Archive for category Accountability

Cuts Are Coming To Social Services in Ontario

Newly Elected Premier Doug Ford said during the election campaign that caregivers and parents with children with disabilities would never have to march on Queen’s Park again if he was elected Premier. A new op-ed written by Stuart Trew from the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives warns that one of Ford’s promises during the campaign predicts significant cuts to social services moving forward, and parents who have long fought the austerity measures of Wynne may need to fight once again.

During the election campaign Ford promised to hold an “independent” audit of the provinces finances. According to Trew this is one of the oldest tricks in the books when it comes to trying to justify substantial austerity.

The Ontario Liberals used similar tricks. It was outgoing premier Kathleen Wynne who put former TD Bank CEO Ed Clark at the head of a value-for-money panel that eventually recommended privatizing Hydro One. That panel outsourced $7 million worth of its work to private auditors including KPMG, Pricewaterhousecoopers and Deloitte, all of which treat government like a corporation when assessing where and by how much to slash. (They all also work for companies who would profit from privatizing services currently delivered by the public sector.)

We needn’t wait for the results of Ontario’s “independent” audit to guess the outcome. The new premier’s transition team is filled with elites tied to the corporate world, not “the people,” as Premier Ford likes to say. The report will be designed carefully to 1) make the last government look really bad; 2) inflate the importance of government spending as a component of the province’s overall deficit, and, in doing so; 3) pave the way for ideologically driven cuts to social services. The result of following through with this process—which can be deadly, as the U.K. study found—is equally easy to predict, which is why we can’t let it happen again.

Kathleen Wynne used the same tactics to take an axe to services with kids with special needs. She tried to save a buck by restricting behavioral therapy to kids over the age of 5, which she recanted on due to public backlash. She slashed the special needs budgets of school boards to the point where kids with disabilities are still often sent home rather than in school learning. The cupboards are already bare. Any more cuts to social and public services could be devastating to kids with disabilities and their families.

Ford has also started a “wind down” of Ontario’s cap and trade program. The Trudeau government signaled today that the federal government could withhold over $420 million in transfer payments used to pay off current green energy contracts and programs currently being phased out. The two leaders meet tomorrow.

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Major Developments On 407 Fraud Could Be Imminent

There has been a lot of chatter over the past few days on social media that has been making the rounds with people who follow politics closely, that major developments regarding the 407 ETR fraud investigation could be inbound over the next few days. That chatter, seems to coincide with Liberal lawyers poking the bear on this issue, as Newstalk1010 picked up the exclusive from the Liberals.

A letter was sent out today by the lawyers representing the Ontario Liberal Party asking Ontario’s chief electoral officer Greg Essensa to ensure that 407 ETR bills are not used as identification on voting day due to the fact that it is “reasonably likely” 407 ETR data was used fraudulently by the Progressive Conservatives during their nominations. Given the fact that the advanced polls closed earlier this week, this letter today could suggest that there have been recent developments unfolding.

Two police districts are looking into the possibility of fraud and identity theft allegedly conducted by a former PC party candidate during the parties nominations earlier this year. Elections Ontario has also confirmed that they are investigating as well. You can read the letter below: Click on images to enlarge.

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Ontario PC’s Running The Largest Deficit Projections in Current Platform

Mike Moffatt who is a director at the independent think tank Canada 2020, and an associate professor at the Ivey Business School, has come up with an interesting post comparing the platforms of each party in the Ontario election and how they compare to deficit projections. Moffatt’s deficit projections put the PC’s with the highest run deficits, with the Liberals in close second, and the NDP with the lowest deficit projections. These numbers include the recent correction of $1.4 billion/year the NDP has had to make on reserves.

Moffatt noted that there is a lot of unknowns when it comes to the PC platform, however right now – on the information they have currently provided to the public – the PCs seem to be running significantly higher deficits in their platform than the other two parties.

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Refusal To Regulate Regional Autism Centres Has Opened The Door To Lawsuits

 

The Minister of Children and Youth Services Michael Coteau has actively refused to bring in regulation of the provinces regional autism centers despite major issues being reported to the government regarding the behaviors of these regional service providers.  I’ve heard significant issues over the past few months with respect to the roll out of the new Ontario Autism Program and the lack of compliance with ministerial guidelines by these providers in which the Minister himself stated was an issue in a town hall last May.

The issues right now are with respect to wait list management in which is the responsibility of these regional centres, and adherence to new OAP guidelines. The Ministry has stated it will be providing regulations regarding how private autism centres are administered, however Coteau in a townhall with parents last May rejected the claim that regulations were needed on the regional centres because “some people are happy” despite admitting frustration that these centres were not adhering to guidelines.  This decision to not regulate the regional autism centres may have opened the door to massive legal liability on the province moving forward.

