Poor oversight by the Ministry of Health led to a raft of aviation safety and financial problems at Ontario’s scandal-plagued ORNGE air ambulance service, says a legislative committee’s report officially released Thursday.
But the details have been known since early June when outgoing Progressive Conservative MPP Frank Klees, a member of the committee, leaked information to the media in the final days of the June 12 election campaign.
For months, MPPs have been pushing Premier Kathleen Wynne’s new majority government to unveil the report’s 95 findings centring on concerns the Liberal administration repeatedly ignored warnings about the service whose questionable business practices remain under OPP investigation.
Among other things, the Toronto Star revealed former chief executive and founder Dr. Chris Mazza was paid $1.4 million a year and a complex web of for-profit subsidiaries was created.
For example, Ontario Provincial Police are probing a consulting deal that saw one of Mazza’s companies receive $4.7 million from an Italian firm that sold 12 helicopters to ORNGE.
The 135-page report — released quietly while Wynne is on a trade mission to China — serves as a timely reminder the government failed to protect the interests of taxpayers, said opposition parties.
“Worst of all, the Liberals turned a blind eye, ignoring whistleblowers and allowing outrageous salaries and inappropriate spending to continue unchecked for years,” New Democrat MPP and health critic France Gélinas said in a statement.
The report was written last winter and spring in part by Liberal MPPs during Wynne’s minority government following three years of hearings with dozens of witnesses.
Committee members wrote that the Ministry of Health “was not diligent in pursuing ‘red flags’ indicative of potential problems at ORNGE,” such as refusing to disclose salaries, a lack of staff expertise in air ambulance oversight, and slow investigations of complaints.
Health Minister Eric Hoskins said the government has already taken steps to remedy troubles at ORNGE, including making it subject to freedom of information legislation and accountability measures so the service “has the right tools and oversight necessary.”