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Don’t be surprised if Gordon Campbell’s inquiry aligns with PC ideology, says his former chief of staff

Posted: July 19, 2018

(July 19, 2018)
By: Jeremy Nuttall, StarMetro Vancouver

VANCOUVER—The appointment of British Columbia’s former premier Gordon Campbell to oversee an inquiry into Ontario’s finances is political, charge health care advocates in the province. Campbell’s former chief of staff in B.C. agrees.

Earlier this week the new Ontario Progressive Conservative government lead by Premier Doug Ford announced Campbell’s six-week, $50,000 appointment. Martyn Brown, Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff when he was premier, said the result will likely support the PC’s view of how the former Liberal government handled finances.

“No matter what he says I think it will be a fairly predictable outcome that he is ideologically aligned with the Ontario government,” Brown said. “They want an independent pair of eyes but they also want something to corroborate a theory, I think, which is that the government was left in a fiscal mess.”

Such an outcome is what those advocating for public health care in Ontario fear.
On Thursday the Ontario Health Coalition slammed Campbell’s performance as B.C. premier. The coalition called his record on health care “among the very worst” in Canada’s history, warning they believe the appointment is meant to drive an agenda aimed at cutting public health care funding.
“I was trying to think of who could actually be worse than him to be appointed into that position,” Natalie Mehra, executive director of the coalition said. “I think it gives a very clear indication of where the Ford government is going.”
Last week StarMetro reported Campbell submitted an affidavit earlier this month to the B.C. Supreme Court on behalf of doctors and clinics who are leading a constitutional lawsuit against the province.
The affidavit was part of an application for an injunction against the provincial government after B.C. imposed fines starting this October to penalize so-called extra billing by doctors.
A paragraph in Campbell’s affidavit explains, when in power his government considered removing restrictions to accessing private health care in B.C. but decided against it, fearing Ottawa would cut health care transfer payments to the province.Meanwhile Mehra’s organization points to hospital-building partnerships with the private sector, outsourcing health care support contracts and corporate tax cuts as examples of the Campbell’s track record while in government.
Mehra worries about what the appointment says about what PCs have in store for Ontario’s health care.“It’s unclear what the terms of reference are for his position yet,” she said. “He has a terrible record on health care and privatizing and cutting public services.”

Critics have said the appointment is clearly political because Ontario has an independent auditor general, Bonnie Lysyk, to dig into government spending.

But the Progressive Conservatives said neither Lysyk nor the province’s financial accountability office go through the books line by line, insisting it would cost too much to have a private firm do it.

Premier Ford has alleged the Ontario Liberals, who were ousted after June’s election, had “cooked the books.”

Brown said whenever a new government takes over it needs to take extra steps to look for surprises in the books so it isn’t haunted by the previous government’s mistakes down the road.

No matter what firm takes on a job to examine government finances, Brown said, the chances of full independence isn’t likely.

“Whenever these audits are done by any government of any political stripe they always know who their political paymaster is, they always know what the suppositions are going into it, even when they’re not stated in terms of reference,” Brown said. “I don’t think they’re fully independent, they write to that outcome.”

Campbell makes a good choice for the PCs because of his affiliation with the B.C. Liberal Party, which many in Ontario likely don’t realize is a more conservative party and will make the inquiry appear less political, he said.

StarMetro reached out to the office of the Ontario PC’s Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli, but did not receive a response by publication time. A message sent to Campbell’s agency was also not returned.