THUNDER BAY – If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. It is not known if Minister of Natural Resources Michael Gravelle likes orange juice, but he will be getting oranges today. Labour and community groups will deliver oranges to Gravelle’s constituency office tomorrow, in protest of a proposed law that opens the door to “a crate of ORNGEs.”
The groups are calling on MPPs to avoid repeats of the ORNGE air ambulance scandal by removing Schedule 28 from the provincial budget Bill 55. Schedule 28 is an act buried inside the Liberals’ omnibus budget bill that will transfer authority from the legislature to a minister or private corporation.
“Schedule 28 will deliver Ontario a crate of ORNGEs,” says Jules Tupker, concerned community member. “The Liberals should be making government more open, more transparent and more accountable. Instead they’re giving us legislation that goes the other way.”
Last week, CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn released a legal analysis on Schedule 28 prepared by Steven Shrybman from Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP. According to Shrybman, the act will:
- Allow almost any crown corporation or government service to be sold or privatized, all without ever going before the legislature for debate or a vote;
- Move decision making to the back rooms, making scandals like ORNGE and eHealth more likely open the door for contracting out OHIP services to a U.S. HMO, or school curriculum development to a multinational corporation.
“This is a very dangerous piece of legislation. It’s an attack on basic democratic principles such as transparency and accountability. It makes it impossible for MPPs to truly represent the people who elected them,” says Hahn. “You don’t bury something like that in a budget omnibus bill. Schedule 28 must come out.”