Ontario NDP legislator criticizes work of committee probing Liberal spending

Ontario Premier Doug Ford attends Question Period in the Queens Park Legislature in Toronto, on Tuesday October 30, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO — A committee tasked with getting to the bottom of the previous Liberal government’s accounting practices has achieved very little, an Opposition legislator sitting on the panel dominated by Premier Doug Ford‘s Tories said Friday.

Catherine Fife said the interim findings of the Select Committee for Financial Transparency, released in a two-page report this week, amounted to a list of witnesses it has called to testify and little else.

“It’s pretty sloppy,” she said of the committee’s work. “The interim report just basically listed who we met on what date. That’s because the timelines for this committee are so tight and the information we heard we already knew.”

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When Ford announced the creation of the committee in September, he said it would investigate Liberal accounting practices, decision making and policy objectives. The group’s mandate was to get to the bottom of Liberal practices his government said created a $15 billion deficit.

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The deficit figure has been disputed by critics who say the government is including spending earmarked by the previous Liberal regime for programs the Tories are cancelling.

The select committee is made up of six Progressive Conservatives, three NDP legislators and no Liberals.

Fife said the group’s work is politically motivated.

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“I’ve said to those (Tory committee) members, if you already know what you want from this committee can’t you just save us a lot of time and can’t we just get to it,” she said.

The committee began its hearings on Oct. 15, issued an interim report on Thursday and is set to table a final report on Dec. 13.

It has heard from 15 witnesses so far, including Ontario’s auditor general, the province’s financial accountability officer and a number of high-ranking bureaucrats.

WATCH: Andrew Scheer, Doug Ford meet at Queen’s Park

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Andrew Scheer, Doug Ford meet at Queen’s Park – Oct 30, 2018

Progressive Conservative legislator Ross Romano, who sits on the committee, said the group has discovered valuable information.

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“It has become clear that the previous government ignored repeated warnings as they tried to deceive the people of Ontario and hide the true impact of Ontario’s finances,” Romano said in a statement.

“Thus far the NDP have shown no interest in the Select Committee’s important goal of uncovering the truth behind the Liberal’s $15 billion deficit and instead want to use the committee for petty partisan purposes.”

Liberal legislator Michael Coteau said the work of the committee fits into a broader narrative the new Tory government is trying to build that discredits the strong economy built by the previous government.

“They’re looking for ways to strip the previous government of those successes,” he said. “They’re also building a narrative where they inflate the (deficit) numbers … so they can justify making massive cuts to the system.”


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