Integrity watchdog confirms probe into appointment of Ron Taverner as Ontario's top cop

Ontario's integrity commissioner confirmed Tuesday he is conducting an inquiry into the appointment of Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner as the next provincial police commissioner following a request by an NDP member about Premier Doug Ford.

David Wake said in an emailed news release that the inquiry is in response to the request by Kevin Yarde, MPP for Brampton North, about Ford. Wake said the inquiry will be conducted under the Members' Integrity Act, 1994.

Ford, speaking to reporters on Tuesday after visiting the new Amazon office in downtown Toronto on Tuesday, defended the Taverner appointment and said it will happen despite allegations of political interference.

Premier says appointment will move forward

"Ron Taverner is a great guy .... this guy has given his life to policing. Let the review take place. And I can tell you one thing, once the review gets done, he's going to be the best commissioner the OPP has ever seen," Ford said.

"We look forward to having Ron Taverner as the commissioner of the OPP."

Linda Ward/CBC

Taverner, a family friend of Ford, was set to start his new job on Monday, but he announced over the weekend that he would wait until the integrity commissioner completed his investigation.

On Monday, the 72-year-old returned to his previous job as superintendent of three Toronto police divisions.

Ford also defended Taverner, describing him as a "cop's cop" who looks after frontline officers. Ford said OPP officers have called him to express support for the appointment and they are "excited" about Taverner as commissioner. 

"If you look at his credentials, speaks for itself. Fifty years in policing around the province," Ford said. "That is what is desperately needed at the OPP right now."

Taverner will continue police job until review's end

Ford said Taverner rescinded his resignation because waiting for the investigation to be completed would waste his time.

"He rescinded it because the review is taking place and he's not going to sit around for four to six weeks, or however long the review is going to take, doing nothing," the premier said. 

Nathan Denette/Canadian Press

Asked what he would do if the investigation finds a problem with the hiring, Ford said: "You're saying something that hasn't happened. What I want to do is get through the review. Let's get through the review and see what happens."

Opposition leader calls for public inquiry

Meanwhile, Ontario's Official Opposition is calling for a public inquiry into allegations of political interference in the appointment.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the integrity commissioner's investigation into the hiring can't only happen behind closed doors.

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.

Oliver Walters/CBC

"An investigation of this importance — an investigation that's critical to continued public confidence in the OPP — has to be an open, transparent process," Horwath said in a news release on Tuesday.

She said a full public inquiry would have "the power to summon witnesses, request documents, and ensure witnesses are protected from self-incrimination and discipline or retribution from their employer. A public inquiry can guarantee those things."

After naming Taverner as the new commissioner in late November, the Ford government admitted it lowered the requirements for the position to attract a wider range of candidates for the job.

Former acting OPP commissioner Brad Blair has asked the courts to order Ontario ombudsman Paul Dube to investigate Taverner's hiring, after the ombudsman declined his request to carry out the probe.