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Will a political leader stop “undue political influence”?

Posted in View Point

Published on December 22, 2018 with No Comments

Premier Doug Ford who brought Conservatives back to govern Ontario that too with a thumping majority was expected to fulfill his commitment to provide a “government for the people”, but he seems to have forgotten the poll promise too soon.

The process of appointment of Ron Taverner took another wide turn, when the Commissioner of Ontario’s Provincial Police Brad Blair wrote to the provincial ombudsman expressing concerns about political interference in the operation of the provincial police force by the Office of Premier Doug Ford.

All this came when stories of how Ron Taverner, one of Ford’s old family friends, was appointed to the commissioner’s role after the eligibility requirements for the province’s top police job were changed at the last minute. In his letter, interim OPP Commissioner Brad Blair has stated that  Taverner wasn’t qualified to be the province’s top cop until Ford’s Office changed the qualifications on the job description. That implies that the office of the Premier was being guided to only get Ron Taverner for the top job.  Brad Blair in his letter has specifically mentioned about “concerning history” of interactions between Doug Ford’s office and the OPP.

There is need to know why Ron Taverner now 72 who has had a distinguished career since 1967 is acceptable to Doug Ford and not acceptable to those who matter in the police force. Taverner has been superintendent to three suburban divisions in Toronto’s west end. As a unit commander of 23 Division, Taverner is known to have forged a good friendship with Doug Ford’s late brother Rob Ford, while Rob Ford was a city councilor and is being reported to have attended Ford family barbecues and informal meetings with the two brothers.  In 2016, Ron Taverner accompanied Doug Ford and Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders on a private plane to Chicago to take in a Blackhawks game, part of a prize package purchased at a charity auction. Hence, it is not just a concern that has been addressed by Brad Blair as he stands superseded, but Ontarians are concerned as there are clear sign of undue political influence in the process of hiring the new commissioner and Premier who came with the promise of “government for the people is undermining the integrity and independence of the provincial police force.  Ontarians have started asking what happened to “government for the people”? Is it now reduced to “controlling all offices”?

Premier Doug Ford needs to remember Ontario Provincial Police is the third largest deployed police service in North America and OPP is also the police force that could be tasked with handling any investigations that involve Premier Doug Ford and his government. Blair who was also running for the same job, but lost to Taverner as the appointment was not made independently. The premier himself has admitted he didn’t rescue himself when the decision was made by his cabinet. Such an unprecedented step would have deeply affected the morale of the rank and file of the OPP, as the process has been unfair and independence of OPP is now under question. This could affect public confidence in the police that stands for fully effective policing.

The issue has got even more attention when Former RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson expressed that there are “reasonable concerns” about the appointment Ron Taverner, and has asked for an independent inquiry into the matter to preserve the integrity of the force. But is Premier Doug Ford willing to walk a mile?

 

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