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