The union representing Ontario Provincial Police has come out against Tim Hudak and the Progressive Conservatives.
In two television commercials released Monday, the Ontario Provincial Police Association (OPPA) attack Hudak's plan to target public sector pay and benefits if he is elected premier. The ads mark the first time in the OPPA's 60-year history that it has launched a political advocacy campaign during an election campaign.
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The OPPA briefly removed the ads from YouTube Monday. They were later reposted with one noticeable change. The ad featured at the top of this story originally had the narrator say "We're the OPP and we're here to keep you safe." The revised version has the narrator say "We're the OPPA ." It seems the group made the change in order to avoid the impression that the ad came from the force itself and not the union. The OPPA did not immediately respond to requests for comment on why the videos were removed.
The OPPA was also careful Monday not to seem to endorse Hudak's opponents in the race.
"Let me be clear. These ads do not serve as an endorsement for the Liberals or the NDP," said OPPA president Jim Christie in a press release. "This also does not mean that we don't respect and work well with many in the Conservative caucus. We just don't want this Conservative as Premier."
But the OPPA used language in its release the bears a striking resemblance to recent Liberal attacks on Hudak.
Over the weekend the Liberals highlighted a trip Hudak made to Washington D.C. in 2012 to meet with conservative thinkers. Liberal Economic Development Minister Eric Hoskins described the meeting as being with "radical factions of the Republican (Party) movement." In the past Hoskins has said Hudak is adopting "Tea Party" policies.
The OPPA release states that "There is no room for the divisive 'Tea Party' style politics that Mr. Hudak would bring to Ontario ... it is clear that Mr. Hudak subscribes to the far right wing teachings that have led to chaos in the 'Right to Work' states south of the border."
The OPPA has faced criticism in the past for connections to the Liberals.
Former president Karl Walsh campaigned for a seat as a Liberal in 2011 while he was still on paid leave as the OPPA's chief administrative officer. Walsh said he did nothing wrong because the leave ended before the official start of the campaign. He ultimately came second in the riding of Barrie.
Throughout the campaign Hudak has stressed that he would protect police services from his plan to cut 100,000 public sector jobs. But the PC leader has said the OPP would be included in his plan for an across-the-board wage freeze for the public sector. Hudak and the PCs have also tried to pass legislation that would compel arbitrators to take the province's ability to pay into account when settling labour disputes.
Ontario goes to the polls on June 12.
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