Frank Klees

Frankly Speaking

May 24, 2011

More Bungling at Scandal-ridden eHealth Agency

Question: What ever happened to that provincial agency that was caught doling out multi-million dollar contracts without bothering to get competitive bids, paid Liberal-friendly consultants nearly $3,000 a day and gave executives hefty bonuses despite having little to show for their work ?

You may remember, that a minister of health was forced to resign, because despite burning through more than a billion tax dollars, the Auditor General revealed that this agency had failed miserably to do what it was supposed to do: namely, develop an electronic health records system for Ontario patients.

Well, this same agency, known as eHealth Ontario, occupied most of a raucous Question Period again this past week. The issue this time ?

It was revealed that the agency had just given its 617 employees a 1.9 per cent merit pay raise plus bonuses averaging an additional 7.8 per cent !

If there was ever a doubt whether Dalton McGuinty and his government have lost touch with Ontario families, this should nail it down for even the most forgiving of hearts.

Here was the quote from a spokesperson attempting to defend the pay increases and bonuses:

"These payments are in recognition of performance results".

Really ! Given the circumstances, the best these folks should have expected is to keep their jobs, let alone being given a raise plus bonuses.

Wage Freeze Re-defined

What makes this even more offensive, is the fact that Dalton McGuinty and his finance minister announced a two year pay freeze for the broader public sector in its most recent budget. Apparently the McGuinty government's definition of "pay freeze" is less frigid than most Ontarians would have expected.

Here is how Government Services Minister Harinder Takhar explained the melting of the so-called wage freeze when asked about it during Question Period: "We are freezing the grid. You can move within the grid if your performance is OK".

So, a wage freeze isn't really a freeze at all, and the government considers wasting a billion dollars 'OK' enough to merit a pay increase and bonuses.

This is the same government that's responsible for sky-rocketing hydro rates, the HST that's been slapped onto everything we touch and adds another 10 cents a litre to the cost of gas, and an unending string of fees that keep picking our pockets at every turn. And the same government admits that it will spend $16.7 billion more than it expects to get in revenues this year.  The least we should expect is that it would hold the line on its own internal spending, but it wasn't until this eHealth Scandal: Act Two was exposed, and the PC Leader, Tim Hudak demanded that these pay increases be cancelled, that this was even considered an issue for the McGuinty government.

The best the Minister of Health could muster in response to questions in the legislature, was to commit to a "review" of the matter. And you saw the lame explanation offered by the Minister of Government Services.

Raises and bonuses cancelled !

Thanks to this fiasco being exposed and the demands for the raises and bonuses to be scrapped, the CEO of eHealth was ultimately forced to announce that the raises and bonuses would in fact, be reversed. The savings to taxpayers this year ?

Five Million Dollars.

The question remains, how many other deals like this are hidden throughout the McGuinty government's layers of agencies, boards and commissions ? And why did it take a newspaper and the Official Opposition to force this reversal ? Just how out of touch has this government become with its own operations, let alone Ontario families ?

Ontario families deserve better.

As always, I welcome your comments and advice. Please feel free to contact me through my website at frankklees.com or by calling 905 750 0019.