Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Great MisLeader?

McGuinty accused of misleading Queen's park, impeding access to information

Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak and NDP leader Andrea Horwath have gone after the throat of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty by filing a complaint with the Office of the Speaker of the House accusing McGuinty of misleading both the public and Queen's Park.

At the heart of the matter is the Premier's claim that PriceWaterhouseCoopers had been hired to conduct an independent investigation of the spending scandals at eHealth. Instead, McGuinty cancelled the probe.

“Not only did Dalton McGuinty do nothing to stop the spending abuses at eHealth, he misled Ontarians when he said he had any interest in getting to the bottom of the scandal. It is clear that Ontarians cannot trust him to fix the culture of entitlement that he himself created,” said Hudak.

“He misled Ontarians,” he added. “It is clear that Ontarians cannot trust him to fix the culture of entitlement that he himself created.”

If this weren't bad enough, today the NDP claimed that McGuinty's office was impeding Access to Information requests.

According to the NDP, McGuinty's office staff delayed the release of thousands of pages of Ontario Lottery Gaming Corporation financial records dealing with expense claims.

"This appears to be political interference of the highest order, with direct connection right back to the premier's office," Horwath said. "Clearly, [McGuinty] and his office were desperately, desperately trying to manage their way out of yet another expense scandal."

The source of the most recent accusation practically comes out of the mouth of Kelly McDougald, the fired CEO of the OLGC, who is claiming she was scapegoated and has launched a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the government of Ontario.

"The Minister [Finance Minister Dwight Duncan] advised ...that the government could not delay the release of the records any further," McDougald alleged in her statement of claim.

"It certainly paints a very disturbing picture about the role of the finance minister and the deputy chief of staff to the premier in intervening in the FOI process," said Hudak.

The problem, according to Horwath, is that this is very much becoming the modus operandi of McGuinty's government. "It's quite clear from the documents from Ms McDougald ... that the premiers' office and the minister's office made every effort possible to hold back the information," she announced. "It's really obvious that although the premier talks about transparency and accountability, what comes out of his actions is exactly the opposite."

Horwath couldn't have said it any better -- if the events themselves hadn't already spoken loud and clear.

McGuinty promises an independent investigation into the eHealth scandal, and even claims his government has paid a retainer to a high-profile investigating agency -- then cancels the investigation. McGuinty's staff, knowing full well that the opposition is examining government documents for signs of further scandal, impede access to information.

If the "summer of scandal" (as Hudak has cleverly dubbed it) is making McGuinty's government look more and more like Paul Martin's disgraced government, that isn't coincidental.

Those who have followed recent writings by Barry Cooper may recognize a similarity between McGuinty's obstruction of Access to Iformation and a senior government bureaucrat's attempts to prevent the release of the minutes from a Liberal cabinet meeting in which "strengthening the Liberal party in Quebec" should be a priority of the federal government.

This is characteristic of the kind of scandal that emerges in a government where the culture of self-service and its close friend, the culture of entitlement, have begun to run rampant.

Dalton McGuinty has some serious questions to answer. He needs to start by firing his Health Minister, David Caplan, and his Finance Minister. Then he needs to seriously consider resigning as Premier.

From the archives:

September 1, 2009 - "It's the Regime, Dalton"

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