OPP leadership must be free of politicial suspicion

If the drift of Canada towards a police state has not yet affected you directly, you would do well to recall the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller, writing in Germany before his arrest in the 1930s: "The Nazis came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I was a Protestant, so I didn't speak up....by that time there was nobody left to speak up for anyone."

Brad Blair wants court to speed up hearing on OPP commission

Postby Thomas » Thu Jan 10, 2019 3:46 pm

Brad Blair wants court to speed up hearing on OPP commissioner case

An Ontario Provincial Police deputy commissioner is asking a court to urgently consider ordering the provincial ombudsman to investigate the appointment of a friend of the premier’s to the job of top cop.

Brad Blair has applied to Ontario’s Divisional Court in an attempt to force an investigation into the hiring of Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner as the new OPP commissioner, raising concerns about potential political interference.

Blair asked the ombudsman last month to probe the hiring process that saw 72-year-old Taverner get the job but Paul Dube declined, saying cabinet deliberations are outside the office’s jurisdiction.

A few days after Blair asked the courts to consider the case, the province’s integrity commissioner launched an investigation and Taverner delayed his appointment pending the outcome of the probe.

Premier Doug Ford has indicated that Taverner’s appointment will go ahead whenever the integrity review is finished, and Blair’s lawyer argues in documents filed to the court that could be complete in a matter of weeks.

That leaves a narrow window for the court case, argues Julian Falconer.

“The underlying matters require an expedited resolution in order to address the perceived political interference in the OPP and to enable a timely return to the normal administration of the OPP,” he writes.

The court is set to hear Falconer’s motion for an expedited hearing on Monday.

Falconer argues that the integrity commissioner’s mandate is to review whether Ford used his office to further his own or someone else’s personal interest, while an ombudsman probe could be broader, looking at potential political interference in the hiring process, any negative impact on the independence of the OPP and any effects on public confidence in the OPP’s integrity.

If the integrity commissioner finds a provincial politician has violated the Members’ Integrity Act, he can recommend various penalties, but the legislature — under the majority Progressive Conservatives — could reject the recommendation.

The ombudsman’s lawyer argues in a letter, included in Falconer’s court filings, that the integrity review could take months and there is no reason to jump the court queue.

Taverner is a longtime Ford ally who initially did not meet the requirements listed for the commissioner position. The Ford government has admitted it lowered the requirements for the position to attract a wider range of candidates.

Blair said in a letter to the ombudsman that the original job posting required candidates to have a rank of deputy police chief or higher, or assistant commissioner or higher, in a major police service — a threshold Taverner did not meet.

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Taverner dined with interview panelist, Ford before OPP appo

Postby Thomas » Mon Jan 14, 2019 3:18 am

Taverner dined with interview panelist, Ford before OPP appointment

Toronto police Superintendent Ron Taverner, the Ontario government’s choice as the next commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, met with Premier Doug Ford multiple times in the months leading up to his appointment, including a dinner with the hiring official who vetted Supt. Taverner for the high-profile position.

Supt. Taverner also accompanied Mr. Ford to an event at the Premier’s lakeside cottage just days before it was announced publicly that the top job at the OPP was available, a Globe and Mail review of photographs and related records shows.

Neither man has made a secret of the fact they are friends, and Supt. Taverner’s ties to the Ford family go back even further. He has publicly praised the late Rob Ford, the former mayor of Toronto who died in 2016 and was himself embroiled in a major police investigation after gang members filmed him smoking crack cocaine in 2013.

Their interactions just prior to his appointment, though, will be of interest to the politicians, judges and watchdogs now examining the government’s appointment of the 72-year-old, mid-level commander.

Following a public outcry over the hire, Supt. Taverner last month deferred accepting the job pending a review by the province’s Integrity Commissioner – a probe into, among other matters, whether Mr. Ford should have recused himself when cabinet approved the appointment.

In the meantime, OPP Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair will be in divisional court Monday, arguing that another watchdog, the Ontario Ombudsman, should investigate the broader issue of whether the Ford government crossed a line and tried to exert control over the police – specifically a police force that has jurisdiction over investigations of government officials.

Mr. Ford has said he had “zero influence” over the hiring. He has repeatedly pointed to the panel of interviewers, saying they recommended Supt. Taverner for the job, not him. “No matter who it was, I would have accepted.”

But a review of the recent encounters between the Premier and the police commander – many of which have been captured in photos and video posted online – shows that one of those interview panelists dined with the two men months before the appointment. On June 18, 2018, Mario Di Tommaso – who would go on to interview applicants in both rounds of the job competition – was seated next to Mr. Ford and Supt. Taverner during the dinner portion of a golf tournament.

At the time, Mr. Ford had been Premier for 11 days, Mr. Di Tommaso was a Toronto police staff superintendent and one of the officers under his charge was Supt. Taverner. The officers have worked for the Toronto Police Service for a combined nine decades.

On Oct. 1, less than four months after the three men dined together, Mr. Di Tommaso was named the new deputy minister of Community Safety – the highest-ranking bureaucrat in Ontario law enforcement. (The other panelist who recommended Supt. Taverner, according to Mr. Ford, was Steve Orsini, the secretary of the cabinet, the province’s top civil servant. On Dec. 14, as criticism of the appointment grew, Mr. Orsini announced he will retire at the end of this month.)

Mr. Ford and Supt. Taverner declined to respond to detailed questions about their multiple meetings in advance of the appointment. Mr. Di Tommaso did not respond to a list of questions.

There is little information on the public record about what the men discussed at any of their meetings, including whether the commissioner’s job came up.

But The Globe has compiled a chronology of events and government moves that raise questions about whether a path was cleared for Supt. Taverner’s appointment – an appointment that Deputy Commissioner Blair says has tarnished the “perceived independence and integrity of the OPP.”

June 18, 2018: Dinner, Toronto Police Chief Invitational golf tournament

Fresh off his victory in Ontario’s 43rd general election, Mr. Ford arrived at the Markland Wood Golf Club for the tail end of the annual Toronto Police Chief Invitational golf tournament. When he arrived, he gravitated toward a familiar face.

A photograph from the event shows Mr. Ford seated for dinner between two police officers: Supt. Taverner to his left and then Staff Superintendent Di Tommaso to his right. At the time, Supt. Taverner was the superintendent for three west-end Toronto police divisions and Mr. Di Tommaso was his boss.

