Saskatchewan’s privacy commissioner finds doctors snooped in Humboldt Broncos patient records

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Saskatchewan’s privacy commissioner has found eight people inappropriately gained access to electronic health records of 10 Humboldt Broncos team members involved in a bus crash last April.

Sixteen people were killed and 13 were injured in the crash between the junior hockey team’s bus and a semi trailer at a rural Saskatchewan intersection.

« Due to the high-profile nature of the crash, eHealth Saskatchewan understood the risk of snooping, » said a report from information and privacy commissioner Ronald Kruzeniski.

The report said the health agency began monitoring the profiles of the patients — which include lab results, medication information and chronic diseases — three days after the crash.

The wreckage of a fatal crash outside of Tisdale, Sask., is seen in April. A privacy report says medical records of crash victims were inappropriately accessed by people in the health care system. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

« Between April 9, 2018, and May 15, 2018, eHealth detected eight users of the viewer, mostly physicians, accessed without apparent authority the profiles of 10 patients. »

The report shows eHealth reported the breaches to the privacy commissioner on July 5.

Privacy commissioner ‘disappointed’

Kruzeniski said he’s disappointed that the seven doctors and an office manager inappropriately looked at the records.

« This has been a major tragedy in our province and I’m disappointed that people got tempted, » he said in an interview with The Canadian Press on Monday. « Now that it’s happened, it’s my job to work with others through education and legislative change [to] make the system work. »

His report, which has been posted online, detailed the privacy breaches.

In one case, an employee of a medical clinic examined the health information of three people involved in the collision.

The office manager admitted she consulted the records because « her family members had heard one of the individuals had died and she wanted to verify the information; she thought another individual was a patient … [and] she wanted to verify a detail that was reported by the media about one of the individuals. »

The report said the employee’s access to eHealth was suspended and she was given further training, but she has since resigned from her job.

Another case involved a doctor at a Humboldt clinic who viewed the records of two people, including one who was a patient prior to the crash.

« Dr. D wanted to know what injuries the individual sustained, if the individual received care or if it was an instant fatality, » said the report. « For the other individual, it explained Dr. D was concerned. »

3 emergency care doctors among those reviewing patient records

Other cases included three doctors who provided emergency care at the Nipawin Hospital and who reviewed patient records of those they treated.

« They believed they were in the individuals’ ‘circle of care, »‘ said the report.

The privacy commissioner said the province’s Health Information Protection Act does not address circles of care so the doctors were no longer authorized to access the records.

Another case saw a medical resident view the information of three patients because she wanted to get closure on the cases, which is not an acceptable reason.

During the monitoring period, two other medical residents were found to have looked at the records of one of the people involved in the crash when the residents were reviewing the records of dozens of patients with a particular illness.

Monthly privacy audits recommended

In his report, Kruzeniski has made a number of recommendations to eHealth — including that it conduct regular monthly audits for the next three years of the physicians who inappropriately gained accessed to information.

Kruzeniski also recommended that the organization comply with a need-to-know principle rather than a circle-of-care concept and that it develop a solution to force users of the system to regularly review their training.

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‘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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Deputy OPP commissioner who raised red flags over Taverner appointment has been interviewed in ethics probe

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The deputy OPP commissioner who raised red flags over the appointment of Premier Doug Ford’s close friend Ron Taverner as head of the provincial police force has been interviewed in the ethics probe into the controversial hiring.

Brad Blair was interim commissioner until being demoted for publicly complaining that Taverner’s appointment put the independence of the country’s second-largest police force in jeopardy.

Deputy OPP commissioner Brad Blair, left and Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner. Blair has publicly complained about Taverner’s appointment as OPP commissioner. Taverner has asked his posting be put on hold until a probe into his appointment is complete.
Deputy OPP commissioner Brad Blair, left and Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner. Blair has publicly complained about Taverner’s appointment as OPP commissioner. Taverner has asked his posting be put on hold until a probe into his appointment is complete.  (Emaan)

The interview is significant because of the details Blair revealed in a nine-page letter to the provincial ombudsman Dec. 11, including the claim Ford’s team requested the OPP buy a “large camper-type vehicle” that could be modified and the request be “kept off the books.” Ford’s office denies such a request was made.

Provincial integrity commissioner J. David Wake is now investigating whether there was any political interference in the hiring of Taverner, 72, a Toronto police superintendent who has asked his posting be put on hold until the probe is complete.

