Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is accusing Premier Doug Ford’s government of undermining an independent inquiry into the hiring of the province’s next police commissioner, and says the appointment cannot go ahead.
Ms. Horwath said comments made by Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones to The Globe and Mail on Monday mean that Toronto Police Superintendent Ron Taverner – a long-time friend of Mr. Ford and his family – cannot be made the next commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, and the process should begin again.
Ms. Jones told The Globe she still believes Supt. Taverner will be appointed OPP commissioner, despite the fact that the province’s Integrity Commissioner is currently probing whether Mr. Ford was in a conflict of interest when the government named Supt. Taverner to the post last November.
“If Ontario’s Provincial Police are going to do its job effectively, there cannot be any doubt about their impartiality or their independence,” Ms. Horwath said in a statement.
“Now that the Ford government has undermined the investigation into Taverner’s appointment, the people of Ontario, including police officers, will never have full confidence that Taverner is independent, and that his appointment was not a political move by the Premier’s office, designed to install someone to protect Ford and do his bidding.”
Ms. Jones’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Ms. Jones told The Globe on Monday that she is scheduled to meet with Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake, who is probing the hiring.
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, a 72-year-old mid-level commander, but he stressed that all prior premiers in Ontario have chosen OPP commissioners as “a political appointment.”
Legislation states that the provincial cabinet, which Mr. Ford leads, appoints 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, website iPolitics revealed that the qualifications for the OPP job were lowered two days after it was initially posted, making it possible for Supt. Taverner to apply.
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. Mr. Wake’s office declined to comment on the status of the probe.