On Monday, Ron Taverner is scheduled to be installed as Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police. That must not happen.
If Ontario Premier Doug Ford has any respect for the integrity of the justice system, he will put this appointment on hold and give an investigation time to clear the air.
As for Toronto Police Superintendent Taverner, if he wants to preserve his reputation as a police officer of more than 50 years, he will decline to be sworn in. To do otherwise would destroy public trust in the independence of the OPP.
The process by which the head of the OPP is appointed is supposed to be impartial and arms-length. There has to be daylight between government officials and police officers who may one day be called on to investigate them.
Police must be independent, and they must also be seen to be independent. Police interactions with government, and government interactions with police, must happen in such a way that there is zero public perception of collusion or conflict of interest.
That’s something Progressive Conservatives should understand, in their bones. What is more conservative than respect for the rule of law and vigilance against abuses of government power? Conservatives believe in keeping an eye on government, not giving it carte blanche.
There are far too many problems with Supt. Taverner’s appointment. He’s a long-time friend of Mr. Ford and the Ford family, and has spent much of his career in Etobicoke, Mr. Ford’s home turf.
At 72 years of age, he’s 16 years older than his predecessor as OPP chief. Yet he’s still only a superintendent, several rungs below the most senior levels of the Toronto police.
Despite his advanced age, he was too junior to apply for the OPP job, according to job requirements in place since 2006, and which were included in a job posting made public on Oct. 22. However, on Oct. 24, those requirements were mysteriously downgraded.
Mr. Ford says he had nothing to do with that, or with anything else in a process that somehow just happened to pick an old friend from the old neighbourhood.
So why is the Premier so aggressively defending the choice he says he didn’t make?
Why did former OPP commissioner Chris Lewis react to Supt. Taverner’s appointment with dismay, saying that “the fix was in from Day One”?
Why did OPP Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair – the acting head of the force – write to the provincial ombudsman and lay out irregularities in the hiring process, including evidence that the decision to hire Supt. Taverner was made before the cabinet meeting at which the decision was allegedly reached? Why has Ontario’s top cop hired a lawyer and effectively become a whistle-blower against the government?
And what about Deputy Commissioner Blair’s allegation that the Premier’s office was interfering in police business from the get-go, including demanding that Mr. Ford be allowed to pick the officers who would serve on his security detail, threatening the previous head of the OPP if he resisted and telling the OPP to buy “a large camper-type vehicle" for the Premier’s use, with the purchase kept off the books?
Why did Mr. Ford react to these allegations of unethical and illegal behaviour in his office by calling them nothing but “sour grapes"?
And why did Supt. Taverner defend the Premier? Instead of looking into the substance of these very serious allegations, including a claim the Premier’s office asked police to break the law, the man on the verge of becoming Ontario’s top cop appears to have focussed his inquiries on what really matters: the size of the van.
He told the Toronto Sun that the vehicle Mr. Ford’s office wanted was more of an “extended-size van” than a “large camper van." And anyhow, the Premier – the man who didn’t hire him – is “a big guy and it would have more room for he and his team to work while on road.”
Great detective work, chief.
If the goal was making the head of the OPP look like a government lapdog, then Mr. Ford and Supt. Taverner have done an excellent job.
The province’s ombudsman and integrity commissioner must investigate what happened here. So must a parliamentary inquiry. Get rid of the stain on the administration of justice. Don’t name a new OPP chief until the spot is gone.