Archive for category Ontario Auditor General
(Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne Likely To Read From A Blank Book On School Board Accountability)
Over the past few months, the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) in Ontario has been embroiled in controversy surrounding governance, accountability, and racial tensions. The governing Liberal Party of Ontario promised to get to the bottom of these systemic issues at the YRDSB by appointing two “arm’s length” investigators to the board to look at recommendations on how to solve systemic issues, rather than using the independent Provincial Ombudsman who in 2015 was given the legal authority and jurisdiction to look at the specific issues the YRDSB investigators have been tasked to look at. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals who have a long history of throwing blank cheques at the education unions are all that serious about systemic change at the YRDSB which would require legislation with the ability to hold those in the system to account.
Two weeks into getting the investigation set up, the YRDSB investigators (Patrick Case + Suzanne Herbert), are already hearing from a staggering number of parents. These two investigators appointed by the province seem to be ill-equipped to handle the sheer volume of complaints coming in, to which the province’s ombudsman would have been better equipped to handle. I had a conversation with Patrick Case on twitter yesterday. Here is that conversation:
Both Case and Herbert are widely connected to the education sector in Ontario. Herbert was a deputy minister in Ontario, including deputy of education (way to close to government for my liking), while Case served as former trustee for the Toronto District School Board which has had its fair share of problems. While I don’t question these investigators credibility to pin the vast majority of problems with board governance on YRDSB Director J. Philip Parappally and a few “rouge” trustees implementation of more equality training board wide, and quietly sweep this controversy under the rug to avoid any drafting of accountability legislation to deal with systemic problems province wide; I do not see how this investigation would be beneficial to the kids the public education sector serves. The only beneficiary to this investigation as it stands right now would be the education unions who have deeply embedded themselves in Wynne’s government.
Racial intolerance in any profession or work place is wrong, against our values as Canadians, and most importantly against our civil rights in the charter of rights and freedoms. One of the root causes for racial intolerance at the YRDSB is the lack of accountability on staff, directors, trustees. It’s a symptom of a much larger problem in the province. The lack of accountability in the education sector is province wide, and if we are truly looking to send a message that racial intolerance is not accepted in our public school system, than it is law and legislation with teeth that is needed to hold those in the education system to account, not non-binding “recommendations” from a rushed, arm’s length investigation.
A much better more responsible approach would be to slow down, allow the community to appropriately respond to identify systemic issues, and ensure that the investigation is done in an independent way, rather than recommendations that in the end will duck any real legislative accountability and favor political donors over that of our school children due to the closeness of the investigators to the legislative process. To do otherwise would only serve to pass the buck to the next school board to have issues due to the lack of legislative accountability, and put more of our children across the province at further risk.
(Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Spouse Jane Rounthwaite Worked as a Consultant in Autism Services While Parents Fought Government in Court in 2006)
As the world celebrates Autism Awareness Day, parents in Ontario got extremely devastating news this past week that needed autism therapy would be no longer available after the age of 5. Back in 2006 parents in Ontario fought the government on a similar age cut off.
During the last time the province tried to cut this therapy off at an early age, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was the Education Minister and her spouse Jane Rounthwaite was a principle shareholder in The Osborne Group, which is a consulting firm widely used by the publicly funded Autism service provider in York/Durham called Kinark. According to the Toronto Sun in 2013, Rounthwaite owned a 40% stake in The Osborne Group, and was directly employed by Kinark at the time parents were fighting the age restrictions:
How much she made during those seven years — while the McGuinty government fought a move in court to extend intensive therapy for autistic kids beyond age six — is unknown. Whether her contract was subject to a tender process is also unknown.
Both the premier’s office and Kinark could not provide that information prior to my deadline, despite repeated requests to do so.
A review of Kinark’s condensed statements of operations during that period yielded no information. Nor did finance ministry disclosure documents.
What is also unknown is whether the Ethics Commissioner back then did a full and complete investigation of Rounthwaite’s involvement with Kinark, and whether her involvement with Kinark extends to these latest developments regarding autism services. The government has earmarked $333 million to “improve” autism services in Ontario. It is unclear how much Kinark will be receiving as a result, and unclear what other autism public service providers Rounthwaite or The Osborne Group has been involved in since 2006.
