TORONTO — An Ontario court rejected a request Monday to speed up a hearing into whether it should order an ombudsman investigation into the appointment of a friend of the premier's to the job of top cop.
OPP deputy commissioner Brad Blair has asked Ontario's Divisional Court to force a probe into the hiring of Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner as the new OPP commissioner.
But Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel said Blair's lawyer failed to establish the basis for an urgent hearing.
"There is no urgency related to the timing of the assumption of responsibilities by the new OPP commissioner," he said. "The ombudsman does not have the authority to prevent Supt. Taverner from assuming the responsibilities of OPP commissioner."
Blair's lawyer, Julian Falconer, had argued Monday that the case should be expedited, in part because Blair has reasonable grounds to be concerned about reprisal, though he did not go into detail.
"It is my view that reprisal is purely a function of his seeking an investigation," Falconer said in court. "If an investigation were commenced formally, his vulnerability would be reduced."
Blair, who was himself an applicant for the top job, was acting OPP commissioner at the time he originally started the court case, but soon after was removed from that position.
Wilton-Siegel said Falconer had introduced no evidence to support the existence of reprisal for Blair, but said that he hopes the case can be heard in a timely fashion.
A few days after Blair launched his court application, the province's integrity commissioner launched his own investigation and Taverner delayed his appointment pending the outcome of that probe. But Premier Doug Ford has indicated that Taverner's appointment will go ahead whenever the integrity review is finished.
"As far as I'm concerned this is blown out of proportion," Ford said in an interview with television station CP24 on Monday. "It's a political appointment ... It's unfortunate that one person has sour grapes."
The Opposition slammed that assertion in a statement Monday afternoon.
"For Ford to say that it's his right to turn the commissioner of the police into a politician's pawn is wrong, it's dangerous, and it's disrespectful to the officers of the OPP," NDP legislator Kevin Yarde said in the statement.
Ombudsman Paul Dube has declined to investigate Taverner's hiring, saying cabinet deliberations are outside the office's jurisdiction.
Falconer argued that a broader ombudsman's investigation is needed because the integrity probe into Taverner's hiring is narrow in scope.
"The installation of Ron Taverner, we say, as commissioner of the OPP without this full investigation can irreversibly damage the command structure of the OPP, because — quite simply — these questions go to the heart of the credibility of command."
Taverner, 72, is a longtime Ford ally who initially did not meet the requirements listed for the commissioner position. The Ford government has admitted it lowered the requirements for the position to attract a wider range of candidates.
There is a real concern that Ford has crossed a line, Falconer said.
"There is enough smoke here whereby the fire of political interference is a reality, not simply an apprehension," he said.
Falconer said he expects the case to now be heard in April or May.
Allison Jones, The Canadian Press