Mayor Rob Ford says he supports Toronto Police Service front-line officers after it was revealed that nearly 3,000 TPS employees earned more than $100,000 last year – but he singled out a member of Chief Bill Blair's inner circle, calling his salary "shocking."
Mr. Ford's comment Friday is just the latest in a series of escalating attacks the mayor has made against Chief Blair and TPS brass in recent months. The mayor has repeatedly expressed his outrage after Chief Blair revealed that Toronto Police are investigating Mr. Ford in a probe dubbed Project Brazen 2. This week Chief Blair announced the OPP would take over the leadership of the investigation.
"I support our front-line officers, and I'll take full responsibility for supporting the police and giving them the money they deserve," Mr. Ford told reporters. A police board document made public Friday shows that 2,983 TPS employees – around 38 per cent of the force – made the "sunshine list" of public-sector employees who earned more than $100,000 last year.
Mr. Ford took a swipe at TPS spokesman Mark Pugash, who has been regularly seen at Chief Blair's side over the past few months and frequently defends the chief in the media.
"When you look at Mr. Pugash making $178,000 as a communications director," the mayor said, cocking his chin, "that's pretty shocking."
When asked for comment, Mr. Pugash said, "I don't respond to personal attacks."
According to the Toronto Police Service Board agenda released ahead of next week's meeting, 28 per cent of workers who made the list earned a base salary of less than $100,000, but saw their pay boosted through overtime and other benefits. Paid duty – when officers direct traffic or attend private events – was not factored into the calculations. The numbers include both uniformed and civilian members of the police service. The figure represents a slight drop from 2012, when 3,181 employees – or 41 per cent of the force – made the list. Coming in second that year was Peel Regional Police, which saw 35 per cent of its workforce make more than $100,000.
Police board acting chair Dhun Noria said that a large number of senior officers retiring, as well as stricter accountability over how promotions are granted, are the reasons for the drop. "It's part of good governance that we want to ensure that every dollar we spend is spent in the best possible way," she said. (Toronto Police Service Board chair Alok Mukherjee was out of town and unavailable for comment).
According to the police records, officers who made the list come from all ranks and departments, ranging from administrative workers to parking enforcement officers.
The force's top-paid employee, unsurprisingly, is Chief Bill Blair, who earned $334,291.41 last year. The average police constable earned between $88,000 and $97,000.
Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack said that "my members work hard, and they get paid fairly for the work they do." He said police wages are "in line with other professional blue collars – carpenters, electricians, elevator mechanics, those types of people."
But Councillor Mike Del Grande, who is a member of the police board but said he was only speaking as a member of council, said he thinks more work should be done to curb staffing costs. "Toronto has the highest-paid police than anywhere that I'm aware of," he said, adding that salary increases have been outpacing what the city can afford. "These increases are not in line with the rest of the universe."