Pan Am Audit of TO2015 highlights Ontario Liberal ineptitude

Credit Sun Media Files. Click for link.

Credit Sun Media Files. Click for link. LtoR — Ian Troop, Minister Michael Chan, Premier Kathleen Wynn.

The Pan Am audit and subsequent spending by the TO2015 team is a perfect confluence of Ontario Liberal Government entitlement and ineptitude. As today’s Sun’s editorial states: (H/T newswatchcanada.ca under “Games-Gate”):

“Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government can no longer claim it was in the dark about expense account abuses by Pan Am Games committee executives until a few week ago.

Not when we now know, thanks to reporting by Sun Queen’s Park columnist Sue-Ann Levy, that these abuses were clearly documented in a July 2012 audit of the Pan Am committee done by Ontario’s finance ministry.

Government auditors reported, a year ago, that Pan Am executives were taking each other out to dinner, improperly calling them business meals, and billing taxpayers for it.”

Truly, entitlement is a Liberal disease. Billions wasted. Remember eHealth? Ornge? Gas plant cancellations? The energy file (e.g., paying for wind energy they can’t use)? The list goes on.

Yet, apart from Levy and a few others (e.g., Keith Leslie of the Canadian Press — (H/T Jack’s Newswatch), as I wrote here yesterday, it seems that many in the mainstream media would rather ignore the ineptitude and mismanagement of the Ontario Liberal government in order to concentrate on rumours and allegations concerning the Conservatives in Ottawa.

Yet, Ontario Liberal ineptitude starts at the top. As Levy reported in yesterday’s Saturday Sun, Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister, Michael Chan “has repeatedly claimed to the [estimates] committee and during Question Period this past week that he only got word of these expense abuses three weeks ago when documents were delivered to the Toronto Sun in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.”

Then, there is this. Levy writes: “In response to questions last week, TO2015 spokesman Teddy Katz claimed they passed this audit and another one done by the feds on their capital projects, with ‘flying colours.'” Levy continues: “Katz stood by what he said, noting Friday night that the audit found ‘minor examples’ of non-compliance requiring ‘minor adjustments.'” But Levy found little evidence of any such adjustments since the audit.

So, given the sources I have used, let’s review what we now know:

  • The base annual salary for CEO Ian Troop is $390,000, although he was given an $87,000 bonus last year on top of that — for what I don’t know since the games are still two years away.
  • The CEO Ian Troop is also guaranteed a $780,000 bonus if the games come in on time and on budget — although I imagine he will get the bonus even if those criteria are not met.
  • A total of 63 other Pan Am executives earn between $190,000 and $250,000. Why on earth does the TO2015 team need that many managers? Not only do they each make a quarter of a million dollars a year, each will allegedly be eligible for bonuses up to 50% of their annual pay when the games are over. Why? For doing their jobs? Apparently, half the bonus will be for staying on the job and half for performance. Excuse me?  The first half sounds very much like a type of bribery to not quit.
  • Then, there is the travel. In the fall of 2011, 10 members went to Guadalajara to observe their games — with some going back and forth as many as six times. Can you imagine how much all those trips cost? Sure, send two or three team members once, but ten members several times? Which makes me wonder if any marital partners or children went along as well.
  • However, that was not the end of the exotic travel. Some senior executives also jetted to St. Kitts, Jamaica, Miami, Mexico and the Cayman Islands, ostensibly to attend sports assemblies and meetings. Why? Are there not video conference services available?
  • In 2010, the VP of Operations, Alan Vansen moved to Toronto from Vancouver to fill his $303,529 job and expensed $630.04 to rent a car for house hunting. He also expensed other personal costs as well — such as $53.76 to Canada Post. Which brings to mind the question: Was $303,529 not enough for him to pay for the rerouting of his mail?
  • There were the endless dinner meetings, including several pricey ones hosted in London, Glasgow and Guadalajara that are alleged to have been only between members of the TO2015 team.
  • Then there is the forgotten budget items. The $1.4 billion dollar budget DOES NOT INCLUDE $700 million to build the athletes’ village or the $10 million for the provincial Pan Am secretariat.

