12/09/2014 12:45 EST | Updated 02/08/2015 05:59 EST

Spat between police union and board signals trouble for budget negotiations

The high-profile spat between the Toronto police union and the civilian head of the police board is a sign of things to come during impending budget negotiations, the former director of Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit said Tuesday.

- LISTEN | Ian Scott on Metro Morning

“There are some big issues coming up shortly,” said Ian Scott, now a private practice lawyer, referring to upcoming negotiations, as well as the search for a new police chief – both set for early next year.

“I think if Mr. McCormack had his way, he would prefer that Mr. Mukherjee is not the chair of the board during these subsequent discussions and debate.”

Last week, the president of the Toronto police union, Mike McCormack, called for the head of the Police Services Board, Alok Mukherjee, to resign after he shared a controversial Facebook post on his personal account. 

Mukherjee has since claimed that the union is engaging in a “smear campaign” against him, intended to undermine his character and intimidate the police board. 

“[Mukherjee] has started to take a stand in recent years, particularly on the budget issue … Over 90 per cent of the police budget relates to salaries, which ties absolutely into the collective bargaining negotiations which will be taking place shortly,” said Scott in an interview with CBC’s Metro Morning.

Those negotiations will occur between the police union and the police services board, which has tried in recent years to limit expansions of the department’s budget. Scott said that effort has resulted in a level of resentment among police management and the union, which in turn could scuttle negotiations.

'That board needs his experience'

“I think it can go sideways when the police are of the view that they are perhaps not going to get the kind of increases that they have received in the past in terms of salaries and benefits,” said Scott.

“The board represents the taxpayers and citizens and we are the ones who are supposed to control the police, not the other way around … we should not have a situation where the overseers feel they are being intimidated.”

In an interview with CBC last week, McCormack vehemently denied any attempt by the union to intimidate board members, particularly Mukherjee.

“Alok is not a victim of a smear campaign in any way. I believe the post on his personal Facebook site really lifted the veil of what his true feelings are around policing and it puts us in a very difficult position,” McCormack said.

Despite the conflict, Scott – who had his own series of public clashes with the Toronto police during his time as SIU director –  said it will be crucial to have Mukherjee on the board during the budget negotiations and the search for a new police chief.

“Right now that board needs his experience. He's been around for about ten years; they are walking into collective bargaining agreements, walking into a situation where they are picking a new chief … we need strong and experienced members of that board.”