Auditor General’s Report: Wynne’s Liberals Paid $2 Million to Accountants to Hide $4 Billion

At noon today the Auditor General of Ontario, Bonnie Lysyck, held a press conference on her scathing report shedding light on the real cost behind the Ontario Liberal government’s Fair Hydro Plan, which gives ratepayers 25 percent off their hydro bills.

“The government’s accounting treatment creates concerns of transparency, accountability, and value for money,” said Lysyck at the start of her press conference.

She then went on to explain the report’s two recommendations to the government: that it show the true cost of the re-amortization of hydro debt by including it in the budget and consolidated financial statements and “use the least costly financing structure to fund the rate reduction.”

“Allow me to cut to the chase, the government’s [current financing] structure will hide from Ontarians the real financial impacts of its electricity rate reduction.”

According to her report the true costs of the restructuring of the debt will be $39.4 billion. This includes an unnecessary additional $4 billion that could’ve been avoided had the government borrowed the money directly. However, borrowing the money directly would mean factoring the Fair Hydro Plan into the budget, which would’ve resulted in this year’s and next year’s budgets showing deficits. This year’s budget was largely only “balanced” over the selling of assets like 30 per cent of Hyro One shares. “In other words, it’s spending more than it has coming in.”

Lysyk also revealed that the government spent at least $2 million on outside advisers to design their “complex” financing structure. Lysyk said the Ministry of Energy also didn’t hand over the emails in a “timely manner. The Wynne government then contracted a law firm law firm to go over the emails before sending them to the Auditor General’s office.

“The Ontario government has chosen to replace [Ontario accounting] standards, going so far as to create an asset, in new legislation, to avoid reporting the true costs of its policy decision on its financial statements,” said Lysyck.

“The government’s proposal to treat that loss as an asset — that’s like you treating your credit card debt as an asset in your books.”

The Liberal government in a subsequent press conference dismissed Lysyck’s harsh criticism as a “disagreement” among accountants. However, Lysyck said that she consulted with many accountants and other auditor generals in creating her report. The Liberals also argued that these accounting practices are done in other jurisdictions, but Lysyck said this is unprecedented in Canada.

Conservative Energy Critic Todd Smith responded by saying the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario would also borrow money to give ratepayers relief, but that they “would be transparent in the way we are doing it. What the government is doing… is deceitful, it’s dishonest and it’s shady.”

“There is still time to fix it, And we’re encouraging the government to do so,” said Lysyck.

The Wynne government’s response at their own press conference made no suggestion the government would be considering the Auditor General’s two recommendations.

The Auditor General’s report from today also raises fresh questions about the Wynne government’s Fair Hydro Plan ads, which they spent $5.5 million on to air them throughout the next two years.

Treasury Board president Liz Sandals claimed the ads were necessary.

“We want to make sure that people actually know what’s going on.”

 

 

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How Kathleen Wynne Wins By Losing

Photo Credit: CTV

By Josh Lieblein

Normally you wouldn’t use the expression “spoiled for choice” to describe Ontarians, but when it comes to reasons to hate their Premier, they’ve got more options than they can count.

And that’s a problem.

One list I saw floating around Twitter this week included actionable items as diverse as school closings, the Hydro One “fire sale”, the gas plant scandal, cuts to health care, and kicking children with autism off the list for IBI therapy.

Add to this laundry list whatever your beef with the Ontario Liberals might be, as well as the beefs of everyone you know and everyone they know, and it quickly becomes too much for the short-term memory of even the most devoted and practiced Wynne-hater to contain.

To systematically walk your average voter through even one of these boondoggles — each of which on their own is a good enough reason to boot Wynne from government — requires time and brain space that most people don’t have to spare.

Kathleen Wynne, like many politicians past and present whose reach exceeded their grasp, has been doing such a lousy job as Premier that she’s actually doing a great job of confounding her critics. They can’t pick one issue she’s screwing up and rally behind it without leaving everyone else with a bone to pick in the blinding dust.

Wynne would blanche at the notion that she and Donald Trump have anything in common (which, of course, is why I’m making the comparison), but while watching the recent Stateside scrimmage over NFL players sitting, standing, or kneeling for the national anthem to protest  whatever got stuck in between their cleats that particular day, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the local efforts to move the ball down the field against the Premier which always seem to end in an interception, or wandering out of bounds.

