Bill Blair (politician)

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Bill Blair
Bill Blair - 2012 (cropped).jpg
Blair in 2012
President of the King's Privy Council for Canada
Assumed office
October 26, 2021
Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau
Preceded byDominic LeBlanc
Minister of Emergency Preparedness
Assumed office
October 26, 2021
Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau
Preceded byHimself (as Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness)
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
In office
November 20, 2019 – October 26, 2021
Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau
Preceded byRalph Goodale
Succeeded byMarco Mendicino (as Minister of Public Safety)
Himself (as Minister of Emergency Preparedness)
Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction
In office
July 18, 2018 – November 20, 2019
Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice
In office
January 28, 2017 – July 18, 2018
MinisterJody Wilson-Raybould
Preceded bySean Casey
Succeeded byMarco Mendicino
Member of Parliament
for Scarborough Southwest
Assumed office
October 19, 2015
Preceded byDan Harris
Chief of the Toronto Police Service
In office
April 6, 2005 – April 25, 2015
Preceded byMike Boyd
Succeeded byMark Saunders
Personal details
William Sterling Blair

(1954-04-09) April 9, 1954 (age 68)[1]
Scarborough, Ontario, Canada
Political partyLiberal
SpouseSusanne Blair
Children2 sons; 1 daughter
ResidenceSouth Hill, Toronto[2]
Alma materUniversity of Toronto (BA)
Police Career
DepartmentToronto Police Service
Service years1975–2015
RankToronto Police - Chief of Police.png Chief of Police
AwardsCommander of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces
Police Exemplary Service Medal
Commander of the Order of St. John

William Sterling Blair PC COM MP[3] (born April 9, 1954) is a Canadian politician and former police officer who has served as President of the Privy Council and Minister of Emergency Preparedness since October 26, 2021. A member of the Liberal Party, Blair represents Scarborough Southwest in the House of Commons. Blair previously held the portfolios of Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. Before entering politics, Blair worked for three decades with the Toronto Police Service (TPS), serving as the chief of police from 2005 until retiring in 2015.


Blair was born April 9, 1954, in Scarborough, Ontario. Blair's father had served as a police officer for 39 years.[4] Blair considered pursuing a degree in law or finance, when he initially enrolled at the University of Toronto Scarborough in the mid 1970s.[4] Blair initially studied economics at the University of Toronto. He left to follow his ambition of being a police officer, but returned later and completed a Bachelor of Arts in economics and criminology.[1]

Blair is married to Susanne McMaster, and together they have three grown children (2 sons and daughter) and 2 grandchildren.[5]

Police career[edit]

Blair joined the Metropolitan Toronto Police while in university to make money and began taking courses on a part-time basis.[4] Blair walked a beat near Regent Park and later worked as an undercover officer in Toronto's drug squad.[4]

After Blair earned his bachelor's degree in criminology, he advanced his career in the police service in the late 1980s, taking part in drug busts involving the seizure of millions of dollars of cocaine.[4] Chief David Boothby assigned Blair to improve the poor community relations between the officers of 51 Division, which patrolled Blair's old beat near Regent Park.[4] Blair normalized police relations with the community by measures such as sending cops to read to kids in local elementary schools and engaging with local businesses and churches.[4]

In 1999, Blair was considered as a candidate to replace outgoing Chief Boothby, but Mayor Mel Lastman, with the support of Premier Mike Harris, chose to hire Julian Fantino, then head of the York Regional Police.[4] After reorganization of the senior ranks after Fantino's ascension as police chief, Blair became head of detective operations.[4]

Chief of the Toronto Police Service[edit]

Blair in 2005.

