Au­di­tor: Lib­er­als left a mess, but PCs have is­sues, too

The Peterborough Examiner - - Opinion -

On­tario’s au­di­tor gen­eral dropped a price­less pub­li­cre­la­tions gift into Doug Ford’s lap this week, but it’s doubt­ful he can use it.

Af­ter all, how can the premier ex­pect peo­ple to worry too much about the fes­ter­ing mess he in­her­ited from the pre­vi­ous Lib­eral gov­ern­ment when there’s a Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive dump­ster fire rag­ing be­hind him — and he’s hold­ing the match?

It’s true that Bon­nie Lysyk’s an­nual au­di­tor’s re­port re­cites a damn­ing litany of waste, in­ep­ti­tude and shame­less pol­i­tick­ing on the part of Kath­leen Wynne’s Lib­eral regime.

Wynne’s sig­na­ture and sup­pos­edly “free” col­lege and uni­ver­sity tu­ition scheme will cost 50 per cent more than the Lib­er­als’ orig­i­nal es­ti­mates and $650mil­lion-a-year more than the pre­vi­ous plan. Yet, ac­cord­ing to Lysyk, there’s lit­tle ev­i­dence it helped more stu­dents from low-in­come fam­i­lies get a post-sec­ondary school ed­u­ca­tion — the pro­gram’s main goal.

Lysyk tells other hor­ror sto­ries, too. Metrolinx, the prov­ince’s tran­sit agency, paid nearly a quar­ter of a bil­lion dol­lars to get a light rail line back on track in Toronto without any proof from the project’s builders that the ad­di­tional costs were jus­ti­fied. And thanks to the fail­ure of the Tech­ni­cal Stan­dards and Safety Au­thor­ity to ful­fil its man­date, most of the el­e­va­tors in this prov­ince are not in com­pli­ance with the law. Feel safe?

Then there’s the Lib­er­als’ trou­bling eth­i­cal lax­ness. For­mer Lib­eral trans­porta­tion min­is­ter Steven Del Duca “clearly in­flu­enced” the ap­proval of a GO train sta­tion in his own Vaughan rid­ing, even though a sta­tion was not orig­i­nally rec­om­mended for that lo­ca­tion, the au­di­tor said. This in­ter­fer­ence led to the sta­tion “in­ap­pro­pri­ately” be­ing OKed.

And if you won­der how the Lib­er­als stayed pop­u­lar for so long, feast your eyes on the $62 mil­lion they spent on gov­ern­ment ad­ver­tis­ing in 2017-2018. The au­di­tor said that was the most money since 2006-2007 — and close to a third of it went to par­ti­san self-pro­mo­tion.

It’s not hard to look beau­ti­ful when you’re pay­ing for po­lit­i­cal cos­metic surgery with tax­pay­ers’ money.

It’s likely that few On­tar­i­ans who look un­der the rocks Lysyk over­turned will se­ri­ously lament the Lib­er­als’ crush­ing de­feat in last June’s elec­tion. But given the crazy head­lines Ford’s mak­ing these days, many will dis­miss the re­port as an­cient his­tory. Wash­ing­ton state has just re­jected Hy­dro One’s $4.4 bil­lion ac­qui­si­tion of Amer­i­can util­ity Avista Corp. be­cause of the dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity of po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence from On­tario’s PC gov­ern­ment.

Re­mem­ber back in July when Hy­dro One chief ex­ec­u­tive Mayo Sch­midt and the en­tire board re­tired un­der pres­sure from Ford’s new gov­ern­ment? It turns out the Amer­i­cans now fear the On­tario gov­ern­ment, with its 47-per-cent own­er­ship of Hy­dro One, would try to dic­tate to one of the util­i­ties that pro­vides elec­tric­ity to Amer­i­cans.

Ford can boast he spared On­tar­i­ans from Sch­midt’s $6.2-mil­lion-a-year salary, but the death of the Avista deal could leave Hy­dro One with a $185-mil­lion bill for a ter­mi­na­tion fee as well as le­gal, com­mis­sion and other costs.

Mean­while, it turns out On­tario’s chief ac­coun­tant re­cently quit be­cause she re­fused to sign off on the PC gov­ern­ment’s $15-bil­lion deficit fig­ure, which she deems grossly in­flated. So, while the au­di­tor gen­eral handed Ford plenty of old am­mu­ni­tion to fire at his Lib­eral foes, at the end of this week he’s left shoot­ing blanks be­cause of his own ac­tions to­day.

On­tar­i­ans may be dis­mayed, even dis­gusted, by the an­tics of the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment. But they have as much or more to worry about with the crew cur­rently run­ning Queen’s Park.

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