P3 fiasco: Windsor Star calls for resignation of Minister & review by AG

The Windsor Star has called for the resignation of the Health Minister over the Windsor long term care public-private partnership (P3) that recently fell apart.  The Star has also called for a review of the project by the Auditor General.

The Grace Hospital saga continued this week as a Ministry of Health spokeswoman admitted the province was "not aware" developer Lou Vozza was facing a mountain of civil judgments in 2009, just as the Liberals were expanding the scope of his contract to build a longterm care facility.

As the number of claims against Vozza became public - almost 30 parties were registered in Superior Court on June 24, the day the contract was finally cancelled - the sense of disbelief continued to grow.

How was it possible that Health Minister Deb Matthews, who just three weeks ago expressed faith in Vozza's ability to get the job done, would be oblivious to his financial woes from the get-go?

How could she be "very pleased" with his progress on June 11 when the government's own Ministry of Revenue had registered more than $63,000 in liens against the property just six weeks before? And how could anyone at Queen's Park not be up to speed after almost four years of delays and broken promises?....

The lack of due diligence at all levels is shocking; even more so since it goes back so many years. When the province upped Vozza's contract by 90 beds in February 2009, there were already court judgments of $1 million in unpaid bills against him. He hadn't paid city taxes in five years and had millions of dollars in mortgages.

It would have been simple to check on Vozza's financial status, had someone wanted to do so....

By not gathering the pertinent data, Matthews has done harm to the frail elderly patients who are supposed to be living on the Grace site today. She's failed Ontario taxpayers and jeopardized health care services in Windsor and Essex County.

Along with Matthews' resignation, the provincial auditor must fully investigate what went wrong. That review can't wait until after the election. It must start now.

Unfortunately, missing from the Star's editorial is any recognition that this is a P3 private fiance project or that the government (and likely the PCs who support more privatization) plan to increase the use of privatized P3s.

In his first review of a P3, the Auditor General exposed major problems with the Brampton Civic Hospital P3, echoing most of the concerns raised by the Ontario Health Coalition (and OCHU) earlier.  

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