Look, hosting games are expensive. I know that. And, Ontario taxpayers know that. But, assuming local businesses in Toronto make millions during the games, will those millions go only to private business owners or will Ontario taxpayers be getting a partial refund for any of the $1.4 billion (plus the billion not budgeted for) spent on our dime?

We all know the answer to that don’t we.

Well, if this latest ineptitude is not enough to cause Ontario voters to throw the bums out, I don’t know what will.

Update October 6th, 4pm: Check out Joanne’s latest post at Blue Like You. She has put up a video of Global’s Focus Ontario that covers a discussion between host Alan Carter and John Tory’s about the Pan Am audit debacle. Talk about entitlements! Anyway, they actually do a fair and balanced job of the coverage, including throwing in PC MPP Peter Sherman’s entitlement to expense his Niagara-on-the-Lake residence. Anyway, once the advertisement is finished, the discussion in question starts at the 2:06 minute mark and goes to 8:40.

Further Update October 8th, 4:00pm: Speaking of Ontario Liberal ineptitude, we find out this afternoon from the Ontario Auditor General that the Oakville and Mississauga gas plant cancellations cost taxpayers $1.1 billion — or $675 million if possible future savings are realized — so that Liberal MPPs could save their seats. In other words, this public money went to indirectly benefit the Liberal Party of Ontario.  Here is the link to Sun Media’s coverage.  Here also is a link to Blue Like You where people can carry on a discussion.

Premier McGuinty: Lloyd Denner, Jr., blind & autistic, needs your help!

St. Catharines Standard

This post is about Lloyd Denner, Jr., a Niagara area young man who has both autism and is blind. When I read this St. Catharines Standard article about his family’s plight, I remembered what I wrote before on the topic of the closure of the Thistletown Regional Centre which had residential beds and meaningful programs for young adults like Lloyd.

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Social consensus key to Denmark embracing wind energy

Click on Spiegel image for photo album.

While this post is not about education per se, it is certainly educational. The topic?

Why wind energy is succeeding in Denmark compared to other countries (or provinces of other countries such as Ontario, Canada) that are wrapped up in protests and very expensive litigation.

In Denmark, according to an excellent article in Spiegel Online, it is succeeding because there is a social consensus on global warming and the need for alternative sources of electricity. There is also:

(1) A provision for financial and other incentives for everyone involved in a community affected by wind turbines;

(2) A provision for energy co-operatives and wind project auctions via a tendering process (suggesting no one is getting rich off taxpayers);

(3) Compensation when real estate values are adversely affected by the installation of wind turbines;

(4) A great deal of “meaningful” public consultation; and

(5) A democratic government and bureaucracy that actually seems to listen to people.

In Ontario, on the other hand, we have the Green Energy Act and wind farms are a bane to civilization as we know it. Just double the population of Denmark and such a difference. In Ontario, the Act itself is partially to blame, as few appeals are allowed, as is the unilateral “my way or the highway” attitude of the McGuinty government. And, of those appeals concerning zoning that find their way to the Ontario Municipal Board, most lose in favour of the wind turbines. I mean, not even local municipal councils can impact a decision related to the Act.

Now compare that paternalistic attitude to what is going on Denmark. On page 3 of the Spiegel article, it states:

Wind parks [note they are not called wind farms], particularly on land, also have their opponents in Denmark. But then the government goes about making the wind turbines more appealing to locals. The agency offers incentives: A portion of the profits from the wind energy generated flows back into the communities, where it’s used for environmental projects. ‘That’s a nice additional source of income for them,’ [Hanne] Windemuller says [a legal expert for the Danish Energy Agency].

If the construction of a wind turbine threatens to erode the value of nearby real estate, the owners receive compensation. Furthermore, the state acts as a guarantor should a local operator association go bankrupt [which, no doubt would still be less expensive than huge subsidies and law suits]. ‘This takes away the locals’ anxieties about joining forces and investing in wind power.’

