October 31, 2001
$4.5 million for rapid-response OPP unit to protect nuclear plants
Premier Mike Harris has announced a $9-million package of security measures that will include rapid response and anti-terrorism units.
“Sept. 11 was a wake-up call for governments the world over. It was a reminder that we cannot take cherished freedoms and security for granted,” Harris told the Legislature yesterday.
The Premier said a $4.5 million rapid-response OPP unit will be equipped to protect nuclear facilities and water treatment plants, while the anti-terrorism unit, which will receive $3.5 million, will track down suspected terrorists and their supporters.
In addition, Harris said front-line police officers will be given $1 million for the “necessary equipment” to respond to chemical, biological and other kinds of attacks.
Ontario will also host a counter-terrorism summit “to allow the best minds in law enforcement and emergency services to share ideas and develop new strategies,” he said. A date for the summit, estimated to cost $500,000, has not been set, but more details are expected today from Solicitor-General David Turnbull.
The new measures were condemned by opposition critics who called the funding paltry and the measures little more than feel-good public relations.
“It has been 48 days since the horrific events of Sept. 11 (and) the fact of the matter is they (the Tories) have done very, very little,” charged Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty.
He estimated it would cost closer to $100 million — one-tenth of the money the government has set aside for infrastructure improvements — to properly protect the province against terrorism.
“This horrific event weighs heavily on the minds of our families … and has a dampening effect on our economy, and the best they can do today is to come up with some paltry supports for police measures,” he said.
New Democratic Party Leader Howard Hampton scoffed at the government’s measures to fight terrorism, reminding the Legislature it was the Tories who recently fired five top scientist in the microbiology field, saying Queen’s Park was more concerned with testing than research.
In a related matter, Attorney-General David Young called on Ottawa to create a new Criminal Code offence to specifically deal with terrorist hoaxes.
“The despicable acts of cowardice are diverting emergency personnel from true emergencies and are putting lives and personal safety at risk,” Young said, as he vowed to vigorously prosecute those responsible for hoaxes under existing mischief laws.
Liberal critic Michael Bryant (St. Paul’s) said there are already federal laws prohibiting things like bomb threats and anthrax hoaxes. “The government again seems to be making it up as they go along,” he said.
Young said the Tories also intend to introduce legislation to help families who need to obtain a death certificate as a result of Sept. 11. in order to probate wills and collect on life insurance policies.
Government plans also call for a special counter-terrorism task force of specialized crown attorneys to prosecute terrorist offences.