Thursday, March 12, 2015

While Patients Needlessly Die, Ontario Won't Account For $132 Million Earmarked For Hepatitis C Treatment

People in Ontario are dying from Hepatitis C because they can't afford the drugs that can cure the disease. The provincial government won't cover the cost, and has not accounted for $132 million it received from the Federal Government earmarked for Hepatitis C treatment.

On November 4, 2014, Brenda Peever from Ottawa died from complications of Hepatitis C contracted from a blood transfusion she received in 1979. Mrs. Peever was eligible for a new drug that has a 90% cure rate, but she could not afford the $55,000 cost. The province would not fund the treatment. Her story can be found here:

Now word that a man in Windsor is facing the same issue:

This should not be happening. In 2002, the Ontario government signed an agreement with the Federal government which transferred to Ontario $132 million to provide health care to people who were infected with hepatitis C through tainted blood received before 1986. The funds were provided over 10 years. The final payment of approximately $21 million was scheduled for this fiscal year (2014/15). 

The Agreement states:

"WHEREAS there are health care services for Hepatitis C that are not fully insured by publicly financed health care systems in Canada;"

"The parties agree that their shared policy objective is to ensure that persons infected with Hepatitis C through the blood system prior to January 1, 1986 and after July 1, 1990 have reasonable access to therapeutic health care services indicated for the treatment/cure of Hepatitis C."

"The parties agree that the federal transfers will be used for health care services indicated for the treatment of Hepatitis C infection, and medical conditions directly related to it, such as current and emerging antiviral drug therapies, other relevant drug therapies, immunization and nursing care."

The agreement also required the Ontario government to issue reports to the public every 5 years on how the money was being spent. The government issued a report in 2007. Although a report was due under the agreement in 2012, it does not appear that any such report was issued. 

The 2007 report, which also attaches a copy of the agreement, can be found at:

It is unacceptable that a person in this province died because there was no funding for a drug that could have cured her, when the province has received millions of dollars from the federal government specifically earmarked for such treatments. The Ontario government has not accounted for those funds, despite a written agreement requiring such reports.

I raised the issue of the transfers, and the missing report, directly with then Health Minister Matthews in February 2014, but never received any followup.

Where is the money? Why is Ontario 3 years late in accounting for how it has been spent? Why won't the government spend that money on drugs that can cure the disease?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

I'm Convinced the Ontario Liberals Broke Ontario's Campaign Finance Laws

I'm convinced the Ontario Liberals broke Ontario's campaign finance laws, but Elections Ontario won't do anything about it.

You're limited by law as to how much you can give an Ontario political party in a year. However, you can give as much as you want to that party's leadership candidates. When the Liberals held their leadership campaign in 2013, one of the party's rules was that all candidates had to give 25% of all funds they raised to the party. The annual donation limit for contributions to a party at the time was $7500. But if you gave $7500 to the party, plus $10,000 to a candidate, 25% of your donation to the candidate went to the party. So your donation to the party was $7500 + (25% of $10,000=$2500) = $10,000. You clearly donated more than the $7500 limit to the party that year.

In law, there's only 2 ways to look at this: either the candidate was acting as a fundraising agent for the party, in which case the individual donated more than the legal limit, or the money became the property of the candidate upon donation, and therefore the candidate donated more than the legal limit to the party. Either way, it is a violation of the Ontario Election Finance Act to accept a donation from anyone that is in excess of the legal limits.

I wrote to Elections Ontario about this issue. At first, they wrote back saying they didn't understand the concern I was raising, so I wrote back and explained it again. They then wrote back and said there was nothing in the Elections Act that prohibited a leadership candidate from transferring funds to the party, so they didn't think there was any violation of the Act. I thought they were still missing the point, so in May, 2013 I wrote the following to try to make it crystal clear. I never heard back from them.

Section 28 of the Election Finances Act reads:

"28. No political party, constituency association or candidate registered under this Act and no person on its or his or her behalf shall knowingly accept any contributions in excess of the limits imposed by this Act."

Given the 25% transfer rule applied by the Ontario Liberal Party to its leadership contestants, in my view the leadership contestants were accepting contributions on behalf of the Ontario Liberal Party.Accordingly, the leadership contestants would be in violation of section 28 if they accepted any contribution which would result in a transfer to the party of an amount exceeding the contributor's annual limit as set out in the act. For example, if a leadership contestant accepts a contribution of $40,000, he or she would know that $10,000 was collected on behalf of the party, and that that amount is in excess of the limits set out in section 18. Accordingly, accepting the donation of $40,000 would be a violation of section 28.

