Ontario's Progressive Conservatives are accusing Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne of calling the June 12 election to bury a highly critical report into Ontario's troubled Ornge air ambulance service.
Former Tory MPP Frank Klees, who led the Opposition charge on allegations of corruption and mismanagement at Ornge, has released the confidential report of a legislative committee that was shelved by the election call.
- Read the Ornge committee report here
- Ontario Votes: Complete coverage
- Analysis: Leaders look to drive message home in debate
In a conference call with reporters on Monday, Klees said he's convinced Wynne dissolved the legislature on Friday, May 2 — even though elections can't officially start until a Wednesday — because the Ornge report was to be released Monday, May 5.
He says the report expresses concerns about decisions made at the most senior levels in the Ministry of Health, including "the failure of the minister to respond to repeated warnings about Ornge mismanagement and health and safety risks."
Klees says he was struggling with the fact that the unanimous committee report wasn't made public, and decided to release it after Ornge was hit with 17 labour code charges Friday stemming from a 2013 crash in Moosonee that claimed four lives.
"By dissolving the legislature on May 2, Kathleen Wynne ensured that the report remains locked up with the committee clerk," said Klees. "It may never see the light of day. Given the issues with Ornge, that's unacceptable. I believe that the people of this province should know what is in that report before they cast their vote on June 12."
Wynne dissolved the Legislature May 2 rather than wait for a vote on the budget because the PCs and the NDP indicated they would not support the budget if it was tabled in the Legislature.
“The report would have been released if the PCs and NDP didn’t force an unnecessary election,” the Liberals said in a media release. “We have to wonder whether Frank Klees slept through Andrea Horwath’s press conference on May 2 when she opposed the budget and forced an election.”
Hudak had long said he would not support the Liberal budget. Horwath didn’t attend the lockup May 1 and then the next day said she wouldn’t support the budget.
On Monday, Wynne blamed the PCs and NDP for the report not being tabled.
"If Frank Klees had not stood up to vote against the budget on the very day that it was introduced, then we would still be doing the business of government and that report would have been released," Wynne said. "For him to pretend, at this point, that this was a report that we ignored and that we were not interested in seeing having see the light of day, it's just not the case.
"The only reason that report was not released on May 5 is that we were into an election."
'New chapter' of Ornge
The Liberals say they support the committee report that was never tabled and claim Ornge service is improving.
“We have a new performance agreement in place with Ornge which has strengthened government oversight over Ornge,” the party said. “Ornge is now well into a new chapter, with a culture that puts patients first, respects taxpayers and values transparency and accountability.”
Klees, who is not seeking re-election, says he felt he owed it to the pilots and front-line staff at Ornge to make the 150-page report public.
"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," said Klees.
"And the report calls on the government to pursue [former Ornge CEO] Chris Mazza and executives and professionals to recover funds that were siphoned into their pockets through their greed."
Mazza collected $9.3 million over six years at Ornge as he created a complex web of for-profit and not-for-profit entities
related to the air ambulance service.
Ontario Provincial Police are currently conducting a criminal probe into financial irregularities at Ornge, which receives about $150 million from the province.
Executives at Ornge and its for-profit companies received $52.8 million between 2007 and 2011. Almost $2 million was paid to board directors, including former chairman Rainer Beltzner, whose compensation topped $232,757 in 2011.
Ontario's auditor general criticized the Liberals for failing to oversee Ornge after giving it $730 million over five years and allowing it to borrow another $300 million.
The Liberals insisted Ornge went rogue with its web of for-profit companies and questionable business deals, as well as exorbitant salaries and lavish expenses.