TORONTO – Ontario’s opposition parties demanded action Monday after documents showed highly paid executives with Toronto’s 2015 Pan Am Games organizing committee billed taxpayers for everything from a cup of tea to lavish dinners and world travel.
The Progressive Conservatives demanded an auditor general’s investigation after documents obtained under freedom of information showed Pan Am CEO Ian Troop, who is paid $477,000 a year, billed 91 cents for a parking spot.
The committee’s senior vice-president Allen Vansen billed taxpayers more than $27,000 to move from Vancouver to Toronto, including $110 to transfer a pet.
It’s “outrageous” that such well-paid executives are showing the same culture of entitlement that the Liberals allowed to flourish at agencies like eHealth Ontario, said Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak.
“Premier, you said that you would not follow the same pattern of behaviour or the culture of entitlement of the Dalton McGuinty Liberals,” Hudak said in the legislature.
“When I think about that kind of gross waste and arrogance, it makes me wonder what is different about Kathleen Wynne. It sounds like the same tune the Liberals have been playing for 10 years.”
Wynne told the legislature she agreed some of the Pan Am expenses were out of line, and said the government had already ordered officials to tighten and clarify the rules.
“Three weeks ago, the minister responsible for the Pan Am Games asked the board to review their policy, strengthen it where appropriate,” said Wynne.
“It’s unacceptable that public dollars would be spent in that way, and my hope is that the other two levels of the government, both the city and the federal government, will take the same action.”
However, the New Democrats said they worry the Liberals never learned anything from past expense abuses like the $1-billion eHealth scandal in 2009 that saw well-paid health care consultants nickel-and-diming taxpayers for muffins and coffee.
“We’ve seen the same kind of scandals with eHealth, the exact same kind of scandal with the Ornge air ambulance, where these folks at the very top are expensing not only things like coffee and tea and muffins, but trips all over the world,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
“The Liberal government from time to time says they’re going to crack down or change the rules, but every time we turn around it’s the same old story.”
The Pan Am executives also billed taxpayers for expensive hotel rooms and dinners as they travelled to Guadalajara, London, Glasgow, Miami, Jamaica and St. Kitts.
The committee’s senior vice-president Louise Lutgens rented a car in Guadalajara for $1,830 and also billed $9.92 for laundry and another $45 for a cover for her BlackBerry, documents show. CFO Barb Anderson, who is paid $307,000 a year, twice billed taxpayers $1.89 for coffee. Troop also expensed $8,561.19 for a Mexican hotel and cocktail party.
The Conservatives demanded the Pan Am executives repay “the taxpayer money they’ve squandered” two years before the Games even start.
“What I worry about is if this is how they’ve started out, and there’s still two years to go before the Pan Am Games, how deep is this culture of entitlement,” wondered Hudak. “If we don’t actually stop this in its tracks now, how bad are the abuses going to be?”
Officials with Pan Am 2015 declined to be interviewed Monday about the expense claims, but the committee said all of the expenses fell within existing guidelines.
“It is important to remember that our business expense and travel policy has been in place since the organizing committee started, and all the expenses in question fall within that policy,” said Games’ spokesman Teddy Katz.