The Ford Government is giving more funding to "for-profit" clinics to perform certain OHIP-covered surgeries than it gives Ontario's public hospitals to perform the same operations, reports the CBC.
The CBC says:
“…the rates being paid to the privately-owned Don Mills Surgical Unit Ltd. are noticeably higher than what the province provides public hospitals for the same procedures...
Last week, former health minister Christine Elliott registered to lobby the Ford government on behalf of Clearpoint. Her official registration says her lobbying goals are to "engage the government in updating and increasing the base funding amount available to Clearpoint."
Clearpoint runs Don Mills Surgical Unit.
Lobbying former colleagues
Personally, I think it is quite wrong for a former Health Minister who left office as recently as June 2022 to be lobbying her friends and colleagues to boost the profits of her client, Clearpoint. Who thinks this is OK - other than former Progressive Conservative Cabinet Ministers?
Elliott, the former Progressive Conservative MPP for Newmarket-Aurora, is a “consultant lobbyist” which the Integrity Commissioner interprets this way:
As a consultant lobbyist, you are lobbying when you communicate with anyone in government to try to influence a law or regulation, government policy or program, transfer of a Crown asset, good or service to the private sector, government grant, contribution or other financial benefit, or government contract, or arrange a meeting between a public office holder and anyone else.
And “Lobbying” is defined as being paid to communicate with government in an effort to influence decisions.
The 12 month rule
Former Ministers are subject to lobbying rules which are way too lax. Former Ministers like Elliott cannot lobby for 12 months after leaving office:
“For 12 months after you leave government, you cannot lobby: (a) the minister (or ministers) of the ministry where you worked in the preceding 12 months; (b) ministers' staff who work in that ministry or ministries; or (c) public servants who work in that ministry or ministries.”
In the UK (which has its own issues with former Ministers) there is a two-year ban on lobbying which, on all the evidence, is still too permissive:
On leaving office, Ministers will be prohibited from lobbying Government for two years. They must also seek advice from the independent Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACoBA) about any appointments or employment they wish to take up within two years of leaving office. Former Ministers must ensure that no new appointments are announced, or taken up, before the Committee has been able to provide its advice.
Elliott targets Gallagher Murphy
Bizarre as it may seem, Elliott could now be lobbying her successor as MPP for Newmarket-Aurora, Dawn Gallagher Murphy - assuming that DGM has any influence whatsoever in Government decision making.
Gallagher Murphy was hand-picked by Doug Ford who proclaimed her the official PC candidate for the riding within 24 hours of Elliott making her shock announcement that she would not be running again.
Nurses' pay held down
Back in July I wrote that nurses' pay was being deliberately held down. And the Ford Government was turning to agency nursing where costs are going through the roof.
As Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health, our local MPP, Dawn Gallagher Murphy, has done absolutely nothing to ensure nurses get a fair deal.
The vacuous Dawn Gallagher Murphy MPP congratulates people for what they do. After observing her for 17 months as our MPP this is her defining characteristic.
Getting nurses a fair deal? Forget it.
But will she listen to what the consultant lobbyist Christine Elliott has to say about the virtues of her client Clearpoint?
Click "Read more" below for Christine Elliott's view on lobbying by public bodies such as hospitals. In 2010 she called on the (then) Liberal Government "to prohibit all hospitals, local health integration networks, community care access centres, Cancer Care Ontario, eHealth Ontario and other publicly funded health care bodies from hiring consultants to lobby government officials".
From the Register of Lobbyists:
Christine Elliot and lobbying
Ontario Legislative Assembly: 6 October 2010
HEALTH CARE SECTOR ACCOUNTABILITY
Mrs. Christine Elliott: I move that the Legislative Assembly of Ontario calls on the government to prohibit all hospitals, local health integration networks, community care access centres, Cancer Care Ontario, eHealth Ontario and other publicly funded health care bodies from hiring consultants to lobby government officials, and to require all publicly funded health care bodies to post travel and hospitality expenses publicly. Addressed to the Premier of Ontario.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Mrs. Elliott has moved opposition day number 2. Debate?
