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Doug Ford’s friend was named Ontario’s new OPP chief. Why that’s now causing political uproar – Global News

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Did Ontario Premier Doug Ford interfere in the naming of the new head of the Ontario Provincial Police?

That is the question currently consuming provincial politics and that prompted the interim head of the force, Brad Blair, to issue a letter on Tuesday night calling on the Ontario ombudsman to review the appointment of longtime Ford family friend Ron Taverner to the top police job.

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READ MORE: Interim OPP commissioner calls for review of Ron Taverner appointment

That appointment came after the job criteria, which Taverner did not initially meet, were changed.

Ford has denied any involvement in the hiring process and on Wednesday, Sylvia Jones, the provincial community safety minister, said her office will co-operate with any review if the ombudsman decides to pursue one.

But Jones also questioned Blair’s motivation for raising the issue in her statement, arguing the allegations are “unfounded” and have “unfairly maligned” the Ontario Provincial Police.

WATCH BELOW: Horwath accuses Ford of playing direct role in Ron Taverner’s hiring






Ford did not address the matter or take questions from reporters following a speech on Wednesday morning.

However, the matter is expected to dominate the political conversation until Taverner is sworn in on Dec. 17.

Here is everything you need to know about the uproar.

Who is the new commissioner?

Rob Taverner, 72, is a divisional superintendent from northwestern Toronto and serves with the municipal police force.

His career spans more than 50 years and includes work spent working on organized crime and intelligence cases.

READ MORE: Veteran Toronto Police Supt. Ron Taverner appointed OPP commissioner

Mark Saunders, current chief of the Toronto Police Service, praised his appointment, as did Althea Martin Risden, director of health promotion at Rexdale Community Health Centre.

He has been awarded the Order of Merit of the Police Forces, which recognizes exceptional service by Canadian police force members.

But he is also a longtime friend of both Ford and his family and has spent years policing in and around Etobicoke — the Fords’ home turf.

Why does that have some concerned?

Blair and opposition critics argue potential bias stemming from that friendship could be a problem if the Ontario Provincial Police ever has to investigate activities by either Ford, his associates or his government as the force did when it took over Project Brazen 2 from Toronto police in 2014.

That investigation saw the provincial police target both the late Rob Ford and his friend, Alessandro Lisi.

READ MORE: Veteran Toronto Police Supt. Ron Taverner appointed OPP commissioner

Lisi was charged with extortion and drug-related offences in connection with the Rob Ford crack-smoking incident of 2013.

He was acquitted of the drug charges in 2015 and in 2016, the extortion charge was withdrawn.

Blair also raised questions in his letter about potentially problematic relations already existing between Ford’s team and the provincial police force.

In his letter to the ombudsman, Blair pointed to two specific cases he argued raised red flags.

WATCH BELOW: Doug Ford says he had no role in appointment of new OPP commissioner






“A concerning history already exists between Premier Ford’s office and the OPP,” he wrote.

Blair said he was referring to “requests from Premier Ford for a specific security detail, staffed with specific officers that Premier Ford would feel comfortable with,” and alleged that Ford suggested, “If [former OPP] Commissioner [Vince] Hawkes would not address the issue, perhaps a new commissioner would.”

He said Ford’s requests were subsequently approved.

However, it is not clear why Ford may have had concerns about how comfortable he was with existing security details or why he wanted specific officers assigned to his detail.

As well, Blair also alleged Dean French, chief of staff to Ford, asked the provincial police to buy a “large camper-type vehicle” for the premier, then have it customized and the costs “kept off the books.”

How did Taverner get the top cop job?

Ask Blair, and the suggestion is “political interference.”

But ask the premier or his government, and the answer is because he was the best-qualified candidate.

READ MORE: Ford says he wasn’t involved in hiring of family friend Ron Taverner as OPP commissioner

The issue at the heart of the matter is that Taverner got the job after the criteria initially set out for the posting were lowered.

Why they were lowered remains unclear.

WATCH BELOW: Ford explains independent panel selected new OPP commissioner, not him






In his letter to the ombudsman, Blair wrote that the original job posting that went online on Oct. 22 listed two core requirements for applicants.

First, a successful candidate would need to be an “experienced executive with a background in police.”

Second, they needed a “track record and demonstrated ability to provide executive leadership in a complex policing organization at the rank of deputy police chief or higher, or assistant commissioner or higher in a major police service.”

WATCH BELOW: Incoming OPP commissioner’s qualifications are being questioned






Both have been requirements in place for OPP commissioners since 2006, Blair wrote.

Yet on Oct. 24, the second criteria, setting out specific rank experience, was removed from the posting.

Jones says that change was made by the hiring firm in charge of the process in order to “make sure that the best person to head our OPP was going to apply” and to “broaden the potential pool of applicants,” of which there were 27.

Only four, Blair wrote, did not meet the original rank criteria.

What happens next?

Barring any changes, Taverner will be sworn in as commissioner on Dec. 17.

His term will last three years.

No decision has yet been announced from the ombudsman as to whether the office will launch the investigation requested by Blair.

