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Lobbyists target Ontario Health amidst Ford government changes: report

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As the Ford government increases the number of for-profit clinics operating in the province’s health-care sector, the lobbying of Ontario Health has shot up by 50 per cent, a new report shows.

The Integrity Commissioner of Ontario’s annual report, which summarizes the work by the ethics watchdog during the 2022 to 2023 year, shows the overall number of lobbyists at Queen’s Park is up.

Ontario Health, the government agency in charge of health care, was the most lobbied Crown corporation over the past year. It was lobbied 276 times, an increase of 51 per cent compared to the previous year, the integrity commissioner said.

The spike in lobbying activity comes amidst sweeping changes to how health care is managed and delivered in Ontario.

In an attempt to cut surgical wait times and backlogs at hospitals, the Ford government announced changes over the past year that increased the role of private delivery of publicly-funded procedures.

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Cataract surgeries and diagnostic imaging and testing are set to be expanded first, while the government will create an entirely new system to perform hip- and knee-replacement surgeries.

The second most lobbied government agency was the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), charged with procuring energy for Ontario’s grid. The organization recommended in October 2022 that Ontario should procure more electricity from natural gas plants over the next few years to fight potential energy shortages.

The arm of Infrastructure Ontario in charge of public lands was the third most lobbied, with Metrolinx and the Ontario Energy Board rounding out the top five.

At the end of March 2023, there were 3,348 active lobby registrations with the provincial government, an increase of just over 100 compared to the same time the previous year.

Lobbyists pushing policies on behalf of companies and non-profits are required to register with the integrity commissioner and give details of their aims and who they’re talking to.

The top three most lobbied subjects were economic development and trade (1,457), health (1,154) and the environment (982).

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