There seems to be an inner circle of Liberal connected hogs feeding at the public trough. The recession offers great opportunities for consultants to attach themselves to successful political parties and reap consulting fees that make our poor plumbers and lawyers look as if they were paid like fast food servers. As an alternative one could work for those big US financial firms that caused the crisis and reap huge bonuses to keep you in their employ so that when things turn around you can use your expertise to continue fleecing the public.
eHealth scandal reaches Premier's inner circle TheStar.com - Ontario - eHealth scandal reaches Premier's inner circle
Sarah Kramer received a bonus of $114,000 five months after starting her job as eHealth CEO.
For $327 an hour, one former aide wrote to another former aide
June 11, 2009 Tanya TalagaRobert BenzieRob FergusonQueen's Park Bureau
Key members of Dalton McGuinty's inner circle are surfacing in the eHealth Ontario spending scandal, documents obtained by the Star show.
Premier Dalton McGuinty's former health adviser was paid $327 an hour by eHealth to, among other tasks, correspond with McGuinty's former chief of staff in his new capacity at a polling firm on "eHealth Ontario priorities," billing records demonstrate.
Karli Farrow was paid $10,646 for 32.5 hours of eHealth work as a Courtyard Group consultant over a period of three weeks in January.
Farrow, a one-time chief of staff to former health minister George Smitherman, had previously served as McGuinty's health policy adviser and was an architect of the Liberals' health-care platform for the 2003 election. She has worked with McGuinty periodically since 2000, including a stint as his director of policy and research, beginning in 2004. She left Smitherman's office in 2007.
Confronted with these latest revelations in the eHealth affair yesterday, McGuinty defended the Liberals' "clean" record, but conceded the entire episode raises broader questions about the lucrative government relations business.
"There are a lot of folks out there in the consulting industry who have had former affiliations with all the parties – I think that's a fair statement," the premier said in Milton.
"I think it goes beyond that, though. It has to do with everybody in the consulting industry and our relationship as a government with them – either directly, through a ministry, or through an arm's length government agency," he said, promising stricter controls after Auditor General Jim McCarter's eHealth probe is completed this summer.
"Really, we're going to have to put into place greater oversight."
According to a Courtyard time sheet, on Jan. 22, 2009, Farrow billed 4.5 hours for: "Prep for and meeting with H. Stevenson, follow-up on H. Stevenson feedback, correspondence with D. Guy re: eHealth Ontario priorities; project correspondence."
That refers to Helen Stevenson, an assistant deputy minister of health, and Don Guy, McGuinty's former chief of staff and the campaign director who delivered Liberal election victories in 2003 and 2007. He left McGuinty's office to return to the private sector in 2006.
Guy, now president and CEO of Pollara, a polling firm, confirmed he received a letter from Farrow, but no compensation for his advice.
"Neither Pollara nor I have ... done any work for eHealth Ontario, paid or otherwise," he said in an email.
"Between 1997-2007 we published an annual survey of Canadian's (sic) health care priorities, Health Care in Canada. I think Karli was looking to see if there was a 2008 report out, but we didn't publish a 2008 edition."
Courtyard, which the Star has disclosed received nearly $2 million in untendered contracts, is an international consultancy whose Toronto office has strong ties to the Liberal government and to the Ontario health-care establishment.
Courtyard's John Ronson, a co-chair of the 1995 Liberal election campaign, billed eHealth on March 18 and 19 for consulting on "risk management" and "governance" issues at $393 an hour for a total of $1,572 for four hours' work.
Neither Farrow, who is on maternity leave, nor Ronson was available for comment.
Courtyard's registered lobbyist at Queen's Park is Duncan Fulton of Fleishman-Hillard Canada. Fulton was McGuinty's press secretary when the Liberals were in opposition and served in that capacity with prime minister Jean Chrétien.
Courtyard's managing partner is Michael Guerriere, who was chief operating officer at the University Health Network until 2000, where he worked with then UHN president and CEO Dr. Alan Hudson.
Hudson is now chairman of the eHealth board of directors.
EHealth CEO Sarah Kramer was forced to resign on the weekend amid questions surrounding her $114,000 bonus, which Hudson, who worked with her at Cancer Care Ontario, approved on behalf of the board. She received a $317,000 severance package with benefits for 10 months.
The eHealth debacle has rocked the government for two weeks.
With high-priced Alberta consultants earning $2,700 a day, while expensing cups of tea, and with millions of dollars in untendered contracts, McGuinty said he could "understand why people are upset."