TORONTO - Police unions shouldn't be allowed to engage in partisan political activism during an election campaign, the Progressive Conservatives said Monday after being targeted in two ads issued by the Ontario Provincial Police Association.
"When the union representing the Ontario Provincial Police releases two 15-second attack ads against the Ontario PC Party, the public would understandably question the impartiality of its provincial police force," the Tories said in a statement.
"There is a reason why military and police forces do not engage in political activity — and this should extend to the unions and associations that represent them."
It is "rather unheard of" for police or an organization representing them to publicly endorse or pan a political candidate, said Luc Turgeon, a political science professor at the University of Ottawa.
"It does raise questions since police forces are sometimes called on to investigate politicians," he said.
The Tories pointed to the provincial police's ongoing investigation of the Liberal government over the alleged destruction of documents related to the cancellation of two gas plants and another probe at Ornge, the province's air ambulance service.
The Ontario Provincial Police said in a release Monday afternoon that it does not, in any way, support the union campaign.
"As part of the greater Ontario government, the OPP does not participate in or offer any opinions or positions regarding elections and politics," the statement said.
"The OPP has no opinion or position on the current election, the political parties involved or any of their party leaders."
The union, meanwhile, said it had "no choice" but to take public action given PC Leader Tim Hudak's plans to cut the pay and pensions of its members.
"His positions on arbitration, public sector pensions and further wage freezes, among others issues, are unacceptable to our members who put their lives on the line for their communities every day," union president Jim Christie said in a news release.
He said the ads are not an endorsement for the Liberals or the NDP.
"We just don't want this Conservative as premier," he said.
Hudak said he won't make any exceptions in implementing a public sector wage freeze if he's elected June 12.
"I think it's just fair and reasonable to say all of us, starting with me and all the politicians, there won't be any wage increases for at least two years," he said while campaigning in Toronto.
He was once again pressed on his so-called "Million Jobs Plan," which will likely be a focus of Tuesday's debate. Hudak denied making any errors in his calculations and said the important thing is to boost employment.
"We can have a great argument over whether it's going to create 80,000, 100,000, 120,000 or 150,000 jobs, the bottom line is, it's going to create jobs," he said.
"Will lowering taxes on job creators create more jobs? Absolutely. Will more affordable energy for families and industry create more jobs? One hundred per cent sure. Will less red tape help small businesses create more jobs? You're darn right. You add that up, that's over a million jobs, when you add all of that up."
Hudak said he's confident he can fulfil his promise, despite some economists suggesting he confused the term "person years of employment" with permanent jobs.
The governing Liberals say Hudak should admit that the promise to create a million jobs over eight years — while cutting 10 per cent of the public service — is a fantasy.
They've urged him to find one independent economist to back up his numbers, or revise his plan before the televised debate.
The Liberals and the New Democrats have also sounded the alarm over the Tories' pledge to cut 100,000 public sector jobs, saying it would compromise core services such as health care and education.
© Coast Reporter