Blair was selected in a 4–2 vote of the Toronto Police Services Board in early April 2005,[6] and formally appointed Chief of the Toronto Police Service on April 26, 2005.[7] He succeeded Mike Boyd, who had served as interim chief after the expiry of Julian Fantino's contract.[6] Prior to his appointment as chief, Blair worked for approximately 30 years as a Toronto police officer, with assignments involving drug enforcement, organized crime and major criminal investigations.[7] Blair served as president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.[7]

In the spring of 2009, Tamil Canadians in Toronto upset by civilian deaths in the Sri Lankan Civil War, which included an overnight artillery bombardment that killed 378 civilians and wounded 1,100, allegedly perpetrated by government forces, staged a series of protests in Toronto,[8] including shutting down the northbound and southbound lanes of University Avenue for four days while protesting in front of the US Consulate,[9] and illegally blocking traffic on the Gardiner Expressway.[8] Blair and the police faced pressure to crack down on the demonstrations,[10] arrest and deporting the protesters.[11] Instead, Blair used his experience in community policing to ensure that minimal force was used, spoke respectfully of the protesters' rights to expression, and negotiated the peaceful resolution of the events.[8][10][11] The Canadian Tamil Congress would later award Blair an inaugural "Leaders for Change Award" for his leadership during the protests.[11]

During demonstrations against the G20 Toronto Summit nearly 1,000 arrests were made, making it the largest mass arrest in Canadian history.[12] In the aftermath of the protests, the Toronto Police Service and the Integrated Security Unit (ISU) for the summit were heavily criticized for brutality during the arrests. Protests called for Blair to resign.[13] In a December 2010 interview, Blair indicated that he would not resign, despite growing criticism of his leadership during and after the summit.[14]

A class action lawsuit was begun against TPS on behalf of all of those who were arrested in spite of the TPS' several attempts to stop proceedings. As of November 10, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that it will not hear the Toronto Police Services Board's appeal, and the suit was able to proceed to trial. On August 17, 2020, the lawsuit had resulted in a $16.5 million settlement. Those arrested were each awarded dollar amounts ranging from $5,000 to $24,700.[15]

Responding to questions about a controversial regulation enacted by the Cabinet of Ontario to increase police powers during the summit, Blair was supportive, stating that "it was passed in exactly the procedure as described in our legislation in Ontario."[16] Post-summit reports revealed that on June 25, prior to the start of the summit and shortly after Blair defended a widely reported misinterpretation of the regulation in a press conference, the police department received a government bulletin clarifying the misinterpretation and explaining that the new regulation accorded them no additional power to demand identification outside of the summit perimeter.[17][18] Blair's spokesperson stated that as of the press conference, Blair was unaware of the clarification;[17] however, Blair did not retract his prior remarks to the press after receiving the bulletin.[18] When interviewed after the summit, Blair confirmed that there was never an extraordinary legal requirement for the public to present identification within five metres of the perimeter fence, but that he "was trying to keep the criminals out."[18] In December 2010, following a critical report by Ontario Ombudsman André Marin, Blair admitted regret that he had initially interpreted the regulation at face value and did not promptly clear up confusion about the meaning of the regulation.[14]

In 2013, Blair came into conflict with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford after confirming to the media that the police had obtained a video of the mayor smoking what appeared to be crack cocaine. Blair said he was "disappointed" in the mayor.[19] As the investigation into the mayor and his friend Alessandro Lisi continued, Mayor Ford dared Blair to arrest him and accused him of wasting money in their surveillance of Ford.[20] Rob Ford's brother, Councillor Doug Ford, claimed that Blair had "gone rogue" and violated the Police Services Act when speaking out about the mayor during the ongoing police investigation.[21] On August 11, 2014, Blair served Councillor Doug Ford with notice of defamation. Doug Ford accused the police chief of using the suit as "payback" in retaliation against the mayor for not extending his contract, but apologized for his comments shortly afterwards.[22]

In his last years in office, Blair was in conflict with several members of the Toronto Police Services Board over resistance to proposed reforms as well as his resistance to cut the police budget. On July 30, 2014, the board announced that it would not renew Blair's contract for a third, five-year term. He retired from the police service when his contract ended on April 25, 2015,[23] and was succeeded by Deputy Chief Mark Saunders.[24]

