Orazietti quoted as Tories hammer Liberals over air ambulance failuresTuesday, September 25, 2012 by: Rick McGee
Words spoken in 2009 by Sault MPP David Orazietti were cited by a Conservative in the Ontario Legislature Monday during debate on Bill 50, an Act to amend the Ambulance Act with respect to air ambulance services.
Following is the related excerpt from Hansard.
To assist readers, references to Orazietti appear in bold type.
He is mentioned in remarks by Peter Shurman, the Conservative Member for Thornhill.
The file photo included shows an Ornge air ambulance helicopter departing from Sault Area Hospital.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott):
M. Peter Shurman:
I don’t understand why after nine years, Speaker, it seems impossible for that minister or this government to take responsibility for what is theirs.
If the responsibility for something that happens in the here and now relates somehow to an action that was taken by somebody who was once upon a time in place, then suffice it to say that we might as well blame the debt and deficit on John A. Macdonald or Isaac Brock and not the McGuinty government.
You’ve been in place for nine years.
Do you take responsibility for the operations of government in Ontario at this place or not?
It seems to be, Speaker, that the answer is not.
The fact of the matter is, we’re debating a bill, Bill 50, and I’ve got to say that the first thing about Bill 50 that surprises me is that it doesn’t have a fancy title.
If we’re talking about the budget these days, we have to deal with legislation called “strong measures.”
If we’re talking about taking care of what’s going on in our schools, it might be called “putting students first,” but this, for Liberals, has a very simplistic title.
It’s called An Act to amend the Ambulance Act with respect to air ambulance services -- pretty plain and simple.
I personally would have preferred the “cover your posterior act” because that’s exactly and only what this bill does.
Speaker, if you take a look at the explanatory note -- and I’m going to read it into the record because it’s very short.
It says, “The Ambulance Act is amended to allow providers of air ambulance services to be designated as ‘designated air ambulance service providers.’”
How about that?
“The Lieutenant Governor in Council is given the power to appoint provincial representatives to sit on the board of a designated air ambulance service provider, and the minister is given the power to issue directives to designated air ambulance service providers.”
Up to that point -- and that’s two of about six paragraphs -- that’s what the minister had as her powers to begin with.
She didn’t take them seriously, obviously.
“The regulations may deem certain provisions to be included in an agreement between Ontario and a designated air ambulance service provider.
“The Lieutenant Governor in Council may appoint special investigators to investigate and report on the activities of a designated air ambulance service provider, and may appoint a supervisor to exercise” -- I’m going to stop at this point.
This is gobbledegook.
This is what we call “boiler plate.”
It really doesn’t do anything, and if you delve into the three pages that constitute this bill and just get by the definitions, what you find is a band-aid.
How appropriate for something that deals with something as important as our ambulance service, which is a key feature for people who are in dire need at any particular given time, car accidents being the first thing that comes to mind.
This bill is there for one reason: It is to cover the backside collectively of the government on something where it dropped the ball, and dropped it significantly.
I’m going to quote from David Orazietti, MPP for Sault Ste. Marie, and I’ll tell you when he said this.
He said, “It’s time for the ministry to consider additional providers for transport services. My expectation is this organization that has the contract with the ministry to provide the service does so in a timely manner. There is a performance review process within that contract, and perhaps it needs to be reviewed to ensure they’re living up to obligations.”
Mr. Orazietti said that in October 2009.
So we’re talking about three years ago, and that particular member, a member then and a member now of this government, recognized that there was something wrong.
Are we to infer from this that in discussions at the caucus level of the Liberal Party, he didn’t raise this?
Nobody else raised it?
There wasn’t some discussion internally about the operations of Ornge?
The ministry never exercised oversight?
I’m going to tell you something, Speaker: I spent the bulk of my career as a CEO.
As a CEO, I had hundreds of people who, in various ways, reported through other people to me.
I could not possibly know what they were all doing, and I could not possibly micromanage what they were doing.
That is not dissimilar from the job of a minister of the crown in this or any other government.
You’re like a CEO.
You run a ministry; it has hundreds, sometimes, as it is in health, thousands of people.
You cannot possibly know what every single one of them is doing, so you have reporting structures that bring information to you.
My directive, when I was a CEO, was: I don’t ever want to catch anybody in a lie, and I don’t ever want to catch anybody hiding information from me.
If you bring me the information and you tell me what’s wrong, we’ll sit down and figure out how to address it and fix it together.
The only way you’re in trouble with me is if you lie to me or if you hide information from me.
I would expect that to be the watchword or the rule of thumb, the first one, for anybody at the head of an organization, and I would certainly apply that rule of thumb to ministers.
I would say that in the case of Minister Matthews, this was not the order of the day.
I don’t know if it was then -- obviously not, I would have to say -- and I don’t know if it is now.
I think this bill is her idea of what will help her achieve that, but that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about doing what you have to do when you have to do it.
I recall a day last December when I went from media office to media office up on the third floor of this building because I was the spokesperson for the party that day, and what we wanted to highlight were the transgressions that we were recording from whistle-blowers who came forward on the Ornge file.
And interestingly, on that very same day, I kept crossing paths with who?
Minister Deb Matthews, who was also going from media office to media office to put out the fire that was Ornge for her.
That was in December.
I quoted Mr. Orazietti, the member for Sault Ste. Marie, who made his comments back in 2009.
I could just as easily have quoted our critic, who has done such a stellar job on this file, Frank Klees, the member for Newmarket–Aurora, who was asking questions of that minister in this House in April of that year.
So when I talk about having done the media circuit and watching the minister do the media circuit in December, that’s fully eight months after the questions in this House were answered by Minister Matthews in such a way as to give my colleague hope there would be some kind of an investigation.
Clearly, there was not.
The ball was dropped on Ornge, and the trail is absolutely clear.
That’s some of the experience that I had.
The nub of this bill, the one I could underscore as being of some relevance, is protection for whistle-blowers, which, I have to say, is not strong enough.
My first experience with Ornge, which I’ve never really talked about in this House because that’s not part of my file on a day-to-day basis, was to meet a fellow by the name of Jacob Blum, who turned out to be one of the prime witnesses before the public accounts committee here.
And if there were actually to be a select committee, which we still think there should be, he would obviously be a prime person there as well because he helped author the performance agreement, because he essentially recruited Dr. Mazza, because he helped run Ornge for many years until he got to a point in his life where, by his own admission, he could no longer go on with what he was experiencing.
How did I know him?
I met him with my colleague from Newmarket–Aurora because Mr. Blum lives in Thornhill, my riding, and wanted to know who to come to as a whistle-blower and, at that time, had not been identified and asked for secrecy because he was concerned about the aspects of whistle-blowing and what might happen in the event that he revealed information -- information in his case which turned out to be extremely valuable and useful in going forward.
The current government’s handling of the Ornge air ambulance services is simply another example of the Liberals’ inability to properly oversee large and complex files, resulting in inadequate public service and improper use of taxpayer funds.
We’ve seen it time and again.
We saw it in eHealth.
We saw the about-face of Premier McGuinty literally weeks after being elected, with the health premium.
We’re seeing it now with the handling of the Mississauga and Oakville power plants, which obviously will have more discussion in this chamber in the days and weeks to come, for sure.
The bottom line is, if you give it to this government, somehow or other it either doesn’t get done, there are delays in getting it done, and in the end you wind up with something that I can only describe as a cover-up.
At the end of the day, what else can you use by way of terms to describe what we’re hearing and what we’re seeing here today?
So, Bill 50: too little, too late and a band-aid.