Friday, March 30, 2007

The Undoing of the McGuinty Liberals

Howard Hampton: Minister, for a week now, you've been trying to tell those innocent people across Ontario who were cheated in your lottery that you knew nothing. I have news for you: No one believes you. A woman who wrote to us today said, "I can only say I am sickened by the lack of respect, morality and integrity shown by the government." Another person writes, "I strongly believe that David Caplan should resign from his position."

We also heard from another courageous older gentleman who says he can't understand how you could be unaware of the problems at the OLG. His name is Bob Edmonds. Minister, why do you think Bob Edmonds doesn't believe you?

Hon. Mr. Caplan: I have certainly apologized to Mr. Edmonds for the hardship that he was placed under. His case began in 2001. Mr. Hudak, the member from Erie-Lincoln, was the minister at those times, and I cannot provide any insight into what actions were ordered, what was asked to be done. I do know that the Ombudsman comments on this matter quite directly, and I would quote the Ombudsman from his press conference on Monday for the member opposite. He says:

"I conclude that they"-the OLG-"put profits ahead of public service. I think there was a point, a crossroads, in 2002.... At that point, the OLG could have gone two ways. It could have said, `We'll apply the law and take the measures to act diligently.' One month later, Bob Edmonds surfaced, and they pretended that binding law from the Supreme Court didn't apply." Then it became a slippery slope.

I agree with the Ombudsman, with his assessment and with his conclusions and recommendations. That's why action has been taken to make sure that this kind of situation does not happen again.

Mr. Hampton: Minister, I'll tell you why Bob Edmonds doesn't believe you. Under your watch, you spent $200,000 trying to silence him and keep his story out of the media. And then, when his story did break in the media, you went out and engaged two Liberal hacks, the Premier's former communications person and Warren Kinsella, to try to discredit him. That's why he doesn't believe you. Mr. Edmonds's lawyer says, "Unless Mr. Caplan is suggesting that no one from the government reads the newspapers or watches TV, I don't see how he can credibly say the government wasn't aware of Mr. Edmonds's claim."

Minister, there is a way that you can clear this up. You can turn over your e-mails, your records and your briefing books from the time you became minister. That would clear this up. Will you do that?

Hon. Mr. Caplan: I would say to the member that an all-party legislative committee has taken a look at the OLG, and the Ombudsman has done the most sweeping and thorough investigation of this matter. He is an independent officer of this Legislature, unbiased and non-partisan. I have ordered that all of the files that the Ombudsman reviewed be turned over to the Ontario Provincial Police for their review. I trust the Ontario Provincial Police to do the right thing, to make the right determination, to understand and to determine what the next steps ought to be. I have tremendous confidence in the Ontario Provincial Police.

But I would also say to the member opposite that there is a change to a higher standard right across the country. In Nova Scotia, we have a government investigating its lottery corporation. In New Brunswick, the Ombudsman there is looking into it and investigating. In British Columbia, the Ombudsman too has launched an investigation.

Mr. Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): We've got a crooked minister.

The Speaker: I would ask the member for Niagara Centre to withdraw.

Mr. Kormos: I withdraw.

The Speaker: New question.

Mr. Hampton: To the minister responsible for the lottery corporation: Innocent people across Ontario who were defrauded, innocent people who work hard and play by the rules every day, simply do not believe you. Bob Edmonds doesn't believe you did your job.

You became minister responsible for the lottery corporation in June 2005. Just before that, Bob Edmonds's case of lottery fraud was settled. You know what, Minister? These are some of the newspapers that covered it: CanWest, the National Post, the Ottawa Citizen, the Guelph Daily Mercury, the Brantford Expositor, the Sarnia Observer, Canada Press Newswire, CTV National News, the Hamilton Spectator, the Sault Ste. Marie Star, the Peterborough Examiner. Minister, if you really didn't know what was going on, why won't you release your own briefing books, e-mails and records? That way, we would know whether you were in the dark or-

The Speaker: The question has been asked. Minister.