Mrs. Christine Elliott: Today is a rare occasion: an opposition day motion that all three parties support, at least in principle. We all agree that hospitals using taxpayers’ money to hire lobbyists to lobby the government for more taxpayers’ money is simply absurd. What remains to be seen is whether the government members will be allowed to vote to stop hospitals from hiring lobbyists, or will they just play politics?
You see, we know the government supports this motion, because when it was faced with mounting evidence that hospitals are employing Liberal-friendly lobbyists and consulting firms to do their lobbying, the McGuinty Liberals said that the practice is wrong and would end.
The health minister said, “It is not okay with our government to use taxpayers’ dollars to lobby government—that just doesn’t make sense. I am completely supportive of the notion that it is not all right.”
The Premier himself said, “It is unacceptable in Ontario today for hospital administration to employ lobbyists to try to influence our government.”
Despite these statements, we are less certain that the Liberals will vote for a motion that will stop hospitals from using taxpayers’ money to hire lobbyists to lobby for more taxpayers’ money. Why is that? Well, because when the Ontario PCs brought in the Truth in Government bill in May, the Liberals voted against it. When the Ontario PCs called for more transparency and accountability by making all agencies, boards and commissions subject to freedom-of-information requests, the Liberals—well, they voted against it. When the Ontario PCs called on hospitals to disclose their expenses, the Liberals—you guessed—voted against it. And when the Ontario PCs called for disclosure of job reclassifications in contracts and grants over $10,000 at provincial public sector bodies, the Liberals—well, once again, they voted against it.
Now they’re changing their tune, and we have to ask whether that is because the Auditor General is about to release a report into his investigation into the use of consultants at the LHINs, the Ministry of Health and hospitals across Ontario. Suddenly, the government is looking for a way to act like it supports accountability, but we’ve all seen this movie before. It was one year ago that the Auditor General revealed that $1 billion had been wasted at eHealth Ontario on Liberal-friendly consultants from the Courtyard Group, Accenture and Anzen.
The eHealth architect, George Smitherman, stayed in cabinet while leaving the member from Don Valley East to resign as health minister following news of the eHealth scandal.
One year ago this month, the Ontario PC caucus and our leader, Tim Hudak, called for a public inquiry into the $1-billion eHealth boondoggle. Today, we’re still waiting for that inquiry.
Yesterday we revealed that eHealth spent another $343 million in the last year, hired yet another principal from the Liberal-friendly Courtyard Group, and we still don’t have a working eHealth system here in Ontario.
So I bring this motion on behalf of our leader, Tim Hudak, and the Ontario PC caucus, a motion to bring accountability into health care and to make sure that every dollar we spend goes to front-line patient care, where it belongs.
The government says it is against hospitals using taxpayers’ money to hire lobbyists, yet under its watch the same players who ran up a billion-dollar tab in eHealth, the Courtyard Group, have done work with the University Health Network, Kingston hospital and hospitals in Mississauga and West Toronto.
Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga spent $80,000 to hire lobbyists, Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital spent $35,000 on lobbyists, and the William Osler Health Centre serving Brampton spent nearly $78,000 on lobbyists. In fact, according to media reports this week, 14 hospitals across Ontario spent money intended for front-line care on lobbyists.
I ask you and the people of Ontario a simple question: Wouldn’t it be great if just once this Liberal government would address a problem before the Ombudsman or the Auditor General tells them they have to? But that’s simply not the Liberal way. The Liberal way is to let unaccountable and unelected bureaucracies go wild, waste millions, even a billion dollars, on consultants, get caught and then issue a mea culpa, saying, “Oh, gee, I’m sorry. We’ll do better next time.”
For many Ontarians stretched to the limit through HST, eco taxes, fees and skyrocketing hydro bills, doing better has to start today. That is why the Ontario PC caucus is proposing a better way, so that when Ontarians go to the ballot box one year from today, they will know they have a clear choice: a choice between the Dalton McGuinty Liberals who take from Ontario families and squander valuable health care dollars on Liberal-friendly consultants at eHealth, the LHINs and now hospitals, or an Ontario PC government and our leader, Tim Hudak, who will put health care dollars where they belong, into front-line patient care.