Proposals aim to protect taxpayers

In last week’s column, I referred to some of the factors I’m seeking your input on to determine whether or not to support the 2013 provincial budget.
As I stated last week, the vast majority of people I’ve spoken to, and who have responded to my budget survey which was sent out to every home across the riding, strongly support action that would reduce their auto insurance premiums and provide desperately-needed supports for our home care system, in addition to strong support for other initiatives we pushed to have included in the budget.
While there is a general agreement that the budget should be assessed on its own for how well it meets these important priorities, it is clear that actions need to be taken to make the Liberal government accountable for its reckless spending decisions over the past nine years.
That is why the NDP caucus last week unveiled two important proposals we believe can help make this government—and future ones—more accountable and help protect taxpayers’ dollars from waste and neglect.
The first is the creation of a Financial Accountability Office, which would have oversight of the province’s books.
This office, which is modelled on the federal Parliamentary Budget Office, would examine promises and programs before the money is spent, helping to ensure that waste is limited and that accountability measures—such as those that were lacking in the Ornge air ambulance scandal—are in place before problems arise.
Unlike the Auditor General’s Office, which looks into spending after it has taken place, the Financial Accountability Office would be our first line of defence to ensure taxpayers receive good value for their money.
In addition, the office would operate independently of the government and would have strong powers to order the government to release documents and information to ensure accountability.
The proposal already has been endorsed by recently-retired federal Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, who has been a thorn in the federal government’s side when it comes to poor spending proposals and questionable estimates.
Our second proposal is to extend ombudsman oversight to hospitals, ambulance services (including air ambulance), long-term care homes, community care access centres, and retirements homes.
Had such oversight been in place years ago, there is a good chance we could have prevented wasteful spending scandals such as Ornge.
From the very beginning, people were speaking up and stating that they had concerns with the way money was being spent with and the decisions that were being made.
Yet because of the management system that was in place and the lack of an ombudsman oversight, the waste continued unchecked.
I believe that giving the ombudsman greater involvement in the health-care sector not only can help prevent future scandals, but also identify service gaps and other issues that are preventing our health-care system from delivering the results people across this province—and particularly in the northwest—deserve.