I’ve written a lot on this blog about autism and our long battle to get service for my son, which has come at great cost to all in our family.  While doing this I’ve been making a legal case directly to the Ministry regarding the need for regulation of the regional autism centres. That appears to have fallen on deaf ears. With less than a week away from the election writ dropping, there has been no legislative movement on the file.  I recently commented on social media about the case we made to the Ministry with the hopes that it might assist others legally going forward. We are now getting service through our regional provider.  Here is that conversation:

JK (me): “The implementation committee rejected calls for legislation to regulate the regional centers. I have the Minister on tape with respect to that, and even acknowledging the fact that these regional centres do not follow ministerial guidelines. It’s the ministry’s legal responsibility as the legislative body to oversee these centres. The minister is also on record that these regional centres HAVE to provide you with your place in line when asked, and an estimate as to when you are expected to get service.

In short those that are on the implementation committee who rejected regulating the regionals hoping a direct funding option would cure any bad behavior, opened up the government to substantial legal liability. The government can’t distance itself from the behaviors of the regionals because they’ve openly admitted there are problems, and have actively refused to legislate a solution.

Statute of limitations for all of this began May of last year with the admission from Minister in the first pilot teleconference. Families experiencing problems now, have one more year to file with the Superior Court of Justice. There may not be any limitations on the Human Rights Tribunal since the problem is ongoing.”

Link to the May 2017 Townhall is here:

https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21ANRZ77MT4n3vltg&id=47BE96EF78FE2F05%212481&cid=47BE96EF78FE2F05

MB: “The ministry has successfully argued before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal that the government is not responsible for the service delivery of the AIP. We are just on of many other programs the province claims ownership of but the reality is there is no oversight over any programs.

The MCYS has allowed children’s aid at at with impunity for years. And the youth justice system under the MCYS doez what exactly?

It was public embarrassment that lead to the current charges, nothing more. The only way to affect change is through public awareness.”

JK: “Yes they have successfully argued that they are not responsible in the past, however these cases didn’t include an admission from the Minister and government directly of the problems, and admittedly walking back on regulation because “some people are happy”. We also had several phone calls recorded from our regional provider, blatantly disregarding ministerial guidelines, and treating us as hostile.

I would also add, after we slapped this on the Ministry, the Ministry essentially took over, and is currently overseeing progression of our file with the regional provider ensuring service delivery. I’ve been in consistent contact with the Ministry regarding service delivery since November. They’ve been working along side the regional ensuring we are properly supported.

MB: “I have an email from the ministry asking about accountability. They avoided answering the question.

I used this example: as a feberal employee i am responsible for my actions with the public. My employer, the federal government is accountable for my actions. They will not admit accountability.”

JK: “Of course they aren’t going to blatantly admit it. They are currently trying to duck liability. You don’t need them to admit it. The minister already has.

Coteau is on record stating the Ministry is accountable. Not only did he state that in the teletownhall in May last year, but prior to that he reaffirmed that position here:

“Parents have long complained about red tape, miscommunication and inconsistencies when dealing with the regional centres. The minister said he has heard from families who say they’ve been pressured to choose services run by those centres instead of the direct funding option they prefer, which would allow them to arrange and pay for their own therapist and treatment schedule.

Many say they’ve been told by the centres that choosing direct funding will mean waiting at least a year longer for treatment, he said.

“To me, that’s unacceptable. We need to hold systems accountable,” he said. “When you have so many people complaining about a particular system, the status quo cannot be maintained.””

https://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2016/10/11/massive-change-needed-in-autism-services-minister-says.html

^^ He assumed liability with these statements in the Star. Couple that with an admission that the regionals are disregarding ministerial guidelines,  a walk back on regulation in the teletownhall in May, and they can’t distance themselves from it. After the first teletownhall in May last year, all the questions were screened and Coteau stuck to talking points, for this very reason. We got him off script in the May teletownhall. He screwed up royally. They need to regulate. It’ll be up to next government to deal this with now. In the meantime that’s the door to walk through.

One final point and the reason why I’m coming forward in a public way now on this, is because the election writ drops next week. So unless the Ministry drops legislation in to fix it and passes third reading in the next 3 or 4 business days, this door will be open for a while for others to walk through.”

If any of you have any further questions you can e-mail me at jkobopoli at rogers dot com

Jason Koblovsky

 

 

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BREAKING: Toronto Sun Could Be In Violation of Ontario’s Election Laws

A leaked document reportedly from the Toronto Sun has emerged.  In the documents handed to independent media organization CANADALAND show a clear ideological advertising strategy geared towards “exposing the Liberal record during the campaign and advocating for change“.  While it is normal for editorial boards to weigh in on the election, this goes far, far beyond that.

