McMeekin sees no comparisons between eHealth and OLG

News Sep 04, 2009 Ancaster News

Hamilton’s Liberal cabinet minister defends his government’s quick response to the emerging scandal at OLG, saying the Liberals are operating in an open and transparent manner.

“When you mess up, you fess up,” said Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale Liberal MPP Ted McMeekin. “OLG is a difficult challenge.”

In the wake of the second scandal involving a provincial agency billing taxpayers with excessive expenses, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced all employees of boards, agencies and commissions will have their expenses reviewed by the provincial integrity commissioner.

If they are not accepted, the employees will be required to repay the money. The boards and agencies affected include the LCBO, Hydro One, the Ontario Racing Commission and the Ontario Power Authority.

Mr. McMeekin, Ontario’s government services minister, dismissed the idea there is a “pattern of abuse” among the province’s agencies.

He refused to compare the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation expenses to what occurred at eHealth, where senior employees billed taxpayers for snacks and sole-sourced millions of dollars in contracts to Liberal-supported consultants.

Earlier this week Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, in an attempt to pre-empt the Progressive Conservatives in releasing expense-related documents when the Legislature returns Sept. 14, fired with cause OLG chief executive officer Kelly McDougald.

In addition, the entire OLG board, including chair Michael Gough resigned, and was replaced by senior government bureaucrats.

Ms. McDougald, hired Oct. 2007 to improve the culture at OLG, will not receive a severance. She made last year $411,000.

In 2007 Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin reported OLG had allowed unscrupulous retailers to collect tens of millions of dollars in winnings.

During Ms. McDougald’s tenure, her agency was rapped for awarding foreign-made Mercedes-Benz cars as casino prizes while the province was bailing out General Motors.

Mr. Duncan has also asked Auditor-General Jim Carter to review expenses governing travel, meals and hospitality for all boards, agencies and commissions.

A few of the expenses OLG executives billed taxpayers included $1.12 for a cloth grocery bag, $7.70 for a pen refill, $30 for a car wash, alcohol charges, which are prohibited under government policy, and a $3,713.77 bill for dinner and Sound of Music tickets.

Hamilton East-Stoney Creek NDP MP Paul Miller says the OLG misuse of taxpayer money points to an entrenched oversight problem by the Liberals over various boards and agencies.

“This is about damage control,” he said. “There are some inadequacies here that need to be addressed. This is a continuing problem. Where there is smoke, there is fire.”

He predicts taxpayers should stay tuned to the Ontario Legislature when MPPs reconvene later this month after a summer of scandals, and questions over merging the harmonized sales tax.

“It will be an interesting time,” he said. Mr. McMeekin said the Liberals are committed to finding problems in government agencies and solving them, most recently in the inspection policies of the Technical Standards and Safety Authority involving propane tanks, and implementing better protection for travelers when a tour operator or travel agent goes out of business under the Travel Industry Council of Ontario.

Lost her job

But it is the eHealth scandal that the OLG is being compared to by opposition politicians. EHealth CEO Sarah Kramer lost her job in June, but received $316,670 in severance from her $380,000 salary.

“I don’t see a pattern,” said Mr. McMeekin, referring to the agencies’ expense problems. “I see a pattern of better oversight by the government and not letting these things fester. You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

Premier Dalton McGuinty apologized to the public in July for the eHealth scandal and instituted polices to fix the procurement and expense-related issues.

“We are fixing what is wrong as quickly as possible, and as transparent as possible,” said Mr. McMeekin.

McMeekin sees no comparisons between eHealth and OLG

News Sep 04, 2009 Ancaster News

Hamilton’s Liberal cabinet minister defends his government’s quick response to the emerging scandal at OLG, saying the Liberals are operating in an open and transparent manner.

“When you mess up, you fess up,” said Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale Liberal MPP Ted McMeekin. “OLG is a difficult challenge.”

In the wake of the second scandal involving a provincial agency billing taxpayers with excessive expenses, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced all employees of boards, agencies and commissions will have their expenses reviewed by the provincial integrity commissioner.

If they are not accepted, the employees will be required to repay the money. The boards and agencies affected include the LCBO, Hydro One, the Ontario Racing Commission and the Ontario Power Authority.

Mr. McMeekin, Ontario’s government services minister, dismissed the idea there is a “pattern of abuse” among the province’s agencies.

He refused to compare the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation expenses to what occurred at eHealth, where senior employees billed taxpayers for snacks and sole-sourced millions of dollars in contracts to Liberal-supported consultants.

Earlier this week Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, in an attempt to pre-empt the Progressive Conservatives in releasing expense-related documents when the Legislature returns Sept. 14, fired with cause OLG chief executive officer Kelly McDougald.

In addition, the entire OLG board, including chair Michael Gough resigned, and was replaced by senior government bureaucrats.

Ms. McDougald, hired Oct. 2007 to improve the culture at OLG, will not receive a severance. She made last year $411,000.

In 2007 Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin reported OLG had allowed unscrupulous retailers to collect tens of millions of dollars in winnings.

During Ms. McDougald’s tenure, her agency was rapped for awarding foreign-made Mercedes-Benz cars as casino prizes while the province was bailing out General Motors.