What is clear however is the reaction from the parents of autistic kids who will no longer be receiving a critical part of therapy. I posted this past week on comments left on Autism Ontario’s facebook page by angry parents. On the Autism Ontario facebook page, the organization provided this statement to parents:
Hi everybody – we’ve been very grateful for all of your comments, thoughts, viewpoints, criticisms, and suggestions. We have taken all of your feedback and delivered it directly to the Ministry so they are aware of the impact their announcement and our response had with the autism community. We are glad this thread has been an opportunity to connect, share information and support one another.
Tracy MacCharles, Minister of Children and Youth Services stated in a recent interview regarding the backlash:
“I know that transitions and changes are hard and I know that first-hand as a mother of a child with special needs,” she added.
“Why we’re doing this is to make sure that children get the best possible treatments in the appropriate development window as we’ve been advised by experts and families.”
Parents, who have long disagreed with the notion that autism therapy should be limited to early year development, have started a twitter hashtag #autismdoesntendat5. There are also questions on whether this new policy is discriminatory on human rights, and sources I’ve been in touch with are getting ready to launch a law suit against the province on these recent changes.
What the people of Ontario should be questioning at this time, is whether the experts consulted are tied to Wynne’s family, and why Rounthwaite’s involvement with Kinark hasn’t been fully and completely investigated?
Read more about the government’s decision on cutting needed therapy and parents reactions from across the province here.
UPDATE 4/14/2016: Sue-Ann Levy the investigating reporter was recently interviewed by Toronto radio station am640, in which she also alleges that Rounthwaite could have very well benefited financially from the recent changes to autism policy in Ontario. That interview can be found here. Rounthwaite made a total of $1,000,000 over seven years with her involvement at Kinark, and worked closely with a member of the expert panel the government hired to put forth the new autism policy.
Also 2 weeks ago I put in a request for comment on this story from Autism Ontario. They have not responded to repeated requests for comment. Autism Ontario is currently helping the Wynne government sell this new policy to parents through “webinars”.
(Parents Upset At Recent Changes To Autism Services In Ontario)
The Ontario government recently announced changes it is going to make to the services autistic kids receive in the province. The Ontario government is looking at terminating intensive behavioral intervention therapy (IBI) for kids 5 and over, and pump more money into the controversial applied behavior analysis (ABA) program in its place. Those currently on the wait list for IBI will receive a total of $8,000 to cover a few months of IBI therapy as compensation.
IBI therapy is one on one therapy with specialists for the kids, meanwhile ABA sets to train the parents to become their child’s specialist and the parent is then responsible for applied therapy. The Ontario Government is committing $333 million to transition IBI to ABA. This transition could end up having a profound impact on parents who are working full-time on top of many other stresses they have to deal with. This change in policy puts applied therapy directly on the parents’ backs, which could create another crisis as a result of the time off of work to commit to ABA in which most parents in the know feel hasn’t produced satisfactory results compared to IBI.
Autism Ontario in its press release seemed very supportive of the new changes. Marg Spoelstra, Executive Director, Autism Ontario stated:
Families today can give credit to the parents who have been continually advocating on behalf of the thousands of people with autism and their families for many years about the importance of investment into timely, early, evidence based intervention, even at a time when they and their children were or would not be eligible for the intervention services announced today.
One quick look at the comments section on the Autism Ontario facebook page suggests something completely different with respect to parents concerns on this policy. One parent stated:
The transition period might feel devastating. How about every phone call. Every meltdown. Every injury to not only our children by themselves, but to other family members. Every therapy strategy implemented, while waiting. Every tear. Every day, from wake, to sleep … If we’re lucky, while waiting for the already promised hope of IBI. The faith that one day … It’s all been a devastating disappointment.