Wanita Kelava, the tournament director, said she didn’t know who invited the Premier to the event. “It was a last-minute thing,” she said. Seats were not assigned, and participants were welcome to sit wherever they wanted.

One day after The Globe made a number of inquiries with Supt. Taverner and others about the dinner, all photos of Supt. Taverner were removed from the golf tournament’s website.

July 30, 2018: Dinner, Posticino

Mr. Ford dined with Supt. Taverner and Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders at Posticino, an Italian restaurant in Toronto’s west end.

This meeting was first disclosed by the Official Opposition, the NDP, which obtained a portion of the Premier’s calendar through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and released it to the public. The only person who has spoken publicly about this meeting is Chief Saunders, who said the dinner was arranged to discuss gun violence. Asked at a news conference if the OPP commissioner’s job came up, he said, “Absolutely no.” He added: “I wish I had time to discuss the OPP, but I am the chief here in Toronto and I have gun violence and young black boys killing other young black boys.”

Chief Saunders said Supt. Taverner was invited to the dinner because his police divisions in North Etobicoke account for “40 per cent of the city’s violence.”

According to Mr. Ford’s calendar, the dinner was scheduled to last 90 minutes.

Aug. 16, 2018: Wally’s Grill

Wally’s Grill is a diner about a 20-minute walk from Deco Labels & Tags, the printing business owned by Mr. Ford’s family. On this day, the Premier joined Supt. Taverner there for a meal, a meeting captured in a photograph by a customer, who supplied the image to The Globe.

The photographer, whom The Globe is not identifying, positioned a copy of the Aug. 16 edition of the Toronto Star within the frame of the photo to show when it was taken. The metadata contained in the image indicates it was taken at 2:39 p.m. that day.

Aug. 28, 2018: Premier Ford’s cottage

For the past few years, Mr. Ford and Supt. Taverner have made an annual trek to Mr. Ford’s cottage, north of the city, to host a group of teenagers from the Toronto community known as Rexdale. This August, they brought along the Premier’s personal news crew – Ontario News Now, the taxpayer-funded service that streams video on behalf of the Progressive Conservative government.

Ontario News Now interviewed Mr. Ford and Supt. Taverner while their guests – young adults from a youth organization called Trust 15 – played in the background on Mr. Ford’s beach.

“These are the greatest kids around. They’re incredible. I love ’em,” Mr. Ford, wearing a “For The People” T-shirt, told the news service. Although the video was posted on YouTube on Aug. 30, Trust 15 posted photos of the event on its Instagram page on Aug. 28.

When Supt. Taverner’s appointment was announced in a news release at the end of November, it included several endorsements, including one from the founder of Trust 15, Marcia Brown.

Reached by phone, Ms. Brown declined to answer questions about the trip. As for who asked her to write an endorsement of Supt. Taverner, Ms. Brown encouraged a Globe reporter to “talk to Ron or Doug.”

Autumn 2018: A path is cleared

It’s not clear when it became known within Queen’s Park that OPP commissioner Vince Hawkes was set to retire. But on Sept. 5, he made it official in a memo to the OPP’s 5,800 uniformed officers and 2,800 civilian employees.

What those thousands of staff members didn’t know was that Mr. Hawkes had developed a fractious relationship with Ontario’s new Premier, according to Deputy Commissioner Blair.

Mr. Ford “expressed displeasure” that the OPP had not given him a security detail he “would feel comfortable with,” Mr. Blair later alleged in a complaint to the Ontario Ombudsman about Supt. Taverner’s appointment.

Mr. Ford asked for a face-to-face meeting with Commissioner Hawkes, where he “stated that if former commissioner Hawkes would not address the issue, perhaps a new commissioner would,” Deputy Commissioner Blair alleged.

In the weeks that followed Mr. Hawkes’ announcement, the government made a number of moves that – intentionally or not – created a path for Supt. Taverner to assume control of the OPP.

On Sept. 24, the government announced that a key bureaucrat was leaving, a long-standing public servant who would have been a key voice at the table when it came to picking the next commissioner. Matt Torigian, the deputy minister of Community Safety and a former Waterloo Regional Police Service chief, was joining the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, the government said in a news release.

That news was only a week old when the government named Mr. Torigian’s permanent replacement: Mr. Di Tommaso, Supt. Taverner’s boss at the Toronto Police Service, would serve as the new deputy minister of Community Safety.

Right away, Mr. Di Tommaso was required to dive into one of the most pressing issues confronting his ministry: Who would lead the provincial police force responsible for patrolling 323 Ontario towns and villages and 127,000 kilometres of highways?

On his first day of work – Oct. 22, a Monday – the competition officially opened to find the next OPP commissioner.

Two days after the position was posted, an alteration was made to the job requirements. Originally, applicants needed to have the “rank of Deputy Chief or higher,” which would have precluded Supt. Taverner from applying. But on Oct. 24, that restriction was modified to allow for any “experienced executive with a background in policing.”

No one in the public service has taken credit for this alteration.

In his fourth week on the job, Mr. Di Tommaso and another deputy minister started the first round of interviews. Thirteen candidates were interviewed, Deputy Commissioner Blair said.

By Mr. Di Tommaso’s fifth week on the job, the government had narrowed it down to three candidates. On Nov. 20, Mr. Di Tommaso and the head of the public service, Mr. Orsini, interviewed those applicants: Deputy Commissioner Blair, OPP Provincial Commander Mary Silverthorn and Supt. Taverner.

On Nov. 29, the government announced Supt. Taverner would be the next OPP commissioner.

The news shook the senior leadership of the OPP, which coincidentally gathered two days later at Blue Mountain resort to celebrate the retirement of Mr. Hawkes.

Mr. Di Tommaso was there.

The emcee for the event was retired OPP investigator Chris Nicholas, best known as the officer who oversaw the force’s successful 2010 investigation of former air-force colonel Russell Williams, a serial sexual predator and murderer.

Mr. Nicholas shared an anecdote. His grandchildren were admiring the badges he had been awarded as he ascended through the ranks of the OPP. They noticed a ceremonial, honorary commissioner badge he had been given, even though he had retired as a superintendent – three ranks below commissioner. His granddaughter asked: Were you the commissioner?