An added benefit is that there are not as many wind-power-related lawsuits in Denmark as there are in Germany. Instead, there are two boards to hear citizens’ objections, each of which is presided over by a judge. ‘Anyone who has objections can voice them there,’ Windemuller says. It takes between six months and a year for the arbiter to reach a decision, and there are no provisions for appeal. ‘As far as I know, a lawsuit has never been brought before a normal court,’ says Windemuller, as she enters the conference room right on time for her next meeting.” [My highlighting and comments in square brackets.]

My conclusions? It’s not only about ideology. It’s about laws and government policy. However, I doubt we (who live in one of Canada’s provinces or territories) will learn from the successes of other countries like Denmark, because at its core, the majority of Canadians are not convinced the planet is warming, let alone that it is due to human causes. I do tend to accept the warming part, just not the aspect that developed countries are to blame, as that whole issue was too closely aligned with cap-and-trade systems and other wealth redistribution programs.

But, I do envy Denmark in the way it is handling things. A recipe for modern democracy indeed!

Port Elgin’s single CAW wind turbine vs Scarborough Bluffs wind projects cancellation

A local citizen of Port Elgin, with a blog called Quixote’s Last Stand, has put up a billboard to complain about the CAW’s wind turbine. I wrote about this controversy last winter and, although I am no longer writing about politics, thought I would at least do a follow-up since I got an e-mail about this issue this morning.

I understand the frustration of the people of Port Elgin because the turbine in question is smack right in the middle of the town, thus affecting the surrounding homes, businesses and recreation areas. The CAW turbine is not only noisy but unsightly as well.

However, the problem is that the train has already left the station. As such, the CAW is unlikely to ever have to take the turbine down– unless the federal government’s study on the possible health effects finds it too close to Port Elgin’s residents. 

In fact,  even if there was an Ontario election and change in Ontario’s governing party, nothing would change in this situation because the costs of a lawsuit would be prohibitive for Ontario taxpayers.   

CAW Education Centre, Port Elgin

I mean, read the claims the CAW make on their website.  If those claims are correct, and I have no reason to doubt them, their single wind turbine is now generating up to 50-60% of their Port Elgin Education Centre’s energy needs.

Now, let’s compare the CAW turbine result with what happened to the Scarborough Bluffs wind turbine projects.

In 2010 the McGuinty government said it planned to allow a number of offshore wind projects in Lake Ontario, not far from the Scarborough Bluffs. Well, the Toronto Save Our Shorelines (SOS) lobbyists had something to say about that and fought hard.

So, it was not really a surprise when, a few months before the 2011 Ontario election, the project was cancelled. The reason for the cancellation?  Apparently, the science was not settled or some such excuse. However, the more likely reason was because the MPP for Scarborough Centre was Brad Duguid, the Liberal Energy Minister at that time, and the looming election campaign.

However, let’s face it, politics is at play all the time. Even if the PCs or NDP had been in power in Scarborough, the offshore projects would have been cancelled or at the very least been part of a broader moratorium.  Of course, if there had been a PC government at the time the CAW first put up the turbine, it too would have been cancelled due to a moratorium. But, as the people of Huron Bruce already know, the PCs did not win a majority government in October 2011.

So, at this point, regarding the CAW wind turbine in Port Elgin, whether it is a Liberal, PC or NDP government in Ontario now or in the near future, unless it can be proven that turbines have a direct impact on human health, nothing significant is likely to change.

OHIP still not funding out of-country eye treatment for Liam Reid

Liam Reid & parents Dave & Kristina

As  I wrote on this blog a few months ago (found here and here), bureaucrats within the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) still have not approved out-of-country funding for 3-year-old Liam Reid to get the specialized eye treatments he needs to slow down or halt his blindness.

As those who have been following this travesty know, Liam is suffering from Norrie’s disease — officially called Persistent Fetal Vasculature Syndrome. The symptoms of the genetic condition is blindness at birth or soon after, as well as possible hearing loss and developmental delays.

In Liam’s case, his parents are trying desperately to slow down or stop total blindness, as well as the possible physical deformities that can result from the disease.

