The fired Ontario police commander waging multiple legal battles against Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford appeared in public for the first time on Friday to call for a public inquiry into his allegations and to launch a $15-million wrongful dismissal lawsuit.
Former Ontario Provincial Police deputy-commissioner Brad Blair, who served as the force’s interim boss and was in the running for the permanent job last year, was dismissed in March after raising allegations of cronyism in the attempt to hire Toronto Police Superintendent Ron Taverner, a personal friend of the Premier’s, to lead the OPP.
And it was Mr. Blair who, in legal filings containing sensitive police e-mails, unveiled an alleged attempt by the Premier’s office to spend $50,000 to retrofit a police van with a big-screen TV and other amenities for Mr. Ford’s use.
Flanked on Friday by his wife, Danielle, and his Toronto lawyer at a Queen’s Park media conference, Mr. Blair’s voice wavered, and his wife wiped away tears, as they talked about the personal toll taken by his firing after spending 33 years with the OPP.
“I lost my father at the age of 21 to cancer. And if you ever lost a parent, you’ll know the incredible amount of sadness and loss that you feel," Mr. Blair said. "That’s how I would compare it. That’s what it feels like to me. The OPP was my family.”
Mr. Ford’s office issued a statement declining to comment on the case, as it is before the courts. “As the Premier has said before, his concern is and always has been protecting and supporting the front-line officers who put their lives on the line every single day to protect our communities,” the statement reads.
The latest claim is the fourth legal action launched in Mr. Blair’s nearly year-old battle with Mr. Ford and the Ontario government. It follows a libel lawsuit over the Premier’s public comments about him, a complaint before the Ontario Public Service Grievance Board over his firing and a suit seeking to force the Ontario Legislature’s Ombudsman to investigate his case.
Friday’s lawsuit, which contains allegations that have not been proven in court, seek $13-million in damages for Mr. Blair for “wrongful termination, misfeasance in public office, negligence, negligent misrepresentation, intentional infliction of mental suffering” and breaches of his Charter rights. It also seeks $2-million in damages for his wife Danielle and their two adult children.
The Legislature’s Integrity Commissioner issued a report in March that said while Mr. Ford himself had not broken any conflict-of-interest rules in Supt. Taverner’s hiring, the process was “flawed” and “troubling.” That 102-page report outlined how Mr. Ford’s then-chief of staff, Dean French, and the province’s former top civil servant, Steve Orsini, discussed Supt. Taverner’s bid for the job behind the scenes and how the eligibility criteria were rewritten in a way that allowed for Supt. Taverner, a mid-level commander, to apply. The report also suggested that a public inquiry “may be useful.” The Opposition NDP has repeatedly called for the government to allow an inquiry, to no avail.
Mr. Blair’s lawyer, Julian Falconer, called the Ombudsman’s and the Integrity Commissioner’s investigations “utter failures.” He pointed to the other “cronyism” allegations that have dogged Mr. Ford’s government, saying an independent commission of inquiry is the only way to get answers.
The government has said Mr. Blair was let go for breaching his confidentiality oaths by airing the OPP e-mails he included in his court filings. But Mr. Blair’s latest lawsuit says he never faced a prosecution under the Police Services Act for those alleged breaches and the province’s Attorney-General has never raised their “alleged sensitive confidentiality” with the court or attempted to seal them.
With a report from Colin Freeze
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