“That would be silly,” his six-year-old grandson replied. “You can’t be the commissioner of the OPP from the superintendent rank. You need at least two badges before that.”

The room erupted with laughter.

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Judge denies request to speed up hearing on Ron Taverner OPP

Postby Thomas » Fri Jan 18, 2019 4:07 am

Judge denies request to speed up hearing on Ron Taverner OPP appointment

An Ontario court rejected a request Monday to speed up a hearing into whether it should order an ombudsman investigation into the appointment of a friend of the premier's to the job of top cop.

OPP deputy commissioner Brad Blair has asked Ontario's Divisional Court to force an investigation into the hiring of Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner as the new OPP commissioner.

Blair's lawyer Julian Falconer argued Monday that the case should be expedited, in part because Blair has reasonable grounds to be concerned about reprisal, though he did not go into detail.

"It is my view that reprisal is purely a function of his seeking an investigation," Falconer said in court. "If an investigation were commenced formally, his vulnerability would be reduced."

Blair was acting OPP commissioner at the time he originally started the court case, but soon after was removed from that position.

A few days after Blair launched his court application, the province's integrity commissioner launched an investigation and Taverner delayed his appointment pending the outcome of that probe.

But Premier Doug Ford has indicated that Taverner's appointment will go ahead whenever the integrity review is finished.

The integrity investigation is narrow in scope and a broader ombudsman's investigation is needed, Falconer argued.

"The installation of Ron Taverner, we say, as commissioner of the OPP without this full investigation can irreversibly damage the command structure of the OPP, because — quite simply — these questions go to the heart of the credibility of command."

Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel said Falconer failed to establish the basis for an urgent hearing.

"There is no urgency related to the timing of the assumption of responsibilities by the new OPP commissioner," he said. "The ombudsman does not have the authority to prevent Supt. Taverner from assuming the responsibilities of OPP commissioner."

Wilton-Siegel said, however, that he hopes the case can be heard in a timely fashion.

Falconer said he expects that to be April or May.

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Christie Blatchford: Reviewing fishy Taverner hire for OPP c

Postby Thomas » Fri Jan 18, 2019 4:08 am

Christie Blatchford: Reviewing fishy Taverner hire for OPP chief won’t change Ford's mind

The lawyer Julian Falconer, on behalf of his client Brad Blair, the deposed interim commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, is pushing the proverbial boulder uphill, with all that entails.

Falconer is trying to force the Ontario Ombudsman, Paul Dube, to take a big look at the curious process that resulted in the hiring of Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s good friend, Ron Taverner, as the next OPP commissioner. Falconer says the process looks stinky, as indeed it does, and after Dube twice turned down his plea to investigate the matter (he said he doesn’t have the authority and that besides, he couldn’t direct the government who to appoint and couldn’t stop the Taverner appointment in any case), he turned to the courts, hoping Dube would be forced to act.

That question hasn’t yet been heard, let alone decided, but Falconer was in Divisional Court in Toronto on Monday, trying to get an expedited date for the argument.

He failed to persuade Ontario Superior Court Judge Herman Wilton-Siegel that there was such urgency, though the judge did agree he’s “concerned” the matter be heard in a timely matter.

And lest you forget, something sure looks fishy about it: The job advertisement was up only two days before it was pulled, with the qualifications for applying magically lowered so as to allow someone of Taverner’s rank to give it a whirl; there have been various reports that Ford was looking to find a soft landing for his friend, and that Taverner was offered (and rejected) the chance to run the government cannabis store.

All this was reported by others, but sources of mine confirm it.

Just for good measure, the Monday Globe and Mail ran a story featuring delicious pictures of Taverner and Ford socializing together in the weeks and months before Taverner’s appointment — and one of them also featured former staff superintendent, and now Ford’s deputy community safety minister, Mario Di Tommaso, who was part of the allegedly independent committee that interviewed candidates for the job.

Di Tommaso was also Taverner’s direct superior at Toronto police, where they both worked for decades, Taverner as the superintendent in the very area where the Ford family lives and where their family business is located.

Now, Ontario Integrity Commissioner David Wake has agreed to have a look at a small slice of the hiring, this upon receiving a formal complaint from NDP MPP Kevin Yarde, who alleges that Premier Ford contravened the Integrity Act by participating in the cabinet decision to appoint Taverner to the $250,000 job last November.

As the controversy over the appointment was raging, Ford said publicly he didn’t need to recuse himself because the decision had been made by “an independent panel” and he’d had “zero influence.”

But the bigger questions — whether there was political interference in the hiring process and has the OPP’s independence been compromised — remain an oozing sore that no one much wants to examine.

As important, of course, is the question of whether any of it would make a difference to this premier or his government.

Even if Dube were to suddenly acquiesce or be ordered to inquire into the hiring process; even if he issued a report saying that yes, the process was tainted by political interference; even if Wake were to determine that Ford should have recused himself from any discussion about Taverner’s appointment, my own suspicion is that none of it would change a thing.

Ford and his Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones have repeatedly said publicly that Taverner was chosen by an “independent commission,” “an independent commissioner,” and “the independent hiring committee.”

Er, which was it?

And after the integrity commissioner announced that he would conduct an inquiry, Ford said, “Let the review take place. And I can tell you one thing, once the review gets done, he’s (Taverner’s) going to be the best commissioner the OPP has ever seen.”

In other words, it appears the premier is determined to install Taverner.

Thus does Falconer’s task change from pushing a boulder uphill to, can you shame the shameless?

Two final points: How is it that Brad Blair is left to finance this probably hopeless but important exercise by himself?

(Yes, he was an unsuccessful candidate for the commissioner’s job, but his concerns for the OPP appear genuine and much broader than any personal axe he may have to grind.)

And if you doubt its importance, cast your mind back to the days of the Dalton McGuinty government, and later the Kathleen Wynne government.

Off the top of my large but small-brained head, I can remember OPP probes into the gas plants scandal, wind farms records, ORNGE air ambulance, and alleged Elections Act violations. The simple truth is that governments, being composed of people, may cross lines, make mistakes and even act illegally, and in Ontario, when they allegedly do, it’s the OPP that investigates.

