Statement by Frank Klees
Over the past two years, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts conducted its investigation into the Ornge Air Ambulance scandal.
Over that two year period, the Committee heard testimony from 85 witnesses over 40 hearing days covering some 147 hours of formal examination of testimony and evidence.
In addition to those formal proceedings, Committee members and their staff, the Clerk of the Committee and the Research Offers and their staff invested hundreds of hours reviewing thousands of documents, analyzing the testimony of witnesses and engaging law enforcement authorities, professional colleges and oversight bodies such as Transport Canada in the investigation.
On Thursday May 1st, the Public Accounts Committee signed off on a report that summarizes the work and findings of the Committee over that two year period.
I want to commend my colleagues from all three parties who participated in those hearings, which resulted in what I believe is one of the most insightful, informative and constructive reports ever tabled in the Ontario legislature.
The Chair of the Committee, Norm Miller, was scheduled to table that report in the legislature on Monday, May 5th.
Anticipating that the tabling of that report might be thwarted by the early dissolution of the legislature, I made a point of raising this issue with the Premier during Question Period on May 1st.
Here is what I asked the Premier -
“Regardless of the timing of an election, will the Premier commit that that report will be tabled?”
Here’s what she said in response:
“….from my perspective, it’s important that we all see what’s in that report and that we find a way to make sure it’s shared.”
I agree. As does every member of the Committee that produced that report. It’s important to note that this was a unanimous report. There was not a dissenting voice to any of the findings.
Unfortunately by dissolving the legislature on May 2nd, Kathleen Wynne ensured that the report remains locked up with the Committee Clerk.
And depending on the composition of a future Public Accounts Committee, it may never see the light of day.
Given the continuing issues at Ornge, that’s unacceptable.
We have an ongoing criminal investigation of the Ornge scandal by the OPP.
I continue to get calls and emails from front line staff at Ornge who continue to express concerns relating to issues on the aviation side of the operation.
As recently as April 8th, I received an email from a pilot at the Moosonee base expressing concern about decisions that were being made regarding the commissioning of helicopters for that base, and his email concluded with these words, and I quote:
“….help us make the ministry wake up that Ornge can’t operate aviation”.
And when I raised this with the Minister of Health, I was accused of fear-mongering.
And this past week, Ornge is confronted with 17 charges under the Canada Labour Code citing that the non-compliance resulted in the deaths of front line staff.
Once again, I want to make it clear, that there was not one dissenting voice around the table when it came to the content of the report.
It contains 95 specific concerns that relate directly to decisions made at the most senior levels in the Ministry of Health that include
The failure of the Minister to respond to repeated warnings about Ornge mismanagement and health and safety risks
An oversight branch for the air ambulance service whose director and staff have no experience in either air or land ambulance
Deputy Ministers ignoring the advice of senior civil servants against proceeding with the Mazza scheme at the very outset,
instructing the Head of the Emergency Services Branch to stand down and take direction from Chris Mazza,
the ministry’s failure to exercise even the most basic of oversight responsibilities,
The report exposes Ornge board members for their failure to exercise their fiduciary responsibilities and calls for the government to pursue them to recover the millions of dollars wasted, and the report
- calls on the government to pursue Chris Mazza and other executives and professionals to recover funds that were syphoned into their pockets through their greed
And the report is very explicit that the flawed delivery model conceived by Chris Mazza, that puts the aviation operations of the air ambulance system into the hands of Ornge, is unsustainable.
We owe it to the front line first responders – the pilots, the paramedics, the dispatchers and administrators of Ornge to make this report public.
We owe it to the people of this province who depend on our air ambulance service to be there when they need it, to make this report public.
Every member of the Committee has a copy of the report.
It was the will of every member of the Committee that the report be made public. That is recorded on the minutes of the Committee.
The only reason it is not public today, is that the Premier asked the LG to dissolve the legislature two days before it was scheduled to be tabled.
I believe the people of this province should know what is in that report.
That’s why I feel compelled to release that report today.