The integrity commissioner’s office reached out to Blair for more information as part of the probe.

“He received a summons and participated,” Blair’s lawyer, Julian Falconer, said on Friday.

“The process is confidential, therefore I will not be able to discuss the contents of the examination,” Falconer added, declining further comment.

The integrity commissioner’s probe was prompted by a complaint from New Democrat MPP Kevin Yarde (Brampton North) that Ford may have violated the Members’ Integrity Act when his “long-time friend and ally” was approved as head of the OPP.

Ford has denied any involvement in the Nov. 29 appointment, insisted there is “no better choice” for the job than Taverner, called the concerns raised by Blair “sour grapes” and told a TV news anchor “if I wanted to, I could appoint you OPP commissioner. It’s a political appointment.”

The premier’s office did not reply to a request for comment Friday on whether Ford or his chief of staff Dean French have been interviewed in the integrity commissioner’s investigation.

Blair, who was a runner-up for the commissioner’s post, sounded the alarm a week before Taverner was to be sworn in to the $275,00-a-year job, with his letter asking provincial Ombudsman Paul Dube to probe any “potential political interference” in the hiring process.

Dube declined, saying the matter is outside his jurisdiction, and Blair is mounting a court case aimed at forcing the ombudsman to proceed.

Taverner’s appointment and the van procurement request raises “a legitimate question as to whether the OPP’s integrity has been compromised and whether the public can have confidence in and respect for the OPP going forward,” Blair’s letter stated.

Blair also claimed the decision to name Taverner commissioner was made before a late November cabinet meeting where the decision was said to have been made and that the job posting was changed “without convincing justification,” that the hiring panel had “questionable authority” and that its members changed at the last minute.

In reference to the camper van, the request to keep the modification costs “hidden from the public record” is, at a minimum, a violation of government financial policies, Blair added.

His lawyer, Falconer, has warned the OPP will operate under a cloud of suspicion unless the ombudsman reviews the complaint. It’s not unusual for the OPP to investigate government.

Most recently, the provincial force investigated concerns raised by the Progressive Conservatives about a previous Liberal government deleting documents related to the closure of gas-fired power plants in Oakville and Mississauga before the 2011 election. A top Liberal political aide was convicted on a criminal charge and served a jail term last year.

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

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Doug Ford met with Ron Taverner while search for OPP commissioner was underway

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Premier Doug Ford continued to meet with Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner even after the search for a new OPP commissioner was underway.

Sources told the Star that Ford had breakfast with Taverner, 72, at Wally’s Grill — a Rexdale diner near the offices of Deco Labels, the Ford family’s business — on Sept. 12.

That was one week after Vince Hawkes, 56, announced he was retiring as Ontario Provincial Police commissioner, triggering the hunt for a new head of Canada’s second-largest force that eventually led to Taverner’s appointment.

The close relationship between the premier and Taverner has raised concerns about the independence of the OPP.

Ford dines frequently with his long-time chum as both the Star and the Globe and Mail have independently confirmed.

They say meetings between Ford and Taverner during the search for Hawkes’s replacement raise questions about the hiring process.

“Ford has claimed that he had ‘zero influence’ on the choice to appoint Ron Taverner the OPP commissioner, but that story is crumbling,” said NDP MPP Kevin Yarde (Brampton North).

It was a formal complaint from Yarde that sparked an ongoing investigation by integrity commissioner J. David Wake into whether there was political interference surrounding the Nov. 29 appointment.

Taverner has put off assuming the post until Wake’s investigation is concluded, and returned to his previous position with Toronto police in the meantime.

While the premier, who has yet to be interviewed by the ethics watchdog, insists he had nothing to do with the hiring, he said it is within his purview.

However, the OPP’s commissioner’s post has not traditionally been a patronage appointment.

On Monday, Ford told CP24’s Nathan Downer that “if I wanted to, I could appoint you OPP commissioner.

“It’s a political appointment. Kathleen Wynne had a political appointment. Dalton McGuinty and the 14 other premiers prior to that,” Ford said, dismissing a complaint and ongoing court fight by OPP deputy commissioner Brad Blair as “sour grapes.”

Yarde urged Ford to “come clean about events leading up to Taverner’s appointment.”

“The police cannot be controlled by a politician,” the New Democrat said, adding “there’s a fear in the OPP and throughout Ontario that that’s what Ford is attempting by rigging the system to install an ally in the commissioner’s seat.”