That’s why the police need to be independent and free of political interference, at the very least of the overt, guys-get-my-good buddy-a-job sort.

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GOLDSTEIN: Ford should rethink Taverner appointment

Postby Thomas » Mon Jan 21, 2019 4:24 pm

There’s one inescapable reason why Premier Doug Ford should not follow through on appointing Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner as commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police.

It’s that putting the longtime Ford family friend in charge of the OPP will put both the premier and the Progressive Conservative government he leads in an ongoing conflict of interest.

This is an issue regardless of the outcome of the ongoing investigation by the province’s integrity commissioner into the process by which Taverner was hired.

What happens, for example, if the OPP has to investigate Ford’s government for wrongdoing, as occurred with the previous Liberal government in the cancelled gas plants scandal, the Ornge air ambulance scandal and the Sudbury byelection fiasco?

What happens if a member of the opposition parties becomes the focus of an OPP investigation?

In all of these scenarios, the fact that the head of the OPP is a longtime, personal friend of the premier and his family would create a perceived conflict of interest, no matter how fair or thorough the police investigation and no matter if it resulted in charges or convictions.

The perception of a conflict of interest has already come into play in the process by which Taverner, 72, was selected as commissioner.

This has nothing to do with Taverner’s competence for the job. He might well make an excellent commissioner.

But the issue is that the qualifications for being chosen as OPP commissioner by the selection committee were changed in the middle of the process so that Taverner could be considered for the job.

In that context, the fact Ford and Taverner are friends creates the perception of a conflict of interest even if it’s true, as Ford insists, that he had no hand in Taverner’s hiring.

The fact that the selection committee knew about Ford’s long-standing friendship with Taverner, and that the premier would be pleased by his selection, is relevant to the issue of how and why he was hired.

It’s true, as Ford said last week, that he has the authority to appoint Taverner as commissioner, because regardless of the process for selecting anyone to that position, it ultimately must be approved by cabinet, which in the real world means the premier.

But just because Ford has the power to appoint Taverner, doesn’t mean he should.

To be fair to the premier, let’s not be naive about how political appointments are made by governments of all ideological stripes, including the previous Liberal one, in which political patronage is a fact of life.

Governments don’t hire their enemies for key jobs, they hire their friends, and there are many jobs to which Taverner could have been appointed that would not have raised the red flag that appointing him as OPP commissioner has.

As for Ford’s argument he has concerns about how the OPP is being run and that he needs someone he can trust to reform it, he has every right to make that a priority for the new commissioner.

But surely Taverner is not the only individual capable of implementing such reforms.

As for Ford’s complaint much of the media is out to get him no matter what he does, that’s true, but any premier who hired a personal friend to run the OPP would be subject to intense media scrutiny.

Smart politicians know when it’s time to abandon a hill that it’s not worth dying on. This is that time for Ford.

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Ontario Community Safety Minister stands by Taverner pick

Postby Thomas » Wed Jan 30, 2019 5:41 pm

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

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.

“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.”

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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Horwath says Ford government undermining inquiry into Tavern

Postby Thomas » Wed Jan 30, 2019 5:42 pm

Horwath says Ford government undermining inquiry into Taverner’s OPP appointment

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.

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Look at the OPP’s dark history to see the peril of a police

Postby Thomas » Wed Feb 06, 2019 9:25 am

Look at the OPP’s dark history to see the peril of a police force personally loyal to Premier Doug Ford

We entrust the exercise of state power to our premier hoping he will treat it as a sacred trust.

Without fear or favour. Or friendship.

When Doug Ford announced the handover of our all-powerful Ontario Provincial Police to his personal pal, Ron Taverner, he breached that trust. Not only by dispensing a prized patronage reward to an old crony, but by bestowing a priceless gift upon himself:

Total loyalty from the province’s top cop.

This week, we got an unwelcome reminder of how the provincial police could become beholden to the premier if Taverner is sworn in as chief. In future, Ford’s wish will be his command, because he will forever have a footnote — or hyphen — attached to his title:

“Commissioner of the OPP-IOU.”

Our provincial police chief will always be indebted to Ford because, as is now widely understood, he lacked the minimum qualifications for the job. Only when the premier’s hand-picked hiring committee dialed down the stated requirements did Taverner — who failed to make the first cut — get a second chance, with an IOU due.

The OPP has an anti-rackets squad to guard against politicking or gaming gone awry, when the fix is in. Now, we have Exhibit A for why mixing police and politics is a bad idea:

When the opposition New Democrats came upon a leaked copy of draft health care legislation this month, the government pounced. The OPP were promptly notified.

Never mind that when they were in opposition, the Tories trafficked in leaked documents and demanded that the police stay out of it — no witch hunts against whistleblowers. The Tories often demanded that the OPP investigate the governing Liberals for malfeasance.

Back then, the OPP came under intense scrutiny, notably when police intruded close to elections and occasionally in midcampaign. Yet their investigations were never suspected of partisanship.

Now imagine if the premier gets his way, installing Taverner despite the public outcry. If Ontario’s top cop is a crony who owes everything to Ford, police investigations will always run the risk of appearing compromised and conflicted.

That’s not fair for frontline officers, for the Crown lawyers who depend on their investigations, and for the people (or politicians) being probed by the police. The province’s integrity commissioner is looking into the affair, but he is no U.S.-style special prosecutor, merely a servant of the legislature whose findings can easily be ignored by a premier with a commanding majority.

Ford keeps dismissing the criticism from all sides of the political spectrum — not least from recent OPP brass — perhaps because this is intensely personal. His novel argument is that the top job is a patronage appointment that remains his prerogative as premier.

That is simply untrue among recent Ontario premiers. Unless Ford wants to turn the clock back to the depression era, when another populist ruled the province by rewriting the rule book.

Lest we forget, Mitch Hepburn’s right-leaning Liberals came to power in the 1930s vowing to disrupt government while trumpeting their direct connection to “the people.” When Hepburn encountered obstacles, he knew what to do and who to deploy.

In 1937, with General Motors workers on strike in Oshawa to win an eight-hour day, Hepburn summoned the OPP into action. When Ottawa refused to deploy additional RCMP forces as backup, the premier mobilized his own muscle by recruiting 200 “special constables,” many of them ex-military.

