Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk today released her 773-page annual report filled with examples of cost overruns and mismanagement that are sure to leave the provincial government with a lot of explaining to do in the coming days. Here are five findings TVO.org found of particular interest.
Green energy to cost $9.2 billion more than it should
The part of the report likely to get the most attention concerns the electricity sector, where Lysyk levels numerous criticisms on the cost and performance of Ontario’s electricity system. She says Ontario consumers are estimated to overpay a total of $9.2 billion for energy over 20 years, thanks to overly generous contracts the government issued to solar and wind energy producers. The prices paid under these contracts were double the market price for wind, and three-and-a-half times the market price for solar energy in 2014, according to Lysyk. Using figures in Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan as a rough guide, that $9.2 billion amounts to approximately 2.5 per cent extra in energy costs over the 20-year period.
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LHINs delivering inconsistent care
Ontario’s 14 local health integration networks are charged with streamlining the province’s health care delivery and giving communities the ability to make decisions about their local health care systems. The report says that while Ontario’s health care system performs better than the Canadian average in most measured areas relating to LHINs, there are problems. In particular, the networks’ performance can vary significantly across the province, meaning patients don’t have equal access to certain health services.
Child protection services failing kids
Lysyk found ongoing issues with the services in place to help the province’s most vulnerable children. Children’s aid societies, for example, may be closing child protection cases too quickly, fail to consistently conduct timely home visits involving children still in the care of their family, and do not always conduct child protection history checks with individuals involved with children at risk. The report also expressed concern that the province’s Continued Care and Support for Youth program, meant to help former Crown wards and youth previously under a legal custody order transition out of care, was often failing to adequately help young people into adulthood.
Liberals have the wrong infrastructure priorities
The auditor general had numerous criticisms of the province’s infrastructure planning process. While provincial plans to invest in transit have received most of the headlines in recent years, infrastructure also includes roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, courthouses and more. Lysyk found the government doesn’t spend enough on maintenance, putting two thirds of its infrastructure money in politically popular new assets instead of maintaining existing roads and buildings. She also says funding needs exceed the money available and the government often doesn’t stick to its own planning rules. Political priorities such as the $1.6 billion Mississauga-Brampton light rail and $1 billion for Hamilton LRT have gone straight to cabinet, bypassing the process in place.
Some progress on autism services and supports
In addition to her new findings, Lysyk also reviewed the government’s progress on implementing recommendations from previous annual reports. In 2013, her office found that waiting lists for autism services were too long and that treatment options were inconsistent across the province. Lysyk says progress has been made on these fronts, but some problems persist: 16 per cent of the recommended actions have been fully implemented, while 68 per cent are in the process of being put in place, and 16 per cent have seen little or no progress.
With files from John Michael McGrath