where anyone can attend and was meant to be a walking community conversation for those unfamiliar.

    I’m new to the riding and have voted green, ndp as well as liberal in the past fed and prov elections. I don’t vote strategically and always try to listen to what the local candidates have to say.  I was actually really excited when I moved here and was surprised that we had an NDP MP so was really looking forward to meeting Dan Harris.

    I was really disappointed by how unimpressive the he was. During the community walk-and-talk he did not try to contribute to the discussion AT All! When community members voiced concerns he was just a wallflower as Blair and councillor Crawford answered questions and contributed suggestions.  He wasn’t even trying to mingling with his constituents. He was on his phone, having a smoke, and busy eating a DQ ice cream.  If this is the way he is with the people who voted him in and who he represents I can only imagine what (little) he is doing in Ottawa and in parliament.

    I really do not want some lackey back bencher to just tow the party line for +$167 000 a year (a trained monkey can do that for less). I am so SICK of partisan,  career politicians towing the party line.  I want someone who can use their head and make decisions, has a experience working a job in the trenches as well as being a leader, who can work with ALL parties across ALL levels of government. Blair would have done all these things as police chief. I think what I find impressive is that Blair does not need this.  He could easily go into retirement with his police chief pension (which I’m sure is comfortable and hefty) fall out of public life and enjoy his retirement without breaking a sweat.  Instead he is on the street,  knocking on doors trying to earn votes in addition to the fielding questions from the entire city about something that happened 5 years ago that is just an unproductive witch hunt at this point. (When people are so angry and convinced that they are right about something it is so hard to have a reasonable conversation.)

    Seriously, I want this guy to work his butt off as my representative. Running the TPS is not an easy job. There will always be the rogue cop that is disciplined but when Blair was in charge the city was safe. I think when you consider what is happening in the states between police forces and rioting Blair has done a great job keeping it all together. He’s got my vote.

    • barczablog says:

      Thank you for your testimony! i voted for Harris last time, so i came to Blair at first simply as a pragmatic voter (that is, as someone who wants above all to make my vote count). I figured Blair is more likely to win. Yet at this point it has become much more. Blair is a man with a lot of experience who still is very quick, judging from our door-step chat. The man is full of energy and ready to give. I dont impress easily, although by the same token i also do not try to put people on the spot, i seek to get the best from people always (so NO i didnt grill him about the G20). But Blair’s best is something special.

  4. Sometimes you have the most interesting conversations on your doorstep around election time… It was the same on our doorstep on the run up to the general election… It also gives us the opportunity to ask questions that you still do not get answers too 🙂

    I hope the right man gets in office 🙂 as I do not know your political runners…. 🙂
    Enjoy a wonderful Musical Week ❤ Sue

    • barczablog says:

      Thanks Sue, great to hear from you, and always grateful for your spiritual vibe. I find myself a bit frustrated, that the face-to-face encounter is so authentic, but unfortunately also so rare. Most of our political decisions are made based on what we see on TV or read online or in a newspaper, and so can be manipulated. I wish there were more opportunities for the face-to-face, although i suppose i could always get out there and see for myself.

      OH and it’s funny you say you “hope the right man gets in office” because of course, while we do have a woman leading a political party up here (Elizabeth May of the Green Party, who are well back in the race) otherwise it’s mostly men, with male leaders and all men as front runners in my neighbourhood. Would things be better if more women successfully ran for office? I think so.

      • Well had my choice for NDP leader been elected we would have a woman leading a major party…

      • Maybe you are right my friend… We have many women in local councils elected here.. And more women are being voted into the Houses of Parliament… I think a woman can also be as strong as a man.. One only has to look at Margaret Thatcher as PM. She was no one’s fool either.. Yet men often think a woman is a weaker link, or let’s say more
        easily ‘man’ipulated 🙂 May the Best PERSON win 😀

  5. Ian Ritchie says:

    I would have thought that Blair’s involvement (or worse, lack thereof) disqualified him for hero worship.

    • Ian Ritchie says:

      By which I mean the travesty of denied charter rights that was the G20.

    • barczablog says:

      I am not sure that’s what i experienced exactly (hero worship), but yes, that’s a great question to ask. I was struck by how quick he was mentally, adept at answering questions. He’s not slippery or evasive, he looks you in the eye and it’s not a power play. He was gentle. I suppose that’s the problem with blogs and the internet. My doorstep is not an inquisition, and i am not an inquisitor. I don’t put anyone on the spot normally, although perhaps for Harper or a Ford (either brother) or Hudak i would make the exception. I was feeling welcoming to someone famous on my doorstep. I am very comfortable having him in Ottawa, and btw, feel certain that someday the truth will come out, that the commands came from higher up.

  6. Wow funny. I was beaten up, arrested and detained at the g20 for twenty seven hours. I went to Blair’s election office to speak with him about what happened under his watch and was kicked out of his office! I am so disappointed that people voted for the man who endorsed carding.

    • barczablog says:

      It’s complicated. First of all, i totally hate what happened (the incarceration of so many people). But he is not the man who created carding. It’s a policy that is used all over, one that i dislike. Perhaps he needs to be seen for what he is: a career policeman above all. Policemen follow orders, execute policy set for them by politicians. As a politician i believe Blair will still be following orders and executing policy as part of the team.

      My sense when we chatted at the door was that he was being super discreet, possibly covering butt for someone else’s errors on the G20 (the provincial liberals or the federal conservatives). There was a complex chain of command and there was no freedom to act nor to have the “luxury” of answering questions of a visitor to the office. I can imagine the outrage, but if his hands were tied –as part of a chain of command going up to Stephen Harper– he would not be in a position to comment, anymore than he was able to tell us what he knew about Rob Ford’s crack habit (when again, he was very discreet).

      • SSW_girl says:

        There has already been an independent inquiry at TPS into conduct at the G20 and I believe it showed that Blair wasn’t responsible because he wasn’t on the organizational chart for the day. Those that were responsible at TPS were held accountable (ie. Fenton). There was a really good post on reddit about Blair, the TPS, Carding and the G20 from a Toronto lawyer that offers some good explanations.

        You can ask Blair to his face to answer questions about this but so what if he said “sorry” or “yeah i did it” or “I don’t believe you”. Even if he did answer with truth or a lie so what? The point is if you want answers that will result in meaningful change you need to do it through an official avenue to make it a part of the public record. If you think you have been wronged during the G20 there are ways that you can seek justice. This can be done through filing a compliant with the TPS or through a lawyer in a civil suit (there are more than enough of them that would love to get their claws into the TPS and would do this pro bono). I’m sure there a many other avenues that private citizens can use to seek justice than I can’t think of. If people want answers, progress, and changes of how police conduct themselves this is the only way that it will happen. It will not happen through anecdotal posts and angry tweets made on the internet.

        I agree with Barczablog. The guy was a policeman first and foremost. His job and the job of the TPS is to follow orders and enforce the law. They don’t make the law. I believe the G20-Fenton case is still awaiting sentencing so not yet fully resolved and because no charges were officially laid on Ford for the supposed crack video it would be best for Blair not to comment on the specifics of either topic in any arena outside a court of law.

  7. Pingback: NDP delusions: a leader stays on, and what we need instead | barczablog

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