Rita Smith remarks, Toronto Police Services Jan. 20, 2016

Rita Smith headshot

TTA Executive Director Rita Smith

Rita Smith remarks Toronto Police Services January 20, 2016

Good afternoon.

My name is Rita Smith, and I am the executive director of the TTA. However, I am not speaking on behalf of the TTA; I am speaking as a communications professional with 30 years’ experience at all levels of government and business.

You may recall that about 12 years ago and long before that, Toronto was being subject to an annual event[1] at the end of the CNE.

Young people who were often drunk or high would run through the Ex grabbing stuffed animals, knocking over signs and generally creating mayhem that then spilled outside the Ex.

I recall an interview with the police chief at the time, and the firm message he delivered when he committed to preventing another episode of chaos:

“The criminal element in not in control of this city. The police are in control of this city, and we will stop this.”

And they did.

Fast forward to 2016, and citizens of Toronto are hearing a completely different message, one that does not inspire confidence.

Instead of hearing that police have the power and the intention to enforce the law, both the Mayor and the Chief of Police have told media “We cannot enforce the law against Uber.”

This is an incredible occurrence, unlike anything I have ever seen in my lifetime.

I have lost track of the number of times people call me, email me, or approach me at meetings and ask, “How can the Mayor say he can’t enforce the law?” or “How can the Chief of Police say he is powerless to enforce the law?”

How indeed?

From a communications point of view, this message is devastating.

Because EVERYBODY hears you say it: not just taxi drivers and Uber drivers.

Drug dealers heard it. Thieves heard it. Gang members heard it…shooters heard it.

No doubt, they rejoiced in hearing it!

Parents and kids heard it too. It did not inspire confidence.

Toronto has just experienced several bad months in terms of violence, shootings and murders.

Chief Saunders has referred to this as a “spike,” some kind of anomaly.

I suggest you need to look to your language, and stop making public declarations of the fact that you are incapable of enforcing the law.

Find a different reason for why you are choosing not to enforce the law against Uber.

But for Toronto’s sake, please stop using this one.

-30-

[1] This event was always referred to as “Black Monday.” However, given that I was looking our first black Police Chief, Mark Saunders, straight in the eye while I delivered these remarks, I opted to avoid that phrase. The mayhem was what it was; the colour of many of the perpetrators was irrelevant to the enforcement of the law. Because that’s what we hoped to talk about today: enforcing the law.