Recall, if you can, through the mists of time and social media fury, that those gridiron protests were ostensibly started to speak out against police brutality in America. Once the football got awkwardly rolling, however, we had everyone from Auston Matthews to LeBron James to Trump himself weighing in and turning the kneeling protest into whatever they wanted it to be.

Ironically, what the protests needed was a single quarterback to call the plays, especially when Trump, the singular avatar of American anger, was tweeting against them.

It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to stop police brutality or stop Liberal brutality perpetrated against Ontario: disorganization will be the kiss of death in either case.

Hate the 45th President all you like. He was, and is, a symbol and a brand for all those around the world who are tired of the lies and inadequacy of government and who are fed up with being tinkered with and nudged about by technocrats.

Despite this, opposition politicians have taken a knee of their own when it comes to being the face of anti-Wynne discontent, while non-governmental organizations, Facebook groups, and #onpoli are clearing houses for free flowing anti-Wynne anger.

From this swirling miasma, the Liberals can choose from comparisons between Wynne’s appearance and that of Orville Redenbacher, high-minded insults such as “McWynnie The Milch Cow”, or even statements made in a fit of pique by Patrick Brown himself to redirect the discourse and present herself as the victim, or dismiss critics such as Ontario Proud as a “hate movement”.

Thus the government is spoiled for choice as well. When hateful or angry statements are the only real crime, instead of inducements provided to candidates in Sudbury, or the deletion of emails pertaining to the movement of gas plants, and incompetence is easily handwaved away with references to the Mike Harris or Stephen Harper governments, the Wynne government is under no obligation to get even the basics right so long as her critics are getting it so wrong and confused.

Despite the eternal optimism of the opposition that the voters of Ontario will eventually deliver the province into their hands and all they have to do is show up to be the beneficiaries, the hard truth is that only a stone-faced, determined movement, organized to the point of mechanistic efficiency, brooking absolutely no dissent from within and centered around a single idea or symbol or even a word, will stop the Ontario Liberal reign of terror.

But in Ontario. where diversity is our strength, and where opposition parties must continually advertise how modern and inclusive they are lest anyone’s feelings be hurt, singular focus on one goal to the exclusion of all else seems too far of a cry.

There’s a reason why the two most activist Premiers in Ontario’s history — Mike Harris and Bob Rae — are the two most hated Premiers.

There’s a reason why any semblance of “ideology” causes voters to recoil in horror.

And there’s a reason why we have allowed our debt to bloat out of control, our energy sector to become a mess of tangled wires, our health care system to become a crazy quilt of bureaucracies and fiefdoms, and our school system to become an unassailable white elephant despite school closings in rural areas and out-of-control trustee behavior, which should be due to leap back into the news spotlight any moment now.

We would rather trouble heaven with our bootless and fruitless cries than actually organize.

We would rather be spoiled for choice, and act spoiled besides, rather than solve problems.

Deep down, the Wynne government is the government we want and deserve. Big, bland, and broken beyond repair.

For who among us would stand against the storm of millions of Ontarians who fear the loss of what little entitlements they have?

Who would risk their reputation, the thing Ontarians hold more  dear than life itself?

Who would match the determination of Kathleen Wynne as she works to uphold the supremacy of the nanny state that she holds so dear, ignoring all evidence to the contrary, even as the walls crumble around her?

Who would lose so much — to win so little?

The No Wynne Scenario Podcast (Ep. 1)

The No Wynne Scenario Podcast is a new show hosted by Graeme Gordon and Josh Lieblein. As we explain in the inaugural episode, our podcast is going to focus primarily on reviewing the Ontario Liberal Party’s reign over Queen’s Park in the last decade-and-a-half, but we’ll also hold no punches when discussing the Ontario NDP and Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. That being said, we’ve decided to focus our attention mostly on Wynne and the OLP because they’re the ones needing to be held to account for their long time in power.

In this first episode we look at the ongoing trial and upcoming trial (yes, there are two trials about to be going on simultaneously) of four former OLP political operatives. Josh also explains the double standard applied to Conservatives.

For more context on the conversations between former OLP Sudbury candidate Andrew Olivier and the two former Ontario Liberal Party’s political operatives now on trial for bribery, check out the links below for the entirety of those two conversations.