Last month, iPolitics revealed that the Progressive Conservative government quietly modified the job listing for a new OPP commissioner on Oct. 22, two days after it was initially posted.

That helped Taverner meet the criteria, as the superintendent was two ranks below the initial threshold to qualify for the position.

On Oct. 9, Ford’s Twitter feed featured a photo of the premier with the superintendent and other Toronto police officers at Wally’s Grill.

“Having lunch with some of our excellent police officers in Etobicoke today. It’s always great to hear from those on the front lines protecting our communities,” Ford tweeted.

On Tuesday, the premier’s office said “this particular meeting was with a number of police officers who serve Etobicoke — the community Premier Doug Ford is proud to represent at Queen’s Park.

“For the first time in 15 years, the brave police officers who we count on to keep our communities safe have a government at Queen’s Park that will support and listen to them,” Ford’s office said, noting the premier “regularly meets with front-line police officers from across the province to hear feedback on how the Ontario government can better support their work.”

According to an NDP freedom of information request, Ford also met with Taverner on July 30. The Globe disclosed Monday that the two men also met on Aug. 16 at Wally’s, and again on Aug. 28 at the premier’s cottage.

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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Taverner puts a halt to his swearing in as OPP commissioner

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Ron Taverner has put his appointment as commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police on hold, pending a review into his hiring by the Office of the Integrity Commissioner.

“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 said in statement issued Saturday afternoon.

Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Sylvia Jones accepted Taverner’s decision.

“While the government has full confidence in Mr. Taverner, we will respect his request for a delay in his appointment, until such time as the integrity commissioner has conducted a review of the selection process,” Jones said in statement.

Taverner, 72, was set to be sworn in as Ontario’s top cop on Monday.

The NDP has called on the integrity commissioner to look into “potential political interference” in the appointment of Taverner, a long-time family friend of Premier Doug Ford. Taverner, who recently retired from the Toronto Police Service at the rank of superintendent, had been unit commander at 23, 12 and 31 Divisions.

It was also revealed Saturday that Gary Couture, OPP deputy commissioner of field operations, has been appointed Interim Commissioner of the OPP while the review is conducted, replacing Brad Blair, who held that position since the retirement of commissioner Vince Hawkes in early November.

Blair asked the Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario to investigate “potential political interference” in Taverner’s appointment. Ombudsman Paul Dubé this past week turned down Blair’s request, saying it was outside his jurisdiction. Blair is taking the matter to court to decide whether or not that is the case.

In a statement to OPP members Saturday, Blair said he understands the “preference for an alternative interim commissioner and will co-operate in every respect.”

Blair said he will resume his role of deputy commissioner of traffic safety and operational support command and remains “devoted to ensuring that the well-earned reputation” of the OPP “remains untarnished.”

“I have been humbled by the honour of leading the women and men of the OPP and I do not regret a single step I have had to take,” said Blair.

The number of voices questioning the hiring process, calling for a review or putting a pause on Taverner’s appointment had been growing since it was announced Nov. 29, and included former OPP commissioner Chris Lewis and former RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath had also written a letter to Taverner, urging him to “do the right thing” and “delay your installation and assuming command of the OPP until a full investigation …has been completed,” Horwath wrote.

At Queen’s Park Saturday, Deputy NDP Leader Sara Singh said Taverner’s move to postpone his controversial appointment is welcome but raises further questions about how a close friend of the premier was given the plum policing job after the qualification level was mysteriously lowered, allowing him apply.

“We are very relieved Mr. Taverner will not be appointed Monday and sworn in,” Singh told reporters.

“However we are still very concerned. Where there is smoke, there is fire. There are a lot of unanswered questions here.”

The New Democrats are calling for an “emergency select committee” of MPPs to investigate the hiring — with the power to compel witnesses in public sessions — in addition to the integrity commissioner’s probe.

“We need to have answers,” said Singh.

At this point, it’s unclear whether Taverner himself made the decision to ask his OPP swearing-in be postponed or whether he was prompted by the premier’s office, Singh added.

“That’s why the premier’s office needs to come forward and provide some clarity…We need to understand how this was allowed to happen, how rules were changed.”

Established in 1988, the Office of the Integrity Commissioner “serves the public interest by encouraging and supporting high ethical standards that strengthen trust and confidence in the Ontario government,” states its website.

