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Canada Ontario Community Safety Minister stands by Taverner pick as she’s set to be interviewed in probe

Toronto Police Superintendent Ron Taverner, seen here on Nov.6, 2012, is a close friend of the Ford family.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Ontario Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones says she believes Premier Doug Ford’s family friend will become the province’s next police commissioner, even as she is scheduled to meet with Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner, who is probing the hiring.

Ms. Jones told The Globe and Mail on Monday that she still expects Toronto Police Superintendent Ron Taverner to be appointed commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police when Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake’s review is complete.

Mr. Wake is probing whether Mr. Ford was in a conflict of interest when his government named Supt. Taverner, a 72-year-old mid-level commander and long-time friend of the Fords, to the post in November.

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“I always said I would co-operate” with the review, Ms. Jones said, adding that she has no further information about the investigation.

“I’m scheduled [to be interviewed], but any information that he has or that he wants to share [about] the investigation, you should really ask him.”

When asked if she believes Supt. Taverner’s appointment will go ahead, Ms. Jones replied, “Yes.”

Mr. Wake’s office’s declined to comment Monday on the status of the probe.

“The Office does not comment on an ongoing inquiry. I do not have any information to provide on the timeline,” spokeswoman Michelle Renaud said in an e-mail.

Mr. Ford has not been interviewed in the probe, the Premier’s Office said Monday. A spokesman did not respond to follow-up questions about whether Mr. Ford has been scheduled for an interview.

The Premier recently defended the appointment as “political,” arguing he has the unilateral power to pick whomever he wants as the head of Canada’s second-largest police force. Mr. Ford did not say he had a hand in choosing Supt. Taverner, but he stressed that all prior premiers in Ontario have chosen OPP commissioners as “a political appointment.”

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Legislation states that the provincial cabinet, which Mr. Ford leads, picks all OPP commissioners and deputy commissioners.

Previously, Mr. Ford had defended the hire by insisting that an independent arm’s-length panel – and not the Premier himself – chose Supt. Taverner. The panel includes Deputy Minister Mario Di Tommaso, a former Toronto Police commander who served with Supt. Taverner for nearly 40 years.

Last month, the NDP filed a complaint with Mr. Wake alleging that Mr. Ford had improperly interfered behind the scenes. Supt. Taverner, who was supposed to start in the job in December, put his swearing-in on hold and asked for his resignation from the Toronto force to be rescinded until the Integrity Commissioner’s review is complete. There is no set date for that investigation to be completed.

Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair, the senior OPP officer who has publicly challenged Supt. Taverner’s appointment, had also been interviewed in the Integrity Commissioner’s probe, the Toronto Star reported last week.

Deputy Commissioner Blair’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

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