ANALYSIS: Ontario’s auditor her own worst enemy
Get mad Ontario.
It’s time for the annual gnashing of teeth and rending of clothing with the release of the auditor general’s report on the many, many things our provincial government is screwing up.
The 2017 tome from Bonnie Lysyk clocks in at a door-stopping 1,107 pages over two volumes. Just in time for the holidays, something to irk everyone!
Ticked at teachers taking too many sick days? Cheesed about cancer patients being sent south for expensive treatments? Irate over incompetence in the electricity sector?
Lysyk has fuel for your fire.
Her report details a 29 per cent spike in teachers staying home sick, $35 million for stem cell transplants in the U.S., and $30 million erroneously given away to energy producers.
It’s a double volume full of paper cuts for the Liberals, but no real lasting wound. For the opposition, the danger will be chasing political points in a dozen different directions.
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To paraphrase Fredrick the Great, he who is angry at everything is angry at nothing.
Also undermining the effectiveness of the auditor’s report is the auditor herself.
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Lysyk is in a protracted fight with the Wynne Liberals over a basic accounting assumption surrounding pension funds. This government, like governments before, counts civil servant pension funds on the plus side of the ledger. Lysyk says that’s not right and as a result, the books are not balanced as the Liberals claim.
Tellingly, the recently released Progressive Conservative election platform uses the government accounting method, not the auditor’s.
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The PCs say it’s in order to compare apples to apples when lining up spending promises, but Patrick Brown has made no indication he plans to accept Lysyk’s interpretation of the numbers if he wins power in 2018.
The tussle over accounting principles permeates Lysyk’s report, and the power of her persuasion is diminished by it.
This fight over basic math, a fight that Lysyk appears to be losing, allows the government to shrug, thank the auditor for her work, and move on.
Despite salvos from Lysyk over advertising rule changes and the Fair Hydro Plan, the Liberals have not adjusted tack one bit.
If you value a strong voice keeping those in power accountable, then Lysyk’s tenure as Ontario’s top bean counter has so far been a qualified failure.
And that is something to get mad about.
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