The office has a number of mandates, one of which falls under the Members’ Integrity Act. The “primary objective is to help prevent ethics violations before they occur,” and the office offers confidential advice to members of provincial parliament around 300 times each year, according to its website.

If a member suspects another member of crossing an ethical line, in contravention of the act, the member can ask the integrity commissioner through what is known as a “Section 30” complaint to look into the matter, and offer an “opinion.” An affidavit must be filed by the complainant to start the process.

The process involves a review to see if the complaint is within the jurisdiction of the office, followed by a decision on whether an inquiry will be conducted, and notifying the affected member of that decision. If the inquiry is on, the office then asks for written responses to the affidavit.

Taverner’s decision to postpone his investiture comes as the Progressive Conservatives have recalled the house Monday.

The Tories are to introduce back-to-work legislation to end a strike by the Power Workers’ Union, which threatens to shut down Ontario Power Generation’s nuclear reactors that provide almost half of the province’s electricity supply.

But resuming sitting in the house means the government will face the opposition in the daily question period.

With the first question period set for Tuesday morning, the Tories were bracing for difficult inquiries from the New Democrats, Liberals, and Greens over Taverner’s appointment.

All the opposition parties have denounced the fact that a close friend of the premier is being named to run the provincial police even though he lacked the professional qualifications in the initial job posting. That posting, which was later amended, enabled Taverner, a superintendent, to apply for the post, which comes with a raise of almost $100,000 over his $178,000 Toronto police salary.

Jim Rankin is a reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @Jleerankin

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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OPP interim commissioner asks ombudsman to review Taverner’s appointment over ‘potential political interference’

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The interim commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police is seeking a review of “potential political interference” in the appointment of Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner, on Tuesday filing a formal letter of complaint requesting that Ontario’s ombudsman conduct a review.

The move comes less than a week before incoming commissioner Taverner is scheduled to be sworn in as the head of one of the largest police services in North America.

In a lengthy letter to Ontario ombudsman Paul Dubé, interim OPP commissioner Brad Blair asks for Taverner’s installation to be delayed until a review of the application can be completed.

“Citing the objective of protecting the credibility and perceived independence of the OPP, Commissioner Blair, in his capacity as Commissioner of the OPP and in his personal capacity, is seeking a review so that the current level of public anxiety and concern may be addressed,” according to a press release sent on behalf of Blair late Tuesday night.

Blair was named interim commissioner by the Progressive Conservative government, via an October order in council.

In the letter, Blair says OPP members “have shared with me their concerns that the process was unfair and their feeling that the independence of the OPP is now called into question.”

“The officers know the consequences to come: if the police are to command public confidence and active co-operation, they must have unfettered confidence of the people of Ontario. That is, the concern of political interference runs counter not only to the principles of a democratic society but also to fully effective policing,” Blair writes in his letter.

The Progressive Conservative government’s appointment of Taverner has proven controversial, as Taverner, 72, is a close friend of Ontario Premier Doug Ford. Ford has admitted he did not recuse himself from cabinet when Taverner was approved, but said he “had zero influence and no matter who it was I would have accepted.”

Taverner, who has 51 years with the Toronto Police Service, is a long-time unit commander in charge of Etobicoke divisions. Taverner was also close to the premier’s late brother, former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, and was often at Ford family barbecues and had informal breakfast meetings with both Rob and Doug Ford.

Critics within government have raised concerns about the Ford family relationship with Taverner, chief among them the fact that it is the OPP that is often tasked with investigations involving the government.

He succeeds Vince Hawkes, 56, who retired earlier this year.

Taverner was unanimously selected by a panel that included Steve Orsini, head of the Ontario Public Service, and newly appointed deputy minister Mario Di Tommaso, who is a former Toronto police officer and Taverner’s former boss.

In a recent TV interview, Taverner said he had never before sought an OPP job before he applied to be commissioner.

Blair’s concerns come after another former OPP commissioner, Chris Lewis, voiced his concerns about Taverner’s hiring, telling CP24 that “the fix was in.”

“There’s old relationships there, we all know it, and I think it was a travesty that this occurred … I don’t think it’s good for the OPP — and I don’t think it was a good decision on the part of government whatsoever.”

Blair’s complaint is not the first formal concern to be raised about Taverner’s hiring. At Queen’s Park, Ontario Integrity Commissioner David Wake’s office said a formal request for a probe into the Taverner appointment has been filed.

