TORONTO — The Ontario government says it is delaying the appointment of the man set to become the province's top cop until an investigation into allegations of political interference in the hiring process is complete.
Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones says the government will respect Ron Taverner's request for a delay in his appointment, which was supposed to take place on Monday.
"Out of the greatest of respect for the brave men and women of the Ontario Provincial Police, I am requesting my appointment as commissioner be postponed until as such time the integrity commissioner has completed his review,'' Taverner wrote in an email to Jones.
The choice of Taverner, a longtime family friend of Premier Doug Ford, drew ire from within the OPP and from Ford's political opponents, who noted that the qualifications required for the position had been lowered, allowing the premier's longtime ally to qualify.
The government has admitted that it lowered the requirements for the job to attract a wider range of candidates.
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On Friday, Acting OPP Commissioner Brad Blair 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.
Earlier this week, Blair wrote a letter to Dube saying the original job posting required candidates to have a rank of deputy police chief or higher, or assistant commissioner or higher, in a major police service a threshold Taverner did not meet.
Of the 27 candidates, Blair — who applied for the job himself — contended only four did not meet the original threshold requirements.
'Where there's smoke, there's fire'
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she welcomed the delay in Taverner's appointment.
"Where there's smoke, there's fire,'' she said. "We can't allow the credibility and integrity of the OPP to be put at risk by Mr. Ford.''
She also said an emergency select committee of the legislature should be given the opportunity to look into the allegations of political interference.
The Ford government has repeatedly denied that the premier's office had anything to do with Taverner's hiring.
Sources in the premier's office say that until a review is complete, Blair will be replaced at the helm of the OPP by Gary Couture, who is currently a deputy commissioner of the force.
Taverner did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the delay.
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