A former Tory MPP has released a confidential legislative report into troubled ORNGE air ambulance, saying the public deserves to know the Liberal government ignored repeated warnings about the service.
Frank Klees on Monday also accused Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne of deliberately calling the election in hopes the 155-page report would be buried.
Klees, who did not seek re-election in Newmarket Aurora, told a teleconference the last thing the minority Liberal government wanted was another damning report.
“The report makes it clear that the Minister of Health, her deputies and others in the government were given numerous warnings about issues at ORNGE, but they were ignored,” Klees said in a release.
In Toronto, Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne said it’s the opposition’s fault the legislative committee report on ORNGE was not tabled.
“If Frank Klees had not voted against the budget along with the NDP then we would still be doing the business of government and that report would have been released,” said Wynne.
“That report on ORNGE was supported by the Liberal members on the committee and that interim report would have been released. But he along with his party and the NDP decided it was time for an election,” she said.
A recent federal report concluded that the pilots of an ORNGE air ambulance helicopter that crashed a year ago were improperly trained, lacked experience in night operations and should never have been paired together.
Federal health and safety investigators have slapped the agency with 17 charges.
The charges came almost a year to the day when the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter crashed soon after takeoff from its Moosonee, Ont., base on a night flight to pick up a patient.
The crash killed Capt. Don Filliter, first officer Jacques Dupuy and flight paramedics Dustin Dagenais and Chris Snowball.
The litany of charges paints a troubling picture of ORNGE’s aviation operations at the time of the May 31, 2013 accident.
“The 17 labour code charges against ORNGE confirm many of the findings related to safety concerns identified in the Public Accounts Committee Summary Report on ORNGE,” Klees said.
Klees said the public accounts committee’s unanimous report was to be released May 5 but was sidelined when the June 12 provincial election was called May 2.
Klees said he thought long and hard about releasing the report but decided Ontario voters deserved to know what the report has to say, adding he’s willing to face whatever fallout may come his way.
“This report has to be made public,” he said.
“The tabling of the Public Accounts Committee Report would have exposed the minister’s failure to exercise proper oversight and it would have provided direction to both the Ministry of Health and ORNGE to address the critical issues that continue to cause us grave concern.”
The report contains 95 specific findings dealing with a broad range of issues identified over the course of the committee’s investigation into the so-called ORNGE scandal.
A number of those findings focus on concerns about aviation operations and safety issues.
An Ontario Provincial Police investigation is conducting an ongoing investigation into a consulting deal that saw one of ORNGE founder Dr. Chris Mazza’s companies receive $4.7 million from an Italian firm that sold 12 helicopters to ORNGE. An additional $2 million was to have been paid, but that part of the deal did not go through.
“I believe now, more than ever, that Kathleen Wynne’s decision to dissolve her government on Friday May 2 was to avoid the release of this report,” Klees said.
“This behaviour is what we’ve come to expect from the McGuinty-Wynne Liberals. They keep information secret from the people of Ontario in order to protect their own political interests.”
Liberal house leader John Milloy, who is not seeking re-election, said Klees comments really speak to the “hypocrisy” of the Tories, who he said held up the minority Liberal government’s proposed legislation Bill 11 for more than a year, which he says, was to reform ORNGE in light of the spending scandals that enveloped the agency.
“In February 2013 the government introduced Bill 11, the Air Ambulance Amendment Act to further improve oversight at ORNGE, The PCs stall the bill in the house for two months before it was finally passed at second reading and sent to the General Government Committee. There the bill sat for more than a year. The PCs continually refused to allow hearings . . . and the bill was left on the order paper when the opposition forced an election last month,” Milloy told reporters in a teleconference.
And as for the legislative committee report, Milloy said it was the Tories and New Democrats who sparked the election.
“The report would have been released as planned if the PCs and the NDP didn’t force this unnecessary election.”
- With files from Robert Benzie, Toronto Star Queen’s Park Bureau Chief