Ford looks to probe Lib­eral-era fi­nances

PressReader - Tke Channel - Ford looks to probe Lib­eral-era fi­nances
Premier Doug Ford slammed his pre­de­ces­sor’s han­dling of On­tario’s books Mon­day, call­ing it the “big­gest govern­ment scan­dal in a gen­er­a­tion,” as he an­nounced plans for a spe­cial com­mit­tee that would dig fur­ther into the prov­ince’s fis­cal sit­u­a­tion.Ford’s vow to hold the pre­vi­ous regime ac­count­able came in a speech to cau­cus de­liv­ered days af­ter his fi­nance min­is­ter an­nounced On­tario was deal­ing with a re­cently re­vised $15-bil­lion deficit as a re­sult of Lib­eral ac­count­ing prac­tices.“They do not just get to walk away from this,” said Ford, whose Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives won a ma­jor­ity this spring. “We will de­mand an­swers about where the money went.”Crit­ics said Ford’s move would likely set the stage for cuts to ser­vices and ex­pressed skep­ti­cism about the com­mit­tee’s work.The premier, how­ever, said the work of the “select com­mit­tee” was much needed. The leg­isla­tive body will have the power to call wit­nesses, com­pel doc­u­ments and gather ev­i­dence for a fi­nal re­port ex­pected in De­cem­ber, he said.Ford pro­vided the de­tails as he stood be­side Fi­nance Min­is­ter Vic Fedeli, who on Fri­day said the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives had cho­sen to adopt ac­count­ing prac­tices used by the au­di­tor gen­eral and had — through the work of an in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion — found greater deficits un­der the Lib­er­als than had been re­ported.“Vic you helped shine the spot­light on the big­gest govern­ment scan­dal in a gen­er­a­tion,” Ford said.Ford took no ques­tions on his plans for the com­mit­tee, which are in ad­di­tion to the in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion and a line-by-line au­dit of govern­ment spend­ing that’s ex­pected to be fin­ished in the com­ing weeks.The premier in­stead re­peat­edly crit­i­cized his pre­de­ces­sor, Kath­leen Wynne.“We’re not go­ing to let Kath­leen Wynne and her cronies walk away from their $15-bil­lion scan­dal be­cause we can’t let any­thing like this ever hap­pen again,” he said.Wynne, who is still a mem­ber of the leg­is­la­ture, said Ford is us­ing the com­mis­sion of in­quiry and now the select com­mit­tee to jus­tify cuts he in­tends to make to pub­lic ser­vices. She stood by her record as premier and her govern­ment’s re­port­ing on its spend­ing.“He’s cre­at­ing that con­text for cuts,” she said. “But he’s do­ing it in a par­tic­u­larly vi­cious, per­sonal and, I think, mis­lead­ing way.”The Lib­er­als had dis­agreed with the au­di­tor gen­eral over ac­count­ing prin­ci­ples ap­plied to two pen­sions plans and its Fair Hy­dro Plan, a sit­u­a­tion the fis­cal watch­dog said meant the prov­ince un­der­stated its deficit by bil­lions.The Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives said the select com­mit­tee will in­ves­ti­gate Lib­eral ac­count­ing prac­tices, de­ci­sion mak­ing and pol­icy ob­jec­tives. The body will be made up of six govern­ment mem­bers and three NDP leg­is­la­tors.NDP Leader An­drea Hor­wath pre­dicted the com­mit­tee will be a “dog-and-pony show” and won’t ad­dress ur­gent needs across the prov­ince.“There’s noth­ing new in what’s hap­pen­ing here ex­cept that the premier’s ob­vi­ously got the wrong pri­or­i­ties,” she said. “If we had a select com­mit­tee on hos­pi­tals that are crowded with hall­way medicine we would be happy about that.”Wil­frid Lau­rier Univer­sity po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor Barry Kay said the use of the com­mit­tee, and the power it grants leg­is­la­tors, seems out of con­text with the im­por­tance of the is­sue. In the end, the Lib­eral govern­ment was held ac­count­able by vot­ers dur­ing the spring elec­tion when they were re­duced to seven seats, he said.“With a select com­mit­tee, he’s just pre­pared to use what seem to be ex­treme mea­sures for un­nec­es­sary mat­ters,” Kay said. “This is the way he seems to play pol­i­tics … His style is that he views pol­i­tics very per­son­ally.”They do not just get to walk away from this. We will de­mand an­swers about where the money went.Kay said most gov­ern­ments find ways to blur the lines when it comes to fi­nances.“There’s so much games­man­ship on how to ob­fus­cate debt that all pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments play,” he said. “(Ford) clearly wants to be able to de­clare some cri­sis that jus­ti­fies him tak­ing other ac­tions that would be seen to be con­tro­ver­sial.”Univer­sity of Toronto po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor Nel­son Wise­man said he’s skep­ti­cal about the com­mit­tee’s work.“Com­mit­tees are more or less given their march­ing or­ders be­fore they start,” he said. “It looks like a witch hunt.”Wise­man also said the rhetoric Ford used to de­scribe the sit­u­a­tion sug­gests he doesn’t know much about his­tory.When for­mer Tory premier Ernie Eves left of­fice in 2003 Dal­ton McGuinty’s new Lib­eral govern­ment said they un­cov­ered a multi-bil­lion-deficit left be­hind by the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives, he said, ad­ding that gov­ern­ments make such find­ings all the time.

Premier Doug Ford speaks dur­ing ques­tion pe­riod af­ter an­nounc­ing Mon­day his govern­ment will cre­ate a select com­mit­tee to in­ves­ti­gate “Lib­eral waste and scan­dal” at Queen’s Park. The com­mit­tee will sub­mit a fi­nal re­port in De­cem­ber.

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