Political career[edit]

Blair declined to comment on his future plans while he was still police chief.[25] The Liberal Party recruited Blair to be its candidate in Scarborough Southwest for the 2015 federal election to be held October. On April 25, 2015, Blair confirmed his intention to seek the Liberal Party nomination in Scarborough Southwest.[26] He won the Liberal nomination on June 13, 2015.[27]

On October 19, 2015, Blair was elected in the Scarborough Southwest riding.[28] On January 28, 2017, Blair was named parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice.[29] In January 2016, Blair was named as the head of the federal-provincial task force tasked with creating a plan for the legalization of cannabis in Canada.[30][31] On September 19, 2017, Blair assumed the role of parliamentary secretary to the minister of health.[32]

In cabinet[edit]

Blair has held a number of roles working with the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

On July 18, 2018, Blair joined Cabinet when he was appointed Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction.[33] He was made Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness on November 20, 2019.[34] In his role he oversaw the closure of the border between Canada and the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic.[35]

Blair became President of the Privy Council on October 26, 2021, and dropped public safety from his portfolio, becoming Minister of Emergency Preparedness.[36] In November 2021, Blair oversaw the Royal Canadian Air Force's operations to help those in the Pacific coast of British Columbia amidst torrential rains that caused landslides and floods.[37] Blair played a key role in the federal government's response the Canada convoy protest, where the Emergencies Act was invoked.[38] In September 2022, Blair coordinated the federal response to Hurricane Fiona.[39]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 2007, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces[40] and in 2012, he was elevated within the Order to the level of Commander.[41] He is a Member of the Venerable Order of Saint John.[3] On January 19, 2013, Blair was honoured by the Canadian Tamil Congress, with their inaugural "Leaders for Change Award" for his exemplary leadership during the protests of 2009 in Toronto.[11]

CAN Order of Merit of the Police Forces Commander ribbon.svg Order of St John (UK) ribbon -vector.svg QEII Diamond Jubilee Medal ribbon.svg CAN Police Exemplary Service ribbon.svg

Ribbon Description Notes
CAN Order of Merit of the Police Forces Commander ribbon.svg Order of Merit of the Police Forces (COM)[21]
  • Commander 5 January 2012.
  • Officer 11 January 2007.
Order of St John (UK) ribbon -vector.svg Order of St John[42]
  • Member
QEII Diamond Jubilee Medal ribbon.svg Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal[43]
  • 2012
  • Canadian Version of this Medal
CAN Police Exemplary Service ribbon.svg Police Exemplary Service Medal[42]
  • Medal 17 July 1997
  • 1st Bar 21 June 2007

Electoral record[edit]

2019 Canadian federal election: Scarborough Southwest
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal Bill Blair 28,965 57.2 +4.73 $59,424.78
Conservative Kimberly Fawcett Smith 10,502 20.7 -0.52 $31,378.91
New Democratic Keith McCrady 7,865 15.5 -8.23 $32,226.21
Green Amanda Cain 2,477 4.9 +2.32 $4,140.81
People's Italo Eratostene 590 1.2 $5,716.04
Animal Protection Simon Luisi 236 0.5 none listed
Total valid votes/expense limit 50,635 100.0
Total rejected ballots 449
Turnout 51,084 65.3
Eligible voters 78,246
Liberal hold Swing +2.63
Source: Elections Canada[44][45][46]
2015 Canadian federal election: Scarborough Southwest
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal Bill Blair 25,586 52.47 +23.13 $153,155.47
New Democratic Dan Harris 11,574 23.73 -11.14 $48,940.84
Conservative Roshan Nallaratnam 10,347 21.22 -10.46 $64,631.85
Green Tommy Taylor 1,259 2.58 -1.48 $5,572.61
Total valid votes/expense limit 48,766 100.0     $205,220.58
Total rejected ballots 277 0.56
Turnout 49,043 67.96
Eligible voters 72,164
Liberal gain from New Democratic Swing +17.13
Source: Elections Canada[47][48]


