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Ontario PCs say Liberals ignored air-ambulance dangers

An Ornge air-ambulance helicopter flies over downtown Toronto on Oct. 17, 2013.

PETER POWER/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

The Ontario Progressive Conservatives have released a confidential report into the province's air ambulance service, accusing the Liberal government of not doing enough to fix safety problems at the agency ahead of a deadly night-time crash last year.

The document drops a day before the lone televised debate in the close election, and comes amid an increasingly fractious campaign.

The legislative report into Ornge, made public by former Tory MPP Frank Klees, says the service on two occasions was found by Transport Canada to be out of compliance with standards for training pilots to fly at night. The document also notes Ornge has been trying to address the problem, and has now provided extra training to 95 per cent of its pilots. But Mr. Klees said the Grits are still to blame.

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"The report makes it clear that the Minister of Health, her deputies and others in the government were given numerous warnings about issues at Ornge, but they were ignored," he said.

Last week, the federal government laid labour code charges against Ornge for allegedly failing to properly train pilots, after four employees were killed in a midnight crash near Moosonee on May 31, 2013.

The legislative report was supposed to be released May 5, but was pre-empted when Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne called a snap election after the Tories and the New Democrats rejected her budget.

Ms. Wynne tried to turn the tables on the Tories, slamming them for blocking a bill designed to reform Ornge in the legislature.

"If Frank Klees and his colleagues had been interested in making sure that Ornge was functioning at the highest level possible, they would have supported the legislation that was in front of the House that they stalled," she said, after a speech in a suburban Toronto hotel to a group of public-sector workers. "The report would have been made public, but the Conservatives and the NDP decided it was time for an election."

The debate Tuesday, at CBC headquarters in Toronto, marks the start of the June 12 election's home stretch. With their parties virtually tied in the polls, Ms. Wynne and PC Leader Tim Hudak will both be looking to pull ahead and create some momentum. New Democrat Andrea Horwath, for her part, will be trying to get some attention for her sputtering, populist campaign.

Ms. Horwath spent Monday rolling out an app that allows people to calculate how much money they would save under the party's proposals, which include taking HST off hydro bills, cutting car insurance rates and freezing tuition fees.

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The "savings calculator" asks the users a few questions – such as the type of home they live in, whether they are a student and whether they care for anyone with a disability – and calculates their savings.

"We're the only party that has been talking about the fact that Ontarians are finding it tough to make ends meet," Ms. Horwath told reporters after introducing the app on Citytv's Breakfast Television.

Earlier in the day, Ms. Wynne attacked Mr. Hudak's plan to cut 100,000 public sector jobs, arguing that services from schools to fire stations will suffer.

"Tim Hudak never bothered to calculate the price that all families will pay if front-line services are cut," she said.

Mr. Hudak fired back that he would spare nurses, doctors and personal support workers the axe. Instead, he said, his cuts would start with bureaucrats. Standing at a construction site facing a government building in downtown Toronto, he said: "[Ms. Wynne] made a deliberate choice to spend $100-million on this building: luxury appointments for middle-managing bureaucrats."

With a report from Kaleigh Rogers

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About the Author
Washington correspondent

Adrian Morrow covers U.S. politics from Washington, D.C. Previously he was The Globe's Ontario politics reporter. He's covered news, crime and sports for The Globe since 2010. He won the National Newspaper Award for politics reporting in 2016. More

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