Damning report ousts minister

Premier Dalton McGuinty’s right-hand man must share the blame and step down in the wake of a scathing report on troubled eHealth Ontario that prompted another senior minister to quit, critics demanded Wednesday.

TORONTO — Premier Dalton McGuinty’s right-hand man must share the blame and step down in the wake of a scathing report on troubled eHealth Ontario that prompted another senior minister to quit, critics demanded Wednesday.

Deputy premier George Smitherman presided over health for four years before David Caplan took over as health minister in 2008, and should also take responsibility for the millions of dollars wasted in the push to create electronic health records under his watch, opposition parties said.

“It seems very clear when you look through the auditor’s report that David Caplan simply got caught carrying a lot of George Smitherman’s dirty laundry,” said Conservative Leader Tim Hudak. “Quite frankly, I expected to have two ministers resign.”

Auditor general Jim McCarter’s long-awaited report found a lack of government oversight allowed consultants to run amok as the province spent $1 billion at eHealth with little to show for it.

At the same time McCarter was delivering his damning report, Deb Matthews was being sworn in behind closed doors as Caplan’s replacement.

Laurel Broten, a former environment minister who had languished for years in the Liberal backbenches, took over Matthews’s job as minister of children and youth services.

Both women were absent from the legislature Wednesday and requests to speak to Matthews were denied by the premier’s staff.

McGuinty defended his choice in allowing Caplan to take the fall, suggesting it was his job as the current health minister to offer his resignation, not Smitherman’s.

“I work with circumstances as I find them, and in keeping with parliamentary tradition, it’s important that when information comes to the fore, that the minister who’s in place at that time, who’s up to bat, accepts responsibility,” said McGuinty.

“That’s our tradition of ministerial responsibility.”

Caplan, he added, “did the responsible thing and the honourable thing by accepting responsibility.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who along with the Conservatives had called for Caplan’s head for months, demanded to know why it took so long for the minister to leave — and why Smitherman’s head wasn’t on the chopping block.

“If I was the premier of this province I wouldn’t have Minister Smitherman in cabinet, nor would I have the current deputy minister who oversaw all these things in place either,” she said.

Smitherman, who is also mulling a bid for Toronto mayor, bristled at accusations that Caplan fell on his sword to preserve his colleague’s political ambitions.

“I don’t have survivor guilt but I feel terribly, of course, about the loss of a friend and a colleague,” said Smitherman, who also serves as minister of energy and infrastructure.

“I know how hard David Caplan works. I know he’s a public servant and I have every expectation that he’ll have an opportunity to serve again.”

Smitherman said he gave “no consideration” to resigning his cabinet post over the eHealth scandal and did his best when he held the massive health portfolio, which accounts for nearly half of every dollar the government spends.

“A minister has a small staff and it’s obviously a very big ministry,” he added.

McCarter’s report linked the awarding of untendered contracts to McGuinty’s role in the hiring of eHealth CEO Sarah Kramer, who abruptly left the agency over the summer along with chairman Dr. Alan Hudson.

The board of directors at eHealth, the agency tasked with creating electronic health records, felt it had little power over Kramer because she had been hired by chairman Alan Hudson “with the support of the premier,” McCarter said.

That failure in oversight is the reason why he had to leave cabinet, Caplan said.

“This was not an easy decision to make, but it’s the responsible thing to do,” he said in a statement Wednesday.

As infrastructure minister, Caplan had survived calls for his resignation amid revelations that lottery retailers and other insiders had won a disproportionate number of jackpots at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.

But there may be hope of a cabinet comeback for Caplan, whose mother Elinor also served as health minister under a previous Liberal government.

Broten’s promotion came as a surprise to some who saw her dumped from cabinet after she irked neighbours with plans to tear down a old tree at her Toronto home to make way for a two-storey garage when she was environment minister.

“I think the best politicians are good students and they learn their lessons and they find ways to grow and to develop ever better abilities, and that’s what I’m looking for,” McGuinty said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Up to 60,000 Alberta beehives could perish

“A perfect storm” of obstacles is threatening thousands of Alberta beehives. “It’s… Continue reading

57 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Alberta on Friday

Central zone remains at three active cases

Frontline rural police will benefit from new support positions say municipal representatives

Province says of 43 new RCMP officers on the job, 18 will provide support and specialized services

China finds energy expertise in central Alberta

Red Deer County companies Icon Energy Services and C-Sense Consulting find success in China

Man and woman accused of breaking into rural lease site arrested

Pair arrested after vehicle got stuck in field near Huxley

‘This year is unlike any other’: Trudeau delivers Canada day address

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and the Prime Minister release video celebrating the national holiday

Protesters return to St. Louis area where couple drew guns

Protesters return to St. Louis area where couple drew guns

Heavy rain floods southern Japan, leaving over dozen missing

Heavy rain floods southern Japan, leaving over dozen missing

At Rushmore, Trump says protesters seek to ‘defame’ heroes

At Rushmore, Trump says protesters seek to ‘defame’ heroes

First Nations coalition rejects recommendation to lift Sen. Beyak’s suspension

First Nations coalition rejects recommendation to lift Sen. Beyak’s suspension

Canada restricts dealings with Hong Kong over new security law

Canada restricts dealings with Hong Kong over new security law

Man accused of ramming gate at Rideau Hall with truck faces multiple charges

Man accused of ramming gate at Rideau Hall with truck faces multiple charges

Hosting regular season MLB in Toronto “totally different ball game”

Hosting regular season MLB in Toronto “totally different ball game”

Siakam says he feels safe in Florida, despite explosion of COVID-19 cases

Siakam says he feels safe in Florida, despite explosion of COVID-19 cases

Most Read