New OPP commissioner appointed five days after Ron Taverner withdraws
Thomas Carrique is shown in this photograph from the York Regional Police website.
TORONTO -- Ontario has a new provincial police commissioner, selected just two days after a friend of the premier's withdrew from an appointment that was mired in controversy.
Thomas Carrique, currently the deputy chief for York Regional Police, was announced Monday as the next commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police. Cabinet signed off on the hiring on Friday, the premier's office said, after Toronto Police Supt. Ron Taverner stepped back from the post Wednesday.
Acting quickly signals the government's attempt to get past the outcry over Taverner's appointment.
"I think it was important for our government to show that we were moving forward and we were getting a new OPP commissioner in place," Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Sylvia Jones said Monday.
Carrique said he has never met the premier and has no relationship with him or his family.
Carrique has spent his entire 29-year career with the York police and Jones praised his extensive experience in uniform patrol, criminal investigations, investigative services, traffic, marine, public order and the administration and operations branches.
"I think you can appreciate that this role is a very unique one and we looked at long-serving officers who we thought had the skill set that would best embody what the OPP would need as a commissioner right now," Jones said.
Taverner, 72, is a family friend of Ford and initially did not meet the criteria listed for the commissioner position. The government has admitted it lowered the requirements, eliminating the need for applicants to hold at least the rank of deputy chief or assistant commissioner, to attract a wider range of candidates.
He had delayed his appointment while an integrity commissioner investigation is ongoing, but withdrew altogether last week.
Between Wednesday and Friday, Jones said, a number of candidates were assessed. Carrique was not among the pool of people previously interviewed -- he didn't apply when the job was posted last fall, as he envisioned spending the rest of his career with York police, he said.
"To serve alongside the dedicated and professional members of the Ontario Provincial Police in a leadership role, I can tell you that no one is more surprised that I'm standing before you today," he said at an announcement with Jones.
"I'm extremely grateful and deeply honoured by the confidence placed in me by the government and the ministry."
Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said he is pleased that Carrique has no "discernible" affiliation with the Ford family.
"But it's unfortunate that it took a three-month scandal to get us here," he said in a statement. "The quick replacement following Mr. Taverner's withdrawal raises questions. This scandal broke the trust of the public, so we need to know that a sound process was followed to arrive at Mr. Carrique, free from political interference or conflict of interest."
Though Taverner has returned to his Toronto police job -- having rescinded his initial resignation -- and a new OPP commissioner has been named, it's unlikely the controversy will quickly fade away.
"Ultimately, the appointment of a new commissioner is welcome, but does not change the fact that there are important questions still surrounding Doug Ford's conduct in appointing his close friend Ron Taverner, and it does not give the public confidence Doug Ford has learned his lesson about police independence," NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said in a statement.
The integrity commissioner's report is still due, a court case is pending over whether the ombudsman should be forced to investigate, the NDP has called for a public inquiry, and a former deputy OPP commissioner alleges he was fired as reprisal for speaking out against Taverner's appointment.
Ford has previously described the job of OPP commissioner as a "political appointment," but maintains his office was not involved in Taverner's selection beyond taking part in the initial recruitment planning process. He also signed off on the official government document appointing Taverner after a hiring committee made the selection.
One of the people on that hiring committee was Mario Di Tommaso, deputy minister of community safety, who ended up personally firing deputy OPP commissioner Brad Blair, who has waged a legal battle over Taverner's appointment.
Blair alleges that was a conflict of interest for Di Tommaso, since he is a subject of the legal battle. Di Tommaso is also Taverner's former boss.
Carrique has been appointed to a three-year term starting April 8.