Source: Toronto Star
This man is a hero to the taxpayers of Ontario. I fully support his demand for more power as it will allow him to investigate further into all forms of government corruption such as the ORNGE and eHealth scandals. Scandals brought to you by Dalton McGuinty’s Li(e)beral government!
Ontario’s watchdog says if he had the power to investigate ORNGE tips from whistleblowers and insiders, he might have been able to rein in the scandalized air ambulance agency sooner.
Ombudsman André Marin used the release of his annual report Tuesday to urge the government to give his office oversight powers in municipalities, universities, school boards and hospitals.
Last year, Marin received 18,541 complaints — up 27 per cent from 2010-11 — but was not able to investigate a record 2,539 related to the so-called MUSH sector because such institutions fall beyond his jurisdiction.
Flanked by a poster depicting a hospital as a castle surrounded by barbed wire as a citizen looks powerlessly in while an air ambulance lands, the ombudsman said something has to change.
“Hospitals remain barred from my oversight like some kind of medieval fortress — as do the ORNGE helicopters that land there,” he said.
But Marin is optimistic Premier Dalton McGuinty is finally listening after the ORNGE scandal, which was sparked by a Toronto Star investigation.
The Star discovered a confusing web of ORNGE for-profit entities, high salaries and a questionable $6.7 million marketing agreement now being investigated by the Ontario Provincial Police.
“I had a couple conversations yesterday (Monday) with the Premier who certainly appeared to have an open mind and was asking me many questions and wanted to know what my concerns were,” he said.
Marin noted he has had 17 complaints about ORNGE since 2005, including questionable business dealings exposed by the Star, but was unable to examine them.
“Ontarians deserve stronger oversight and greater transparency,” he said.
“There is no . . . independent, impartial complaint mechanism for either hospitals or children’s aid societies — no one who has the investigative powers and independence of an ombudsman or who can resolve the kind of issues that we can.”
NDP MPP France Gélinas (Nickel Belt) warned there could be other ORNGEs lurking out there.
“I hope this year is the time where it actually happens. We need ombudsman’s oversight of the MUSH group — especially . . . over our hospitals and long-term care homes,” Gélinas told reporters.
“The system we have in place right now is slightly better than a suggestion box and this is not acceptable,” she said.
Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner, who attended Marin’s news conference, said the ombudsman deserves more authority.
“The ORNGE scandal is a stark reminder of how important oversight and accountability is, especially when government delegates public service delivery to private players,” said Schreiner.
“The Liberals’ privatization agenda will further erode transparency and accountability without . . . oversight. Look no further than ORNGE for the possible results.”
However, Progressive Conservative MPP Steve Clark (Leeds—Grenville) isn’t sold on the idea of giving the ombudsman’s office greater powers.
Contrary to what Marin said, the government had all the tools it needed to provide oversight over ORNGE, they just didn’t use them, said Clark.