Public Interest Groups Deeply Concerned About Undemocratic Process, Drummond Commission & Public Service Cuts


Toronto – The McGuinty government is planning sweeping public service cuts and restructuring without public input and proper democratic processes, public interest groups revealed in a press conference this morning at Queen’s Park. The groups are concerned about the Drummond Commission, which was created by the McGuinty government to make recommendations to cut public services and budgets.

Don Drummond, a well-heeled member of the Toronto elite, has strong links to private health care interests and lobby groups. He has adopted a highly political role, conducting rounds of media interviews to sell his proposals even before the Ontario Legislature has had an opportunity to receive his report. At the same time, Premier Dalton McGuinty and Health Minister Deb Matthews are launching major policy changes through speeches to exclusive executive and corporate audiences.

The McGuinty government, which has been elected with a minority, failed to forge an agreement with opposition parties to set up the Standing Committees of the Legislature during the Fall Session. As such, there is no Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs and no Pre-Budget Hearings. In a minority government, the ruling party does not hold a majority on the standing committees. These committees have real powers to amend legislation and hold public hearings.

The coalition and public interest groups argue that the process is manipulative and inappropriate.

“Drummond is an extremely wealthy retired bank executive and does not in any way represent the values and needs of regular Ontarians. He selected a very narrow elite of hospital executives and pro-privatization lobbyists to consult while he was writing his report. When we and a few other groups met with him in early December – at our request – the report was already written,” noted Natalie Mehra, coalition director. “Despite no mention of these plans during the election only a few months ago, the McGuinty government has forged a mandate for the Drummond Commission that is extraordinarily biased towards privatization. It has virtually no public interest principles to protect the fairness and equity of Ontarians’ public services.”
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I have Googled, therefore I am . . . an expert


Wednesday’s special meeting of council to deal with the proposed new police headquarters provides further evidence much of what transpires at city hall is driven by personal agendas.

Which, in turn, sucks more dollars out of the pockets of hard-working ratepayers.

Council was presented with a report from Rebanks Pepper Littlewood Architects that outlined the specifics of the project, including the sticker price of approximately $19 million.

That figure sent some members into shock, with the result their ability to think logically was severely hampered.

Let’s review some undeniable facts.
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Putting transparency to the test at city open house


After decades of dawdling, similar in process to the consoldiated courthouse project finally underway, an open house will be held 5 p.m. Wednesday at city hall to unveil plans and cost of the new police headquarters.
The long-awaited home of the police service is to located on city-owned land adjacent to the Timken Centre.
Ald. Dave Warden, chairman of the new building committee, says it’s an occasion to not only inform ratepayers, but demonstrate “the transparency of everything that’s going on,” and attach a price tag to the project.
Warden continues: “We’ll lay to rest all the rumours and everything else there is about the police building. We’ll have the actual cost.”
Nowhere near the $30 million sticker price being promoted by one member of council.
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A loss in the courtroom, a positive outcome at the polls


He was the central figure in one of the shabbiest chapters in this city’s political history.
Days prior to the 2010 municipal election, David McGee, owner of the Sutherland Press building, announced he was suing the City of St. Thomas, former mayor Cliff Barwick, St. Thomas police and other defendants for $3 million.
    At the time, McGee insisted his motive was not political — even though he sent out a press release and employed an automated phone dialer to leave voice mail messages for St. Thomas households.

Sutherland Press building in 2008, prior to partial demolition of front face

He also hired PR consultant Suzanne van Bommel, a local political strategist.
   In a 32-page statement of claim, McGee and Sutherland Lofts Inc., were suing for punitive damages and aggravated damages, as well as “mental distress, economic interference and, specifically, loss of income” for what the claim states was “unnecessary demolition” in July 2008.
Well, Justice L.C. Leitch handed down a decision just prior to Christmas.

As to the matter of whether the claim of Sutherland Lofts Inc., be stayed or dismissed on the ground that it was without legal capacity to commence the action, Justice Leitch determined the claim must be dismissed because the limitation period had expired.
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Accountability and transparency — when mandated


While this corner will continue to carefully scrutinize the wheeling and dealing of CEO Paul Collins and board chairman Bruce Babcock, we have nothing but praise for the doctors and staff at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital.
With one exception — the dizzying diagnosis from the desk of Dr. Spin over in the hospital ivory tower.
It was contained in the preamble to a media release sent our way Tuesday disclosing the employment agreements for Collins from 2007 to the present, along with a bevy of executive expense reports and minutes of board meetings.
“We believe in transparency and accountability,” stresses Babock in the missive, “and to that end, we have posted a number of documents that may be of interest to our community.”
And, this has been done in proactive fashion.
Oh pul-eeeze.
Ever since City Scope exposed the resign/re-hire shuffle orchestrated by Collins and Babcock exactly one year ago, we have tried to pry loose this information “that may be of interest to our community.”
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And you thought the CEO of St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital had actually retired!

Now that hospitals must abide by new transparency rules that took effect Jan. 1, we are able to access information that, in the past, was kept a closely guarded secret by hospitals, including St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital.

STEGH CEO and President Paul Collins

That includes two contracts dealing with the retirement/rehiring of CEO Paul Collins. City Scope has obtained the initial contract undertaken in June, 2010 when the sweetheart deal between the board of directors and Collins was first consummated, and the contract extension inked in October of 2011. The documents lay bare the dubious manner in which the retirement/rehiring was orchestrated and the secrecy that followed until City Scope uncovered the deal at this time last year.

It was only then that Collins and board chairman Bruce Babcock had the courtesy to announce what had transpired the previous June to hospital staff.
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