What is particularly disgraceful is that one other Ontario child with the same disorder is receiving out-of-country funding.  Yet, the Ontario government is causing unnecessary stress and financial pain to the Reid’s (including having to hire a lawyer). Why? Why fund the one and not the other? Why such favouritism?

Well, whatever the reasons for the OHIP unfairness, as Christina Blizzard writes today, Liam’s parents, Dave and Kristina have been able to pay for another desperately needed treatment because strangers came through with donations. While Blizzard thanks Sun readers for donating, I would also like to thank those who donated via Crux of the Matter.

However, in spite of the unhelpful way OHIP officials are behaving, Blizzard reports excellent news following the most recent treatment. According to Dr. Trese, the Michigan eye surgeon who is working with Liam, he has seen eyes like Liam’s left eye be able to read large print. And, without a doubt, some sight is better than no sight.  

So, let’s continue to keep the pressure on OHIP, as well as Premier Dalton McGuinty and Health Minister Deb Matthews. The crux of the matter is that if out-of-province OHIP funding was found for another child with the same condition as Liam, it should be provided for him as well.  As I have said before, if the Ontario government has money to waste on e-Health and Ornge Ambulance boondoggles, they have more than enough to pay $5,000 once a year or so for sight saving treatment.

In the meantime, people can donate or to get involved in the discussion at either Liam’s blog page, Facebook page, or Twitter page.

Well done OECTA! However, entitlement of public teachers’ unions insulting…

Update July 11, 2012:

Christina Blizzard has a column in the Toronto Sun today on the OECTA settlement issue. However, she and others seem to misunderstand how a teacher’s salary grid works.  Blizzard seems to think that when young teachers move up the grid, they are getting a raise. They are not. A raise is an across-the-board percentage increase over so many years which is given to everyone, including those who have reached the top of the grid for both education and years of service (which usually stops at around eleven years).  

Rather, a teacher only moves up the grid for two reasons: (1) they have worked for one more year, which is usually a very small increase, and/or (2) their qualifications have changed.

For example, there are usually four levels on a grid. The first level is to have both an undergraduate and education degree, the second level includes an Honours Degree (fourth year with a minimum of a B average), the third level an Honours Degree and a Additional Qualification Specialist Certificate (e.g., special education or computers in the classroom). The fourth and final level usually include a Master of Education degree over and above the other degrees and certificates.

So, if someone should move from Level One or Two to Four because they finish an M.Ed., that would account for the $7000.00. Otherwise, grid movement is much slower. There is also the issue that in the first year of such a raise, the extra money simply reimburses the many thousands paid in tuition costs — for no other reason than to improve their teaching.

In other words, the OECTA freeze really is a freeze and to suggest it isn’t is not fair to all those teachers who are simply following the rules to upgrade their expertise and qualifications. I mean, it takes several years to complete a Master’s part-time. So, if school boards are going to change grid movement criteria, they should at least grandfather those who have begun the process.

Yes, I will criticize teachers and their entitlement assumptions when I think criticism is due but I will defend when the information provided in the media or blogosphere is incorrect or misleading.

[…]

As everyone who has anything to do with education in Ontario knows by now, the Catholic teacher’s union has come to an agreement with the Province.  What we also know is that the other public school unions, OSSTF and ETFO, and their members, are outraged! In fact, I have been getting into some interesting Twitter debates with fellow educators, over the matter. For example, check out the hashtag #oecta and @SandysEdInfo.

Well, I must commend OECTA for making the decision to compromise in their bargaining with the Province for the sake of the younger teachers, who will now be able to move ahead on the salary grid.

However, on Twitter, the provincial OECTA are being called Judases because they have supposedly betrayed their colleagues in OSSTF and ETFO by agreeing to a two-year wage freeze. Two years and you would think the sky is falling. Since younger teachers are still going to get raises per their year’s of service, I assume it is teachers in the mid or later ranks that are upset. However, even suppose you are in your last five years before retiring, how much difference will a freeze make? I mean, teacher’s pensions are indexed, so they would catch up very quickly.  

