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One hundred Ornges

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This week, Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk reported that our provincial Liberal government has spent eight billion dollars too much to build schools, hospitals, courthouses and other infrastructure projects.

How? Through public-private partnerships, or “P3s.” Instead of managing and financing these construction projects itself – the old-fashioned way – the government hired private sector “experts” to do it all. The result is that we no longer have that $8 billion to spend on public services, decent wages and benefits for public employees, or job creation generally.

That money is gone.

The problem with a number like eight billion is that none of us can really understand it. It’s just too big.

If you counted to a million, one second at a time, 24 hours a day, it would take about 12 days. But to count to a billion? You’d be counting for more than 32 years. To get to eight billion, you’d have to count for 263 years.

The mind boggles.

I have a different way of illustrating the size of the Liberal P3 scandal.  I hope you’ll share it with your local MPP.

A few years back, the people of Ontario found out that our provincial air ambulance system, Ornge, was being grossly mismanaged. The details were slow to emerge, but when they did, the news was shocking: the CEO was paid more than $9 million over six years to run the service. Ornge spun off a number of private companies, and the directors of those companies made another $10 million. The law firm hired to create the spin-off companies billed the public for $9 million. Ornge bought some helicopters at $12 million a pop, then used two of them to fly bigwigs around instead of equipping them as ambulances. The CEO of Ornge bought a water-ski boat with public money. And so on.

But here’s the thing: for all the uproar caused by the Ornge scandal, the amount of money the people of Ontario lost was not in the billions. I’m pretty sure it was only in the tens of millions. I’m going to guess that the total money wasted in the Ornge scandal was less than $80 million, tops.

If my math is in the ballpark, then the money we’ve lost through the Liberal P3 scandal is equal to one hundred Ornge scandals.

I want the people of Ontario to truly understand the enormity of the P3 scandal. I want MPPs to truly understand it. So here’s my thought: it’s the holiday season. What if every OPSEU local delivered 100 oranges to their nearest MPP? It could be fun – especially if you invite your local news outlets.

Let me know how it turns out. Send me a picture at smokeythomas@rogers.com.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union

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