Ontario’s ethics watchdog has found Premier Doug Ford “did not breach” any laws when the Progressive Conservative government tried to install his friend Ron Taverner as OPP commissioner.
“I found that the premier stayed at arm’s length from the recruitment process and that he believed it to be independent,” integrity commissioner J. David Wake wrote in a 101-page report released Wednesday.
“However, I found that there were some troubling aspects of the recruitment process and ultimately made the finding that the process was flawed,” said Wake.
Taverner, a 72-year-old Toronto police superintendent, withdrew his name from consideration for the post earlier this month after weeks of controversy.
York Regional Police deputy Chief Thomas Carrique, who has never even met the premier, was appointed the new commissioner last week.
Wake — who interviewed 21 witnesses, including the premier and solicitor general Sylvia Jones, said the mysterious changing of the OPP qualifications’ threshold that allowed Taverner, whose rank was initially too low, was due to “confusion” not “collusion” on the part of Ford’s office and bureaucrats.
He investigated after a complaint by NDP MPP Kevin Yarde (Brampton North) that Ford may have breached the Members’ Integrity Act.
The commissioner said the hiring process has to change in the future.
“For a position of this importance and given the sensitivity of the relationship between the government and the police in general, and the OPP commissioner in particular, there ought to be an established appointment process in place which is independent, transparent and readily activated with predetermined criteria and membership on the selection committee,” said Wake.
“I would encourage the government and all members of the legislature to consider the establishment of such a process and have it in place before the next appointment is required.”
Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie