Frank Klees

Frankly Speaking

Frankly Speaking
Article by Frank Klees, MPP
As published in The Auroran April 10, 2012

How Long Can They Hide the Truth ?

"Speaker, it's clear that the wagons are being circled. The member for Willowdale was dispatched yesterday to obstruct the hearings to protect the Premier. The Government House Leader is scripted with embarrassing speaking notes to protect the Minister. The Premier refuses to answer questions. The Minister refuses to accept responsibility. The government refuses to respect the expressed will of the Legislature to form a Select Committee. And now, shame on the Government House Leader for refusing an expressed motion of the Public Accounts Committee to continue hearings next week.

I ask the Premier, just how long does he think and does the government think, that they can hide the truth ?"

........ That was my question at the top of Question Period this past Thursday, April 5th as recorded by Hansard. The answer only further confirmed, that the government is intent on making it as difficult as possible for the legislature to get to the bottom of who knew what and when about the scandal that was allowed to fester at Ornge.

(For those unfamiliar with the proceedings of the legislature, every word spoken during debate in the House or in Committee Hearings is recorded verbatim. Known as Hansard, the record of those proceedings can be accessed by the public through the Legislative Assembly's website at www.ontla.on.ca under the "Debates" tab. Webcast of the proceedings can also be accessed on the site.)

Obstruction of the Public Accounts Hearings ........

As referenced in my question, the scheduled proceedings of the Public Accounts Committee were obstructed when Liberal backbencher, David Zimmer, launched into a rambling discussion about the role that Counsel to the Committee should play during the course of the hearings. Had this been a legitimate concern, the issue could have been dealt with the previous day, rather than prevent the scheduled appearances of the witnesses at the hearing.

Seeing that the government members of the Committee had decided to use the role of the Committee's Counsel as a foil, I introduced a motion to immediately dismiss Counsel so that we could get on with the business of the Committee. As expected, that motion caught the government members' attention and we were eventually able to get on with the hearings, although an entire session of the hearings was lost.

Smitherman's sworn testimony contradicts the Health Minister .....

Among the menu of excuses proffered by the Minister of Health for not intervening at Ornge, was that her hands were tied because the Performance Agreement between the Ministry of Health and Ornge did not give her the authority to do so.

I was looking forward to asking Mr. Smitherman, who had signed that agreement when he was Minister of Health, if in his opinion that agreement rendered the Minister helpless.  In response to my question, as to whether that agreement gave the Minister of Health the authority to intervene, Mr. Smitherman responded....

“I don't draw the conclusion that the ministry's hands were tied."

Having studied that agreement in detail, I had every confidence that this would be the response. We were not even one hour into the hearings, and the Minister of Health's former colleague had confirmed under oath, what we have been saying for months - namely, that the Minister of Health had the authority and the responsibility to intervene in this scandalous abuse of the public trust and failed to do so.

McGuinty government refused to continue hearings ......

Given the time lost as a result of the Liberal MPPs' disruption of the scheduled hearings, the Public Accounts Committee passed a motion asking that the committee be allowed to sit during the Easter break week. (For those who have access to the internet, I encourage you to check out the webcast of the hearings at the point of the vote on this motion. You'll see Liberal MPP Liz Sandals, jabbing her colleague David Zimmer in the ribs to put his hand up to vote against the motion. (She was apparently not aware that while being interviewed by the media, he had already agreed to support the motion. Sadly, the best he could muster was to abstain, despite the injury to his ribs.) This video will be available on my web site here

Nevertheless, the Motion to continue the hearings during the break week was passed by the Committee because of that painful abstention. But it would be all for naught, because the Government House Leader refused to bring the Motion forward, citing that Liberal MPPs had made other plans for the week.

As I pointed out in the legislature, this was the second time that the government ignored the expressed will of the legislature on a matter related to this scandal.

As much as the government may want to cover up the fact that the Minister of Health failed in her responsibility to protect the public interest, we are committed to exposing the truth.

Why are we pursuing this issue so relentlessly ?

First, because we believe the public has a right to know who was responsible for allowing this scandal to fester and based on what I'm hearing from my constituents, you want those responsible to be held accountable.  Most important, we have a responsibility to ensure that the oversight of our health care system is in competent hands.

As always, I welcome your comments and advice. You can contact me through my website at www.frank-klees.on.ca or by calling 905 750 0019.

Other details on Ornge