TORONTO – An Ontario government committee is asking for emails and records from former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne and several of her cabinet ministers.
Premier Doug Ford announced the committee last month, days after his finance minister said Ontario was running $15-billion deficit.
The select committee wants documents relating to the previous government’s Fair Hydro plan and accounting practices for two provincial pension funds.
Both items were at the heart of a dispute with the province’s auditor general.
The new Progressive Conservative government has adopted the auditor general’s accounting recommendations.
It says an independent commission found greater deficits under the Liberals than had been reported.
The committee of six Tories and three New Democrats has also called a number of witnesses, including the auditor general, several deputy ministers, and the secretary of cabinet. No Liberal legislators have been tapped to appear so far.
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Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser says he doesn’t believe the committee will find anything new, noting the province’s financial reports are public.
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“We’re already done a commission of inquiry, we’ve done a review that they call an audit…we had a pre-election report, we have an auditor general, all that is public, we all know what’s there,” he said. “All these things…are a context for cuts.”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath expressed concerns the committee would be a “bit of a dog and pony show” rather than a real exercise in fiscal scrutiny.
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“If this information can help us to make sure the mistakes of the past aren’t repeated, then that’s legitimate and we’re prepared to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work necessary,” Horwath said. “If, however, this is just an effort to create a show for the government, then I think it’s not only something that’s a waste of people’s time but it’s also a shameful abdication of responsibility to the public.”
The panel’s request also is directed at some of the province’s top civil servants.
Tory House Leader Todd Smith, who is not on the committee, said the government is simply seeking more information on the financial decisions made by its predecessor.
“We want to get to the bottom of what happened, who made the decisions that they made and why they made them,” Smith said. “If there were people behind the scenes that were part of this scheme then they should be called out for that.”
The committee is expected to provide a final report in December.