“I can confirm that a request has been made by MPP Kevin Yarde … and it is under review by this office. The office will have no further comment on the matter,” said Wake’s spokesperson Michelle Renaud, referring to the Brampton North NDP MPP’s letter to the office.

Renaud could not say whether the premier’s office had been in contact with Wake prior to Taverner’s hiring to ensure there was no conflict of interest.

“Under the Members’ Integrity Act … communication between the integrity commissioner and a member of the legislative assembly is confidential,” she said.

The controversial appointment dominated the legislature’s daily question period last week before MPPs rose Thursday for the Christmas break.

Ford has insisted there “was no better choice” than his family friend, but he maintained that he “didn’t know that decision until the day it was made.”

“A transparent choice, by the way, that I wasn’t involved in whatsoever,” the premier said last Wednesday, stressing that morale is low at the OPP and Taverner will boost the force’s esprit de corps.

“We need someone in there who connects with front-line people,” he said.

As iPolitics revealed earlier this month, the job posting for the OPP commissioner job was quietly modified in October, changing the criteria to allow applications from the superintendent level — two ranks below the initial qualification of deputy chief or assistant commissioner.

Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Sylvia Jones said the three-person hiring panel was independent.

“I have no concerns about the hiring process,” Jones said last week.

“I think the independent process did what it was supposed to do. We have an excellent candidate and I think when Mr. Taverner is in place Dec. 17 we will find a revitalized OPP.”

Di Tommaso, her deputy, was Taverner’s former boss at Toronto police, but in the new position reports to Secretary of Cabinet Steve Orsini, the head of the Ontario Public Service.

“So I don’t think there’s any conflict there,” the minister said.

Last week, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, interim Liberal Leader John Fraser, and Democracy Watch asked integrity commissioner Wake to probe any potential conflict of interest in the appointment, with Horwath saying “people deserve to know exactly what the premier’s role is.”

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and it really looks like this process was put together to favour Mr. Taverner and I think that’s inappropriate,” she said.

“It’s very reasonable to suspect that there was political interference. I think reasonable people would say ‘something’s fishy,’ ” said Fraser.

Democracy Watch also wrote to the integrity commissioner.

“If Premier Ford participated in any step of the process that led to his friend Mr. Taverner being appointed OPP commissioner, then he violated the province’s government ethics law, and that’s why the integrity commissioner needs to investigate,” said the group’s co-founder Duff Conacher.

Taverner made $178,968 last year while the OPP commissioner made $275,907 — representing an annual raise of almost $100,000.

In 2016, Taverner accompanied Doug Ford and Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders on a private plane to Chicago to take in a Blackhawks game, part of a prize package purchased at a charity auction.

Sal Badali of Odgers Berndtson, the head-hunting agency that “supported” the OPP commissioner’s hiring selection process, told iPolitics that “eliminating the rank requirement was done to broaden the potential pool of applicants.”

“It turned out that over half the pool of applicants were not at the deputy chief level.”

The OPP is one of the largest police services in North America, with more than 6,000 uniformed officers and 2,400 civilian employees.

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Qualifications lowered for OPP commissioner job, allowing Ford family friend to apply

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When the top job with the Ontario Provincial Police was posted in October, Ron Taverner couldn’t apply, because his rank was too low.

Two days later, the job requirements were changed — paving the way for the Ford family friend to apply.

He got the job.

The job postings were obtained exclusively by iPolitics late Monday evening.

The first job description was posted to the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police website in October and — according to a search of the document’s web history — was last modified on Oct. 22.

That posting required all applicants to hold, at minimum, the rank of deputy chief or assistant commissioner.

The candidate should have a “track record and demonstrated ability to provide executive leadership in a complex policing organization at the rank of Deputy Police Chief or higher, or Assistant Commissioner or higher in a major police service,” read the posting.

Taverner, a superintendent with the Toronto Police Service, sits two ranks below that threshold.

Two days later, a document entitled “OPP Commissioner Updated” was modified on the association’s site. The only difference between that posting and the first is that the minimum-rank requirements were removed.

The candidate should have a “track record and demonstrated ability to provide executive leadership in a complex policing organization,” read the new posting.

NDP questions appointment of premier’s friend to head OPP

The change made Taverner eligible to apply for the job, which he was ultimately awarded on Nov. 29.

