The provincial labour minister Brad Duguid is hauling embattled WSIB chair Steve Mahoney onto the carpet for hosting a swank reception in Ottawa for MPs.
It emerged yesterday that Mahoney was “wining and dining” federal pals last week in Ottawa, at the Martini Ranch in Hy’s Steakhouse. While the former Liberal MPP, MP, and federal cabinet minister insisted the May 5 event was “fully justified,” provincial officials were less certain.
Progressive Conservative MPP Tim Hudak caught the Liberals flatfooted in Question Period when he asked why the head of the arm’s-length Workplace Safety and Insurance Board that helps injured workers was lobbying MPs.
“It was an inappropriate use of funds — that were supposed to be used for injured workers — to have this high-end soiree at the swankiest bar in Ottawa,” Hudak said. “You’ve got to wonder what this guy has to do before he’s shown the door.”
Duguid and Premier Dalton McGuinty were visibly flustered when Hudak ambushed them in the House. The minister afterwards said the government was not “made aware of this reception.
“I will be speaking to (the WSIB chair) to ensure that indeed the message is sent that we want to make sure that any expenditure of taxpayers’ dollars is done responsibly.”
Mahoney said he met with Liberal, Conservative and NDP MPs about flag-lowering ceremonies for injured workers and concerns with the federal bankruptcy and solvency act that could affect employees on workers’ compensation.
“The only reason it was at Hy’s is that we couldn’t get a room on the Hill,” he said, adding the reception cost less than $1,000 and he paid for all alcohol and for a subsequent steak dinner with up to eight MPs out of his own pocket.
NDP Leader Howard Hampton called for Mahoney’s resignation last month after a probe found the WSIB gave millions in rebates to firms prosecuted by Ontario and found guilty of safety violations, leading to deaths and injuries.