The document shows a detailed strategy geared towards unseating the Ontario Liberals.  Recently Ontario changed its election laws around third party advertisers. It is unclear whether these documents run foul of those laws, however the fact that there is a detailed strategy in the first place, and the media organization (according to these documents) is clearly advocating for change, will most likely have the eye of Elections Ontario going forward.

Former Sun Media Vice President Kory Teneycke is currently running Doug Ford’s campaign.

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Austerity Looms As Parties Refuse To Come Clean on Autism Services in Ontario

(Current Platforms in Ontario’s 2018 Election Puts Province At Risk of a Credit Downgrade)

Late Tuesday afternoon Moody’s downgraded the economic outlook for Ontario from stable to negative. In its press release Moody’s cited the recently tabled Liberal budget, and growing spending pressure from all parties that need to be addressed as the economy is expected to retract 1% by 2021. Moody’s also cites current household debt is a record high level, and that key interest rates are likely to rise as a result, making it expensive to service the debt, with retracted economic growth. If spending pressures do not ease post-election, it could mean that Ontario could face a credit downgrade in the very near future which would have a huge impact on the provinces ability to borrow money.

What does this mean for autism services? Over the past several years the autism community has been dealing with austerity through the Wynne Liberals. The last time Moody warned of an impending credit downgrade Wynne slashed special needs education budgets, tried to lower the age of behavioral therapy, and froze special services at home funding. Just in time for the election Wynne has stopped a lot of the austerity measures she put into place, and focused more investment in autism services in Ontario, with huge spending promises in other areas.

The NDP have released their platform, which is huge on spending rather than prioritizing. The NDP in their election platform have stated that they are willing to keep the status quo in Wynne’s investment in Autism Services. In fact NDP MPP Monique Taylor took to social media to try and calm the nerves of parents that the NDP would in fact keep investments the Liberals have made in place, however did not respond to questions regarding Moody’s economic outlook downgrade and what the NDP would do to shift priories to protect the disabled from austerity measures.  Taylor who has championed parents’ plight with austerity in the past is currently being sued for human rights abuses in her own constituency office.  NDP leader Andrea Horwath has stated in the past that she may take action against Ms. Taylor if a negative judgement is placed on Taylor’s conduct.

Doug Ford hasn’t released any policy platform at all.

With a credit downgrade almost certain in the near future with the current platforms, all three parties should clearly express to the people of Ontario exactly what their priorities are and where the cuts will be. The disabled should not be the punching bag of austerity. They’ve been through enough of that over the past few years. The cupboards so to speak are already bare. The tax payers deserve answers.

UPDATE 12:43: Finance Minister Charles Sousa has responded to the Moody’s downgrade:

 

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

You can read the full Moody’s press release below:

 

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UPDATED: Ombudsman to Ontario Parents and Students – We Don’t Believe You!

(Ontario Ombudsman Taking A Hands Off Approach To Systemic Issues With Ontario’s School Boards)

Just as the Ministry of Education’s probe of more mishandling of public funds at the York Region District School Board becomes clearer, the Ontario Ombudsman has sent a strong message to tax payers that it will not comment on the lack of systemic investigations into the education sector.

In a response to questions this blog sent into the Ombudsman’s office outlining several concerns of those that have written into this office over the past two years, spokesperson Lina Williamson had this to offer:

Your email asks our office to comment on complaints and issues in a public forum (your blog). Due to the confidentiality of our process, this would not be appropriate. We invite you and any parents with whom you are in contact who have unresolved issues with school boards to contact us through our confidential complaint process (more info at this link):

https://www.ombudsman.on.ca/Make-a-Complaint.aspx

Williamson also has a message for parents of special needs kids that have complained into the office and feel that the Ombudsman isn’t taking the issues seriously:

[Their] allegations that the Ombudsman has not been tackling issues that matter to Ontarians are unfounded and contrary to the facts. The Ombudsman and his team are deeply committed to enhancing governance in the public sector by promoting transparency, accountability, and fairness.  We do that by resolving more than 21,000 complaints and inquiries every year in the most efficient manner and at the lowest level possible. In fact, 80% of cases are resolved within two weeks.  In the 19 months since his appointment, Ombudsman Paul Dubé has published two Annual Reports, reported on 47 investigations of closed municipal meetings, and published five reports on systemic investigations, calling for policy and procedure reforms in police training, the placement and tracking of inmates in solitary confinement, supports and services for adults with developmental disabilities, and most recently, the provision of school busing services in Toronto. All of the Ombudsman’s 161 recommendations in these investigations have been accepted, and the organizations in question have pledged to implement them.