Sal Badali of Odgers Berndtson, the head hunting agency that “supported” the commissioner selection process, said “eliminating the rank requirement was done to broaden the potential pool of applicants.”

“It turned out that over half the pool of applicants were not at the Deputy Chief level,” Badali said over email.

The premier’s office refused comment on the matter when reached by iPolitics, saying the selection process was managed by the “public service in its entirety.” The commissioner’s job is an Order-in-Council appointment, meaning it must be approved by provincial cabinet.

The premier’s office said requests for comment about Taverner’s appointment should be directed to the cabinet office, which reports to the premier. A request to explain who asked for the change in job requirements was not returned by deadline.

Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones said in Question Period on Tuesday that the posting was changed to broaden the pool of prospective applicants.

“We wanted to make sure the best person to handle the position was going to apply,” she said, adding that the decision was made by the “hiring crew.”

Taverner’s appointment — announced late Thursday — immediately raised eyebrows.

“The fix was in from Day 1,” former OPP commissioner Chris Lewis told CP24 on Thursday.

“The decision’s the premier’s,” Lewis said. “There’s old relationships there; we all know it, and I think it was a travesty that this occurred.

“And I don’t want to show any disrespect to Ron Taverner. He got the job, good for him. I don’t think it’s good for the OPP, and I don’t think it was a good decision on the part of government whatsoever.”

The opposition seized on the appointment during question period Monday, calling on the Progressive Conservatives to explain how Taverner was chosen.

“The choice was made by an independent commissioner, and it was approved by cabinet on Thursday,” Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones said in response.

That wasn’t good enough for NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who told reporters early Monday that she thinks Lewis’s concerns are legitimate.

“Come clean and outline — particularly and specifically — what the process was,” Horwath said. “Let’s figure out why the process left us with a candidate that leaves so many people scratching their heads.”

Taverner has served in the Toronto Police Service since 1967. As superintendent, he is the unit commander for three divisions that overlap with Ford’s home community of Etobicoke.

With his new job — which he will start Dec. 17 — Taverner will leapfrog over the OPP ranks of chief superintendent and deputy commissioner to become commissioner.

Asked about the multiple promotions in rank early Monday, Jones said, “We are looking for someone that understands front line officers, that understands the challenges that are there and the hiring process saw that clearly.”

The promotion means Taverner will go from being responsible for more than 700 uniformed officers and civilian staff to approximately 8,000 uniformed officers and civilian employees.

Jones told reporters that 27 people applied for the job and 15 of them were interviewed.

In its Thursday press release, the government said Taverner’s appointment was unanimously recommended by a “selection committee comprised exclusively of members of the Ontario Public Service and supported by Odgers Berndtson.”

In spite of Ford and Taverner’s personal relationship, Jones said she can “absolutely” guarantee that there will be a separation between the premier’s office and the commissioner.

However, Horwath told reporters she’s skeptical any separation will be maintained because she said Ford’s office has previously tried to direct police operations. In November, the Toronto Star reported that Ford’s chief of staff asked senior officials to ask police to raid illegal dispensaries on the day cannabis was legalized.

“We’ve already seen, as you know, a government that doesn’t understand that that’s not supposed to happen,” Horwath said.

The Ford government is already facing questions over its involvement in appointments in the electricity sector.

Ford’s chief of staff, Dean French, was accused of interfering with hiring at Ontario Power Generation last month. He reportedly asked the provincial Crown corporation to fire Alykhan Velshi, who held a key post in the office of former PC leader Patrick Brown, according to reporting by the Globe and Mail.

And last week, the Globe and Mail reported that the premier’s office is in a standoff with Hydro One over the selection of its next CEO.

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Statistics Canada kept Trudeau cabinet, privacy commissioner in the dark about controversial bank data harvest plan – National

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Navdeep Bains, the Trudeau cabinet minister responsible for Statistics Canada, said he first learned of the federal agency’s controversial plan to harvest the financial transaction data of potentially millions of Canadians as a result of media reports and not, as the law requires, in a written notification from the country’s chief statistician.

Bains’ revelation, made Monday at a House of Commons committee, follows a similar revelation earlier this month made by Canada’s privacy commissioner testifying at a Senate committee that, he, too, did not learn of the scope of the StatCan project until reading about it.

