TORONTO - An unrepentant Dr. Chris Mazza said Wednesday he has nothing to apologize for during his time as CEO of the troubled Ornge air ambulance service.
Mazza, the former CEO of Ornge, veered from distraught to defiant as a government committee grilled him Wednesday over his girlfriend's hiring, a $1.4 million salary, a botched helicopter interior design, a speedboat purchase and falling patient transfer numbers.
"I poured my heart and soul into what I was doing; I did the best I could and that was all I think anybody could ask," Mazza, who was at turns tearful and forgetful through the six-hour marathon appearance, said.
Mazza also argued that the Ontario minister of health could have stepped in at any point if there was concern about Ornge's activities, which included setting up a maze of public and private corporations.
The Ontario government was fully aware of the developments at Ornge despite public claims that the air ambulance service went rogue, he said.
"The ministry of health had an unbelievable moral and ethical power over Ornge," Mazza said.
Tory MPP Frank Klees, who refused to call Mazza "doctor" during the committee hearings, said the spotlight now turns on Health Minister Deb Matthews, who appeared to have every opportunity to change the course of events at Ornge but failed to act.
NDP MPP France Gelinas said Mazza tried to reach out to the minister to brief her but was rebuffed.
"We have everybody pointing fingers at Mr. Mazza as in he is the villain; he is the reason why everything went wrong at Ornge," Gelinas said. "Hearing his side of the story, you realize that the ministry was fully briefed every step of the way."
Matthews said she went to an Ornge base and also asked to meet with Mazza, and on both occasions he did not attend.
It was the auditor general, and not the leadership at Ornge, that brought the problems to her attention, she said.
"I take my full share of responsibility and I've acted quickly to fix the problems that did come to light," Matthews said. "We've come a long, long way."
Auditor General Jim McCarter investigated Ornge, concluding that tens of millions of dollars were wasted and that public safety was possibly compromised.
"To the nose of this watchdog, this just didn't pass the smell test," McCarter said in March after releasing a special report. "The ministry didn't do its job in protecting taxpayers' money."
One of the more crucial issues raised was that the interiors of the newly purchased Ornge helicopters were configured in a manner that prevented CPR.
The auditor also raised many questions about the purchase of helicopters and the movement of money between companies.
Mazza told the committee that he'd heard the allegations of possible kickbacks in the awarding of the aircraft contract but the claims were groundless.