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Queen’s Park report: Government will continue working to restore trust and accountability in finances

(September 24, 2018) – Last week my friend and colleague, Finance Minister Vic Fedeli announced the results of the Independent Commission of Financial Inquiry into the previous government’s accounting practices.

 

The report shows the previous government left a $15 billion deficit and as Mr. Fedeli said: “the Commission report reveals a culture of waste embedded at the highest levels of the previous government. In an election year, they pursued a reckless spree of deficit-financed spending.”

 

We have also learned that contrary to what the previous government reported, they did not run a surplus in 2017-18, but rather ran up a hidden $3.7 billion deficit.

 

This report is the first step towards our Government For the People’s pledge to restore accountability and trust in government, respect taxpayers and get our fiscal house in order.

 

I am happy to say, that after a 15 years of reckless spending and mismanagement, all the people of Ontario have finally received a full, honest and clear picture of the province’s finances. I’m pleased to see that, for the first time in three years, the Auditor General has provided a clean audit opinion on the Public Accounts. This is significant step forward for our province.

 

This is a positive first step, but the overall numbers remain very troubling. Ontario is $338 billion in debt. That is the largest subnational debt of any province or state in the entire world. It is more than $24,000 for every Ontarian. Last year, we paid $11.9 billion in interest payments to service the public debt. Those payments are more than twice the operating budget of the former Ministry of Children and Youth Services and bigger than the entire operating budget of the City of Toronto.

 

In 12 out of 15 years, the previous Liberal government ran a deficit. From 2003 to 2018, the Liberals increased the province’s net debt by 160% or almost $200 billion.

 

As a result of this report, Premier Doug Ford will appoint a Select Committee to investigate how the province’s fiscal situation became so dire. The committee will have the power to call witnesses, compel documents and gather evidence. It’s time for the residents of Ontario to get the answers they deserve.

 

There is a lot of work to be done to clean up this mess. I can assure everybody the government takes its responsibility to achieve fiscal prudence and sustainable government services very seriously. We’re going to fix this problem and get Ontario’s finances back in good shape, which will help get our province back on the path to prosperity.

 

We remain committed to balancing the budget as quickly as possible. Now that we have a better understanding of the issues with the previous government’s accounting practices, the line-by-line review being conducted by EY Canada will help us determine a path forward to eliminate duplication and waste in government spending.

 

There is still a long road to travel, but for the first time in many years, I am confident we are on the right path.

 

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