Report Confirms Provincial Oversight Needed for OSPCA
On May 31, 2010 I tabled the following Motion in the legislature:
"That, in the opinion of this House, the Ontario Legislature call on the Government of Ontario to review the powers and authority granted to the OSPCA under the OSPCA Act and to make the necessary legislative changes to bring those powers under the authority of the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services to ensure that there is a clearly defined and effective provincial oversight of all animal shelter services in the province, and to separate the inspection and enforcement powers of the OSPCA from its functions as a charity providing animal shelter services."
You may recall that I brought this Motion forward in the wake of the OSPCA's plans to euthanize its entire animal population at its York Region shelter, as a way of dealing with a reported ringworm outbreak.
My Motion was debated in the legislature on November 18, 2010. Rather than consider the facts that were presented to them concerning the questionable conduct of the OSPCA, Liberal MPPs proclaimed that they have full confidence in the organization, its Board and management and that there is no need for provincial oversight or any legislative changes. The Motion was defeated. OSPCA Board Chair, Rob Godfrey, accused me of political grandstanding for even bringing the Motion forward.
I continued to call for an independent investigation into what I considered to be gross incompetence on the part of the OSPCA and its handling of this issue. On August 9, 2010, the OSPCA reluctantly announced that an Independent Review would be called to examine this affair.
Justice Patrick LeSage and Dr. Alan Meek were asked to conduct the review and it was agreed that their report, in its entirety, would be made public.
During a meeting with Justice LeSage and Dr. Meek on November 8, 2010, I conveyed to them a comprehensive file of information related to the OSPCA. It contained emails and letters from current and former employees and volunteers of the OSPCA from across the province, including inspection and enforcement officers who provided detailed examples of questionable management practices, lack of training, inadequate resources, shoddy record-keeping, lack of proper protocols and recurring conflicts within the organizational structure of the OSPCA. I also discussed my reasons for the legislative changes that I believe are necessary to ensure proper oversight of the OSPCA.
The LeSage/Meek Report
On June 3rd, one day after Dalton McGuinty prorogued the legislature, the OSPCA released the report written by Justice Patrick LeSage and Dr. Alan Meek.
Why was it kept under wraps by the OSPCA for weeks and why was it not released while the legislature was still in session ?
Here's why: The report exposes serious failures at many levels of the OSPCA's operations, and recommends the very legislative changes that the McGuinty government refused when it defeated my Motion.
On page 83, the report makes a number of recommendations for legislative amendments, including the following three specific recommendations contained in my Motion:
1) That the government should review the powers and authority of the OSPCA. It recommends a task force be created with representation from various Ministries to ensure that appropriate changes are made;
2) That the Ontario government should consider legislative amendments to provide for oversight of the OSPCA in order to remedy the current situation of having the OSPCA essentially policing itself;
3) That the government should consider the possibility of separating the OSPCA sheltering services from its investigation and enforcement services.
After reading the report, I spoke with Justice LeSage to express my gratitude to him and Dr. Meek on behalf of the many Ontarians who have been justifiably concerned about the state of animal welfare in our province.
Changes Necessary to Restore Confidence in the OSPCA
This report exposes the failings of both the OSPCA, as well as the McGuinty government for its refusal to exercise proper oversight. Two things need to happen:
The Provincial Government Must Act
The provincial government must immediately take the necessary steps to implement the legislative changes proposed in the report. Unfortunately, the McGuinty government has repeatedly demonstrated that it has no intention of taking this issue seriously. I can assure you however, that given the opportunity, a PC Government will act on these recommendations following the October 6th election.
The OSPCA Board Should Resign
I believe that in order to restore confidence in the OSPCA, the current Chair of the OSPCA and its Board members step aside. The LeSage/Meek Report makes it clear that the Board has failed in its responsibilities to oversee the administration of animal welfare in our province.
I want to thank the many concerned individuals who were willing to come forward to share their stories and the information that gave the LeSage/Meek Report its strength. It was their courage and persistence that made these changes possible.
As always, I welcome your comments and advice. Please feel free to contact me by phone at 905 750 0019 or through my website at www.frankklees.com.