What will Grits cut now that debt is $10.7B higher?

Shawn Jeffords, Political Bureau Chief

By Shawn Jeffords, Political Bureau Chief


Where will Ontario’s Liberal government cut?

That’s what Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown wants to know now that auditor general Bonnie Lysyk made the revelation that Ontario’s debt is actually $10.7 billion higher than previously advertised.

Brown pressed the Liberal government Tuesday to come clean on how it will handle the new debt load created as the result of an accounting disagreement between the government and Ontario’s auditor general.

“I want to know what they’re going to cut?” Brown said. “I want to know what their plan is. The solution is not to disparage the auditor general. The solution is not to pretend everything is fine.”

On Monday, the Liberals conceded the disagreement between Lysyk and the government would lead to the jump in debt and boost last year’s deficit by $1.5 billion.

At the same time, government officials released unaudited financial statements for the last fiscal year without an opinion from Lysyk — an unprecedented move.

They made the information public after arguing behind the scenes for weeks with Lysyk’s office about whether or not two large public sector pensions could be counted as assets. The auditor says no, because the government can’t actually cash in those funds. Lysyk said Tuesday that her office continues to work with the government on the issue.

And she was tight-lipped about the dispute

“I think it would be premature for me to talking about it right now,” Lysyk said, adding that she will address the issue once the full audited statements are prepared on the government’s 2015-16 public accounts.

But when that will happen is anyone’s guess.

Treasury Board President Liz Sandals couldn’t say when the government will table the finalized audit with Lysyk’s opinion included.

A third-party review, to determine whether the pensions should be declared as assets, will take months, Sandals said.