According to Dahn D. Higley’s definitive history of the OPP, published in 1984, “the new provincial force was being referred to as ‘Hepburn’s Hussars’ and the ‘Sons of Mitches’ by the premier’s detractors who resented or feared Hepburn’s militant posture.”

Higley’s book describes it as the premier’s “private army,” integrated into a paid OPP reserve for “times of emergency.” Labour historian Irving Abella writes that Hepburn’s Hussars were effectively paid strikebreakers.

Then as now, the premier considered the OPP to be his personal police force because its commander owed him personal loyalty. Unlike today, the attorney general of the day objected to the power play and exited cabinet.

Hepburn’s Hussars are a dark part of Ontario’s history. Do we really want them reincarnated today as Ford’s Forces, answerable to him through a direct line to the loyalist he crowned as commissioner of the OPP-IOU?

Fear not, you might say, the 1930s was a different era, a time of rising populism. But this is 2019, a historian might reply, a time of fading memories.

We forget our history, and the parallels, at our peril. The first lesson of history is that the rule of law is paramount.

That means power must be exercised without fear or favour. Or friendship.

https://www.thestar.com/politics/politi ... -ford.html

https://www.ourwindsor.ca/opinion-story ... doug-ford/
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OPP review of leaks prompts fresh concerns about Doug Ford's

Postby Thomas » Wed Feb 06, 2019 9:27 am

OPP review of leaks prompts fresh concerns about Doug Ford's friend heading police force

An Ontario government request for an Ontario Provincial Police investigation into a leak of its secret plans for healthcare has prompted fresh concerns about what will happen if a friend of Premier Doug Ford gets to lead the provincial police force.

The Ford government called the OPP to launch a probe after an internal investigation concluded that an unnamed Ontario government employee was responsible for a massive leak of documents to the official Opposition NDP about the creation of a "super agency" to overhaul healthcare in the province. The employee has been fired.

“This is exhibit A of why Ron Taverner cannot be OPP commissioner,” said Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter.

The province's integrity commissioner is reviewing the nomination of Taverner, a close family friend of the premier, to the position of police commissioner. The nomination was announced after the government had modified the job description to ensure that he would qualify, iPolitics reported last fall.

In a new statement, Hunter expressed concerns about Taverner taking over the reins of the police force as it leads an investigation into an employee who may have caused them some political embarrassment.

“Doug Ford is asking the OPP to investigate a leak and alleging the NDP published stolen documents," she said. "In these situations the public must have confidence the OPP will act appropriately. That is impossible if the OPP commissioner is known to be a close friend of the premier.”

While Taverner's appointment has been postponed until the conclusion of an investigation by the integrity commissioner, Hunter reiterated that if his appointment does go through "it will undermine public confidence in the OPP."

The interim secretary of Ford's cabinet announced that the government had requested the police investigate in a note sent to all members of the province's public service on Feb. 4, 2019.

“As many of you may be aware, there have been media reports regarding the unauthorized disclosure of confidential government documents,” Steven Davidson wrote in the message. “I am writing to confirm that as a result of our investigation into this matter, the employee responsible for this breach is no longer employed in the Ontario Public Service."

He wrote that “the Ontario Provincial Police have also been notified" and reminded all staff of their oath as public servants "to protect the confidentiality of all information that comes into our possession unless we are legally authorized or required to to release it."

The firing comes five days after the NDP released draft legislation that details a plan, approved by cabinet, to overhaul the province's healthcare sector, which would include the privatization of services like health care inspections, laboratories, air ambulances and licensing.

A Jan. 22 briefing document that lays out the details for a new "super agency" was among the leaked records. The new agency would take over the planning and oversight duties of Ontario's health care system, including mental health services, knowledge sharing, patient relations and tissue donation and transplants, according to the document.

To do so, this super agency would “partner with public and private sector entities," allowing the government to transfer "all or part of the assets, liabilities, rights and obligations" of organizations such as Cancer Care Ontario, eHealth Ontario and the Trillium Gift of Life Network to the super agency. Many of these organizations are responsible for delivering home care, and one document warns of a potential risk of service disruptions.

And, according to the documents, front-line care would be managed by a new model for "integrated care delivery" formed through a bid system for which "expressions of interest" are due in March. The idea has sparked fears among NDP MPPs that front-line care would be converted to a for-profit model as the documents state that the super agency "may designate a person or entity, or a group of persons or entities, as an integrated care delivery system."

"If there was any doubt that this government is committed to massive privatization in health care, that doubt vanishes with this bill," Horwath told reporters on Jan. 31. "If Doug Ford plows ahead with this health-care privatization bill he has got one hell of a fight on his hands."

Horwath said she would not provide any information about the government leak and criticized the Doug Ford government for taking action against "whistleblowers."

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliot responded by saying Horwath was "doing a serious disservice to legitimate whistleblowers by calling the individual who obtained these documents as such."

"This person did not uncover scandal or mismanagement. They uncovered draft public service documents that Andrea Horwath is now using for her own political and fundraising means," she told reporters on Monday.

'Just a draft'

A few days earlier, Elliott told reporters at a hastily-called Jan. 31 news conference at Queen's Park that the leaked document was "just a draft" and that Horwath had "got pretty much everything wrong."

"The way the system operates now is a mixture," she said, "but what we want to do is make sure that as we develop our transformational strategy we are looking at strengthening the public part of the system."

Elliot has yet to divulge details about whether the government plans to privatize any aspects of the provincial healthcare, saying only that they "are committed to our public health-care system," and that nothing has been finalized, and consultations are ongoing.

Despite Elliot's statements that the leaked documents were false, Horwath released the remaining documents on Monday morning, which revealed that the ideas for a super agency had been approved by cabinet, and three high-ranking civil servants had already been appointed to the newly created agency.

In a Jan. 31 statement, Elliott said much of the material has "never even crossed the minister's desk."

"Unfortunately, due to the importance of cabinet confidentiality, we are unable to confirm what has gone through the cabinet process," she said in the statement.

However the cabinet documents appear to be signed by both Elliott and given Royal Assent by Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Dowdswell, and detail payment plans for permanent board members for the super agency, which includes a $350 per diem for the chair.

https://www.nationalobserver.com/2019/0 ... lice-force
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Ford government is hypocritical for cracking down on leaks

Postby Thomas » Wed Feb 06, 2019 9:28 am

Ah, the leak.

It’s as old as government itself.

The only thing that’s changed is the format it comes in. It’s no longer whispered government secrets written down on parchment, secured with a wax seal and carried to its destination on horseback. These days it’s official documents tucked in envelopes and handed off over coffee, or sent via email.

And why not? People in general are not good at keeping secrets.

As Benjamin Franklin put it: “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”

And the number of people it takes to draft 81 pages of proposed legislation to restructure Ontario’s health care system and incorporate a new super agency to oversee it all is considerably more than that.

So it’s little wonder that the Ford government’s confidential documents, released by the Ontario New Democratic Party in recent days, have come to light.

What is a little surprising is the government’s decision to call in the cavalry — in this case, the Ontario Provincial Police Anti-Rackets Branch — to investigate the leak.

According to the acting secretary of cabinet, Steven Davidson, the province’s top civil servant, the employee who leaked the documents has already been found and fired. And he sent a memo to all staff reminding them that the oath of public office and confidentiality notices do mean something, and breaching them “can have serious consequences.”

So, at this point, what role is there for the police in this affair, other than the heavy-handed tactic of trying to sow fear to keep everyone else in line?

Is that really how we want to use the police in Ontario? And, should the OPP decide to investigate, how can this possibly be the best use of the Anti-Rackets division’s time? It also investigates political corruption, health care fraud and schemes targeting vulnerable seniors.

Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives were certainly not riding this particular high horse when they were in opposition and on the receiving end of confidential Liberal government documents.

In 2017, the PCs received documents that showed the government’s cut to hydro bills would be temporary and costs would spike in a few years. They weren’t concerned then about the source of the documents or the public service’s requirement to protect confidential information.

The fact that they were “leaked documents” and “marked confidential” figured prominently in their press release of the day, which claimed that they had proof that hydro rates would “skyrocket to highest level ever after the election.”

Then, it was the Liberal energy minister who was scrambling to say the documents didn’t mean what the PCs claimed. They were “outdated” and “inaccurate.”

Now it’s PC Health Minister Christine Elliott who has had to rush out to claim that NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has misinterpreted these documents and the government doesn’t have an agenda to privatize more health care services. The documents, she says, are “not finalized” and a “very early version.”

We’ll know soon enough who is more right, and hopefully it won’t be to the detriment of Ontarians who need improved health care services, not chaos or cuts.

What we know already is that Ford’s Progressive Conservatives think something is wrong only if it benefits someone else.

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editori ... leaks.html
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Safety minister questioned in probe of OPP commissioner appo

Postby Thomas » Wed Feb 20, 2019 9:59 am

Safety minister questioned in probe of OPP commissioner appointment

Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones says she’s already been questioned in the ongoing probe into the appointment of a Ford family friend to the province’s top policing job.

In December, Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake announced that his office was investigating Ron Taverner’s appointment as OPP commissioner. Just days before that announcement, the government said it was postponing Taverner’s appointment until an investigation was completed.

Taverner, a veteran of the Toronto Police Service, was tapped for the job at the end of November. His appointment immediately raised eyebrows because of his close relationship with Premier Doug Ford.

After iPolitics reported that the initial job qualifications — which Taverner didn’t fulfil — were lowered, paving the way for his application, the NDP called on Wake to investigate the appointment.

As a superintendent, Taverner sits two ranks below the deputy-chief rank that was first required of all applicants for the commissioner’s job, but then removed two days later.

Jones told reporters on Tuesday that she was interviewed by Wake “a couple of weeks ago.”

Her office later confirmed that meeting happened on Jan. 29.

The commissioner’s office has declined to give any comment on the status of his investigation, when it will be completed or who he is interviewing as part of his probe. However, in his press release Wake specifically named Ford as the MPP at the centre of the investigation.

A government official told iPolitics the premier has not met with Wake.

On top of Taverner’s close connection to Ford, and the change in job qualifications, one of the people on the hiring committee was also Taverner’s former boss in the Toronto Police Service — Mario Di Tommaso.

Di Tommaso took over the job of deputy minister of community safety on Oct. 22. That’s the same day the job opening for the OPP commissioner was first posted, two days later the qualifications for it were lowered.

While the ethics probe continues, the case was also sent to the courts by a senior OPP commander who’s job application was passed over in favour of Taverner’s. Brad Blair, who met the initial qualifications for the job, is asking the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario to force Ombudsman Paul Dubé to investigate the appointment process.

https://ipolitics.ca/2019/02/19/safety- ... pointment/
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OPP deputy commissioner threatens to sue Ford

Postby Thomas » Thu Feb 28, 2019 4:33 pm

OPP deputy commissioner threatens to sue Ford over response to Taverner appointment

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is being threatened with a lawsuit from the police commander who is challenging the government’s appointment of the Premier’s friend as the province’s next police chief.

A notice of an intent to sue for defamation was sent to Mr. Ford’s office in late January by lawyers acting for Ontario Provincial Police Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair, according to court documents obtained by The Globe and Mail.

The notice takes issue with televised remarks made by Mr. Ford in December, when he suggested the OPP commander was breaking the Police Services Act by going public with concerns over the hiring of Toronto Police Superintendent Ron Taverner.

Deputy Commissioner Blair alleges the Premier’s comments were made as a “reprisal” – and that they smeared his “distinguished career, and his professional and personal reputation.”

A spokesman for Mr. Ford denied the allegation. “The Premier has taken no act of reprisal against anyone and claims by Blair in this regard are completely false,” Simon Jefferies said.

The province’s Integrity Commissioner is reviewing the hiring of Supt. Taverner amid concerns about potential conflicts of interest and the politicization of the police service. Mr. Ford and Supt. Taverner are long-time friends, but the Premier has said the decision was made by an independent committee that he did not influence.

Deputy Commissioner Blair, who was one of three finalists considered for the job, has asked an Ontario court to force the provincial ombudsman to also review the case. An interim OPP leader is in place until at least next month.

Deputy Commissioner Blair remains with the OPP while he continues his court bid to force the ombudsman to review the hiring process, filing internal documents to support his contention that the Premier and officials in his office have inappropriately intervened in police operations. In one of his sworn statements he has also suggested that “inappropriate political interference or cronyism” could have factored into the decision to hire Supt. Taverner.

After Deputy Commissioner Blair’s complaints were made public, Mr. Ford appeared on television in December to respond to the allegations of interference.

“I’m thoroughly disappointed with Brad Blair, the way he’s been going on, breaking the Police Act numerous times,” the Premier told a Toronto TV station. These, and similar remarks, were picked up on by other media.

The Police Services Act is a disciplinary law governing police standards. If found guilty before a tribunal, officers can be punished with docked pay or dismissal. But no such charges have been filed against Deputy Commissioner Blair, according to his court filings.

The notice of a potential lawsuit alleges Mr. Ford is “attempting to intimidate Deputy Commissioner Blair from pursuing a legitimate complaint,” according to a letter that lawyer Julian Falconer sent to the Premier on Jan. 23.

Contacted on the weekend, Mr. Falconer would not say if his client intends to follow up with a formal lawsuit if Mr. Ford doesn’t retract his comments or apologize. “I don’t have a comment on that,” he said.

The spokesman for the Premier’s Office said Mr. Ford would contest any suit. Deputy Commissioner Blair “still appears clearly upset that he did not get the job,” Mr. Jefferies said. “The Premier will respond to any legal proceedings through his counsel, if and when necessary.”

Other filings show that Deputy Commissioner Blair and his legal team have been cautioned against disclosing any further OPP documents.

On Dec. 28, deputy minister of community safety Mario Di Tommaso wrote to Deputy Commissioner Blair to suggest he was waging an inappropriate personal “public communications” campaign on OPP letterhead.

He stated that all public servants swear oaths that establish “loyalty to the employer” and that the Police Services Act “expressly prohibits a police officer from communicating to the media” any sensitive information held by a police force.

In his letter, Mr. Di Tommaso stated he was not disciplining Deputy Blair but, rather, speaking to him in his capacity as the government’s designated ethics adviser for the OPP police brass.

Deputy Commissioner Blair’s lawyer responded by saying that the deputy minister’s letter was inappropriate, arguing that Mr. Di Tommaso is too enmeshed in the controversy to have direct dealings with his client.

Before being hired by the Progressive Conservative government last October, Mr. Di Tommaso was a staff superintendent at the Toronto Police Service. He served for nearly 40 years and was Supt. Taverner’s commanding officer when he left.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/ ... r-slander/
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Re: OPP leadership must be free of politicial suspicion

Postby Thomas » Thu Feb 28, 2019 4:36 pm

TORONTO — One of Ontario's highest-ranking police officers is threatening to sue Premier Doug Ford accusing him of defamation.

In a notice of intent to sue filed last month, lawyers for Ontario Provincial Police Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair allege that Ford damaged the officer's reputation when he accused him of breaking the Police Services Act by speaking out against the hiring of a Ford family friend for the force's top job.

Blair's lawyer Julian Falconer further alleges that Ford's comments were meant to intimidate his client, who publicly criticized Toronto police superintendent Ron Taverner's appointment as OPP commissioner.

"Specifically, it is alleged that you intentionally, deliberately, and maliciously made statements you knew or ought to have known to be false,'' Falconer said in a letter to Ford.

Falconer said Ford told media that Blair had allegedly violated the act, when there is no evidence the veteran officer did so at any time during his career.

"The preparation, distribution and publication of these defamatory words have caused extensive harm to Deputy Commissioner Blair's professional and personal reputation, as well as other damages to be specified at a later date,'' Falconer said.

In December, Blair said OPP officers had expressed concerns the selection process which resulted in Taverner's appointment was unfair and could raise doubts about the police service's independence.

Blair, who was also in the running for the commissioner's job, also suggested that Taverner's appointment be delayed until an investigation could be conducted by the province's ombudsman.

After the ombudsman declined to investigate, Blair launched a legal challenge in an attempt to force the watchdog to probe the hiring. Ontario's Divisional Court is expected to hear the case in April.

The court documents filed in the case also contain more details about Blair's allegations that Ford's chief of staff asked the OPP to purchase a "larger camper type vehicle'' and have it modified to the specifications of the premier's office, with the costs associated with the vehicle "kept off the books.''

The documents show the cost to taxpayers for the van remodel would be over $50,000, not including the cost of the vehicle itself. The custom features were to include a 32-inch television with Blu-Ray player, a mini-fridge, black leather captain's chairs and a reclining leather sofa bench, the documents said.

A spokesman for Ford said Monday that the premier asked the OPP to look into obtaining a "cost-effective used van'' for him to work and travel in across the province.

"The emails sent to the OPP from a member of the premier's office staff are not an official procurement of a van, instead they are a cost estimate and reveal an effort to minimize expense,'' Simon Jefferies said in an email.

Blair's lawyers said they filed the notice of intent to sue for defamation after the government failed to respond to four letters seeking to clarify if Blair was under a Police Services Act investigation.

Jefferies denied Ford's statements were a reprisal against Blair.

"Mr. Blair is an unsuccessful candidate, and still appears to be clearly upset that he did not get the job,'' he said, adding that the premier would respond to any legal proceedings through his counsel if necessary.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called Ford's actions "shameful'' and said his comments were an attempt to intimidate Blair.

"I think it's another indicator of this government's desire to put a chill on anybody that's going to speak out against them,'' she said.

https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2019/02/2 ... _23677747/

https://globalnews.ca/news/4997005/brad ... efamation/
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Don’t laugh at Ford’s customized van - he’s remodelling OPP

Postby Thomas » Sun Mar 03, 2019 5:02 pm

Don’t laugh at Doug Ford’s customized van — he’s remodelling the entire OPP to his own tastes

That Doug Ford raged over his OPP protective detail, and then demanded his own vanity van, is not a federal crime.

Who cares if the man in the van travels in the style to which he is accustomed? So what if he berates the bodyguards who would take a bullet for him?

Ford professes to love cops, but he doesn’t have to love them all. He purports to be the premier for the people, but he is just a person — if not always a people person.

What the premier purports in public, and how he comports in private, are two different things. What matters most is how he distinguishes between private wants and public needs.

The opposition is lampooning the premier’s obsession with a specially customized van, outfitted with fridge and sofa, as a $100,000 “souped-up man cave on wheels.” The media are mocking his profanity-laced outbursts at the Ontario Provincial Police.

