Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lottery bosses' car caper 'big mistake'

SUPPLIED PICTURE
What OLG bought: Mercedes-Benz B200 (shown) valued at $34,400; manufactured in Germany and Mexico. Luxury cars manufactured in Ontario (all 2009 models, with suggested retail prices): Lexus RX 350, $42,950, Cambridge; Lincoln MKX Crossover, $42,700, Oakville; Acura CSX Sedan, $26,990, Alliston.
Strife-prone agency 'regrets decision' to buy 22 foreign-made vehicles as casino contest prizes
March 11, 2009

QUEEN'S PARK BUREAU CHIEF

The minister in charge of Ontario's scandal-ridden lottery commission has blown a gasket over a "crappy decision" to give away foreign-made Mercedes-Benz cars as casino prizes.

Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman was incredulous that the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. purchased 22 Mexican- and German-made B200 hatchbacks at a time when the province is trying to bail out General Motors Canada and Chrysler Canada to protect Canadian jobs.

"It's disappointing, it's disillusioning, it's wrong on all levels and it was a big mistake made," a livid Smitherman told reporters after Progressive Conservative MPP Ted Chudleigh (Halton) exposed the gaffe in the Legislature.

"An agency that has the authority to do so made a decision – it was a crappy decision and I let them know it in full force that it wasn't going to be tolerated going forward," the minister said.

While Smitherman said he hauled embattled OLG CEO Kelly McDougald onto the carpet yesterday morning, he insisted she has his confidence.

"I made it clear that on this point a huge lapse in judgment was made and I expect them to improve their performance going forward," he said.

Smitherman stopped short of sacking McDougald, noting "eight out of the 10 senior executives are new" at OLG because of past problems.

"If I felt that we should disrupt the cultural transition in that organization by replacing the CEO then I would have done that," he said, recalling the rage he felt when he learned of the purchase. "You can't report it because I don't want to swear. I was angry."

OLG has been mired in controversy for years. Last month it emerged that lottery retailers, employees, their families and other insiders had "won" $198 million in prizes since 1996.

While rules have since been changed, the provincial agency's public-relations losing streak has continued – two weeks ago a UPS courier found $3,400 in brand-new lottery tickets, but was initially given the bum's rush by company officials when he tried to return them.

In a statement on this latest blunder, OLG apologized for the "License To Win" promotion, which ironically boasts an Ontario licence plate as its logo. But the contest will continue through the end of March because the $34,400 cars have already been bought.

"OLG regrets making the decision to feature cars in a customer promotion that were not built in Ontario," it said.

"The promotion was developed 10 months ago in a different economic environment. Supporting Ontario business is an important part of OLG's mandate and this promotion should not have included foreign-made vehicles. The promotion is under review."

A spokesperson for the OLG told The Canadian Press the agency paid $29,500 plus tax for each car, which retail for $34,400.

Smitherman, whose government transportation is a Ford Escape hybrid manufactured in Missouri, suggested the commission should have purchased Oakville-made Lincoln MKX crossovers if they wanted luxury cars.

However, independent auto industry analyst Dennis DesRosiers pointed out Mercedes-Benz uses Canadian steel. Hamilton's ArcelorMittal Dofasco has supplied the car maker for a number of years.

"There's just as much Canadian content in a Mercedes built in Alabama as most vehicles built in Canada," DesRosiers said, adding that Mercedes-Benz also employs thousands of people at its offices and dealerships across Canada.

Chudleigh, who recently traded in his Mercedes-Benz SL500 for a North American-made Cadillac CTS, appreciated Smitherman's furor, but "words come late."

"The good workers in Windsor, Oshawa, Chatham, Ingersoll, Oakville, Milton, all the automotive-industry towns in Ontario, how do they feel about this government that is buying fancy new cars that are made in Europe?" the Halton MPP said. "That's simply a highlight of the lack of sensitivity that this government has towards the Ontario economy."

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, whose party has been pushing a "Buy Ontario" procurement policy throughout the broader public service, was flabbergasted.

"It's shocking that it could happen. These vehicles should have been sourced in Ontario."

With files from the Hamilton Spectator

No comments:

The Best Online Last Will And Testament Website

PartingWishes.com - Write a will, power of attorney or living will (Click here)
No lawyer required.  Just answer the simple questions to create your legal documents online.
Make updates at any time free of charge.  Lawyer approved, at one-tenth the cost.
Also offers FREE services to create your funeral wishes, last messages and online memorials.

amazon deals 2

Live Face On Web

CNN.com - Most Popular

Oddee -

CNN.com Recently Published/Updated