Ontario’s new top cop, Ron Taverner, purchased a Toronto home privately last year from one of Premier Doug Ford’s closest advisers in both politics and business.
Property records show that Taverner, the incoming Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner and a current Toronto Police superintendent, purchased the three-bedroom cottage-style home on Church Street in the Toronto neighbourhood of Weston in July 2017 for $550,000.
The seller was Simone Daniels, 33, a political operative who has had a decade-long association with Ford and is described in a Ford press release as “a long-time adviser.” At the time Taverner bought the home from Daniels, she was a senior executive at the Ford-family company, Deco Labels. She was part of his hand-picked transition team when Ford swept into office in June 2018 and is now deputy chief of staff in the Premier’s Office. Prior to her time at Deco, Daniels was executive assistant to Doug Ford when he was a city councillor.
Real estate records show there was no MLS sale listing for the home, indicating it was sold privately. Taverner took out a $440,000 mortgage from National Bank at the same time he made the purchase. Mortgage documents do not specify the interest rate or term of the mortgage.
The Star reached out, with detailed questions, to Taverner, Daniels and the Premier’s Office. Chief among the questions was this: Did the fact that the new OPP commissioner had a real estate transaction with a top adviser to Ford raise a conflict of interest in the eventual choice of commissioner, or does it affect the relationship between the OPP and the Premier’s Office going forward. There was no response as of Thursday morning.
Daniels, who has worked for Ford in both politics and business, is listed on the provincial government’s telephone system as “Deputy Chief of Staff, HR Administration & Tour.” Thirty-six staff in the Premier’s office report to her, according to the province’s online directory.
Opposition critics have complained that the Ford family’s long friendship with Taverner creates a potential conflict in that it is the OPP that is typically called in to investigate the actions of government, political parties and elected officials. Under the Liberal government, the OPP was called in to investigate the ORNGE air ambulance scandal and the deleted documents gas plants scandal.
The NDP said last week that “Doug Ford is promoting a close friend and ally by several ranks, leapfrogging the OPP’s senior leadership team without an explanation.” Ford responded, saying an independent selection committee chose Taverner and he played no role.
Last week, the provincial government announced that Taverner, 72, would become OPP commissioner on Dec. 17, replacing Vince Hawkes, who recently retired. The province announced that a selection panel unanimously approved Taverner for the job. The panel included Taverner’s former boss at the Toronto Police Service, Staff Supt. Mario Di Tommaso. Di Tomasso left the Toronto force in October and was appointed to the post of Deputy Minister Community Safety with the province. His first task was to sit on the OPP commissioner selection panel. An iPolitics story revealed that the government quietly modified the original job posting on Oct. 22 so that candidates two ranks below the original threshold would qualify.
Ford, responding to critics of Taverner’s selection, said he had “zero influence” in choosing Taverner. However, Ford said that when cabinet met and approved the selection committee’s choice, he did not recuse himself. Critics say that the premier should have, given his family’s friendship with Taverner.
Taverner was a popular officer during his five decades with the Toronto force, and a media darling. If there was a major drug bust and a photo opportunity, Taverner was there. If there was a gun bust, he was there. If a loved one was missing in Etobicoke, the area he policed, and a search party convened, Taverner would be out on the hunt with the public, television cameras never far away.
Over the years, he has owned property in many places, but not in Toronto. Among other places he has lived — Caledon, Wasaga Beach and Barrie.
Property records show Taverner purchased the white stucco and brick house on Church Street, built in 1928, on July 21, 2017. The corner lot the house sits on measures 52 by 98 feet. The same day, Taverner took out a $440,000 mortgage from National Bank. The mortgage documents do not list a payment schedule or interest rate. The mortgage is payable “on demand,” according to the document.
Simone Daniels had lived in the house for five years. Prior to 2012, land title documents show the home was owned by a woman with a near identical name to Daniels (the woman’s last name is listed as “Daniel” and she is 23 years older than Daniels). In 2012, the woman transferred the home to Daniels and herself as joint tenants at a price of $102,500. Then, in 2015, Daniels and the other woman transferred the property to Daniels for a price of $96,926. Two years later (Daniels was married by this time and moved to Thornhill) Daniels sold the house to Taverner for $550,000.
The Star made repeated attempts by phone, email and in person (at Taverner’s home) to get comment from the Premier’s office, Daniels and Taverner in an attempt to determine how Taverner heard the Weston house was for sale and what price the house was listed at. The area has a wide variety of houses and the Star was not able to arrive at a true comparable value based on other sales. Two smaller houses sold in the last year for less than $550,000 but most houses in the area sold for more than $550,000.
For Taverner, it’s a convenient location, just a 15-minute drive from his office at 23 Division at Finch and Kipling Avenues. The OPP’s head office is in Orillia. Property records shows Taverner owns a property in Barrie, southwest of Orillia.
Kevin Donovan can be reached at 416-312-3503 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @_kevindonovan