The Canadian Press:
Health Minister Deb Matthews is expected today, in a speech to the Toronto Board of Trade, to lay out an "action plan" to transform Ontario's health care system, and trim the $16-billion deficit. The Minister is getting some heat from the opposition and health experts for laying out said plan in front of a business audience, and not at Queen's Park. Natalie Mehra of the Ontario Health Coalition, who has appeared on The Agenda, says former Progressive Conservative Premier Mike Harris would not have gotten away with announcing new policy to a business audience in Toronto -- a setting she calls "completely inappropriate."
The Toronto Star:
Martin Regg-Cohn delivers details on Matthews's speech in his column. He says the speech is a chance for the Health Minister to "get out in front of [Don] Drummond's parade and march to her own drummer." Cohn points out some of the highlights: six to seven per cent funding increases are history, and deficit pressures will push increases to three per cent (and lower); there is lots of money to go around if funding is reallocated from wasteful, inefficient practices; primary care is simply not working; post-hospital care often leads to rehospitalization; and a lack of integration is slowing down the system. The only hitch Regg-Cohn sees with the plan is that it's all too familiar, especially to the health experts that will be in the audience on Monday, who've heard these same solutions for decades.
The Globe and Mail:
Speaking of Don Drummond, who chaired the commission tasked with tabling recommendations on making the Ontario public service more cost-effective, Adam Radwanski critiques Dalton McGuinty's speech at the Canadian Club last week, writing that the Premier missed an opportunity to wrestle control of the provincial agenda back from Drummond. Radwanski says there was hope that McGuinty would use the address to spell out his vision for getting the province's finances in order, but instead used the speech to reiterate, in vague terms, that tough decisions would need to be made. Radwanski writes:
Although his report won’t be released before mid-February, Mr. Drummond has managed to dominate the provincial news cycle by using interviews to slowly roll out his key findings. Among them have been challenges to some of the Liberals’ core policies, such as their signature commitment to smaller primary-school class sizes, and an extremely grim projection that 2-per-cent annual economic growth is the new normal.
Mr. Drummond’s growing legend, to which Mr. McGuinty made light-hearted reference at the start of Tuesday’s speech, can be chalked up partly to his adeptness at self-promotion. But if the Liberals are chafing, they also have themselves to blame.
Three-and-a-half months have passed since the election, and the government still hasn’t announced or clearly signalled a single major policy aimed at the financial challenges largely ignored during the campaign. So Mr. Drummond has stepped into the void, and in the process created the impression that he’s effectively writing the next budget.
If this is not true, Radwanski writes, then Liberals must quickly disprove it. Less for the sake of confused Ontarians, he says, and more for markets and credit agencies, such as Standard and Poor's, who warned Ontario of a potential credit rating downgrade.
The Niagara Parks Commission, the arm of the Ontario government that controls the land and buildings around the Canadian side of the falls, approved a 25-year contract with the Maid of the Mist Steamship Co. in 2008. However, the deal was controversial, due to a lack of competition, and led the commission to call for bids from competing tour boat operators for the very first time. The commission is reviewing the multimillion-dollar bids, and is expected to make a recommendation to Ontario's tourism minister in February. And our neighbours to the south, on the American side of the falls, are watching the deliberations closely, worried about possible disruptions to an iconic tourist attraction that draws millions of visitors a year.
The Barrie Examiner:
About 1,600 Barrie residents packed into standing room only GO Train cars on Sunday, as GO Metrolinx celebrated the start of train service from its new Allandale Waterfront GO Station. Why was the train so packed? It was free! And for many families with small children, it was their first train ride. The first official train left Barrie for Union Station at 5:22 a.m. today, and is followed by four more every half hour, with the first train headed back to Barrie at 4:10 p.m.
Vale has confirmed that an employee was killed by falling rock at Coleman Mine, in Sudbury, on Sunday. The immediate family has been notified, but the employee's name is being witheld until the notification process is complete; the employee was 47-years-old, and had worked at Vale for 16 years. Greater Sudbury Police, the Ministry of Labour, and the United Steelworkers Local 6500 are investigating the death. Vale has announced that it has temporarily suspended operations at its mines in Sudbury.
The LCBO has asked the Ontario Superior Court to freeze the bank accounts of two employees it says swindled the crown corporation out of two million dollars. The two accused were responsible for a program that sells alcohol to people with diplomatic status (without tax or duties). In sworn affidavits, the LCBO outlines a massive fraud case including fake diplomats, mysterious foreign transfers, and claims the employees ordered products -- about $1.6 million worth -- but never handed over the cash. From April 2005 until the end of last year, approximately $1.6 million worth of alcohol was shipped to a Toronto warehouse, but no money was collected.
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