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Controversial appointment of Toronto cop, Ford ally as OPP commissioner delayed

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TORONTO — The Ontario government 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.

Instead, acting commissioner Brad Blair will be replaced at the helm of the OPP by Gary Couture, who is currently the force’s deputy commissioner.

“I understand the preference for an alternative Interim Commissioner and will co-operate in every respect,” Blair said in a statement released on Saturday.

Blair’s lawyer, Julian Falconer, said in a conference call with media on Saturday that his client will be “regressed” from his role as interim commissioner on Monday.

On Friday, 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.

Falconer said Saturday that Blair will continue with the legal proceedings.

Taverner, a longtime family friend of Premier Doug Ford, currently commands three divisions within the Toronto Police Service. The 72-year-old did not initially qualify for the role, but the government has said it lowered the requirements for the job to attract a wider range of candidates. Blair, who was among 27 candidates up for the commissioner position, has contended that only four did not meet the original threshold.

However, the Progressive Conservatives have repeatedly denied that the premier’s office had anything to do with Taverner’s hiring.

Taverner did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the delay, which he requested in an email to Jones that was obtained by The Canadian Press.

“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,” he wrote in the email.

Falconer said he understands how it could look like Blair’s push for an investigation is about his “personal agenda” but he said the commissioner is doing it to maintain the reputation and integrity of the OPP.

The Opposition NDP said on Saturday that in addition to the integrity commissioner’s investigation, it is calling for an emergency select committee of the legislature to look into the process.

“We are relieved that Mr. Taverner will not be appointed on Monday,” said NDP Deputy Leader Sara Singh. “However, we are still very concerned. I think this step will allow us to have some integrity and trust maintained within the Ontario police service.”

Falconer said he believes a committee of MPPs could also be a beneficial avenue to investigate the possibility of political interference.

Alanna Rizza, The Canadian Press

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Report: China bans all Canadian meat before G20 as Trudeau turns to Trump on detainees

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OTTAWA — A report in a Quebec newspaper says China has suspended all Canadian meat exports in a dramatic escalation of its diplomatic dispute with Canada over the December arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.

The latest Chinese move comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to depart Wednesday for the G20 leaders’ summit, where he is expected to rely on U.S. President Donald Trump to raise the plight of two detained Canadians during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

A report in the newspaper Journal de Quebec quotes a Montreal-based diplomat with the Chinese consulate-general as saying the ban is temporary.

The diplomat says the move is being taken because about 100 faked veterinary health certificates have been identified on exported meat products.

A spokeswoman for Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has yet to comment on the report.

China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor and sentenced another Canadian to death in an apparent attempt to pressure for Meng’s release.

China has also stopped imports of Canadian canola and has suspended export permits for three pork producers.

The Canadian Press

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China asks for suspension of Canadian meat, citing forged certificates

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OTTAWA — The Chinese Embassy said Tuesday it has asked Canada to suspended all meat exports, a surprise move that comes amid the diplomatic dispute over the December arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.

The latest Chinese move comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to depart Wednesday for a G20 leaders’ summit in Japan, where he is expected to rely on U.S. President Donald Trump to raise the plight of two detained Canadians during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The embassy said in a statement to The Canadian Press on Tuesday that this latest move follows Chinese customs inspectors’ detection of residue from a restricted feed additive, called ractopamine, in a batch of Canadian pork products. The additive has permitted uses in Canada but is banned in China.

“The subsequent investigation revealed that the official veterinary health certificates attached to the batch of pork exported to China were counterfeit and the number of those forgery certificates was up to 188. The Canadian side believes that this incident is criminal offence,” said the embassy statement.

“These forged certificates were sent to the Chinese regulatory authorities through Canadian official certificate notification channel, which reflects that the Canadian meat export supervision system exists obvious safety loopholes.”

China is therefore taking “urgent preventive measures” to protect Chinese customers and has asked the Canadian government to suspend all meat-export certificates, the embassy said.

“We hope the Canadian side would attach great importance to this incident, complete the investigation as soon as possible and take effective measures to ensure the safety of food exported to China in a more responsible manner.”

A spokeswoman for Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau did not immediately comment on the report.

A report in the newspaper Journal de Quebec, which first reported the story, quotes a Montreal-based diplomat with the Chinese consulate-general as saying the ban is temporary.

China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor and sentenced another Canadian to death in an apparent attempt to pressure for Meng’s release.

China has also stopped imports of Canadian canola and has suspended import permits for three pork producers.

A senior Canadian government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the dispute, described the matter as a “technical issue.”

The official said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is “seized with the issue and looking into the matter to ensure that all the rules are being followed.”

The CFIA is working with Chinese officials to resolve the matter.

“This is a technical issue related to potentially fraudulent permits,” said the official. “We stand by the quality of Canadian products.”

The Conservatives blamed Trudeau.

“Conservatives know that Canadian farmers produce some of the highest-quality meat in the world. Any assertion by the Chinese government to the contrary is both false and baseless,” said a statement from Tory agriculture critic Luc Berthold. “It is clear that this is not an issue of food safety, but a political issue caused by Justin Trudeau’s incompetence and weakness on the world stage.”

Berthold said Trudeau has to “personally raise this issue” with Xi in at the G20 meeting and demand the trade barriers be lifted.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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