But Global News has learned the Office of the Integrity Commissioner of Ontario has opened up an investigation into Taverner’s appointment.

That investigation comes after both NDP MPP Kevin Yarde and Liberal interim leader John Fraser filed formal complaints.

The results are yet to be determined.

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Why Alberta is considering severing ties with the RCMP

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One of the major bullet points emerging from Premier Jason Kenney’s speech in Red Deer on Saturday was a proposal to establish a provincial police force.

If the measure were to find support, Alberta would join Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador as the only provinces to operate a provincial police force outside of the RCMP.

“We will invite the panel to explore the feasibility of establishing an Alberta provincial police force by ending the Alberta Police Service Agreement with the Government of Canada,” Kenney said during his speech.

Like much of what was announced Saturday, establishing a provincial police force is part of a bigger strategy to give Alberta greater autonomy from Ottawa.

“As Canada, at various times in history, has moved in the direction of having [provinces] who are looking for a bigger stake in their own governance, taking control of policing is important for those governments,” said Michael Kempa, a criminology professor at the University of Ottawa. “It’s a key component of the administration of justice, and something they would prefer not to leave to the federal government.”

But beyond a larger strategy of seeking to move powers from federal to provincial jurisdiction, how would police services be impacted in the province were this move to occur?

More control

Outside of municipal police services in Alberta like those in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta contracts its provincial police services from the RCMP.

As a federal police force operating across all of Canada, the responsibilities assigned to the RCMP are numerous — and that’s a challenge for any police service, Kempa said.

One agency may not be able to do all of those policing functions particularly well.– Michael Kempa, University of Ottawa criminology professor

“There’s been a raging debate around the RCMP for more than two decades as to whether or not they can continue to focus on federal policing issues alongside contracted provincial and sometimes municipal policing issues as well,” Kempa said. “One agency may not be able to do all of those different policing functions particularly well.”

Part of the appeal for a province seeking to distance itself from Ottawa is the centralization of police administration, according to Robert Gordon, a criminology professor at Simon Fraser University.

“It results in significant improvements because you’re working with a single system. Theoretically, it doesn’t involve Ottawa … there is far, far greater levels of control and accountability where everything is being dealt with out of Edmonton, or if you wanted, Calgary,” Gordon said. “Whereas at the moment, policing, priorities and standards are all driven by Ottawa.

“And of course, that is the last thing that an independent Alberta will want to have.”

RCMP representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

Higher costs

Any move to establish a provincial police force is likely to cost more, especially in its initial stages.

“It would cost more money, no doubt about that,” Gordon said. “And I’m not talking about startup money. You’re talking millions to transition over because you have to repaint the cars, change the uniforms, all that sort of stuff.”

Ongoing costs would also likely be higher than contracting policing out to the RCMP, Gordon said.

“They will be higher partly because provincial and municipal police services and non-RCMP are paid more highly,” he said. “[Here in British Columbia], if we were to switch over it wouldn’t be a hugely complicated thing to do, and we’ve got the resources and the infrastructure in place, but I don’t know about Alberta.”

It would cost more money, no doubt about that.– Robert Gordon, Simon Fraser University criminology professor

Despite those initial costs, Kempa said the presence of a local force could provide a return on investment.

“Even if you end up spending a little more, the hope would be that if you have it under provincial jurisdiction and directly accountable to local provincial police accountability bodies, you’re going to get a policing service tailored to the preferences, needs and standards of your territory,” he said.

Alberta has had its own police force before — the Alberta Provincial Police operated in the province from 1917 until 1932. It was replaced by the RCMP in 1932 as a cost-savings measure during the Great Depression, according to the Archives Society of Alberta.

As part of Kenney’s speech on Saturday, he reiterated a campaign pledge to create an Alberta Parole Board and take over responsibility for inmates from the Parole Board of Canada.

In such a scenario, existing correctional facilities would likely be restaffed, Gordon said.

“What you would find is that most of the existing federal staff would be staying in those facilities, and you could come to some kind of cost-sharing arrangement with the feds to ensure that there’s adequate coverage,” Gordon said. “I don’t see that as being a huge issue at all, in comparison with the policing side.”

Other measures the new Fair Deal Panel will study include:

  • Establishing a provincial revenue agency by ending Alberta’s Federal-Provincial Tax Collection Agreement.
  • Withdrawing from the Canada Pension Plan and establishing a provincial plan.
  • Opting out of federal cost-sharing programs.
  • Seeking an exchange of tax points for federal cash transfer.
  • Establishing a formal provincial constitution.
  • Appointing a Chief Firearms Office for the province.

The panel is set to hold a series of consultations between Nov. 16 and Jan. 30, before completing a report to government by March 31.

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Jason Kenney says proposal to pull Alberta out of CPP due to hostility

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Premier Jason Kenney is defending his idea that Alberta could pull out of the federal pension plan by saying times have changed.

He says bold action is needed because of unprecedented hostility from the federal and some provincial governments that are actively blocking Alberta’s economic future.

Should Alberta opt out of CPP and launch its own version of it?

