Halton police Chief Steve Tanner said Friday that his decision to travel to Florida in late December “to address some personal business matters” is one he “deeply regrets.”
Tanner released a statement on Friday afternoon after news broke that he had travelled to Florida during the COVID-19 pandemic and Ontario lockdown.
Tanner said that despite the trip being given the green light from the Halton Police Board Chair, he still regretted it.
“My decision to travel in light of the ongoing COVID-19 situation was a poor decision, and one that I deeply regret,” he said. “I am returning to the country this weekend and will be complying with the requirements to quarantine upon my arrival in Canada.”
“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,” he said, referring to the sudden on-duty death of Det. Const. Michael Tidbal on Wednesday. “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.
“I sincerely apologize for my decision to travel out of the country.”
In a statement, Oakville Mayor Rob Burton said he supported Tanner and was aware of his trip south.
“Chief Steve Tanner informed me in advance of his travel to tend to a property matter,” Burton wrote. “I had no objection. Chief Tanner continues to have my full confidence. The chief leads our police service in an exemplary manner and will continue to do so.”
Tanner joins a growing list of politicians and prominent public figures who have travelled over the holidays, including Finance Minister Rod Phillips, who resigned from his cabinet role after travelling to St. Barts over Christmas.
The federal and provincial governments have both repeatedly asked Canadians not to travel abroad during the pandemic and urged citizens to avoid gathering with family outside their household over the holidays.
Halton Police have also shared multiple tweets encouraging residents to follow public health advice and stay home.
For the first time, Ontario's seven-day-average of new confirmed COVID-19 cases now exceeds 3,000.
Reduce the spread of COVID-19:
✅ Stay home
✅ Isolate if sick
✅ Practice physical distancing
✅ Wash your hands
✅ Wear a mask https://t.co/7o1XXiApW8
— Halton Police (@HaltonPolice) January 5, 2021
Clay Gillis, president of the Halton Police Association, said the public would have a hard time accepting the trip in light of public messaging against non-essential travel.
“There has been a lot of messaging coming from our organization and all levels of government to support in the interest of doing our part to manage this COVID-19 pandemic that we should all be staying home and not participating in non-essential travel.”
Gillis said the “court of public opinion” is not going to be on the police chief’s side.
“They’re not going to be happy. When I started fielding phone calls people were demanding that I demand he resign. He answers to the police services board … I don’t suspect this is going to go away anytime soon.”
Burlington Mayor, Meed Ward, also released a statement on Friday night saying: “I immediately spoke to Halton Regional Police Services (HRPS) Chief Stephen Tanner, when I learned today (from the media) that he had travelled outside the country to attend to a property, with the permission of the Chair of the HRPS Board, Oakville Mayor Rob Burton. I expressed my concern about the travel.
“I appreciate that Chief Tanner has now apologized and said it was a poor decision and one he deeply regrets.”
Read her full statement below: