Court to hear request to speed up hearing on OPP commissioner case
Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner
Allison Jones, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, January 10, 2019 11:20AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 10, 2019 3:43PM EST
TORONTO -- 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.