Kenney didn’t campaign in the spring election on leaving the Canada Pension Plan and setting up a provincial one, but says Albertans would get a say through a referendum.

On the weekend, Kenney announced a panel to research and hold public meetings on whether Alberta should move toward a more independent role within Canada

He suggested steps such as creating a separate police force, establishing a provincial revenue agency and establishing a provincial constitution.

Kenney says Ottawa and some provinces are unfairly restricting Alberta’s oil and gas industry with what he calls regressive laws and policy roadblocks on pipelines.

Opposition NDP critic Sarah Hoffman says Kenney has strayed too far from his election mandate and Albertans didn’t vote “to have their pensions blown up.”

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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Western alienation goes to Ottawa as Andrew Scheer and Scott Moe meet with Trudeau

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau got a firsthand blast of Western angst on Tuesday as he heard the complaints of Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe in separate private meetings.

With the Liberals planning to unveil a Throne Speech on Dec. 5, Trudeau will be meeting with opposition parties this week to look for common ground that will help keep his minority government propped up. The House is expected to sit for about seven days to take care of some routine business and introduce a middle-class tax cut, before breaking for the holidays.

For his meeting, Moe said he arrived in Ottawa in good faith to hear how Trudeau planned to make good on a promise he made on election night: that he understood and would address the frustrations of voters in Alberta and Saskatchewan who elected not a single Liberal MP between them on Oct. 21.

“I can tell you this, I did not hear that there was going to be anything different. I heard more of the same,” a disgruntled Moe told reporters after the meeting.

Moe brought the carbon tax to the top of the agenda as he met with Trudeau. Saskatchewan has been pursuing a legal case against the federal policy, arguing that it infringes on provincial jurisdiction.

Moe was also vocal about the carbon tax in his media availability after the meeting with Trudeau, saying he had asked Trudeau to “pause” the tax, which the prime minister rebuffed.

“We don’t see a commitment with respect to moving forward and putting a pause on the federally imposed carbon tax on industries in the provinces,” said Moe. “We have had a very trying harvest in Saskatchewan… there are some farmers that will have some very large carbon tax bills that are coming on the grain-drying costs.”

Moe also complained about the equalization program, saying it was unfair to provinces like Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador. His neighbour to the west, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, has threatened to hold a provincial referendum that would force a negotiation on the federal equalization program if the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion isn’t built.

Moe said the issue of “getting our goods to market,” was the third item he raised with Trudeau.


Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe meets with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Nov. 12, 2019.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

The meeting with Scheer began with an awkward handshake and photo opportunity as the two men transition from a fractious election campaign last month to the forced collegiality of a minority Parliament. As the cameras rolled, the two men stood about two feet apart with tight smiles, before shooing the media out of the meeting room.

Scheer and Trudeau spoke about their mutual desire for a middle-class tax cut, the ratification of the USMCA trade deal with the United States and the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, a senior Liberal adviser said. Scheer told Trudeau that Canadians don’t trust that he’ll build the pipeline, with Trudeau responding that the sole reason the government bought the pipeline was to get it built.

“You could help us,” Trudeau told Scheer.

Trudeau and Scheer also found common ground on a home renovation tax credit.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Scheer said he was happy to lay out his priorities but emphasized that it was the prime minister’s job to get his Throne Speech passed in the House.

“It’s not up to us to support this government,” said Scheer, in French. “The responsibility lies with Mr. Trudeau when it comes to finding common ground.”

Andrew Scheer with Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Nov. 12, 2019.

Patrick Doyle/Reuters

The Conservative leader did lay out some more areas where he thinks the Liberal priorities overlap with his own. Both parties promised hefty middle-class tax cuts during the campaign, which cost roughly the same amount, although they would be implemented in different ways and have slightly different outcomes. The Liberal tax plan was slightly more generous to taxpayers at the lower end of the income scale and would take about 700,000 people off the federal income tax rolls completely.

Scheer also mentioned plans for subway line expansions in Toronto and tax-free benefits for parental leave as areas where the Liberal policy could be appealing to the Conservative Party.

One area where the Liberal government and the Conservative opposition are sure to disagree is over previously-passed legislation that affects the energy sector. Scheer said he wants Trudeau to repeal Bill C-69, the legislation that overhauls the review process for major energy projects, and Bill C-48, which imposes an oil tanker moratorium off the north of B.C.’s coast. Both bills have attracted widespread opposition in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

“I specifically mentioned that those two pieces of legislation were aimed, if you take him at his word, at instilling confidence in the energy sector,” said Scheer. “We can see with the billions of dollars leaving Canada to build energy projects in other countries that those two pieces of legislation have not had the desired impact. They are certainly leading to the uncertainty and the lack of confidence in the energy sector.”

Scheer’s other demands included a task force on a proposed cross-Canada energy corridor, stronger penalties for ethics violations and a single tax return for Quebecers, which were all highly-publicized Conservative campaign promises. Notably, the Conservative demands did not include any mention of the carbon tax, which Scheer had said during the campaign he would repeal if his party formed government.

• Email: sxthomson@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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