True to form, the Ontario Liberals have maintained their ongoing fight with the Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk.
It’s the classic case of “live by the sword, die by the sword.”
When freshly elected Premier Dalton McGuinty took over the reins of power in 2003, an audit he ordered found that the outgoing Progressive Conservatives had amassed a deficit of $5.6 billion, instead of the stated $3 billion.
Much outraged ensued and the Liberals passed The Fiscal Transparency and Accountability Act requiring a tell-all, pre-election audit by the Auditor General so that voters never got duped again about the deficit situation.
Fast forward to 2018.
Last Wednesday the AG issued a 27-page report called “Review of the 2018 Pre-Election Report on Ontario’s Finances which sounded more like a 7-alarm fire than an audit report. According to Lysyk, this year’s budgetary shortfall is $11.7 billion, not $6.7 billion as Wynne claimed. And it gets worse. Next year’s forecast is pegged at $12.2 billion, not the $6.6 billion Finance Minister Charles Sousa promised it would be.
According to Wynne, it’s all just a little misunderstanding that they’re working through with “ongoing discussions” with the Auditor General. It’s a minor technical, accounting “difference of opinion.”
But it’s a lot more serious than that. The Wynne government has misled us on two fronts. First, on the true impact of its Fair Hydro Plan, which just like magic gave us an instant 25% reduction in hydro charges. The plan should be renamed the “Fake” Hydro Plan.
Second, the Wynne treats the public-sector plan assets that it can use as it wishes.
Call it creative accounting or cooking the books. It is unforgivable for this government to play around with financial numbers to fit its agenda. To them, it’s just a game. And we’re the losers.
To any independent observer, it’s just shocking that Wynne plainly and continually ignores independent audits and is quite telling of what she thinks of our hard-earned money. She simply doesn’t care.
Wynne has been a career, ego-driven politician who likes to play hard ball. She’s precisely why people are cynical of politicians and explains the rise of populism. She’s a gift to Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford.
Ford announced a commission of inquiry into government spending. He said: “We’re going to restore responsibility, accountability, and trust in government. Ontario deserves answers about how big (Premier) Kathleen Wynne’s mess really is.”
Given the track record of Wynne’s liberals, who can take offence to that? If Ford wins, which appear quite likely at this point, he’ll want to make sure he has a sharp eye on Ontario’s financial fiasco that’ll be him to fix.
In the meantime, let’s give McGuinty a big thanks for laying the ground work for giving us the tools to keep Wynne’s feet to the fire. It may yet be his most important legacy.