Wynne government spending in secret

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Ontario’s financial accountability officer said Tuesday that, contrary to Premier Kathleen Wynne’s claims of openness and transparency, her Liberal government is denying him access to information he needs to do his job.

Stephen LeClair, an independent officer of the legislature like the auditor general, information and privacy commissioner, and ombudsman, also warned in his annual report that the legislature — which includes the opposition parties — isn’t getting the access it needs to government spending information to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities.

LeClair said the Liberals are denying him information he needs so he can properly judge their financial performance, using justifications that don’t exist in the Financial Accountability Officer Act passed in 2013, making his work more costly for taxpayers.

He added they are also overusing a cabinet confidentiality exemption to, “seemingly claim that all forecasts of future revenue and spending cannot be disclosed to the FAO if they have not otherwise been publicly released.”

In the past year LeClair said he has made six requests for information from the government. Two have not been answered and he received only partial information on the other four.

Along with the auditor general, LeClair is one of the few independent experts the public has to assess the financial performance of the government.

In a recent report, for example, he said the Wynne government is going to ring up another $50 billion of public debt over the next four years, raising the total to $350 billion. And that the Liberals’ promise to balance Ontario’s budget in 2017-18 is a mirage, because, a year later, they will fall back into deficit again.

The Liberals responded they are in fact co-operating with LeClair.

But given their majority government and record of wanton waste in eHealth, cancelled gas plants, Ornge, renewable energy and other spending scandals, the odds of this actually happening in a meaningful way are between slim and none and slim just left town.

Wynne only set up the FAO in the first place under pressure from NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, back when the Liberals were in a minority government and needed the NDP’s support to stay in power.

Now that she doesn’t need the NDP’s support any more, the Liberals have reverted to form. Big surprise.

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