Politics

Premier Doug Ford says he had ‘zero influence’ 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.

Ontario
Premier Doug Ford speaks to reporters regarding the appointment
of the new OPP commissioner at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Dec. 4,
2018.
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

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.

No premier should hire their friend as the OPP Commissioner

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.

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