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Doug Ford defends friend’s appointment as OPP commissioner despite probe

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Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press


Published Tuesday, December 18, 2018 11:11AM EST


Last Updated Tuesday, December 18, 2018 3:48PM EST

TORONTO — Doug Ford defended Tuesday the appointment of a family friend as Ontario’s police commissioner, despite an ongoing investigation into the premier’s role in the hiring process.

Ron Taverner, a 72-year-old superintendent with the Toronto police, did not initially qualify for the job, but the government has said it lowered the requirements to attract a wider range of candidates.

Now, the province’s integrity commissioner is investigating an Opposition complaint that Ford violated the Members’ Integrity Act by participating in the cabinet decision to appoint Taverner, a longtime friend of the premier’s family.

“You know my friends, this is going to move forward,” Ford told reporters after attending the opening of an Amazon office in Toronto. “Let the review take place, and I can tell you one thing, once it gets done, he will be the best commissioner the OPP has ever seen.”

Taverner was set to start his new job on Monday, but over the weekend he announced that he would wait until the integrity commissioner’s probe was complete. In the meantime, Taverner has returned to his previous job with the city police.

His appointment as Ontario Provincial Police commissioner has come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks after the forces’ acting commissioner, Brad Blair, alleged political interference from the premier’s office.

In a nine-page letter, Blair called on the provincial ombudsman to investigate Taverner’s appointment, alleging the premier’s chief of staff, Dean French, had asked the OPP to purchase a “larger camper type vehicle” and have it modified to the specifications of the premier’s office.

Blair further alleged the chief of staff then provided specifications to an unnamed OPP staff sergeant and asked that the costs associated with the vehicle be “kept off the books.”

Ford, who has acknowledged that he did not recuse himself from the cabinet decision to approve Taverner’s hiring, said Tuesday that some of the allegations made by Blair were false, including the request for a new vehicle.

“That’s just a baseless claim without merits,” he said. “It’s not accurate…I asked for a used one.”

Meanwhile, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called for a public inquiry into Taverner’s appointment, saying the integrity commissioner should expand the probe into a full public inquiry.

Horwath said two rarely used subsections of the Public Inquiries Act allow the integrity commissioner to launch a public inquiry — a power usually reserved for the premier and his cabinet. That power would allow for a wider look at the allegations of political interference surrounding Taverner’s hiring, not just Ford’s participation in the cabinet decision.

“An investigation of this importance…has to be an open, transparent process,” she said. “That’s why I’m urging the integrity commissioner to call a full public inquiry with the power to summon witnesses, request documents, and ensure witnesses are protected from self-incrimination and discipline or retribution from their employer.”

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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year

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Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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