An Ontario police chief is apologizing after traveling to Florida in late December to address a personal property business matter.
Halton’s police chief Stephen Tanner had approval from police board chair and Oakville mayor Rob Burton.
Tanner said in a statement it was a poor decision to travel despite government advisories not to leave the country.
“I am returning to the country this weekend and will be complying with the requirements to quarantine upon my arrival in Canada … I sincerely apologize for my decision,” read his statement.
“What weighs on me the most is the fact that I am not there to support my 1,000 members as we grieve the loss of one of our own. I have extended my deepest apologies to every member of the service. My absence is a distraction from their healing and has taken the focus away from what is most important at this time.”
Burton said in a statement he had “no objection” to Tanner’s request, who still has his “full confidence.”
Tanner’s apology comes as an Ontario hospital CEO, a Conservative MP in Hamilton, the province’s former Finance Minister Rod Phillips and others have travelled abroad despite public health advisories to avoid doing so unless it is essential.
It also follows a record-breaking number of new daily COVID-19 cases in Ontario with some 3,800 infections (plus 450 older cases).
Burlington mayor says travel abroad erodes public trust
Clayton Gillis, president of Halton Regional Police Association, said in an interview on Friday he thinks police will be upset by the news.
“I don’t think it’s going to be our member’s definition or expectations around that being essential travel and a reason we justified given that we’re front-line workers during a pandemic and all the messaging that has gone out about staying home,” he said.
Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward said in an interview from her dining room table she learned of Tanner’s travel through the media Friday afternoon. She says Tanner told her he was attending to a property that he owned.
“I did express my concerns to him about travel and he heard that and it sounds like he’s apologized, which I think is good. There are property management companies that can handle off-site properties,” she said.
But, Meed Ward says she’s upset.
“This behaviour by community leaders — ‘Do as we say, not what we do’ — is eroding public trust in the worst of the pandemic … when we need the public to listen to health experts.”