Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Finger-Pointing 2.0

Well, there can be little doubt that both The Toronto District School Board and the Ontario Ministry of Education have fully embraced the digital age. Finger-pointing abounds on both sides.

In the ongoing saga that I think could best be described as a clash between Jimmy Hazel's union muscle (and please remember that I am a steadfast supporter of unions until they start misbehaving), TDSB ineptitude, and suspicious provincial politics, Board Chair Chris Bolton has penned an angry missive to Education Minister Laurel Broten, whose ham-fisted application of Bill 115 has mandated a continuation of the sweetheart deal that Jimmy Hazel's Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council enjoys with the board, this despite earlier demands by the province that they send in some advisers to help the board get its finances in order.

Bolton says the province “turned the tables” on the board and has now tied its hands. Now, it can’t even do something simple — such as eliminate overlapping shift changes — which could lower maintenance costs and allow the board to rid itself of about 200 vehicles.

“Those alone would save $3 million,” Bolton said in an interview with the Star.

A disquieting earlier report by The Star raised the possibility of a suspect, perhaps even corrupt, relationship between Hazel's group and the McGuinty government. The paper revealed that council members campaigned on behalf of the Liberals, contributed, along with other unions working for the board, over $675,000 to the party's coffers, and, apparently as a reward for their fealty, received gift certificates from the Liberals worth over $253,000.

And yet the TDSB hardly emerges as blameless in this imbroglio. In what can perhaps be interpreted as a testament to organizational inertia at the very least, the board has done almost nothing since a 2006 review by Blackstone Partners, which

submitted a 113-page report to the TDSB in January 2007 detailing a litany of issues: high costs of repairs, lots of workers and spotty results, and managerial “silos” that made it hard for principals to figure out whom to approach to get a job done.

At the time this information was brought to public scrutiny by The Star, TDSB Director Chris Spence rather lamely asserted that some progress has been made, and the report is “working its way through the committee structure” at the board.

Taking over five years to work through a report? Indefensible by any standard, I would think.

So blame for these fiscal improprieties has to be shared among the board, the trades council, and the McGuinty government. What interests me most about this tawdry saga is that it is most likely a mere microcosm of corruption, cosy political relationships, and general institutional ineptitude, all intractable shortcomings not easily remediated. Yet I rest a little easier each night knowing that a paper with journalistic integrity, The Toronto Star, is on the job and willing to go where most mainstream media are not to be found.


  1. When there's money on the table, Lorne, you can be sure there will be plenty of hands looking for a piece of the action.

  2. And the rest of us have to live with the results, Owen.