Bill Blair and The Politics of Being Joint Chief

Article by Tonda MacCharles, Toronto Star

Blair the politician doesn’t look like he’s having that much fun in Ottawa, but the image of Blair the cop is helping shape the approach to radical reforms of Canada’s pot laws. Liberal MP Bill Blair on Parliament Hill. Blair still lives with his wife in Scarborough but has been travelling to consult on drug policy. It's a punishing schedule but concrete results could start arriving this month.

Bill Blair, the former undercover drug cop who rose to become Toronto police chief and now leads Justin Trudeau’s charge to legalize marijuana, long ago gave up his gun and uniform.

But his guard is still up.

He defensively shifts position in a room when he’s with a minister, switching to what he calls “protective mode.” He tries to be casual: “I didn’t have a first name for a decade,” he tells a reporter. “Now that I’ve got it back” — just call him “Bill.” And yet he’s still all “Yes, ma’am. No, ma’am.”

Blair has been the Liberal MP for Scarborough Southwest for a year and a half. As parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice and point man on pot reform, he’s spent the better part of that time in meetings across the country to smooth the way for the Trudeau government to table a bill — expected the week of April 10 — to radically change Canada’s criminal drug laws.

And yet Blair, who’ll turn 63 that week, says with a straight face he doesn’t think of himself as a politician. He has “tremendous respect” for politicians, mind you. But he views himself as “a public servant.”

He did have an easier time than many political rookies. After a 39-year policing career capped by a decade as Toronto’s high-profile top cop, Blair didn’t have to introduce himself to voters when door-knocking in Scarborough, where he grew up.

Truth be told, Blair — the politician — doesn’t look much like he’s having fun in Ottawa.

In his Commons seat, he has the serious bearing of a police officer of high rank. Stern, focused, barely allowing himself a wry grin from time to time. He doesn’t join the partisan to-and-fro, hates the heckling, and doesn’t often speak up in debates except when he has to stand to say the government will or won’t support a private member’s bill.

Read full article here.

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