Categorized | Canadian Politics

Bill Blair launches political career at Sikh celebration

Posted on 30 April 2015 by admin

Bill Blair

Former police chief marks his first day as an aspiring federal Liberal candidate at a Sikh community celebration, the Khalsa Day parade.

Dressed in a plain black suit, blue shirt and striped tie, retired Toronto police chief Bill Blair stepped outside his comfort zone Sunday on his first day as a civilian and aspiring federal Liberal candidate.

“Public safety was easy. Locking up the bad guys is a piece of cake,” he quipped after greeting several dozen Sikh police officers at the CNE before Sunday’s Khalsa Day parade.

“This other thing is hard.”

Blair is entering federal politics and seeking the Liberal nomination in Scarborough Southwest, a community where he has lived most of his life.

Former CTV anchor Tim Weber is also running for the Liberal nomination in anticipation of next fall’s federal election. The riding is currently held by New Democrat Dan Harris.

Blair’s 10-year tenure as chief officially ended Saturday night. But Toronto’s former top cop said he couldn’t miss the annual Khalsa Day celebration, which marks the Sikh New Year. The parade drew an estimated 100,000 people to downtown streets Sunday.

“I have a very special relationship with this community. I have been coming to this event for 25 years,” said Blair. Over his suit, he wore an orange scarf he received several years ago during a visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, a holy Sikh site in Punjab, India.

“Although I no longer wear the uniform of the Toronto Police Service . . . I wanted to be here with these people today because it is an incredibly important day for our Sikh community and the city of Toronto,” he told reporters after addressing several thousand gathered in the CNE’s Better Living Building.

As he posed for photos and mingled with the friendly crowd, talk quickly turned to his political aspirations

“We are looking forward to seeing you in Ottawa,” said event organizer Gobinder Randhawa, founder of Scarborough’s first Sikh temple in 1985.

“We should talk,” Blair responded, as the group laughed.

“I have to tell you, for most of my life, I have run from politicians, not for politics,” he said. “But I want to continue to serve.”

In an interview later, Randhawa said he hopes Blair wins the nomination and the election.

“The quality in politics has to be improved,” he said. “I think we need men like him at every level of government.”

Many police officers at the event seemed pleased their old boss is making the leap into federal politics.

Staff Supt. Rick Stubbings said the retired chief has been “a real bridge” to the Sikh community and predicted he will make a good politician.

“He really is authentic. He cares about people,” added Stubbings, a member of Blair’s senior management team for 10 years and the senior officer at the event.

Auxiliary Const. Anmol Lal, who has served for four years and hopes to join the force full time, said Blair is popular in the Sikh community and among the police rank and file.

“It’s a great thing. He was an amazing chief,” said Lal, one of several who wore turbans with their uniforms.

Speaking to reporters, Blair said he is seeking political office because he wants to continue to serve the public.

“I know the issues that confront our citizens. I know a lot about public safety and national security, issues of drug policy and a lot of things about social justice, because that’s what it means to be a public servant in the city of Toronto,” he said.

Although Blair said he had “respectful conversations with everybody,” he chose the Liberals because the party’s “values most closely fit with my own.”

He said he hopes to bring what he has learned from almost 40 years on the police service “to a national discussion of how we can keep all communities safe, livable, respectful and inclusive.”

But Blair is taking nothing for granted.

“I’m going to have to earn that nomination and try to convince them that I am the best person to represent them (in Ottawa),” he said.



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