Other comments include criticizing Autism Ontario for their support of this policy:
Beyond disappointed in Autism Ontario in being part of a process that offers up to 2,000 sacrificial lambs in order to support this ‘new’ program. Why is it ok to abandon these kids before they were given a chance? Why wasn’t a plan made for these kids & why couldn’t the plan have given them the same chance that kids before them got & kids after them will get (at an earlier age) ABA services are NOT as effective & in fact are very hard to access for single parents or 2 working parents.
One comment that has stuck with me being a parent with an autistic son, and political blogger:
Two words. Human Rights. This a step backwards, now we have an age five cut off, once upon a time Ontario agreed and removed the age six cut off for IBI. Huge gains can be made by children over five, especially children who are non-speaking. Developmental gains are slower for children with a developmental disability, too bad they are being written off for a chance at appropriate early intervention. Being dumped into a waitlist for ABA services that are inadequate and do little to provide the extent of intervention that children need. All of this to be delivered by bloated transfer payment agencies, instead of direct funding to families to purchase services at a much lower cost.(it’s been proven in multiple reports) I hope that parents will find the strength to come forward to speak out about what is really going on here.
Upset parents have already stated a petition to get the Ontario government to reconsider this policy approach. I’ve reached out to Autism Ontario to get them to clarify their support for this new policy the government has put forth.
More to come soon. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog for more details as they become available. You can subscribe by e-mail through the subscribe section on the upper right hand section of this blog. You can also add me to twitter. I’m @jkobopoli.
The Liberal Party in Ontario has been in power for over a decade. Most governments regardless of party get a little bit too comfy in their positions to actually govern and show up for work when called upon. In the last election, the people of Ontario rejected the far right position of austerity (many still have the Mike Harris nightmare cutbacks), and the far left NDP (as a result of Bob Rae’s spending spree on social services in the 90s). The people of Ontario elected the Liberal platform with the expectation that money would be spent wisely by the province to help boost Ontario’s economy and social services. It seems the Liberals are starting to get a reputation for a lack of accountability of public funds, that is contributing to the overall provincial debt.
The Ontario Auditor General has come out with her annual report this month, and she has found virtually no accountability on tax payer’s funds with public services and policy. Some examples in the report include a situation in 2004 when then Premier Dalton McGuinty brought in legislation that allowed tax payers money to be spent on businesses in the province to help with job creation which is still in effect today. The auditor general recently found $1.4 billion unaccounted for in corporate welfare in the past decade this policy has been in effect.
Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk looked extensively at Ministry of Economic Development grants given to businesses over the past decade, and found most were handed to big corporations who could have just banked the money. Lysyk stated in her 2015 annual report she found the Ministry “has not attempted to measure whether the $1.4 billion it has provided to Ontario businesses since 2004 actually strengthened the economy.”
Lysyk also found that Ontario Hydro-One consumers paid $37 billion over the actual market value for their electricity. No wonder why the Liberals were so steadfast on selling Hyrdo One, the provinces publicly funded electricity utility. The entity owes Ontario tax payers $37 billion. I wonder how that debt is going to be settled.
In a very bizarre twist to all of this ahead of the holidays, Deb Matthews Ontario’s Treasury Secretary (who is in charge of distributing tax payers funds to provincial services and ministries) stated she wants Ontarians to help bring down the debt by donating their tax refunds to the province in 2016. Say what?
The lack of accountability of tax payer’s money doesn’t seem to stop at the Ministry of Economic Development. From the looks of it; this goes right up to Matthew’s office door as a result of her recent comments. If one were to follow the logic of all of this (if there is any to report), it points to a situation where there seems to be a lack of accountability throughout most provincial ministries, with a tone deaf government.
Where there is a lack of accountability there’s usually abuse of funds. In my opinion, Wynne needs to stop throwing money around, and provide those that voted for her policy that is based on transparency and accountability with her ministries. Progressive policies are based on balance, and that policy and money allotted to government programs actually get to where they are needed. Balance is disrupted when there is no accountability. Broad independent probes of provincial ministries may be needed to help curb abusive spending patterns, and help pay down the provinces debt. I think that’s what most were expecting Wynne to commit to last election. Until we see this; Matthew’s shouldn’t be asking the people of Ontario to donate anything.