Ontario Liberal insiders getting contracts: Tories
TORONTO - Ontario's Liberal government is again rewarding party insiders with lucrative consulting contracts while local health networks are also doling out cash to consultants, the Opposition charged Thursday.
Public accounts show the Liberal caucus services fund paid $100,000 to Liberal party vice-president Christine McMillan and $400,000 to polling firm Pollara, whose former president, Don Guy, is Premier Dalton McGuinty's campaign manager.
Another consulting firm, Arrow Communications, whose president Marcel Wider co-ordinates Liberal-friendly campaign ads, received $223,000 from the fund last year.
"Rewarding Liberal friends and insiders with cushy, untendered contracts is bad enough; using Ontario families' hard earned money to pay Dalton McGuinty's campaign team is an insulting violation of the public trust," said Progressive Conservative critic Lisa MacLeod.
"The Liberal culture of entitlement has got to stop."
The Tories said the consulting contracts are proof the Liberals didn't learn anything from last year's scandal at eHealth Ontario, where more than $1 billion was wasted, much of it on untendered contracts for consultants.
Similar problems have cropped up at other provincial agencies under the Liberal government, said MacLeod.
"From eHealth to Cancer Care Ontario to the so-called Local Health Integration Networks, the PC caucus has caught Dalton McGuinty time and again handing out Ontario families' hard-earned money to his Liberal friends and consultants," she said.
"They continue to cheat the system, they continue to abuse taxpayer dollars and they continue to think they can get away with it."
The Liberals said all parties use their caucus budgets to hire outside communications help, but they did not address the issue of Don Guy's company getting a $400,000 contract from the Liberals before he left Pollara to again run a Liberal election campaign.
"The government has reduced the amount of taxpayer dollars spent on consultants since taking power ... almost in half," said Kandice Ardiel of the Liberal caucus services bureau.
The Liberals also point out the Tories did exactly the same thing when they were in government, and released a lengthy list of Progressive Conservatives who were given lucrative contracts by previous Tory administrations.
The Tories admit their caucus has hired an outside consulting firm.
The government also released annual reports for the 14 Local Health Integration Networks on Thursday, showing most of them also spent a lot of taxpayers' money on outside consultants -- as much as $1.2 million by the Central East LHIN, most of it on eHealth projects.
The LHINs -- set up by the province -- have also come under fire for questionable decisions like hiring the Disney corporation for $10,900 to lead a 90-minute discussion at a meeting, a session the Liberal government ordered cancelled.
"Not only did they have this liking for consultants, the LHINs also show other attributes of eHealth that are nothing to be proud of," said NDP health critic France Gelinas.
"What were they thinking when they booked this gig from Disney at $7,000 an hour? Who does this with taxpayers' money?"
The Tories have vowed to scrap the LHINs if they win next year's election, while the New Democrats want the local health agencies to come under a formal review.
A recent report from the provincial ombudsman was severely critical of the LHINs, especially for passing "illegal" bylaws allowing them to meet in private.