TORONTO — Health Minister Deb Matthews fired back Tuesday at testimony from Ornge's ousted CEO, calling it "pure nonsense."
"I want to respond to the testimony of Dr. Chris Mazza and the specific suggestion that he has always been willing to co-operate," Matthews said in an opening statement to the estimates committee, which called her back to testify for a second time.
"That had he been asked to make any changes of any kind at any time his answer would have been 'Yes ma'am.'
Mazza testified July 18 that if the health ministry ever wanted him to change course or alter the way the air ambulance service was working, his response would have been "Yes ma'am."
Matthews reeled off a list of cases where she said Mazza and Ornge stonewalled the auditor general, rejected requests to disclose his $1.4-million salary and dodged requested meetings with Matthews herself.
"I think we can agree that was not a 'yes ma'am' but it was a message received loud and clear and led directly down the path that led to an overhaul of leadership at Ornge," Matthews said.
She later clashed with Progressive Conservative MPP Frank Klees, who asked her to resign for her failure to head off problems at Ornge at an earlier point.
In March, the province's auditor general, Jim McCarter, found Ornge wasted tens of millions of dollars and may have compromised patient safety because senior executives started weaving a convoluted web of private, for-profit companies out of the non-profit, taxpayer-funded ambulance service in 2006. This went on for years, with little oversight from the government.