Ontario Premier’s Wife Linked to Behavioural Therapy Agency

September 9th, 2013

“It’s just one more instance of the Liberal arrogance in this province,” he said. “McGuinty started the train, Wynne is now the new conductor and we’re all frantically pulling emergency brakes that aren’t connected to anything.”

TORONTO — While hundreds of kids like Mitchell Ward languished on Kinark’s lengthy waiting list for intense behavioural therapy, the premier’s wife cashed in with a juicy seven-year contract to transform the agency, QMI Agency has learned.

Jane Rounthwaite — Premier Kathleen Wynne’s partner of 25 years — not only served for nearly two years — during 2010 and 2011 — as the interim director of program Services for the agency.

The Osborne Group principal was also a consultant for Kinark from 2004 to 2009.

Prior to 2013 — when Wynne became premier — Rounthwaite owned 50% of the agency that includes among its consultants many former staffers of various Ontario ministries, as well as Kinark itself.
She now owns a 40% share.

How much she made during those seven years — while the McGuinty government fought a move in court to extend intensive therapy for autistic kids beyond age six — is unknown. Whether her contract was subject to a tender process is also unknown.

Both the premier’s office and Kinark could not provide that information prior to deadline, despite repeated requests to do so.

A review of Kinark’s condensed statements of operations during that period yielded no information. Nor did finance ministry disclosure documents.

When Rounthwaite served on the Kinark staff on an interim basis, she was under contract — thereby avoiding the government requirement to report her salary publicly.

But considering that the not-for-profit agency has consistently had more than one dozen managers on the Sunshine list, one can easily bet she did not come cheaply.

What Rounthwaite did for the agency for those seven years, is equally nebulous.

While she lists herself as having an MBA — but no training in social services or mental health — her Linkedin profile says she was the project manager for the agency’s “clinical transformation initiative” that put in place “evidence-based interventions and business practices” for children with mental health needs.

Peter Moore, Kinark’s $232,000 CEO who retired in May, writes effusively in her Linkedin profile that Jane “always delivers” and is “comfortable working at both a strategic and operational level.”

New CEO Cathy Paul, who admitted to making more than $200,000, was initially surprised when I asked about Rounthwaite.

Paul said Rounthwaite was involved in a multi-year initiative to “migrate all client practices to evidence-based intervention” — primarily in community mental health.

Efforts to reach Rounthwaite resulted in a cat-and-mouse game last Friday. At first, the premier’s office informed me Rounthwaite would call me directly around 3 p.m. after she finished a series of meetings. But at 5 p.m. the preem’s press secretary, Kelly Baker, said she’d be responding — and in writing only.

Baker e-mailed me that Rounthwaite did “interim assignments” for Kinark as well as working on “several projects.”

She did not name what those projects were aside from the multi-year Clinical Transformation project.

Kelly also told me Wynne’s wife has not worked for Kinark since August of 2011.

That notwithstanding, during the years that Rounthwaite was with the agency, their government funding — from the ministry of children and youth services — jumped by 60%.

According to the 2011-2012 estimates report, Kinark’s transfer payment from the children and youth services ministry amounted to $62.7-million — higher than most of the 642 agencies listed.

In a story earlier this year by QMI Agency’s Antonella Artuso on Rounthwaite’s government of Ontario consulting contracts, NDP MPP Giles Bisson told her that normally the family of a cabinet minister, or premier, can’t be involved in a business that is connected to the business of government.

While Wynne was not minister of children’s and youth services during the years Rounthwaite was a consultant for Kinark, the ties are far too cozy for comfort.

In 2006, then-education minister Wynne named a 12-member panel to study autism services, Jacquie Brown, a manager at Kinark, was appointed to be part of it.

Brown and Rounthwaite co-authored an article for the International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management — which can be purchased for $10US online — on the Clinical Transformation project.

Doug Ward, who’s now in a battle to get his autistic son continued treatment, said he’s certain Kinark could have done a lot more for families if they weren’t wasting money on unnecessary salaries and patronage.

“It’s just one more instance of the Liberal arrogance in this province,” he said. “McGuinty started the train, Wynne is now the new conductor and we’re all frantically pulling emergency brakes that aren’t connected to anything.”