  1. ^ a b Carlson, Katherine Blaze (November 9, 2013). "When 'the weight of the city' is on you". The Globe and Mail. p. M4.
  2. ^ "Search For Contributions". Elections Canada. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Sajous, Emmanuelle (2006), Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (PDF), vol. 140, Canada Gazette, pp. 868–871, archived from the original (PDF) on May 22, 2013, retrieved May 3, 2020
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Lorinc, John (2016). "Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair Interview, Crime in Toronto | Force for Change". University of Toronto Magazine. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
  5. ^ MacCharles, Tonda (April 2, 2017). "Bill Blair and the politics of being joint chief | The Star". The Star.
  6. ^ a b Wanagas, Don (April 14, 2005), "Bill Blair's inside job", Now Magazine, vol. 24, no. 33, archived from the original on October 22, 2012, retrieved December 24, 2010, Blair won in what sources indicate was a four-two vote. Word is, he managed to appeal to Fantino fans Case Ootes and Hugh Locke without completely alienating the so-called progressive contingent.
  7. ^ a b c "Command Officers' biographies | William Blair". Toronto Police Service. Archived from the original on March 28, 2010. Retrieved June 30, 2010.
  8. ^ a b c CTV Toronto (May 11, 2009). "Tamil protesters leave Toronto highway". CTV News. Bell Media. Retrieved July 29, 2018.
  9. ^ CTV Toronto (April 30, 2009). "Police chief says Tamil protest moved 'peacefully'". CTV News. Bell Media. Retrieved July 29, 2018.
  10. ^ a b The Canadian Press (May 11, 2009). "Police tolerance of Tamil protests may lessen after highway storming: expert". CP24. Bell Media. The Canadian Press. Retrieved July 29, 2018.
  11. ^ a b c d Tamils Admin (January 24, 2013). "Toronto Police chief Bill Blair honored at Canadian Tamil Congress dinner". Canadian Tamil Congress. Archived from the original on February 16, 2013. Retrieved July 29, 2018.
  12. ^ Morrow, Adrian (June 23, 2011). "Toronto police were overwhelmed at G20, review reveals". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on June 24, 2011. Retrieved June 24, 2011.
  13. ^ Bugajski, Tomasz (June 29, 2010). "Peaceful protesters demand resignation of Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair". BlogTO. FreshDaily.
  14. ^ a b Poisson, Jayme (December 8, 2010), "The buck stops here, Chief Blair says", Toronto Star, archived from the original on October 14, 2015, retrieved December 23, 2010, In the face of growing criticisms of his handling of the G20 and its aftermath, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair says he will not resign.
  15. ^ "$16.5M settlement in class-action lawsuit over mass arrests at 2010 G20 summit". Global News. The Canadian Press. August 17, 2020. Retrieved February 24, 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. ^ Police powers expanded for G20, CBC News, June 25, 2010, archived from the original on February 17, 2012, retrieved December 24, 2010, Civil liberties groups are concerned about the new regulations, but Toronto police Chief Bill Blair defended the move to add the new powers and denied there was any attempt to deceive the public about how or when they were enacted.
  17. ^ a b Paperny, Anna Mehler (June 29, 2010). "Toronto police knew they had no extra arrest powers". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on July 2, 2010.
  18. ^ a b c "Police admit no five-metre rule existed on security fence law". The Globe and Mail. June 29, 2010. Archived from the original on April 25, 2015.
  19. ^ CBC News (October 31, 2013). "Police Chief Bill Blair on the Rob Ford video". CBC News. CBC/Radio-Canada. Retrieved July 30, 2014.
  20. ^ Hui, Ann & Mahoney, Jill (February 28, 2014). "'Arrest me,' Toronto Mayor Rob Ford dares police chief". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved July 30, 2014.
  21. ^ a b Deschamps, Tara (July 30, 2014). "Highlights of the Chief Bill Blair era". Toronto Star. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  22. ^ Pagliaro, Jennifer (August 12, 2014). "Toronto police Chief Bill Blair serves Doug Ford with notice of defamation". Toronto Star.
