The October 19 meeting of the National and Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada (NEPMCC) featured a roundtable session at Queen’s Park with Ontario’s Premier, the Hon. Dalton McGuinty, who used the opportunity to present his government’s views on current issues. The Premier read a prepared statement about the proposed Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) where the federal and provincial sales taxes have not only been brought together, but also added onto each other (where an item has only one sales tax, now it has both). He denied that there is any downside whatsoever to what amounts by any definition to yet another blatant tax grab. HST will have its greatest impact on the poor and those with a fixed income, such as pensioners, who will be forced to pay more for many services and products, some of which are already taxed at other levels.
McGuinty pointed out that 147 countries and 4 Canadian provinces have adopted the HST. He also mentioned that there would be a rebate given to families to partially cover the amount they will be out of pocket.
The point should be made that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's federal government is involved in the HST as well.
Before McGuinty arrived at the meeting Thomas J. Simpson, Director - Community Outreach for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, who has been monitoring the opposition at NEPMCC, (this is done by the Liberals who were dogging John Tory, with a video camera, during the last election) was told by a McGuinty minion to leave.
The floor was, as usual, opened to NEPMCC members to ask questions. One topic that should have been addressed by the Premier was eHealth Ontario—the recently created agency that took over responsibility for creating Electronic Health Records in order to deliver better, more cost-effective health care to Ontarians. A billion dollars have already been blown by consultants and bureaucrats with little or no results. It was left to Estonian Life to pose the question as to why an inquiry has not been called, as demanded by the opposition parties at Queen’s Park and those in the media questioning the contracts awarded by eHealth.
“I'm glad this question has been asked,” responded Dalton McGuinty, adding, “we have taken all the recommendations presented by the Auditor General and applied them.”
Yet this stalling technique did not answer the question: "will there be an inquiry?"
"No, there will not be an inquiry, the Auditor General has said an inquiry is not necessary," answered McGuinty.
Since I did not remember hearing the Auditor General saying that I checked in with Thomas J. Simpson.
"That was not in his (the Auditor General's) report," according to Simpson.
Indeed, on October 7th a press release from Ontario Auditor General Jim McCarter described Ontario’s almost decade-long, $1-billion eHealth initiative as “lacking in strategic direction and relying too heavily on external consultants.” McCarter concluded “Ontario taxpayers have not received value for money for this $1-billion investment.”
It is understandable that Ontario is going to suffer the most of Canada’s provinces during this recession, considering its industrial base. Queen’s Park will need to gather funds from where it can when traditional income generators are failing. However, large-scale squandering of taxpayer’s money such as what has taken place with eHealth seems to anger most people.
This is reflected in public opinion polls. For the week ending October 30, 2009 pollster Environics found support for the opposition Progressive Conservatives at 37% and for the ruling majority government Liberals at 32%. Support for the Liberals has fallen 12% since June of this year.
No eHealth inquiry, Dalton McGuinty tells NEPMCC