OLG Counting on ‘Fairness Czar’

Coulter Osborne, a retired judge and formerly Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner, has a new job keeping the province’s casino expansion on the straight and narrow. He has been appointed as the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s first-ever “independent fairness advisor,” charged with overseeing the procurement process that will mean a dramatic expansion of casinos across the province, including in the Greater Toronto Area. “I call him the fairness czar,” Rod Phillips, president and chief executive of OLG, said in an interview. “We want the process to unfold in a way that is fair and transparent and gets the outcomes that the province wants.” “I don’t claim any particular knowledge of the industry itself,” Osborne told QP Briefing. “I come at it from the outside, in. “The procurement process is going to be ongoing for some time. Part of the exercise is to ensure that the entire process is fair and no potential proponent or actual proponent is disadvantaged by the RFP (Request For Proposals) when it gets issued or by any aspect of the over all process.” Osborne, 78, was formerly a judge of the Ontario Court of Appeal and Associate Chief Justice of Ontario. In retirement Osborne has been as busy as ever. He has done work for all levels of government, having looked over the procurement process at Union Station for the City of Toronto and school transportation procurement and civil justice review for the Ontario government. He also arbitrated a dispute between Canada Post and the Canadian Postal Workers for the federal government. Osborne said he is proud that virtually all of his recommendations arising from his civil justice review were adopted by the government. But he does have one regret. “My mandate did not include family law, which is a very important,” he said. “I think it deserves a look but that is a political decision that will have to be made.” Being a “go-to guy” isn’t a term he applies to himself but Osborne does not disagree with it. “It has turned out that way but it wasn’t as a result of any great planning on my part. It just happened,”  he said. “So it turned out I am reasonably busy.” Osborne is from Hamilton but practised law in Kitchener before his appointment to the bench in 1978. His legal career was met with a diversion at the outset. Osborne was a member of the 1956 Canadian Olympic basketball team, playing guard. He missed most of the first term of his second year in law school training in Vancouver and then attending the Olympics in Melbourne. He kept up with class as best he could, cracking his law books at night and getting lecture notes mailed to him by classmates. “It was an important diversion in my life, at least temporarily.” Canada did not win a medal in 1956. In fact there has been a medal drought since Canada’s only men’s basketball medal, a silver, in 1936. But Osborne is hopeful that NBA great Steve Nash, as the new general manager of the Canada’s national basketball team, will turn things around. Is it possible his next assignment could be giving some basketball advice? Not likely, Osborne said. “Steve probably needs some help but he seems to have been successful in getting the good players to commit to the program, which has been a problem in the past.” After the Olympics, Osborne’s basketball activities have been limited to coaching kids and playing on a YMCA team. “The last time I had a basketball in my hands was probably shooting hoops in the driveway with my grandson or granddaughter, which would be a few years ago now since they are both in university.” As the OLG’s fairness advisor, Osborne has been busy familiarizing himself with the OLG as an organization and with the corporation’s casino expansion plans. He has already reviewed its Request For Information process. Next up will be the Request for Proposals process that will lead to the selection of operators for the new casinos. “People are much more alert to the concerns about making things fair and above board and transparent. I think there is a greater awareness than there was say 10 years ago.” He is also available to advise OLG board members and staff about possible conflicts of interest. “Who should pick up the tab for lunch or should there even be a lunch?” Osborne said. “I hope it ensures that the process is as transparent and fair and that it makes sense in the final analysis. That’s the idea anyway.”