Smitherman linked to sole-source contracts
Documents obtained by Ontario's Progressive Conservatives show the health ministry granted millions in sole-source contracts while Toronto mayoral candidate George Smitherman was in charge of the file.
The documents, contained by the Tories under the Freedom of Information Act, show that the health ministry approved at least $9.5 million in untendered consulting contracts between 2004 and 2009. The contracts were for a variety of projects, including information technology services.
Smitherman was health minister from late 2003 to June 20, 2008, at which point he took over the energy and infrastructure portfolio. After leaving the health ministry, he also sat on the management board of cabinet, a committee of ministers that has authority to approve sole source contracts.
During Smitherman's tenure as health minister, over $3 million in untendered contracts were given to health-care consulting firm Courtyard Group, the documents show.
Another $122,200-contract to Courtyard was approved by one of Smitherman's political staff members, Philip Demont.
"The rot certainly ended up in Minister Smitherman's office, as he then was," Progressive Conservative health critic Christine Elliott told reporters.
No wrong done: Smitherman
Smitherman's mayoral campaign has been dogged by questions about the controversy surrounding the eHealth program — a failed bid to create electronic health records for the province. Ontario Auditor General Jim McCarter criticized the program for handing out millions in untendered contracts.
But Smitherman has brushed off the criticism, saying eHealth Ontario wasn't created while he was minister.
Speaking Thursday at a campaign event in Toronto, Smitherman said he did nothing wrong, and that the Liberals have put an end to sole-source contracts.
"Sole-sourcing and untendered contracts are no longer possible," he told reporters at a campaign event in Toronto. "But all previous governments relied upon them and obviously that's not possible now. So the rules of the game have changed."
He said the release of the documents was politically motivated.
"Obviously, there are political opponents that want to make issue with something that happened on a previous watch."
A spokeswoman for Smitherman's rival in the mayoral race, Rob Ford, said the campaign was unaware the documents would be released Thursday.
"The voters and the taxpayers of Toronto are going to get a very clear message from this information today that George Smitherman has no fiscal credibility to be mayor of Toronto. He is incapable of handling a budget," said Adrienne Batra.
Ford, meanwhile, is set to release his full financial plan for Toronto on Friday morning.
Voters in Toronto go to the polls Oct. 25.