  23. ^ Powell, Betsy (July 30, 2014). "Toronto police board won't renew Bill Blair's contract". Toronto Star. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  24. ^ "LIVE: Toronto gets new police chief". Toronto Star. April 20, 2015. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  25. ^ Khandaker, Tamara (April 15, 2015). "Campaign to recruit Bill Blair for Liberal party launched online". Toronto Star. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  26. ^ Campion-Smith, Bruce (April 25, 2015). "Bill Blair wants to run for Liberals in fall election". Toronto Star. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  27. ^ The Canadian Press (June 13, 2015). "Former Toronto police chief Bill Blair wins Liberal nomination". Toronto Star. The Canadian Press. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  28. ^ Rushowy, Kristin (October 19, 2015). "Toronto's former top cop was elected for the Liberals in Scarborough Southwest". Toronto Star. ISSN 0319-0781. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
  29. ^ "Trudeau names his 'middle bench,' as parliamentary secretaries assigned". Retrieved January 11, 2016.
  30. ^ Leblanc, Daniel (January 8, 2016). "Bill Blair faces 'formidable challenge' in leading marijuana task force". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
  31. ^ "The ex cops, politicians and friends of Bill Blair cashing in on legal weed".
  32. ^ Office of the Prime Minister of Canada. 2017. "Statement by the Prime Minister on changes to the Parliamentary Secretaries." Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.
  33. ^ Harris, Kathleen (18 July 2018). "Trudeau cabinet shuffle brings new faces, several changes for run-up to 2019 campaign." CBC News. CBC/Radio-Canada.
  34. ^ Zimonjic, Peter (20 November 2019). "Who's who in Justin Trudeau's 2019 cabinet Peter." CBC News. CBC/Radio-Canada.
  35. ^ "Canada-U.S. border restrictions extended until at least July 21: Bill Blair". CP24. June 18, 2021. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
  36. ^ "Prime Minister welcomes new Cabinet". Prime Minister of Canada. October 26, 2021. Retrieved October 18, 2022.
  37. ^ "Canada floods: Air force sent as BC declares state of emergency". Al Jazeera. November 17, 2021. Retrieved November 18, 2021.
  38. ^ "'Threat still exists': Emergencies Act to remain as long as required, Bill Blair says - National |". Global News. Retrieved October 18, 2022.
  39. ^ "Feds to send military assistance, match Red Cross donations for Fiona recovery". CTVNews. September 24, 2022. Retrieved October 18, 2022.
  40. ^ "Canada Gazette, Part I" (PDF), Canada Gazette, vol. 142, no. 13, pp. 840–841, March 29, 2008, archived from the original (PDF) on May 22, 2013, retrieved May 3, 2020
  41. ^ "Appointment by Order of the Governor General of Canada, Chancellor and Commander of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces". Canada Gazette. January 5, 2012.
  42. ^ a b Bieser-Hutchinson, Carol (March 2, 2015). "Chief of Police, William (Bill) Blair".
  43. ^ "Bill Blair | Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012)". The Governor General of Canada.
  44. ^ "List of confirmed candidates". Elections Canada. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  45. ^ "Election Night Results". Elections Canada. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  46. ^ "Candidate Campaign Returns". Elections Canada. Retrieved September 7, 2020.
  47. ^ Elections Canada – Confirmed candidates for Scarborough Southwest, 30 September 2015
  48. ^ Elections Canada – Final Candidates Election Expenses Limits

External links[edit]

29th Ministry – Cabinet of Justin Trudeau
Cabinet posts (3)
Predecessor Office Successor
Dominic LeBlanc President of the King's Privy Council for Canada
October 26, 2021 – present
Ralph Goodale Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
November 20, 2019 – October 26, 2021
Marco Medicino
Position created Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction
July 17, 2018 – November 20, 2019
Position abolished