POLITICS

Bill Blair Rewriting History On G20 Summit, NDP Candidate Says

09/02/2015 06:58 EDT | Updated 09/02/2015 07:59 EDT

Star Liberal recruit and former Toronto police chief Bill Blair is attempting to rewrite history on his role in the G20 fiasco, an incumbent NDP candidate has charged.

Dan Harris, who is running against Blair in the riding of Scarborough Southwest, released a statement Wednesday urging his rival to be accountable for the "abuses" perpetrated during the 2010 summit in Toronto.

"I hear from many, many people who are upset that Mr. Blair has not taken responsibility for police abuses during the G-20 that were done on his watch," Harris said in the statement, noting that two police officers "working under" Blair were charged for their actions that weekend.

Harris also threw a shot at the Liberal leader.

"Justin Trudeau has rightly pointed out that Stephen Harper should be held accountable for the company he keeps, from Mike Duffy, Nigel Wright and Ray Novak to Bruce Carson," Harris said. "Will Justin Trudeau answer for the conduct of his 'star' candidate?"

Harris' statement comes a day after Blair took to the pages of The Globe and Mail with a 559-word column defending his record.

Blair wrote that, during the summit, operational command for downtown Toronto was the responsibility of the superintendent of the Toronto Police Service, under the direction of an RCMP unit.

"It is a matter of public record that I appeared nowhere on the G20 organizational chart. I did not give, nor authorize, any operational commands," Blair wrote.

Blair added that his only G20 "operational order" was to direct that hundreds of protesters detained in the rain be released as the summit concluded.

From the column:

I was, at all times, the chief of the Toronto Police Service, responsible for the safety of Toronto's citizens and the conduct of my officers. I never wavered from these responsibilities, that public concerns were addressed, that improvements made to our policies, procedures and training and, where misconduct occurred, officers were held accountable.

Blair noted that he ordered an independent review of police actions that weekend and implemented its 10 recommendations.

'A five-year old event'

Last weekend, Harris took to Twitter to share a clip of NDP candidate Peggy Nash challenging the Liberal on CTV's Power Play.

"Will you take responsibility for your actions in the biggest civil rights trampling in Canadian history?" she asked.

Blair responded that it was a "five-year old event" and that he has been "fully accountable."

The Toronto Star's Edward Keenan suggested in a column Tuesday that Blair's piece in the Globe and behaviour on CTV amounted to passing the buck.

"I think when most of us demand accountability, we want a public explanation of how and why something happened, and, if the explanation is not sufficiently exculpatory, the resignation, firing or punishment of those who were (or should have been) in charge," Keenan wrote.

"In the world of politics Blair is trying to enter, the tradition (broken by the same Prime Minister Blair is trying to turf) is for a minister of the Crown to resign because of the scandalous actions of those he or she supervises. That's what accountability looks like."

More than 1,100 people were arrested and detained during the summit, many in a makeshift detention centre. Ontario Ombudsman André Marin called it "the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history."

After Trudeau appeared with Blair at an event in the spring, Marin took to Twitter to share his 2010 report into the G20 and criticize both men directly — an usual move for an independent officer of a provincial legislature.

Mulcair approach me to run for NDP, Blair says

But according to Blair, the New Democrats who are now denouncing him once wanted him to join their team.

Blair told The Huffington Post Canada in June that NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair was the first leader to approach him about running for the party once his tenure as Toronto's top cop came to a close. The Conservatives also showed interest.

"I had conversations with them all, and, actually, Tom was the first one to come to me," Blair said.

He said a conversation with Trudeau about "values" ultimately convinced him to run for the Liberals.

Blair, who served as Toronto's police chief for 10 years, also told HuffPost he was not surprised his rivals were attacking him over what happened during the G20 summit.

"I don't think that I was at fault for everything that might have gone wrong that weekend, but I was responsible," he said.

HuffPost has reached out to Blair for reaction to the NDP release.

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