Further, your position that transfers from leadership contestants to parties is not prohibited by the Act depends on determining that such transfers are not contributions. However, it is section 27 that sets out what transfers are not contributions. That section does not include transfers from leadership contestants to parties. It reads:

"27. A registered party and any of its constituency associations or official candidates registered under this Act may transfer or accept funds, goods and services to or from each other and all such funds,goods, other than goods held in inventory for any candidate for use during a campaign period, and services accepted by such political party, constituency association or candidate shall be considered notto be contributions or campaign expenses for the purposes of this Act but shall be recorded as to source and any funds accepted shall be deposited in the appropriate depository on record with the Chief Electoral Officer."

Since section 27 does not list leadership candidates, it must be assumed that transfers from leadership candidates to parties are contributions, and therefore are subject to the limits in section 18,and prohibition in section 28.

If your position were correct, that leadership candidates were permitted to transfer funds because there is nothing in the act that prohibits it, section 27 of the act would not be necessary.
The only provisions in the Act which directly authorizes monies to be paid over from leadership candidates to parties is subsection 42(5).This applies only to surplus following a leadership contest. Where 25%of monies collected are specifically for the purpose of transfer to the party, they cannot be considered surplus.

Please directly address these 2 issues, which in summary are:

1. Were the leadership contestants collecting money on behalf of the party, due to the application of the 25% rule?

2. What provisions of the Act state that transfers of funds from leadership contestants to parties are not contributions, and therefore exempt from the limits in section 18?

Monday, March 2, 2015

If I were on Hamilton City Council, here's the motion I'd put forward

Many of Hamilton's City Councillors seem hesitant to wade into the controversy surrounding the Integrity Commissioner's report into the incident between Lloyd Ferguson & Joey Coleman. They have raised concerns about interfering with the conclusions of the Integrity Commissioner where the intent of setting up the office of the Integrity Commissioner in the first place was to separate the politics of council from issues regarding the Code of Conduct. While I understand these concerns, I do not believe that means Council has no recourse when it receives a deficient report following what appears to be an incomplete investigation. Ultimately, it is Council who has the authority and responsibility to ensure that its Code of Conduct is adhered to. If their chosen process (Integrity Commissioner) proves inadequate in any particular circumstance, they have an obligation to revisit the issue. 

I believe there is a way to address this while avoiding the concerns raised by some members of Council. If I were on Hamilton's City Council, here is the motion I would put forward:

WHEREAS on February 26, 2014, an altercation took place at City Hall involving Councillor Lloyd Ferguson & Mr. Joey Coleman;

AND WHEREAS two separate complaints were made by members of the public to the Integrity Commissioner for the City of Hamilton concerning whether Councillor Ferguson’s behaviour was in violation of the City’s Code of Conduct;

AND WHEREAS a report on the incident was delivered to the City by the Integrity Commissioner on February 25, 2015;

AND WHEREAS that report was delivered 9 months after the initial complaints were made, despite by-law provisions requiring such reports to be delivered within 60 days of the initial complaint;

AND WHEREAS the Integrity Commissioner advised the City that his ability to deliver the report in a timely fashion was hampered by his personal medical issues;

AND WHEREAS the Integrity Commissioner interviewed Councillor Ferguson regarding the incident, but did not interview Mr. Coleman or any of the other several witnesses to the incident as part of his investigation;

AND WHEREAS the circumstances set out above have raised questions about the adequacy and fairness of the investigation undertaken by the Integrity Commissioner;

AND WHEREAS the report delivered by the Integrity Commissioner lacks the type of thorough review of evidence, findings of fact, analysis, reasoning and discussion of an appropriate sanction expected in such reports;

AND WHEREAS it is essential to preserving the integrity of the City of Hamilton that the investigation of complaints regarding possible violations of the Code of Conduct are seen to be thorough, fair and balanced;

THEREFORE, be it resolved that the City of Hamilton retain an independent person other than the Integrity Commissioner to conduct a new investigation & report with respect to this incident.


FULL DISCLOSURE: Joey Coleman is a personal friend of mine.