Mr. Duncan has also asked Auditor-General Jim Carter to review expenses governing travel, meals and hospitality for all boards, agencies and commissions.

A few of the expenses OLG executives billed taxpayers included $1.12 for a cloth grocery bag, $7.70 for a pen refill, $30 for a car wash, alcohol charges, which are prohibited under government policy, and a $3,713.77 bill for dinner and Sound of Music tickets.

Hamilton East-Stoney Creek NDP MP Paul Miller says the OLG misuse of taxpayer money points to an entrenched oversight problem by the Liberals over various boards and agencies.

“This is about damage control,” he said. “There are some inadequacies here that need to be addressed. This is a continuing problem. Where there is smoke, there is fire.”

He predicts taxpayers should stay tuned to the Ontario Legislature when MPPs reconvene later this month after a summer of scandals, and questions over merging the harmonized sales tax.

“It will be an interesting time,” he said. Mr. McMeekin said the Liberals are committed to finding problems in government agencies and solving them, most recently in the inspection policies of the Technical Standards and Safety Authority involving propane tanks, and implementing better protection for travelers when a tour operator or travel agent goes out of business under the Travel Industry Council of Ontario.

Lost her job

But it is the eHealth scandal that the OLG is being compared to by opposition politicians. EHealth CEO Sarah Kramer lost her job in June, but received $316,670 in severance from her $380,000 salary.

“I don’t see a pattern,” said Mr. McMeekin, referring to the agencies’ expense problems. “I see a pattern of better oversight by the government and not letting these things fester. You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

Premier Dalton McGuinty apologized to the public in July for the eHealth scandal and instituted polices to fix the procurement and expense-related issues.

“We are fixing what is wrong as quickly as possible, and as transparent as possible,” said Mr. McMeekin.

McMeekin sees no comparisons between eHealth and OLG

News Sep 04, 2009 Ancaster News

Hamilton’s Liberal cabinet minister defends his government’s quick response to the emerging scandal at OLG, saying the Liberals are operating in an open and transparent manner.

“When you mess up, you fess up,” said Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale Liberal MPP Ted McMeekin. “OLG is a difficult challenge.”

In the wake of the second scandal involving a provincial agency billing taxpayers with excessive expenses, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced all employees of boards, agencies and commissions will have their expenses reviewed by the provincial integrity commissioner.

If they are not accepted, the employees will be required to repay the money. The boards and agencies affected include the LCBO, Hydro One, the Ontario Racing Commission and the Ontario Power Authority.

Mr. McMeekin, Ontario’s government services minister, dismissed the idea there is a “pattern of abuse” among the province’s agencies.

He refused to compare the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation expenses to what occurred at eHealth, where senior employees billed taxpayers for snacks and sole-sourced millions of dollars in contracts to Liberal-supported consultants.

Earlier this week Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, in an attempt to pre-empt the Progressive Conservatives in releasing expense-related documents when the Legislature returns Sept. 14, fired with cause OLG chief executive officer Kelly McDougald.

In addition, the entire OLG board, including chair Michael Gough resigned, and was replaced by senior government bureaucrats.

Ms. McDougald, hired Oct. 2007 to improve the culture at OLG, will not receive a severance. She made last year $411,000.

In 2007 Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin reported OLG had allowed unscrupulous retailers to collect tens of millions of dollars in winnings.

During Ms. McDougald’s tenure, her agency was rapped for awarding foreign-made Mercedes-Benz cars as casino prizes while the province was bailing out General Motors.

Mr. Duncan has also asked Auditor-General Jim Carter to review expenses governing travel, meals and hospitality for all boards, agencies and commissions.

A few of the expenses OLG executives billed taxpayers included $1.12 for a cloth grocery bag, $7.70 for a pen refill, $30 for a car wash, alcohol charges, which are prohibited under government policy, and a $3,713.77 bill for dinner and Sound of Music tickets.

Hamilton East-Stoney Creek NDP MP Paul Miller says the OLG misuse of taxpayer money points to an entrenched oversight problem by the Liberals over various boards and agencies.

“This is about damage control,” he said. “There are some inadequacies here that need to be addressed. This is a continuing problem. Where there is smoke, there is fire.”

He predicts taxpayers should stay tuned to the Ontario Legislature when MPPs reconvene later this month after a summer of scandals, and questions over merging the harmonized sales tax.

“It will be an interesting time,” he said. Mr. McMeekin said the Liberals are committed to finding problems in government agencies and solving them, most recently in the inspection policies of the Technical Standards and Safety Authority involving propane tanks, and implementing better protection for travelers when a tour operator or travel agent goes out of business under the Travel Industry Council of Ontario.

Lost her job

But it is the eHealth scandal that the OLG is being compared to by opposition politicians. EHealth CEO Sarah Kramer lost her job in June, but received $316,670 in severance from her $380,000 salary.

“I don’t see a pattern,” said Mr. McMeekin, referring to the agencies’ expense problems. “I see a pattern of better oversight by the government and not letting these things fester. You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

Premier Dalton McGuinty apologized to the public in July for the eHealth scandal and instituted polices to fix the procurement and expense-related issues.

“We are fixing what is wrong as quickly as possible, and as transparent as possible,” said Mr. McMeekin.