Certainly, you can expect this kind of thing. I recall when the 1997 strike ended, it was ETFO who buckled first and OECTA was as outraged then as OSSTF and ETFO are now. But, perhaps what bothers me the most is the over-reaction and grandstanding.

  • Collective bargaining is dead!
  • You can never get back what you lose!
  • Asking for concessions is insulting!

Insulting? To whom? What absolute nonsense!

I started teaching in September 1972, exactly 40 years ago. During that four decade period, concessions were made many times. Sometimes it was to help the younger teachers. Sometimes it was to ignore them. For example, in the Board I taught with, sick leave gratuity was frozen years ago but in a way that benefitted those who would retire over the next ten years. Sometimes prep time was bargained away for a salary increase. Other times the other way around.

A year before my husband and I retired, major medical insurance in retirement was cancelled. So, today you have some teachers who have coverage and the rest of us who pay several hundred dollars a month for it. Why? So teachers still in the system could have more prep time.  So, compromise and concessions are nothing new. But, to listen to the whining now, you would think that teachers’ entitlements should never be touched, even when times are tough.

Look, I am not going to be a hypocrite about this. I am retired and very appreciative of my publicly funded pension. (It is reduced because I withdrew some credits when my children were born and I left half way through my career to teach in two university settings). Yet, I am embarrassed at the depth of the entitlement attitude displayed by so many on Twitter.

For heavens sake people, get over yourselves. You are public servants and all that means.  You are no more special than Ontario’s doctors who are taking some major hits.  A bit of humility would go a long way towards some public respect and sympathy.

Whatever, please realize that to the general public, it is your entitled attitude that is insulting.

Update from Yahoo News.

Health minister Matthews deflects blame to Hudak for cancellation of West Lincoln?

West Lincoln Hospital

When I read this article in the St. Catharines Standard, I just couldn’t believe the anti-PC bias in the way it is written. 

It is about the recent cancellation of a renewed West Lincoln hospital project in Grimsby and was written on May 4th, 2012 by Standard staff Jeff Bolichowski and Shawn Jeffords.

Basically, even though Bolichowski and Jeffords admit they couldn’t reach Ontario Liberal government Health Minister Deb Matthews, they use her words from a CKTB radio interview that deflects blame for the change in status to PC Official Opposition Leader Tim Hudak.

Given that media treatment, is it any wonder Ontarians keep electing the McGuinty Liberal government? For example, Bolichowski and Jeffords wrote:

After taking several swipes at PC Leader and Niagara West-Glanbrook MPP Tim Hudak, Matthews said when the economy took a hard turn the government had to review all spending.’This project will, at some point, move forward. I’m sure of that,’ she said.” [My highlighting.]

“Matthews slammed Hudak for remaining ‘completely silent’ on the issue until the rally. She said at that point he began to pressure the Liberals in question period at Queen’s Park. ‘He’s never raised the issue of West Lincoln, ever,’ she said.” [My highlighting.]

Never raised the issue, ever? Yet, she admits in the same interview that Hudak did ask questions this past week after the rally.  I mean, as long as the project was going ahead, what should Hudak have asked the Health Minister: “Are you lying about the hospital going ahead?”

No, this is simply double-speak and deflecting criticism! And the media allows her to get away with it! In fact, even now, after the huge rally of 12,000 people, the Liberals are spinning, saying the West Lincoln project is only on hold.

In the final analysis, what does Hudak have to do with the decision anyway? He is the leader of the opposition, not in the governing party.

 I mean, shouldn’t the media be asking Matthews why the $1.2 billion mega hospital in Finance Minister Dwight Duncan’s riding is still going ahead– particularly since the people of West Lincoln have already raised the $14.5 million asked of them by the same government that is now, allegedly, reneging on the project?

For those unfamiliar with the West Lincoln Hospital, it is a very old hospital that, even in its current condition, is home to a wonderful obstetrics team. My granddaughter has had two children there. In fact, women from all over Niagara prefer to go there to have their babies than to hospitals in the larger centres.

Why? Because it is friendly and allows mid-wives, doulas (birth coaches) and fathers to provide support alongside an obstetrician.