The office seems to be deeply concerned about transparency, accountability, and fairness just not within the education sector or for children with disabilities this sector serves. With respect to the Ombudsman’s mandate, Williamson had this to offer:

As is typical of a Parliamentary Ombudsman, we are an office of last resort. The Ombudsman is appointed by an all-party committee of the Legislature (not by the government), is impartial (not an advocate), and is completely independent of government, all political parties and interest groups. Anyone with questions is welcome to contact us through our website or at 1-800-263-1830.

Finally, our office recommends all school boards and municipalities have independent integrity commissioners. This is a widely recognized best practice, as local accountability mechanisms within the communities they serve can usually resolve complaints and issues more efficiently (the province recently amended legislation to require all municipalities to have an integrity commissioner by March 2019). The Ombudsman does not replace local accountability officers, but can take complaints about them.

Once again, anyone who has an issue with a school board or other public sector body within our mandate is encouraged to contact us through our confidential online form, complaints phone line, or by emailing info@ombudsman.on.ca/

UPDATED: 11/9/2017 7:15pm

In the quest for transparency, I’ve followed up with the Ombudsman’s office regarding their responses.  There’s been some back and forth since the original posting.  Here’s what has transpired:

JK: The allegations surrounding your office not tackling the issues in the education sector, are not my own.  Those allegations come from those who have directly complained to your office and are being referred back to their respective boards for complaint resolution.  Your response below to questions regarding a specific mandate the Ombudsman has on the education sector, seems to be more generalized.  Are you stating on the record here, that the reason why the Ombudsman hasn’t followed through with SORT investigations into the education sector, is because those complaints that have come into your office regarding school boards have been resolved?  Can you please clear that up.

LW: “Are you stating on the record here, that the reason why the Ombudsman hasn’t followed through with SORT investigations into the education sector, is because those complaints that have come into your office regarding school boards have been resolved?”

No. First, the Ombudsman has done a SORT (systemic) investigation in the school board sector: The report The Route of the Problem was released in August, and all of Mr. Dubé’s recommendations were accepted. It can be found here: https://www.ombudsman.on.ca/Investigations/SORT-Investigations/Completed/Toronto-school-busing-issues.aspx

Second, we cannot discuss individual cases with third parties. To reiterate, anyone who has a problem that they have been unable to resolve at the school board level is welcome to contact our office through our confidential complaint process.

For your general information, we oversee more than 1,000 public sector bodies and receive more than 21,00 complaints per year. Most are resolved informally. Receiving multiple complaints on an issue does not necessarily mean the Ombudsman can, should or will conduct a systemic investigation. Several factors go into any decision to conduct a systemic investigation, including the number of complaints, available resources, whether other resolution mechanisms can address the matter, whether there is evidence of a systemic issue, whether the matter relates to administration rather than broad public policy, and whether is being addressed by the institution in question.

JK: I’m not asking you to comment on individual cases, just systemic issues that your office should be aware of through individual complaints, and media reports.  While I congratulate this office for ensuring school children get to school on time in an isolated incident within the province, I’m more than curious to see such a reluctance to put forth investigations on what happens when these kids get to school, the lack of support for special needs, the lack of application of the education act systemically, and a general lack of accountability within the school system itself.  These issues are not just widely known to your office through individual reports, they are widely documented in media.

There’s no valid excuse for not following your mandate when it comes to the education sector.  It’s truly unfortunate that our most vulnerable are caught in the middle and paying a heavy price due to the unwillingness to further, and independently investigate.  That will surely reflect on policy discussions as it comes to any future mandates your office will or will not receive by government post 2018.  The lack of engagement by your office on education issues over the past two years has been duly noted by Ontarioians who have written in to your office for help and have been slapped in the face by this office, and their respective boards.  It’s unfortunate.

JK: While the discussion revolves around recent issues, I’ve attached a response this office gave to 400 individual complaints in 2010, in which your office has outlined concerns regarding the lack of independent oversight on the education sector. There has been very little movement in law regarding those concerns since 2010 other than your mandate.  As a result the education system is in crisis, with our most vulnerable taking most of the hits in the classroom.  I’ve attached this offices 2010 response, and I’ve highlighted what should be self-explanatory.  Your office is fully and completely aware of the problems.  While I know that your office can not comment on these 400 individual complaints, it will make for some interesting public discussions around your mandate moving forward.  I’m still waiting for an interview with Dupe.  The people of Ontario would like to hear directly from him on his mandate and the independence of this office please.

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What has your experience been with the Ombudsman’s office, and the school boards? We would like to hear from you.  Leave a comment, or message us anonymously at jkobopoli at rogers dot com

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