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The Globe and Mail

Ornge key legal adviser introduced Mazza to McGuinty

Ornge chief executive officer Chris Mazza was keen to share his vision for creating a world-class medical transport business with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, and he got his first chance at an exclusive fundraising reception back in 2007.

It was Alfred Apps, a key legal adviser to Ornge at the time and prominent member of the Liberal Party, who helped organize the $1,000-a-ticket reception with the Premier at the National Club in Toronto. Dr. Mazza was there as Mr. Apps' guest.

"Last nite [sic]worked perfectly," Mr. Apps said in an e-mail to Ornge executives the following day. "Chris was able to make a real connection with the Premier, and to lay out the success story of Ornge at a high level in a way that provides the groundwork for our entire initiative."

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The e-mail dated June 20, 2007 was submitted on Wednesday at an all-party legislative committee looking into problems at the air ambulance service. It provided the first indication that Mr. McGuinty, whose government is under fire over its stewardship of Ornge, had met Dr. Mazza.

"Once we have massaged the gameplan past the Minister of Health," the e-mail continues, "I will organize a follow-up private dinner for Chris with the Premier so that he can outline the vision and the gameplan in greater detail. It could not have gone better."

The e-mail was included in the affidavit of Jacob Blum, Dr. Mazza's former right-hand man and one of two witnesses who testified on Wednesday about the major role Mr. Apps played in structuring a series of private, for-profit companies. Maria Renzella, former chief operating officer of one of these Ornge private companies, described Mr. Apps as their "chief architect."

Dr. Mazza and Ms. RenzeIla were terminated last February. The Ontario Provincial Police are probing the private, for-profit entities.

In an e-mail response to The Globe and Mail, Mr. Apps said he introduced the Premier to many guests, including Dr. Mazza. They had an "animated one-way discussion" for about two minutes, with Dr. Mazza doing all the talking and many others standing around listening.

No follow-up meeting was ever arranged, he added. But Dr. Mazza had a lunch meeting on July 3, 2007 with George Smitherman, health minister at the time. Mr. Apps did not set up the meeting, but he prepared "talking points" for Dr. Mazza, advising him to play down his meeting with the Premier, "perhaps not even mention it at all."

Mr. Apps, who testified last month, says in a letter to the committee chairman that he made the comment in response to an e-mail from Mr. Blum, saying Dr. Mazza "doesn't want to seem to be going over George's head."

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Mr. Blum testified that he was uncomfortable with Ornge getting into the aviation business by purchasing its own fleet of helicopters and airplanes. He left in July, 2008.

"If I stayed, I knew I would become party to something I did not agree with," he said.

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