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Auditor-General’s report highlights Liberal incompetence

(December 3, 2015) Wednesday's Auditor-General's Report is a scathing indictment of the government, highlighting its ineptitude and mismanagement of Ontario's affairs.

In the 25 years I've had the privilege to serve as your Member of Provincial Parliament I have never seen such a damning document.

It's clear the Kathleen Wynne Liberals are asleep at the helm.

The report looks at 14 areas and in each case the Auditor-General identifies problems.

While I won't touch on every section in the report, I will highlight some areas that I find particularly troublesome.

The report determined that Hydro One is a poorly run distribution and transmission company and that its reliability scores are quite poor compared to other companies.

On top of that, the report found that Hydro One has been misleading the Ontario Energy Board when applying for rate increases by asking for increases to pay for certain projects and then not actually completing them.

In addition, Hydro One has a $4.4 billion backlog in needed infrastructure. Can you imagine if you ignored your house in this fashion? It's really quite mind-boggling. What's worse is that rates will have to go up even more to pay for the infrastructure work.

In terms of electricity system planning, the Auditor-General's report finds the Minister's office is too involved in energy planning and not following its own commitments to long-term planning. And, when the Minister's office does get involved that raises costs dramatically and unnecessarily.

The Auditor-General's report states that Ontarians paid $37-billion more than market price for electricity over eight years and will fork over $133-billion extra by 2032. This is due to bad planning and Liberal interference.

Auditor-General Bonnie Lysyk hit the nail on the head during a press conference at Queen's Park on Wednesday, when she said: "We found that the electricity power planning process has essentially broken down over the past decade. The [energy] ministry had made a number of decisions about power generation that went against the OPA's technical advice. In addition, these decisions did not fully consider the state of the electricity market or the cost impact on consumers."

In terms of general infrastructure planning, the report states the Liberals have no guidelines for how Ontario's infrastructure should be maintained. Each ministry just marches to its own drum. As well, the A-G found Ontario is consistently neglecting existing infrastructure in favour of new projects.

Looking at long-term care needs, the Auditor-General identified the backlog of complaints and critical incidents has more than doubled, from about 1,300 as of December 2013 to about 2,800 as of March 2015. The report also states that more than half of the complaints and critical incidents cases in 2014 closed without inspection and had insufficient documentation to show why an inspection was not required.

The Auditor-General also examined Community Care Access Centres, finding they have seen a 42 percent increase in funding since 2009 but only a 22 percent increase in the number of clients served. The A-G also noted that some clients aren't assessed or reassessed for more than a year, which means clients might not receive the appropriate type or level of care.

On the economic development front, the report found that 80 percent of economic development funds were given out via non-publicly advertised processes, while the $2.7 billion Jobs and Prosperity Fund is by invitation only. And medium and small sized businesses – the backbone of this province – received only a measly four percent of total economic development program funding. Only one company in Northern Ontario received funding.

Ultimately, what we've seen from the Kathleen Wynne Liberals – and the Auditor-General has confirmed it this week – is a complete lack of oversight, planning and accountability.

The Liberals need to do a better job. Their shoddy approach to governing is costing Ontarians money and it's hurting our already shaky economy. But most worrisome is the impact this incompetence is having on the people who live here.

Jim Wilson is the Progressive Conservative MPP for Simcoe-Grey.

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