Health Minister Deb Matthews sticks to her guns alright, spinning a tale at yesterday's legislative committee hearing suggesting she was unable to control ORNGE. The ORNGE boss stonewalled and manipulated the numbers, she claimed.
The shenanigans at ORNGE are shocking, but it takes some believing that the government could not have reined them in if they had wanted to. The government was funding the outfit after all. And in fact, when the stench got real bad, the government pulled them up pronto: getting rid of the CEO, the board, and all the private businesses they had set up.
A letter (unveiled yesterday by Frank Klees) from Emergency Health Services at the Ministry of Health and LTC in 2011 suggests government officials knew something was up, reportedly flagging some of the issues that later became headlines, including a lack of transparency.
But there is no sign anybody did anything much about it within government.
Moreover,even while the Minister suggests she was not able to control how ORNGE spent public money, there is no sign of any learning. ORNGE used private businesses to obscure public accountability. In the end, they only got caught out over the public reporting and accountability they could not subvert.
Despite this, the government is more determined than ever to turn public sector work over to private business -- to corporations that won't even try to pretend to be even a little bit open to public scrutiny and accountability.
So the government continues to commit billions of public dollars to corporations under the guise of alternate financing and procurement (aka, public private partnerships). And now they are going for even more of the same, turning hospital surgeries over to private clinics, and selling Service Ontario services off to the corporate sector.
So it's hard to believe that the government wasn't on board with ORNGE's own attempts to privatize its business. It fits the pattern. It's also hard to expect any different results as the government moves more public services into private hands.
The Minister claimed to the media yesterday that with the benefit of hindsight they would have done things differently. But there is little sign of it.