1/7/13

Admitting the price of privatization (when it all goes bad)

ORNGE providing a vital service. Photo: Jason Edward Scott Bain


The Globe and Mail kindly lobbed a few questions for the disgraced, former boss of ORNGE, Chris Mazza to swat away.  His responses, published in this weekend's edition, suggest the government was fully onside with his vision -- until the fur hit the fan.
He said he could not grasp why he suddenly became a pariah. “Until November, 2011, I was being incentivized, told I was doing grand things. Not just by my board and by investors, but by deputy and assistant deputy ministers. They cheered me on, constantly. My premier cheered me on.”
As evidence, he proffered a handwritten letter from Premier Dalton McGuinty written in March of 2009, congratulating him on, as Mr. McGuinty wrote, “the success at Ornge. You are doing a lot of good for a lot of people. Proud of ya!”
“So in November, 2011, I’m great,” Dr. Mazza concluded, “and in December, pardon me, I’m a piece of shit. What changed?”
Mazza may have been a little ahead of the Liberal curve, but there is little doubt that he was pursuing a mix of public and for-profit that the Liberals wish to grow.

Interestingly, Mazza (an advocate of the public-private model) puts a lot down to the fact that ORNGE was a mix of public and for-profit. On his outrageous $1.4 million salary he says: “I didn’t perceive our salaries would be compared to other public-sector agencies” rather than private ones. "That was an error. It’s embarrassing for me. It’s ruined my life.”

The Globe also notes: "If he underestimated the need for transparency, it may have been because of the anomalous zone that Ornge occupied. Every province has medical air transport, but only Ornge was a public/private hybrid. Though it received taxpayer funding ($150-million a year by 2011), it was an autonomous corporation, run without political interference."

Privatization comes with a price -- big salaries (for the bosses) and a lack of transparency.
Despite the intense political embarrassment of the ORNGE disaster, the Liberals continue to pursue their faith in public-private partnerships.  
Some perhaps innocently, others no so much.  


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