By MPP Toby Barrett
According to an independent inquiry into Ontario’s finances the deficit for this 2018-19 fiscal year is $15 billion.
This Financial Commission of Inquiry is shining a spotlight on the biggest government scandal in a generation. We sent in a team of experts, led by former BC Premier Gordon Campbell, to follow the money. And what the commission discovered was shocking.
The previous government told us they left a $600-million surplus in 2017-18, but the commission found the truth. The truth is the previous government ran a deficit of $3.7 billion.
That’s just the beginning.
In their 2018-19 budget, the Liberals said they would run a $6.7-billion deficit. Once again, they obfuscated, and concealed the truth. What we know today is the previous government has left Ontario with a massive $15-billion deficit.
Recently, Finance Minister Vic Fedeli and Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy released the Independent Financial Commission of Inquiry’s report and Ontario’s 2017-18 public accounts. Previously, the auditor general reviewed the Liberals’ pre-election report on Ontario’s finances and used words like “conceal”, “bogus”, deceptive” and “unreliable” to describe what she saw.
The Commission of Inquiry took a closer look and built on the auditor general’s findings. It concluded the Liberals’ approach to some of their policies, such as the Fair Hydro Plan, pursued a strategy that was “costly and convoluted,” as well as being “risky, complex and ultimately opaque”.
The Fair Hydro Scam is the worst scam in Ontario history. They used dirty accounting tricks to cover their tracks. They told a wholly-owned company to borrow billions of dollars to fund their spending. And then they told that same company to hide those billions of dollars of debts off the books.
If you tried to play these dirty accounting tricks in a business or if you tried to pull this kind of cover-up in the private sector, the Ontario Securities Commission or the police would come calling.
The only reason this is not fraud is because the previous government set their own accounting rules.
As government we are now in a position to get to the bottom of this and ask those involved some questions: What did you do when you first heard about this scam? Why did you pretend it was business as usual? Where were you when the Wynne Liberals went after the Auditor General? Why didn’t you sound the alarm bells?
Any insider who learned about this scheme and didn’t get angry – is part of the problem.
We can’t let anything like this ever happen again. We need to take every step possible to ensure this kind of abuse of the public trust has no place in Ontario.
We will demand answers about where the money went and about the cover-up.
A lot of people got rich under the previous regime. The rest of us got a $15-billion deficit.
It’s time for answers. People deserve to know how this happened, who let this happen and who authorized the cover-up.
We promised to restore trust, transparency and accountability to government.
Thus, we are putting forward a motion to strike a select committee to call witnesses, to compile documents, to gather evidence and to leave no stone unturned.
Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk