Spending $67 million over two years on consultants is part of the “expensive undertaking” tasked to a government agency that’s developing electronic health records in Ontario, Premier Dalton McGuinty said yesterday.

The Smart Systems for Health Agency — now part of eHealth Ontario — spent about 15 per cent of its $225-million annual budget on consultants, including pollsters, even though the agency employed 166 people last year with annual salaries exceeding $100,000.

The consultants’ fees are not unreasonable given that U.S. President Barack Obama is investing $50 billion over five years on e-health, said Health Minister David Caplan.

By contrast, Ontario expects to spend another $2 billion over the next three years.

“I know that as we ramp up a new agency and organization, that there will become less of a reliance on outside consultants and more work done in house,” Caplan said.

But he stopped short of promising sanctions if the fees continue to climb.