Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty during a press conference at Queen's Park Toronto on Monday July 23, 2012.
Credits: ERNEST DOROSZUK/QMI AGENCY
Premier Dalton McGuinty dug behind the cushions of the sofa Monday to find $12.5 million a year for permanent funding of specialized police teams that target criminal gangs, drugs and weapons.
"We've got a significant deficit and we're looking at everything....to determine whether or not we could afford to end a program here and cut back in a program there to devote our attention to our two highest priories: healthcare and education," McGuinty said Monday. "But when these kinds of things happen, when communities have their confidence shaken, when children and young people are victims of violence, I think we've got to give these kinds of things a rethink."
McGuinty emerged from a meeting with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair -- dubbed the Summit of the Gun -- with a commitment to assign permanent funding for the Provincial and Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategies (PAVIS and TAVIS) and to fast track $500,000 to troubled Toronto neighbourhoods through the Safer and Vital Communities Program.
The provincial government has been funding TAVIS and PAVIS for a number of years but had never before guaranteed ongoing funding.
Mayor Rob Ford, who had earlier told reporters that he would ask McGuinty for $5-$10 million because "money talks and BS walks," said he considered it a huge accomplishment to secure on-going funding for TAVIS.
"(McGuinty) told me straight out, and no there was no BS I wasn't going to sit there and listen to it, I asked for the funding for TAVIS and he said, ‘Yes, we're going to continue funding TAVIS,'" Ford said. "That's what the people want... TAVIS is doing a fantastic job in getting the guns and gangs off the street."
Blair said the province provides $5 million a year in TAVIS funding which pays for 72 officers who, working in four teams, provide intelligence and are quickly deployed to trouble spots.
The Toronto Police Service is not in a position to hire more officers but the permanent funding guarantees it won't lose any members and will be able to continue existing anti-crime initiatives, he said.
"We want to make sure that people are assured of their safety," the police chief said. "It's critical for us to live up to their expectations."