Victor Biro/for the Toronto Star Police capture a vehicle at Jane St. and Bloor after it was seen fleeing the scene of a shooting on Humber Dr. riddled with bullet holes, and containing two men with gunshot wounds. Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty and Toronto mayor Rob Ford meet Monday to discuss gun violence in Toronto.
Premier Dad versus Mayor Mad. A mismatch on many levels.
Backed by police Chief Bill Blair, Ford comes to the table poised for battle over money and manpower to reinforce his law-and-order crusade, just days after voting down social funding. The mayor, who mocks “hug-a-thug” programs for at-risk youth, wants to throw thugs out of town.
McGuinty brings little to the table beyond a willingness to play host. His coffers are empty, he doesn’t control the cops, can’t rewrite the Criminal Code, and carries a low profile on an issue that is top of mind for Torontonians. He speaks softly and lacks a big stick.
Another way to define success: Lending an ear, showing a steady hand, offering a hopeful tone.
And numbers. The statistics show violent youth crime is in decline and repeat offences are down. The latest spate of shootouts is a statistical blip, claiming two lives and injuring 23 on one day in Toronto — but itself dwarfed by another tragic blip, the slaughter of 12 people and the wounding of 50 in Colorado at week’s end.
Back then, the premier appointed two retired cabinet ministers, Alvin Curling and Roy McMurtry (also a former chief justice) to answer the questions everyone is asking now, all these years later. When they delivered their massive report in 2008, the premier shelved many of the key recommendations on at-risk youth but did bankroll more policing and anti-poverty programs.
More than anyone could remember: When McGuinty asked for an update last week, his staff produced a seven-page briefing note detailing 70 initiatives targeting crime and at-risk youth. There is no shortage of solutions, but it is time to take a step back, take stock of what we’re doing — and not doing.
The premier has been reaching out, reflexively, for advice. He rang up Julian Fantino, the former Toronto police chief whom he hired to head the OPP (now a minister in the federal cabinet). Instinctively, McGuinty plays to both sides — casting himself as a hard-headed law-and-order premier with a soft touch.
He backs a ban on handguns, but also supports much of Stephen Harper’s justice agenda. He confers with police chiefs, but also posed for photos at a Scarborough youth project that has received provincial funding.
His handling of the crisis comes straight out of the “issues management” playbook that governs so much of his government: carefully choreographed media events to convey an image of managerial competence and political compassion.
But there is something to be said for McGuinty’s steady countenance, in contrast to Ford’s buffoonery — one day wanting to deport immigrants overseas, the next day clarifying he’d exile wayward citizens to … Thunder Bay? Atikokan?
There are times when people need to be reminded that their city is not facing an existential threat, merely questions of criminology and sociology. Gangland shootings can be combatted with timely police intelligence, smart enforcement, swift prosecutions and community supports.
But we cannot cower. Or clamour for anti-crime nostrums.
Here’s what failure would look like when McGuinty and Ford sit down together Monday to take a stand against crime: Carping, posturing, stereotyping, scapegoating, deporting and trash-talking.
Here’s hoping the politicians can keep the peace — and show the shooters how not to shoot off their mouths.