Global News first reported on the project on Oct. 26, and at the time, quoted StatCan documents that said the privacy commissioner had been fully briefed on the scope and nature of the project and also said that StatCan was also following all applicable laws, one of which includes a requirement that Statistics Canada notify in writing the responsible minister — Bains, in this case — when a project such as the one StatCan hopes to proceed with was being proposed.

Bains testified Monday that no such notification was provided.


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Statistics Canada failed to disclose key info about project to harvest bank data

Nonetheless, Bains, whose title is Minister for Innovation, Science and Economic Development, told a Commons committee Monday he has full faith in chief statistician Anil Arora and the agency he heads, Statistics Canada.

“I think that Statistics Canada is a world-class statistical agency. It has a lot of respect internationally and within Canada as well … and I have a lot of confidence in the chief statistician,” Bains said.

Arora was appointed by the Trudeau government in 2017.

For more than a year, StatCan has been developing a project in which it would randomly select 500,000 Canadian households, pass information such as social insurance numbers, names, and addresses of members of those households to the country’s nine largest financial institutions, and then require those financial institutions to transfer to Statistics Canada the daily detailed financial transaction data of any of its customers on the list of those 500,000 randomly selected Canadian households.

Statistics Canada has explained that upon receiving that data from the country’s banks and credit card companies, it would “anonymize” the data, stripping personal identifiers after aggregating the financial data with demographic data and use this method to replace a questionnaire it now uses to gather information about the household spending habits of Canadians.


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EXCLUSIVE: Stats Canada requesting banking information of 500,000 Canadians without their knowledge

In correspondence obtained by Global News directed to the banks, Statistics Canada claims the legal authority to require banks and credit card companies to turn over this data with neither the consent nor the knowledge of the affected customers of the financial institutions.

“Canadians continue to express their absolute rejection of the Liberal plan to secretly force banks and other financial institutions to release their personal financial information of their clients without their consent,” Conservative MP Dan Albas said Monday in the House of Commons.

Bains, on Monday, said he now understands that affected Canadians would be informed if their data was collected.

Bains and other government officials describe the plan as a “pilot project” that has yet to collect any data in this way.

Arora has testified before both a Commons committee and a Senate committee that the project to harvest financial transaction data would not proceed until the Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien has signed off on the plan.

And while Therrien said he appreciates Arora’s invitation to review StatCan’s plans, he has opened an investigation into the federal agency’s activities after several Canadians complained.

“Your government has not done a very good job of managing Statistics Canada,” Conservative MP Michael Chong told Bains at Monday’s committee meeting. “This is data that is far more intrusive than anything we’ve seen before at a level that would make [Google subsidiary] Alphabet and Amazon blush.”

In the meantime, Conservative MPs had new questions Monday for both Bains and Statistics Canada about StatCan’s decades-old practice of selling custom slices of data it holds to the private sector and how that business might be affected by this new plan to harvest bank data.

“This data is going to be used by some of the largest companies in the world in order to market their services to Canadians and your government proposes to use the coercive power of the state … to get this data,” Chong said to Bains at Monday’s committee meeting. “I think it’s big-time overreach on part of your government.”


READ MORE:
Privacy Commissioner of Canada launches investigation into StatCan over controversial data project

In 2017, StatCan posted $113 million of what it calls “re-spendable” revenue and employed 400 full-time data collectors for this custom data business.

StatCan saw this custom data business shrink by 25 per cent between 2012 and 2015 after the previous Harper government made the mandatory long-form census optional. Many social scientists said that decision made the census data next to useless. Many of Statistics Canada business customers appear to have thought so as well as StatCan’s revenue earned by selling its data dropped from $114 million in 2012 to $86 million in 2015.

But when the Trudeau Liberals made the long-form census mandatory again in 2015, gave Statistics Canada new independence, and provided it with new powers to create projects like the planned bank transaction data collection project, it appears to have made StatCan more valuable in the eyes of business users. StatCan’s sales to the private sector quickly blossomed by 32 per cent from 2015 to 2017.

Albas said he believes StatCan’s revenue from this custom data service will “skyrocket” when business users learn it includes data StatCan has forced from Canada’s banks and credit card companies.

“This information is highly valued by large multinationals who want to sell more of their products,” Albas said.

At no time does Statistics Canada sell or provide, under any circumstance, any personal information it holds. Instead, it packages up data about groups of Canadians, most often sorted by their “postal code walk,” the first three letters of someone’s postal code, so that businesses or marketing organizations might know where, for example, families with young children or Punjabi speakers live.

