Fired for political points?

By Jeffrey R. Smith (jeffrey.r.smith@thomsonreuters.com)

Just cause or political posturing? That’s what enquiring minds want to know after the Ontario government fired the embattled CEO of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG).

Kelly McDougald was hired two years ago to head the OLG after it came under scrutiny for a suspicious amount of lottery wins by those involved with the corporation, such as ticket sellers. The corporation courted further controversy under McDougald’s watch in early 2009 when it presented 20 foreign cars as prizes at casinos at the same time the Ontario government was giving bailouts to General Motors and Chrysler.

Still smarting from the eHealth Ontario expenses scandal, the Ontario government moved swiftly, firing McDougald from her $400,000-a-year post on Aug. 31. It claimed just cause over questionable expense accounts filed by OLG staff, including a $3,800 employee dinner and $8 pen refills. One employee claimed $30 for a car wash, without a receipt.  McDougald responded by filing a wrongful dismissal suit for a whopping $9 million.

One is left to wonder if the Ontario government acted a little too fast in this politically charged dismissal. Had it not already been dealing with the eHealth scandal, would it have taken the same action? (eHealth, the province’s electronic health service, faced questions of propriety this year involving questionable expense claims that resulted in bad publicity for the government and tough grilling from opposition parties.)

It’s understandable Premier Dalton McGuinty and his crew in Queen’s Park don’t want a repeat of expense account irregularities, especially since taxpayer money is involved. Perhaps that’s what they were thinking when they gave McDougald the axe — enough is enough and we’re not taking any more wasting of taxpayers’ money. And I’m sure they’re hoping this decisive action will play well to taxpayers.

But unfortunately, given McDougald’s claim, the government’s course of action could end up costing the taxpayers more money. While McDougald conceded some of the expenses “were indeed inappropriate,” she argued others were the costs of doing business and OLG’s net profit increased by $73 million last year. Just cause might not be so cut and dried, especially compared to the government’s handling of the eHealth scandal.

Former eHealth head honcho Sarah Kramer, under whose watch these expenses were filed, took the fall for the scandal but was still given a $317,000 severance package. Given the precedent of paying her, Ontario might be hard-pressed to justify a dismissal for cause with no notice with McDougald.

McDougald may not end up with the $9 million she’s aiming for but, if the courts find an unconvincing case for just cause, she might still be the one to win the lottery with Ontario taxpayers footing the bill.

1 Response to “Fired for political points?”


  1. 1 Fire the fat cats September 15, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    If Ontario taxpayers have to pay more for firing high-spending bureaucrats versus giving them severance deals, then so be it. Better to lose money paying lawyers and court fees than to put up with their nonsense any longer. While McDougald could win in court, the province will still save money in the long run by sending a message to wasteful spenders still working for the government and its agencies that the trough is closed.


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