Ballem eHealth "contract" raised in Ontario legislature

Post by Mike Klassen in

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More questions about Ballem, this time at Queen's Park

Questions continue to be raised both in public and in the halls of the Ontario government about the untendered contracts, or lack of contracts, doled out by eHealth Ontario. The matter of Penny Ballem's work done for eHealth was raised by Ontario's Conservative opposition, resulting in this exchange during Question Period in the Ontario legislature:

Mr. Robert W. Runciman: To the Minister of Health, and it's regarding his so-called third party review, which is essentially a farce. Reviews have already been done. Policies are already in place. The problem is, they've been ignored by the board of directors, they've been ignored by Sarah Kramer, the CEO, and management. One of the individuals involved, a Dr. Penny Ballem, got thousands in taxpayer money even though she had no contract in place. This is clear proof that the rules are being broken; not that they don't exist, which you're suggesting with respect to this review. This review is clearly a sham designed to bury this scandalous misuse of taxpayers' dollars. The minister should resign and let someone else clean up his mess.

Hon. David Caplan: I know that the member opposite has had his run-ins with the Auditor General in the province before, but to call his review a sham I think is a new tone in this House. This is a non-partisan-unlike the member opposite-independent officer of this Legislature, and I think he has done outstanding work on behalf of Ontarians and on behalf of this Legislature over the years. For this member to suggest that the auditor is not capable or that his review is a sham I think really speaks to other issues that this member has had in the past with the auditor and with his office.

I want you to know that I have full confidence in the auditor to perform his duties and to provide us with advice and guidance. I will act on the recommendations that he provides for me when it comes to-

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you. Supplementary?

Mr. Robert W. Runciman: This is a disgusting display. I was talking about the PricewaterhouseCoopers review, which he's been boasting about for the past couple of days and weeks.

We have e-mails with respect to this Dr. Ballem, which are saying things like, "We do not have a signed agreement," "I can't make payment"-a back and forth-and "A signed agreement is not necessary." The e-mails clearly show how eHealth contemplated having the Liberal-connected Courtyard Group pay Dr. Ballem and then get reimbursed from eHealth, in an attempt to break the rules already in place. And who approved the payment, despite the lack of a contract? Well, the fat cat from Alberta, the guy who's charging taxpayers $15 for a nightcap.

It's not a lack of rules; it's that Hudson and Kramer have ignored the rules, breaking the rules already in place. They need to be fired. You need to resign. Put somebody in there who can do the job and clean up your mess.

Hon. David Caplan: The member again makes allegations that I don't believe he can support. PricewaterhouseCoopers is a very reputable firm, one of the top international firms when it comes to audits, management consulting and financial controls in the world. I should suggest to the member that if he's trying to undermine their reputation, I think he is way off base.

I should note for the member that my direction to the board is that there is an additional layer of oversight appointed by my ministry. PricewaterhouseCoopers is not a consultant. They're the agency's external auditor of record, and every corporation or agency of its size has an external auditor. The previous PWC review was largely focused on administrative policies. The new review will be much broader in scope.

The member said that I've been talking about this for weeks; it was only just.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you. New question.

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