An Ontario Provincial Police commander who was in the running for the top job says his firing on Monday was “reprisal” for going public with allegations of political interference in the hiring of Premier Doug Ford’s friend Ron Taverner as the next police commissioner.
Brad Blair, who has asked the Ontario courts to force the provincial ombudsman to investigate the hiring of Toronto Police Superintendent Ron Taverner as the next commissioner, was fired on Monday after over three decades on the job.
On Tuesday, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called for a public inquiry into Blair’s firing, as well as Taverner’s appointment, but the motion was defeated by the Progressive Conservatives.
Blair was fired by deputy minister Mario Di Tomaso, who said in a letter that he had used “[his professional status to further [his private interests] when he filed internal OPP emails with the court and failed to comply with Di Tomasso’s “clear directions in furtherance of legal proceedings brought in [his] personal capacity,” which he added “ruptured the trust on which the employment relationship is built.”
“It is patently clear to me that this is reprisal and an attempt to muzzle me,” Blair wrote in an affidavit, adding that Di Tomasso was in a “clear conflict of interest” since he was involved in Taverner’s hiring.
The Ford government has denied allegations of political interference, and Taverner’s appointment has been suspended while the province’s integrity commissioner J. David Wake investigates.
In a letter to Wake, Ford stated again that he wasn’t involved in Taverner’s hiring.
Blair has alleged that the job requirements were changed at the last minute to make Taverner eligible to apply. The original job posting, which had a higher rank requirement, would have screened Taverner out of the process.
“I reject any assertion that this change was made to specifically permit Mr. Taverner’s application for the position,” Ford wrote.
“I believe the change [to the ranking requirement] was made in good faith to ensure a broad and more inclusive recruitment process and provides no evidence of any improper activity by me, my office or any individual working on my behalf.”
He also defended his decision not to recuse himself from the cabinet meeting in which Taverner’s appointment was finalized, arguing that the decision had already been made by the selection panel.
“While I did not recuse myself from that meeting, I ensured that Cabinet members were aware of my personal friendship with Mr. Taverner,” he wrote.
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