A new chapter is about to unfold in the feud between Ontario Premier Doug Ford and a man who served in the top ranks of the Ontario Provincial Police.
Brad Blair, the former interim commissioner of the OPP, is due to speak publicly for the first time since launching a $ 5-million defamation suit against Ford over comments the premier made suggesting Blair had violated Ontario’s Police Services Act.
Blair has called a news conference for Friday at 12:30 p.m. at Queen’s Park to speak about “his efforts in safeguarding the independence and credibility of the province’s largest police service and exposing government abuse,” according to a media advisory from his lawyer, Julian Falconer.
The dispute between the premier and Blair grew out of the government’s move last November to name Toronto Police Supt. Ron Taverner as the OPP’s new commissioner.
Blair, a 32-year veteran of the OPP, was in the running for the job. In December, Blair made a public appeal to Ontario’s ombudsman to investigate what he called “questions of political interference” in Taverner’s appointment. Taverner is a longtime friend of Ford and his family.
Ontario’s integrity commissioner cleared Ford of allegations of political interference in Taverner’s appointment.
Blair also revealed documents that suggested Ford’s staff wanted the OPP, which provides the premier’s security, to spend more than $ 50,000 on a customized van.
Blair is suing Ford over statements he made in December and January suggesting that Blair broke the law by releasing confidential material obtained through his job as deputy commissioner of the OPP.
Ford denies that anything he said about Blair at the time was defamatory.
In their statement of defence, filed in April, lawyers for Ford say he made his comments about Blair to the media in response to “a calculated, widely publicized, public, malicious and unprovoked personal and political attack.” Ford’s lawyers say Blair “used and abused” his position in the OPP to go after the premier.
None of the allegations in the case by either side have been proven in court.
Blair is also suing the province for wrongful dismissal. He was fired in early March, within days of Taverner withdrawing his name from contention for the top police job.