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Hearing into whether ombudsman should examine Taverner appointment won’t be fast tracked, judge says

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An Ontario Divisional court judge has ruled there’s no need for an expedited hearing that could force the ombudsman to investigate the appointment of a close friend of Premier Doug Ford to head the OPP.

Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel ruled Monday that there is no reason to jump the queue, though he wants the matter dealt with “in a timely manner.”

Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair, who served as interim OPP commissioner until going public with complaints about the Progressive Conservatives’ controversial hiring of Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner, wants ombudsman Paul Dubé to review the matter.

Public confidence is … essential in policing,” Blair’s lawyer, Julian Falconer, told the court, noting “political interference in the running of the OPP” should worry all Ontarians.

“This is not a personal attack on Mr. Taverner,” Falconer said of the long-time Ford friend.

Wilton-Siegel stressed that no evidence of that was before the court.

Blair filed an application to Divisional Court “to determine and enforce the jurisdiction” of hiring process on an “expedited” basis.

But Dubé has declined to investigate, insisting it is beyond his jurisdiction.

“The ombudsman has no standing whatsoever to keep someone from being appointed,” said Frank Cesario, the ombudsman’s lawyer.

“The ombudsman simply has the power to make a report,” said Cesario.

Falconer countered that “there is some irony that I am debating with counsel for the ombudsman whether the ombudsman can be effective — it’s weird.”

Integrity commissioner J. David Wake is conducting a probe into the hiring after a complaint by New Democrat MPP Kevin Yarde (Brampton North).

Wake is examining whether the premier breached the Member’s Integrity Act in the appointment of Taverner, 72, whose Toronto police command in the northwest corner of the city includes the Ford home base of Etobicoke.

Falconer argued that report would be ineffective because the legislature can ignore it.

Ford’s government appointed Taverner OPP commissioner on Nov. 29, triggering concerns about the independence of the force, which has investigated provincial governments in the past.

The 51-year police veteran asked his appointment be postponed during the integrity commissioner’s review. Taverner has returned to his previous Toronto police duties in the meantime.

Ford has insisted he did not push for his friend to be hired, but he has blasted Blair for complaining.

In December, the premier said it was “sour grapes” because the 32-year OPP veteran was a runner-up to Taverner.

“There is a lot of misinformation going out there,” said Ford, pointing to Blair’s nine-page letter to Dubé on Dec. 11.

“I get it that he’s upset that he didn’t win a fair process. I understand. Did he step over the line on a lot of things? I’m going to let the media decide that — and I wish you would look into that actually,” he said

In his letter, the OPP deputy commissioner alleged the premier’s chief of staff, Dean French, asked the force “to purchase a large camper-type vehicle … modified to specifications the premier’s office would provide us” and keep the $50,000 customization costs “off the books.”

On Dec. 18, Ford called that “a baseless claim without merit.”

“That’s just not accurate whatsoever. I asked if they had a used one,” he said.

The premier did not say why he needed the van or why his office allegedly wanted the costs of customizing the van kept hidden. He is currently driven around in a police SUV.

Blair served as interim commissioner after the retirement of commissioner Vince Hawkes last fall.

In the wake of his letter to Dubé he was replaced by Gary Couture.

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1



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A stunning Water Lantern Festival is coming to Montreal

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What might just be the most magical night ever is coming up for Montreal this year.

The Water Lantern Festival has announced that it will be gracing Mississauga with thousands of floating lanterns later this year, as part of a celebration that spans the entire world.

According to the festival’s official website, the event is a celebration of life with proceeds going towards charities and non-profit organizations within the area.

“Water Lantern Festival brings together individuals from all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life to join in one emotional and memorable night. At the Water Lantern Festival, we cherish these moments and will do our best to help you have a memorable experience that you’ll never forget as you witness the beauty of thousands of lanterns reflecting upon the water,” the website states.

The festival takes place throughout multiple cities around the world, with the Canadian cities of Quebec, Regina, Vancouver, Hamilton, Calgary, Ottawa, Mississauga, and, of course, Montreal taking part.

For the Calgary event, a date has been confirmed and tickets are already rolling out. Montreal shan’t be far behind, and you can click the Notify Me tab on the event’s site to be kept in the loop.

Expect an evening filled with food trucks, music, lantern designing and finally, a magical launch of the lanterns into the water as the sun goes down.

For our pals over in Calgary, their event includes a floating lantern, a commemorative drawstring bag, a marker, and a wristband. Expect something similar, if not the same, when more details float through about Montreal’s event.

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Euthanasia order on hold for Montreal dog that attacked children

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A pit bull dog that attacked four children and two adults in August 2018 in Montreal North will not be euthanized in the immediate future.

The euthanasia order has been temporarily suspended pending the appeal of a Quebec Superior Court decision.

On Tuesday, Judge Lukasz Granosik rejected a request to halt the euthanasia order issued by the Montreal North borough, which declared the animal a “dangerous dog.”

The City of Montreal has not changed its mind. This is only a delay before it proceeds with euthanizing the dog, a source told the Canadian Press.

Shotta, the one-year-old dog, was in the care of its owner’s acquaintance in August 2018. The dog attacked four children and two adults, causing serious injuries in separate incidents on the same day.

After the attacks, the dog was taken from the home and entrusted to the SPCA.

WATCH: Dog found dead in Angrignon Park

The Road to Home Rescue Support, an American shelter, asked the court if it could take in the dog. Christa Frineau, the dog’s owner, had also asked that Shotta not be euthanized.

Granosik refused to grant the request.

—With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise

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9 Things To Do In Montreal This Friday, Saturday & Sunday

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Today’s sunny skies have me itching to make weekend plans. I absolutely cannot wait to make the most of this warmer weather. This might be the time to inflate my bike tires and dust off my running shoes…

Whether you want to brush up on your cooking skills, let loose, or fill your stomach with amazing food, there’s an event out there for you. Read on for 9 fun things you can do with friends or a fling this weekend.

TL;DR Read on for 9 fun things you can do in Montreal this weekend.

Let Yourself Go At Dress Up

Where: 185 Avenue Van Horne, Montréal.

When: Friday, March 29, 9:00 p.m.

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