Hon. Mr. Caplan: In fact, the Ombudsman spoke quite clearly in his press conference, where he talked about the government and the actions that have taken place. "Of course, we all know," he says, "that things began to happen quickly once the Edmonds case became public, and we have now seen some initiatives that have been implemented, such as a lowering of the insider win policy from $50,000 to $10,000."

In fact, there has been a great deal more than that which has ensued. Of the recommendations of both the Ombudsman and KPMG-more than 60 in total have come up-17 have already been implemented; 25 are under way and will be complete by the end of June. The remaining 18 are under way and working along.

For example, as the Ombudsman recommended, a public statement has been posted on the website. The KPMG report has been made available. As well, an action plan to implement all 40 of them has-sorry-

The Speaker: Supplementary.


Mr. Hampton: Minister, it was covered in the Globe and Mail, it was covered in the Montreal Gazette, it was covered in the Halifax newspapers, the Regina newspaper, the Saskatoon newspaper, the Edmonton newspaper-It was covered by virtually every newspaper and radio network in Ontario. That's why Bob Edmonds doesn't believe you. He doesn't believe you could be that totally oblivious, that clued out.

There is no greater fraud than a government defrauding the public, and there's a way for you to clear this up. What are you trying to hide, Minister? Why won't you release your own e-mails, your own briefing books and your own records so that we can see? Either you were totally in the dark and didn't know what was going on or someone's not telling the truth.

Hon. Mr. Caplan: In fact, if I could expand on the earlier answer that I was providing, 8,800 self-checking devices have been made available and will be fully rolled out by the end of June. To date, 4,000 have already been installed. As I mentioned, the OLG insider-win policy threshold is down from $50,000 to $10,000. OLG escalates all insider-wins to corporate security and surveillance. Insider win investigations include interviews with retailers to verify purchasing information and previous playing patterns. Only when the investigation is complete and the claim proved to be valid is the prize paid out. If the OLG believes there's a serious concern with the retailer lottery prize claim, the appropriate police authorities are contacted immediately. All instant ticket processes have been detailed, and formal documentation is under way. Additionally, I am working with my colleague Minister Phillips to implement the oversight and the regulatory regime.

Ontarians can have every confidence that when they spend that toonie or that loonie on a game at Ontario Lottery and Gaming, it is a fair one and it is one they can have trust-

The Speaker: Thank you. Final supplementary.

Mr. Hampton: You know what, Minister? None of these things that you talk about is going to do anything for the hundreds and possibly thousands of people who were defrauded out of money in a fraudulent lottery under your watch. It won't do one stitch.

Bob Edmonds doesn't believe you, because he settled out of court and it was covered in no less than 81 different news outlets just as you became minister. You say you were totally oblivious; you had no clue what was going on. Well, Minister, Bob Edmonds doesn't believe you. But there is one way you can convince him. You can do what you have ordered the lottery corporation to do. You ordered them to turn over their records. Will you, Minister, turn over your records, your briefing books, your e-mails so that Bob Edmonds will know whether you're telling the truth or you were totally in the dark?

Hon. Mr. Caplan: I know that Mr. Edmonds has accepted the apology, certainly from myself and from the former president and CEO of the lottery corporation, Mr. Brown, when they spoke directly.

As soon as I did become aware, I acted quickly by ordering a third party review, the KPMG report, which forms a big part of the Ombudsman's recommendations, 40 of which are implemented. And when the Ombudsman said in his press conference that he felt there were-and made-some very serious allegations, immediate action ensued to deal with the matter that the member has raised here. I instructed Ontario Lottery and Gaming to ensure that all files and all other relevant information would be turned over to the Ontario Provincial Police for their review. In fact, the Ontario Provincial Police will make the determination about what the next steps are. I have faith and confidence in them to be able to get to the bottom of the matter.

