Doug Ford says he wasn’t involved in hiring of family friend as OPP commissioner
TORONTO — Doug Ford defended the appointment of a family friend as the new provincial police commissioner on Tuesday as critics accused the premier of offering key positions to his allies.
Ronald Taverner’s appointment as the next commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police has prompted demands for an investigation into his selection — calls that intensified after the government said qualification requirements for the job were lowered partway through the hiring process to broaden the pool of applicants.
Ford, whose family has been close with 72-year-old Taverner for years, shrugged off concerns around the hiring and said the process had been transparent.
“I told (the hiring panel) very clearly, I don’t want anything to do with this whatsoever,” he told reporters at the legislature.
Ford went on to say he had seen no problem with providing the final stamp of approval on Taverner’s appointment, which came after a unanimous decision from the hiring panel.
“I had zero influence,” he said of the process. "No matter who it was I would have accepted.”
The premier also said his office would not interfere with the operations of the OPP.
“I can’t influence and tell the police what to do,” he said. “It’s very simple.”
A report from online news website iPolitics said the original commissioner job posting required candidates to have a rank of deputy police chief or higher, or assistant commissioner or higher, in a major police service — a threshold Taverner, a superintendent with Toronto police, did not meet.
Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones said the hiring firm in charge of the process to find a new commissioner made the decision to lower those requirements. Taverner was a qualified candidate with decades of experience in policing, she added.
Members of the opposition said Ford’s final approval of Taverner’s appointment was problematic.
“What he did was completely inappropriate,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, whose party is demanding an independent investigation into Taverner’s appointment.
“I think it’s shocking that Mr. Ford doesn’t see that ... It’s not the role of the premier to hand-pick his favourite friends and put them in positions of authority over our public services.”
Interim Liberal leader John Fraser said the matter needs to be investigated.
“Not only should there not be a conflict, just the appearance of a conflict diminishes both of their offices so they have to address that,” he said.
Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said Ford’s comments were a “significant admission” that he engaged in conflict of interest.
“No premier should hire their friend as the OPP Commissioner,” he said. “What happens if the OPP is asked to investigate something the premier, his office, or the PC government, has done and you have the premier’s friend heading up the OPP?”
Advocacy group Democracy Watch also asked the integrity commissioner to probe the hiring process.
“Premier Ford taking part in any way in any step of Mr. Taverner’s appointment process raises concerns about violations of fundamental principles of democratic good government,” said group co-founder Duff Conacher.
Taverner, currently the unit commander of three divisions within the Toronto Police Service, is set to start in his new job on Dec. 17.
He takes over from Brad Blair, who held the commissioner’s post on an interim basis after the retirement of Vince Hawkes in November.
- Shawn Jeffords
News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2018
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