Albas said the proposed project to collect bank transaction data would make StatCan’s data even more valuable to business users — at the expense, he said, of the privacy rights of Canadians.

  • With files from Andrew Russell

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Quebec government worried about elimination of Ontario’s French Language commissioner

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The news that Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government will abolish Ontario’s Office of the French Language Services Commissioner is not sitting well in Quebec.

The office serves as the representative for Franco-Ontarians, ensuring the French Language Services Act is followed.

According to the Ontario government, there are more than 600,000 people in that province who identify as French speakers.

The dismantling of the office is a cost-cutting measure to deal with Ontario’s deficit, government officials say. Its work is to be folded into the Ontario ombudsman’s office.

« I want French in Ontario to be protected as much as possible, » said Quebec Premier François Legault.

Legault says it’s a topic he’ll broach when he and Ford meet on Monday.

‘Petty and provocative’

Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume did not hold back on his opinion of the cut.

« [Franco-Ontarians] really do not deserve this…. It’s really petty, » he told reporters.

« I think it’s a provocation because this is really a small office that does a lot of mitigation between francophones and the government. »

In a series of tweets, Quebec Francophone Relations Minister Sonia LeBel says she spoke to Caroline Mulroney, Ontario’s minister responsible for francophone affairs, to express her concerns.

LeBel says Mulroney reiterated her commitment to Franco-Ontarians but mentioned the need to cut costs.

« We will continue to promote and defend and the interests of francophones throughout Canada, » LeBel said.

‘Unthinkable’ move, PMO says

The prime minister is calling the decision to abolish Ontario’s French language office « unthinkable. »

« Today is a good day to reflect on how absolutely critical it is for governments in this country to protect, preserve and cherish minority language rights, » said Justin Trudeau, in a tweet.

 

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Brampton integrity commissioner resigns, citing relationship with Patrick Brown

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Brampton integrity commissioner, Guy Giorno, has issued his resignation to the city clerk.

Giorno, who once served as former prime minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff, issued his resignation letter on Oct. 23, citing the election of Patrick Brown as mayor the day before as his reason for doing so.

Guy Giorno he is the “first integrity commissioner in Canada to resign to avoid the perception of conflict following an election result.”
Guy Giorno he is the “first integrity commissioner in Canada to resign to avoid the perception of conflict following an election result.”  (Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press file photo)

The resignation letter was first revealed by the CBC’s Mike Crawley in a tweet on Monday (Nov. 5) night. The Brampton Guardian independently verified it’s authenticity.

“ I have known Mr. Patrick Brown for decades and it is a matter of record that we have worked with each other in past. This places me and the new Council (in) an unusual position — one that was never in the contemplation of City Council, me, or, I daresay, Mr. Brown, when I was originally appointed to office,” wrote Giorno in his resignation letter.

“Perception is important. Public confidence in the Integrity Commissioner’s objectivity is essential. Therefore, as long as I am Integrity Commissioner, I will use my authority under subsection 223.3(3) of the Municipal Act to delegate to delegate to another person my powers and duties related to any matters involving Mr. Brown,”

“This is an interim solution that is by no means satisfactory in the long term,” continued the letter, adding he was issuing his resignation as of Feb. 28, 2019 or when the newly elected Brampton council hires a replacement if before that date.

Giorno added in his letter this was a first in Canadian history.

“While this step makes me the first integrity commissioner in Canada to resign to avoid the perception of conflict following an election result, it is the responsible and ethical imperative,” he wrote.

A partner at law firm Fasken Martineau, Giorno serves as integrity commissioner for other area municipalities and regions including Orangeville and Dufferin County.

He did not reveal the nature or details of his relationship with Brown, or why his resignation was required following the mayor-elect’s election in the letter.

Giorno previously served as chief of staff for both former Ontario premier Mike Harris and former prime minister Stephen Harper. Brown served as an MP in Harper’s government, and worked with Giorno.

“I have known Guy since I was 15,” Brown told the Guardian. “I have worked with him in both provincial and federal governments. He has hosted events on my behalf and I consider him a friend. I respect his decision. It was the right choice.”

Correction — Nov. 6, 2018: This article was edited from a previous version that misspelled the name of the law firm Fasken Martineau.

Graeme Frisque is a reporter with The Mississauga News and Brampton Guardian

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