Trying to cast Ford as a boorish premier is surely pointless, post-election. Voters long ago sized him up and saddled up.

People are missing the point. It’s not about his perquisites but his principles.

When Ford lashed out last summer, shortly after taking power, he resented the limits to his power: The premier wanted everyone to obey every caprice and abide by every command without question.

That’s how he rolls, whether in a mobile office or his Queen’s Park office. No one says “no” to Doug Ford — notwithstanding anything.

Which is why, when the premier didn’t like the look of his bodyguards, he let them know.

“I’ve asked for my own detail of officers who I trust already,” Ford griped, according to an OPP officer who emailed the complaint to his superiors.

“It feels like I’m not being heard, like I’m getting f---ed around by the OPP and I’m getting more pissed off,” Ford was quoted as saying. “I’m going to call the commissioner and sort this out. This is the last straw.”

The target of his outburst was then-commissioner Vince Hawkes: “If I have to, I will drive up there to see him face-to-face so he can see how serious I am about this. If he can’t sort this out then maybe a new commissioner can make it happen.”

The complaints emerged in a recent court filing by Brad Blair, the deputy commissioner who took over from Hawkes temporarily last fall and applied for the permanent job, but lost out to a longtime friend of the Ford family, Ron Taverner. Like many others within the OPP and outside the force, Blair expressed incredulity that the government had hired someone who didn’t qualify for the original competition because he lacked the required managerial experience (the job specifications were downgraded days later, whereupon, mysteriously, the previously unqualified Taverner emerged as the most qualified). The integrity commissioner is now investigating.

Cronyism can’t contaminate the commissioner’s office at the OPP, which must maintain its independence. It may one day be called upon to investigate wrongdoing by the premier’s office (as happened under the Liberals), and the chief must speak truth to power, not be indebted to it.

The point is that Ford’s outburst last summer suggests a turning point in his thinking: “Maybe a new commissioner can make it happen.”

Which takes us to the premier’s peculiar obsession with a customized van, and his stated preference for driving versus flying:

“I’m the only premier in history that refuses to use the premier’s plane,” Ford protested this week, referring to the King Air turboprop operated by the ministry of natural resources.

Never mind that Ford flew on a chartered jet for a northern swing last fall. (A spokesperson noted the Progressive Conservatives paid the costs because of a party event along the way.)

In fairness to Ford, all he seeks is a van. He doesn’t aspire to the armoured trains that ferry North Korea’s Kim Jong Un to international summits.

Should we begrudge him seeking Wi-Fi in his dream van? Do we belittle him for wanting an old-fashioned DVD player after visiting the Mississauga customization company?

Surely our premier deserves Wi-Fi connectivity, or Blu-ray DVDs to unplug. Let the man have his van to see his fans.

There’s little point fussing about Ford using the F-word to his bodyguards. Worry when he mucks with police independence.

Don’t bemoan his aspirations for a single customized van in the OPP fleet. Beware his ambitions to remodel the entire force to his own tastes.

When you strip away the leather seats and customized couch, there’s a message Ford needs to hear:

As premier, and leader of the PCs, it’s your party and you can fly or drive if you want to. Just don’t take the province for a ride by giving your crony the keys to the entire OPP fleet and force.

https://www.thestar.com/politics/politi ... astes.html
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BREAKING: OPP Deputy Commish fired!

Postby Thomas » Mon Mar 04, 2019 4:55 pm

Brad Blair has been fired as Deputy Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police.

The man who was interim commissioner and considered a front runner to become the top cop in the province was terminated for filing internal emails from the OPP in court as part of a lawsuit.

The firing was ordered by Mario Di Tommaso, Deputy Minister of Community Safety.

“It was my conclusion that Mr. Blair undertook conduct that was not only contrary to instruction I had provided him in my capacity as his ethics executive by letter dated December 28, 2018, but was contrary to his legal and ethical responsibilities as a Deputy Commissioner,” Di Tommaso said in a memo distributed to the government.

After losing out in the competition to become the next OPP Commissioner to Toronto Police Superintendent Ron Taverner, Blair asked for the provincial ombudsman to investigate.

When the ombudsman refused, Blair went to Ontario Divisional Court asking a judge to force an investigation.

As part of his filing with the court, Blair included internal OPP emails, including a description of conversations between Premier Doug Ford, his staff and his bodyguard, an OPP officer under Blair’s command.

One of the main emails, dated July 18, 2018, was written by Sgt. Terrence Murphy — the premier’s driver and bodyguard.

Sgt. Murphy had written a summary of a conversation with the premier about the number of “new faces” in Ford’s protection detail.

That email about Ford’s concerns was forwarded up the chain of command and eventually landed in the inbox of Blair.

On February 15, 2019 Blair filed that email, plus another with details of the customized van the premier wanted for travel as part of his lawsuit to force an examination of the process that saw him passed over for the top job.

In his memo on Blair’s firing, Di Tommaso said that after considering legal advice and reviewing Blair’s actions, “termination was the only acceptable recourse.”

Blair’s actions also resulted in the removal of Sgt. Murphy from Premier Ford’s protective detail.

One source close to the premier, who also knows Sgt. Murphy, said that there was a feeling of broken trust after the emails and the premier’s private conversation was made public.

The Ontario Provincial Police Association has said that Sgt. Murphy was only doing his job “by relaying the Premier’s wishes to his superiors.”

In a memo to Di Tommaso, OPPA President Rob Jamieson asked for Murphy to be reinstated but blasted Blair’s actions.

“The OPP Association is deeply troubled that confidential and operationally-sensitive emails have found their way into the public domain,” Jamieson wrote on February 28.

Blair challenged the selection process to choose the next OPP Commissioner claiming to was favoured to help Taverner, a long time friend of Ford family.

While Taverner has been a police officer for more than 50 years — including a superintendent with the Toronto Police service — he did not meet the original qualifications.

Premier Ford has denied the qualifications were changed specifically for Taverner but rather to get a bigger and better pool of candidates.

Ford described Blair’s lawsuit as “sour grapes.”

https://torontosun.com/news/provincial/ ... mish-fired

https://www.simcoereformer.ca/news/prov ... ab20ccb0e9
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