‘Enough is enough’: Andrea Horwath says Doug Ford must rethink hiring of pal Ron Taverner as OPP commissioner

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Back to the drawing board.

That’s NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s advice to Premier Doug Ford on the appointment of a new Ontario Provincial Police commissioner.

Horwath said Ford needs to rethink the hiring of his friend Ron Taverner, a Toronto police superintendent, as OPP commissioner because the process has become so tainted.

“Enough is enough. We cannot jeopardize the integrity of our provincial police force and move forward with a political appointment that’s in the best interest of Doug Ford,” she said Tuesday.

“The new OPP commissioner must have the best interest of the public and law enforcement at heart. The process to appoint a new OPP commissioner must begin again.”

“If Ontario’s Provincial Police are going to do its job effectively, there cannot be any doubt about their impartiality or their independence,” said Horwath.

“Now that the Ford government has undermined the investigation into Taverner’s appointment, the people of Ontario, including police officers, will never have full confidence that Taverner is independent, and that his appointment was not a political move by the premier’s office, designed to install someone to protect Ford and do his bidding,” she said.

While the premier has insisted he had “zero influence” on the controversial hiring of his pal, he said two weeks ago that “it’s a political appointment.”

“If I wanted to, I could appoint you OPP commissioner,” Ford told CP24’s Nathan Downer on Jan. 14.

On Monday, Jones said in an interview with the Globe that she expected Taverner to become commissioner after ethics watchdog J. David Wake completes an investigation.

Wake is examining whether the premier broke the Member’s Integrity Act with the appointment. The close relationship between Ford and the 51-year Toronto police veteran has raised concerns about the independence of the OPP.

Taverner, who did not return a message from the Star seeking comment, has resumed his Toronto police duties in Etobicoke while Wake continues his review.

The Star revealed Friday that the integrity commissioner has interviewed OPP Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair, a runner-up for the $275,000-a-year post.

Blair, who is in court to try to compel Ontario ombudsman Paul Dubé to investigate the Taverner hiring, has alleged there was political meddling in the appointment.

Dubé has said he does not have jurisdiction to do so.

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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Speaker clears Andrea Horwath in encounter with Tory MPP

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Turns out the Steeltown smackdown may not have been exactly as advertised.

Speaker Ted Arnott ruled Thursday there is not enough evidence to substantiate Progressive Conservative MPP Donna Skelly’s complaint she was physically assaulted by NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

Flamborough-Glanbrook MPP Donna Skelly, shown in 2017, alleged that NDP Leader Andrea Horwath “crossed the floor and came up to me, yelling and screaming, and pushed me” in the legislature.
Flamborough-Glanbrook MPP Donna Skelly, shown in 2017, alleged that NDP Leader Andrea Horwath “crossed the floor and came up to me, yelling and screaming, and pushed me” in the legislature.  (Scott Gardner / The Hamilton Spectator file photo)

“After carefully reviewing the matter, I cannot find that a prima facie case of breach of privilege has been established,” said Arnott of the dispute between the two Hamilton-area representatives, who have known each other for decades.

Skelly, who ducked reporters Thursday and did not return messages seeking comment, had formally complained to the Speaker that Horwath shoved her after a debate in the legislature on Tuesday.

She maintained the “unwanted and intentional physical contact with me” interfered with her ability to do her job as an MPP.

Under the standing orders of the legislature, Skelly noted, “to molest members on account of their conduct in Parliament is also a contempt.”

The Flamborough-Glanbrook MPP alleged Wednesday that she “was having a discussion on my side of the house with a colleague and Andrea Horwath crossed the floor and came up to me, yelling and screaming, and pushed me.”

Horwath denied any wrongdoing, saying she had “tapped” Skelly on the shoulder, and Arnott agreed there was no proof Skelly’s privileges had been breached.

“These are still relatively early days in this Parliament, and together we have the opportunity to set the tone and establish a respectful, productive culture,” the Speaker intoned to a rambunctious 124-member legislature that features 73 rookie MPPs, including Premier Doug Ford.

For her part, Horwath expressed satisfaction with Arnott’s ruling.

“I’m just glad this issue has been put to bed,” the NDP leader said.

Asked if Skelly had exaggerated their encounter on the floor of the legislature, Horwath said, “I don’t think that, I know that. I know what happened.”

“Ms. Skelly’s just going to have to answer for her own actions and her own behaviour.”

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

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Provincial NDP distances itself from Eve Adams campaign after ‘Andrea Horvath’ endorsement

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Ontario’s official opposition says Hamilton city council candidate Eve Adams has created confusion by sending out an orange-tinted election mail out with an endorsement from an « Andrea Horvath » — not Andrea Horwath, the leader of the NDP.

Residents started posting online about the mail out on Friday. In a section titled « What our neighbours say » is a quote from « Andrea Horvath » that reads « Eve is the best choice for Ward 8. »

In a statement, the NDP said Horwath is not endorsing Adams.

« Andrea Horwath, Leader of the NDP and Leader of Ontario’s Official Opposition, has not endorsed Eve Adams’ municipal campaign, » the statement reads. « By citing an endorsement from an ‘Andrea Horvath’ in her campaign literature, Ms. Adams has created some confusion about that. »

Adams, in an exchange on Twitter, told residents that « Andrea Horvath » is actually her sister-in-law, denying a deliberate attempt to mislead voters.

« My maiden name is Eve Horvath. Andrea is my sister in law. Mtn resident, » Adams said in a tweet.

Adams responded to a CBC interview request with a prepared statement, the majority of which outlined her family’s past in Hamilton.

« The twitter response to that 1 sentence included in 22″ x 17″ of information is a little surprising and somewhat funny, » she said. « I’d like to apologize to anyone, and especially the Ontario NDP Leader who may have assumed Andrea Horwath was referenced. »

Ontario voters elected a Progressive Conservative majority government last June, but Hamilton remains an NDP stronghold in provincial politics. As the leader of the provincial NDP, Horwath is one of the city’s most recognizable politicians.

Adams is a once high-profile Liberal MP from Mississauga, who famously crossed the floor to the Liberals after a Tory nomination controversy.

Adams was a Mississauga councillor for seven years before becoming a Mississauga-Brampton South Conservative MP. Then, she made some headlines.

Adams sought the Oakville North-Burlington Tory nomination in 2014. But the nomination battle was so bitter and Stephen Harper reportedly barred her from running anywhere. Adams publicly said she dropped out of the race due to health concerns.

Top 5 Political Blunders: Eve Adams 1:11

Then she crossed the floor to the Liberals and lost a 2015 Liberal nomination battle in Eglinton-Lawrence.

Adams said in a previous interview that Hamilton is her hometown. She moved to Ancaster from the GTA three years ago, and grew up on the Mountain.

adam.carter@cbc.ca

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