Ornge scandal reflects bigger problem in Ontario

The Ontario government should impose the same accountability practices on itself that it imposes on regulated companies.

 
(Photo: Getty Images)

The former chair of Ornge, Rainer Beltzner, alleged that former CEO Chris Mazza’s compensation included unauthorized payments made without supporting invoices and that the board was in the dark about many aspects of Mazza’s compensation. Bonus pay was determined by the board but based on Mazza’s own evaluation of his performance, Beltzner wrote in a memo.

If these allegations are true, they’re outrageous. A CEO should never evaluate his own performance and a board cannot be in the dark about CEO compensation. The most important thing a board does is select and pay the CEO. The CEO should not even be in the room when the pay is being discussed.

That it is a crown board is even more embarrassing. Ministers should receive reports on board reviews from their boards. There is a pattern here in Ontario. It harks back to e-Health and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation scandals.

Ontario’s 25 ministers oversee dozens if not hundreds of agencies, boards and commissions. It is folly to expect that ministers can have adequate oversight over so many boards without proper reporting and data.

Ontario should take a sheet out of the playbook of another province, Saskatchewan. The Crown Investments Corporation of Saskatchewan has a comprehensive reporting regime in place for reporting to the government shareholder for all crown corporations. CIC also has company secretaries sit in on board meetings. CIC’s governance overview is best in class in Canada. I doubt some of the shoddy governance practices we have witnessed in Ontario would have survived the scrutiny and reporting regime in Saskatchewan.

Governance is not government. Ministers’ goals are to get re-elected. Ontario corporations are a public trust on behalf of taxpayers. The Ontario government should impose the same accountability practices on itself that it imposes on regulated companies. It should lead by example.

Comments are closed.