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Appointment of incoming OPP commissioner Ron Taverner postponed
Codi Wilson, CP24.com
Published Saturday, December 15, 2018 12:57PM EST
Last Updated Sunday, December 16, 2018 1:46PM EST
The appointment of incoming OPP commissioner Ron Taverner has been delayed until the province’s integrity commissioner finishes a review of Premier Doug Ford involvement in the hiring process, CTV News Toronto has learned.
The postponement was requested by Taverner in an email to Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones.
“While the government has full confidence in Mr. Taverner, we will respect his request for a delay in his appointment, until such time as the Integrity Commissioner has conducted a review of the selection process,” Jones wrote in a statement.
NDP MPP Kevin Yarde asked the integrity commissioner to investigate Premier Doug Ford and Taverner’s appointment under the Members’ Integrity Act. It is not clear how long the investigation will take.
The appointment has been heavily scrutinized given Ford’s longtime friendship with Taverner, who until Friday was a superintendent with the Toronto Police Service.
Ford previously said he had “zero influence” in Taverner’s appointment.
Last week, Interim OPP Commissioner Brad Blair formally asked Paul Dubé, the province’s ombudsman, to look into the hiring.
In Blair’s letter to the ombudsman, he said there are “growing concerns” from the public and members of the legislature about the process.
The initial job posting required applicants to have served at the rank of deputy police chief or higher or assistant commissioner or higher in a major police service, experience Taverner did not have.
The government later lowered the experience required for the position after the job was posted.
“If the hiring process remains enveloped in questions of political interference, the result will be irreparable damage to police independence in the third largest deployed police service in North America,” Blair wrote in his letter to Dubé.
Blair’s lawyer, Julian Falconer, said on Friday that the watchdog had turned down the request.
Falconer filed an application with the Ontario Divisional Court to force the ombudsman to investigate.
Sources tell CTV News Toronto that cabinet has now decided to relieve Blair from the role of interim commissioner.
Gary Couture, who is currently the deputy commissioner and provincial commander for field operations, is expected to take over the position of interim commissioner until at least the end of March, sources say.
Taverner was originally expected to assume the role of commissioner on Dec. 17.
On Saturday, in a statement to OPP members, and shared with the media, Blair acknowledged his removal.
“I have already had discussions with Deputy Commissioner Couture who assumes command effective Monday, December 17, 2018. I will be fully supportive in assisting his transition,” the statement noted.
“I do not regret a single step I have had to take.”
Blair will return to his post as deputy commissioner of Traffic Safety and Operational Support Commend. Falconer confirmed on Saturday that the court application will proceed.
Speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park on Saturday, NDP MPP Sara Singh said there are still many “unanswered questions” regarding Taverner’s hiring.
“I think that people in this province deserve to have a government that is going to be accountable and that’s going to be transparent. Appointing your friends and your insiders is not I think what people in this province expect of our leadership,” she said.
Singh said in addition to the integrity commissioner’s investigation, the NDP is calling for an emergency select committee to be struck that would include members of the government as well as other members of the legislature.
“I think we need to understand how this was allowed to happen, how rules were changed in order to have somebody appointed to a position. I think these investigations, along with potentially the RCMP’s investigation, will help provide some clarity for us here in the province,” she added.
-With files from CTV Toronto's Queen's Park Bureau Chief Colin D'Mello