The Speaker: New question. The Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Tory: A question to the minister for lotteries. Clearly, the whole situation with respect to what you did, what you knew, what your office knew, what the Premier's office knew, what their involvement is, is a big issue here. It's a big issue with the public. The leader of the third party, the leader of the NDP, says that there are people out there who don't believe you. There are lots of them. We see them talking on television every night. It's a big issue in here. There are people who don't believe we're getting to the bottom of this.

No one has looked at these files so far. For all the investigations you point to that have been done, no one has looked at your files, your briefing books, your memos, your appointment calendar and so on. So if you're so strongly of the belief that you want to be open and transparent, if you're not trying to hide anything, if you're not trying to cover up and you really want to help the people who got bilked to understand what went on here, will you make those documents public? Will you make those documents subject to being reviewed so we can see exactly what you did and when?

Hon. Mr. Caplan: I understand the nature of this place. Members opposite engage in partisan activities and partisan views, and that's perfectly acceptable within this chamber. But we do have legislative officers who are independent, who are unbiased, who are non-partisan. The Ombudsman conducted the most sweeping investigation of this matter, and in fact, he says, "I commend the minister and the government for its openness and responsiveness to my report and recommendations and for their immediate and resolute commitment to ensuring change."

That is in stark contrast to the way these matters were dealt with previously by ministers like Sterling, Hudak and others who swept these matters under the carpet, who put it in a closet and locked it away. It took this government to welcome the Ombudsman's investigation, to bring in KPMG, to refer the matter to the police, to shine the light of day on these matters and to take quick and decisive action to protect the public interest.

Mr. Tory: The Ombudsman's letter of yesterday makes it very clear that he has not at any time commented on what you did or, more precisely, did not do prior to October 2006. The answer is, there's not much for him to comment on. He would have reached the same conclusion as everybody else: You sat on your duff and you did nothing while people had millions of dollars stolen from them.

While we're at it, in terms of all the things you won't turn over to anybody to look at because you're trying to cover them up and keep them secret, we do have the evidence of the political fixers being sent in to cover this up and to concoct some story to mislead the public and the press. The Premier and you said yesterday that the lottery corporation hired Mr. Kinsella. We'll know how much Mr. Warren makes from the sunshine list that will come out tomorrow. Will you come here-in addition to your books, your memos, your calendars, your briefing notes, will you table Mr. Kinsella's contract, showing us how much he made and who signed the contract? Will you do that?

Hon. Mr. Caplan: As the Premier indicated yesterday, Ontario Lottery and Gaming, independently and on their own, makes the day-to-day decisions and did choose to hire Bob Reid, a very well-known gentleman to you. Their information is available under freedom of information, as are others.

The member knows full well from his colleagues who have served in the capacity that certainly a minister does not make the day-to-day operational decisions at Ontario Lottery and Gaming, nor the personnel decisions that are made there. I can tell you, though, that this government, unlike the previous, is committed to the highest standard of accountability and transparency. That's why, in fact, we've had a standing committee of the Legislature take a look at Ontario Lottery and Gaming and other agencies, where a previous government absolutely refused to do so. That's why we welcomed the Ombudsman and his investigation. We've embraced his report, accepted his recommendations and have begun implementing them. That's why, in the spirit, and directed because of the comments of the Ombudsman that the files be turned-


Anonymous said...

Kinsella gave a speech at the Rideau Club where he mocked you, and said you were a psycho who does nothing else but think about him. He called you crazy.

Ottawa Watch said...

Really. No kidding. I didn't see it in the papers. I guess it wasn't newsworthy in Ottawa.
If you have proof of that, do send it along.

I'm sure the people at the Rideau Club said "who's Mark Bourrie"?

I can see why you posted anonymously. It would have taken a great deal of courage to sign such a contentious post. I always get lots of anonymous comments when a post mentions Kinsella. How about that?