Premier Ford defends Taverner appointment; goes after critics and calls media the opposition

Premier Doug Ford answers questions at Queen's Park.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford vigorously defended the appointment of Toronto Police Supt. Ron Taverner as the new commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, while going on the attack against critics and the media. 

"I had zero influence and no matter who it was, I would've accepted," Ford said in front of his office Tuesday. 

While the decision has been applauded by Toronto Police, the Police Association of Ontario and the Ontario Provincial Police Association, the opposition is calling for the integrity commissioner to get involved.

Not only are Ford and Taverner friends, but the government has acknowledged that job requirements for the position were lowered. 

Ontario's community safety minister says the qualification requirements were changed partway through the hiring process to broaden the pool of applicants for the post, which Ford repeated on Tuesday.

"If Ron Taverner wasn't qualified, he wouldn't be there," Ford said. 

Premier Doug Ford fiercely defends appointment of Ron Taverner as OPP Commissioner, “I sign off on everything.” #onpoli #cdnpoli.

— NEWSTALK1010 (@NEWSTALK1010) December 4, 2018

But one of the members of the three-person panel who interviewed candidates, including Taverner, was his former boss at Toronto Police, Mario di Tommaso. 

"Over 50 years, Ron Taverner worked with every single chief in the last 50 years, worked with Bill Blair, worked with the present chief, worked with Julian Fantino and guess what, every single one of them, every one of them says he's outstanding," Ford said.

But not every former police official has approved, including former OPP Commissioner - and NEWSTALK1010 Public Safety Analyst - Chris Lewis. 

Lewis said last week that while Taverner is a good person and police officer, his background wasn't enough for the position. 

"The OPP has detachments that are bigger than 23 Division," Lewis said to CP24. "I was exhausted after four years doing it and I'd been in the OPP my entire career."

"It's mind-boggling and if you don't know anything about it and Ron doesn't, in fairness, nor do I know anything about running 23 Division, I think it's a recipe for disaster and I think the government and the premier have made a huge mistake."

But when asked about Lewis' criticism, Ford without giving details, brought his integrity into question. 

"Maybe you should look into some of the stuff about the former commissioner, but I'll hold my comments on him, I won't get into the weeds like he did," Ford said. 

Lewis responded on Twitter by saying "Nice Mr.Premier! Did I mention anything about the history of anyone in the OPP Commissioner dialogue? No. And that will continue. But I suppose we all have a “history” and sometimes “some” of it is urban myth and some of it is actually true."

The entire episode has led the opposition to ask the integrity commissioner to get involved. 

"The issue is these positions and the way people get these positions has to be above reproach," Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horvath said. "Mr. Taverner is a good friend of the premier's, that doesn't necessarily qualify him for the job, it doesn't necessarily disqualify him for the job." 

"They should go through a process that is transparent and people can feel confident in the result of." 

As he ended his remarks, he was also asked to confirm that he had earlier said the media is now the official opposition.

"Absolutely I said that," Ford said. "The NDP and the Liberals, they can't keep up to us, they can't keep up to us because we're doing a great job and now the official opposition is the media." 

"Good luck over the next three and a half years, I look forward to working with the media party." 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the media is now the official opposition, “good luck over the next three and a half years, I look forward to working with the media party.” #onpoli #cdnpoli

— Lucas Meyer (@meyer_lucas) December 4, 2018