Doug Ford blasts OPP deputy commissioner for Ron Taverner complaint
Premier Doug Ford is accusing Ontario Provincial Police Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair of violating the Police Services Act for complaining about Ron Taverner’s controversial appointment as the next OPP commissioner.
Rallying behind his embattled chum Taverner, Ford lashed out at Blair, who served as interim OPP commissioner until Saturday, for suggesting there was political interference in elevating a 72-year Toronto police superintendent to run the provincial force.
“There’s a lot of misinformation going out there,” the premier said Tuesday of Blair’s formal complaint to the Ontario ombudsman.
It was Ford’s first news conference since the Taverner debacle erupted again last week over concerns about potential conflicts of interest for an OPP boss who is a pal of the premier. The appointment is in limbo while Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake investigates whether Ford personally played a role in the hiring of Taverner, who has attended family barbecues and Ford Fest events.
“I could sit here and give you all the items that weren’t accurate in that letter and there’s endless ones. I could give you a list of all the Police (Services) Act that was broken throughout that whole letter, but none of you want to report on that,” Ford said, blasting the media for being “a little slanted” in its coverage.
The Police Services Act lists the duties of police officers and governs how police services operate in Ontario.
Blair’s letter alleged the premier’s chief of staff, Dean French, asked the OPP “to purchase a large camper-type vehicle ... modified to specifications the premier’s office would provide us” and keep the costs “off the books.”
But the premier called that “a baseless claim without merit” during an event at Amazon’s new Toronto offices.
“That’s just not accurate whatsoever. I asked if they had a used one,” admitted Ford.
He did not say why he needed the van or why his office allegedly wanted the costs of customizing the vehicle kept hidden.
“He never sat on the board,” the premier said, suggested Blair is a disgruntled also-ran for the commissioner’s post.
“I get it that he’s upset he didn’t win a fair process. I understand. Did he step over the line on a lot of things? I’m going to let the media decide that and I wish you would look into that,” he said.
“So what I’m going to do is take the high road and I’m going to let the review go through.”
In the meantime, Ford said, “We’re looking forward to Ron Taverner becoming the OPP commissioner. Let’s get through the (integrity commissioner’s) review and see what happens.”
He also praised Taverner as “a cop’s cop” and insisted OPP officers have been ringing his phone off the hook.
“My number’s public and I’ve never received more calls from front-line OPP officers ever, ever,” Ford said. “They are so excited about having Ron Taverner as their commissioner and too bad we couldn’t have a straight-up vote because Ron Taverner would win with 95 per cent of the front-line OPP officers.”
At Queen’s Park, New Democrats are keeping the pressure on over the Taverner appointment, calling for a full public inquiry.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is asking Wake to invoke rarely used powers under the Public Inquiries Act that are usually reserved for the premier and cabinet.
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” Horwath said in a statement Tuesday. “The investigation into Doug Ford’s interference in Ontario’s police force, and the attempt to install an insider as commissioner, can’t only happen behind closed doors.”
Wake’s review prompted Taverner to request on Saturday that the appointment be “postponed” until a final report is completed.
Questions were raised after qualification requirements were lowered during the application period, clearing the way for Taverner to submit his resume. On Monday, Taverner returned to his job at Toronto police heading divisions in northwest Toronto, including the Ford family stomping ground of Etobicoke.
Former commissioners of the RCMP and OPP, among others, have sounded the alarm over potential conflicts of interest if a friend of the premier heads the police force, particularly if the force has to investigate anything related to the government — as occurred several years ago in the scandal over a previous Liberal regime’s cancellation of two gas plants. Criminal charges and a conviction resulted.
Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones rejected the NDP calls for a full public inquiry, saying Wake’s review will suffice.
“The investigation has begun ... I look forward to the report,” she told MPPs in the legislature’s daily question period.
“There was nothing wrong with the process and Ron Taverner is an excellent choice for OPP commissioner.”
Jones added she expects the integrity commissioner’s report to “reinforce why Ron Taverner is an excellent choice for OPP commissioner.”
Among others, Taverner was chosen over Blair and a former senior Mountie who headed the RCMP’s Ontario operations.
The NDP move came a day after Ford’s Progressive Conservative government rejected a motion to establish a select committee of MPPs to investigate the hiring.
That’s why a full public inquiry should be the next step, said Horwath, calling it “critical to continued public confidence in the OPP.
“An investigation of this importance ... has to be an open, transparent process.”
A full public inquiry would include powers to summon witnesses and request documents.
Taverner has not replied to interview requests from the Star.https://www.thestar.com/politics/provin ... -boss.html