Doug Ford’s lawyers defend premier against defamation suit by Brad Blair

Click to play video: 'Integrity commissioner releases report on Ron Taverner appointment' Integrity commissioner releases report on Ron Taverner appointment
WATCH ABOVE: Ontario's integrity commissioner has cleared Premier Doug Ford of conflict of interest in the appointment of Ron Taverner to the OPP. Travis Dhanraj reports. (March 20) – Mar 20, 2019

TORONTO – Doug Ford‘s lawyers claim the premier was defending himself against “malicious” public attacks when he made comments last year about a former high-ranking Ontario Provincial Police officer who is now suing him.

The legal team claimed Ford’s remarks about Brad Blair were not defamatory and constituted fair comment, urging a court to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the former deputy commissioner of the provincial force.

“Premier Ford pleads that his response to Mr. Blair’s malicious, political and personal attack against him was not malicious, but on the contrary was reasonable if not reserved,” the lawyers said in a statement of defence filed Friday.

READ MORE: Fired OPP deputy commissioner launches $5M defamation lawsuit against Premier Doug Ford

Blair launched the lawsuit in March, claiming Ford smeared his reputation for political gain by saying the officer violated the Police Services Act when he publicly raised concerns about the appointment of a longtime friend of the premier as OPP commissioner.

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Blair, who was also in the running for the commissioner job, had said the selection process around Toronto Supt. Ron Taverner’s hiring was unfair and could raise doubts about the force’s independence.

He also asked the courts to force the provincial ombudsman to investigate the appointment, raising concerns about political interference

Taverner has since withdrawn from the job, citing the controversy surrounding his appointment. The government has named Thomas Carrique, a deputy chief for York Regional Police, to the post.

READ MORE: Ford says new leadership needed for Ontario Provincial Police

Blair asks for $5 million in damages and alleges in his suit that Ford’s comments subjected him to “embarrassment, scandal, ridicule, and contempt,” and were meant to intimidate the veteran officer.

Blair was fired last month. The government has said that decision came from the public service because it found his court filings in the ombudsman case contained confidential OPP information.

The former officer’s lawyer has said his client never received notice of a complaint under the Police Services Act or any findings that he violated it, and alleged that the premier’s words would lead an average person to believe Blair is someone who breaks the law.

READ MORE: Brad Blair’s lawyer says firing of former OPP officer was wrong, did not follow proper procedure

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Ford’s lawyer’s allege that Blair improperly used his platform at the provincial police service to attack the premier.

“Mr. Blair improperly used his public position to achieve his own private purposes of attempting to politically and personally harm Premier Ford and at the same time advance his own personal and career ambitions,” Ford’s lawyers say.

They claim Blair’s lawsuit is an abuse of process.

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