Arguing ad nauseam with auditors.

Ontario auditor general Bonnie Lysyk looks like an auditor. She also thinks as an auditor. She is one of those people who always cover themselves by saying that they do things according to standard industry practices. The only problem she has is that there are not many jurisdictions comparable to the Province of Ontario. She has few standards to go by.

It means that the auditor is often winging it. And when she changes her mind on something, all hell can break loose.

Maybe that was what she had in mind when she charged the Ontario government the other day of making fast and loose with accounting for the province’s finances. It was just part of an ongoing argument but the timing was obviously designed to embarrass the government just before a provincial election. Lysyk was inferring that the government was hiding part of the planned deficit for the coming year.

The main item in this complaint is the pension fund for teachers and government employees in which the province shares liability. It was sixteen years ago that the Harris conservative government asked the then auditor to show that fund as an asset on the government books. And if you were looking after $11 billion, you might also think of it as an asset.

The problem is that two years ago, auditor general Lysyk changed her mind. You could imagine the screams of horror from the government at the big hole she was driving into their accounts. They have been arguing ever since.

And just to add some icing to the cake, Lysyk has also turned thumbs down on finance minister Charles Sousa’s borrowing money to reduce the electricity rates by 25 per cent. It seems everyone but Lysyk likes the lower electricity rates. The government does not want that debt on its books so it went on the books of the new Ontario Power Generation Trust that is owned by the government but is treated as a private company. That means the trust does not get the low government borrowing rates but pays commercial rates. Ms. Lysyk might have some grounds for this complaint but who wants to be first to pay higher rates for electricity?

As you can imagine, Bonnie Lysyk is the new hero of the opposition parties at Queen’s Park. All the opposition parties are going to do is claim that the liberals have been cooking the books again. And if you get into the details, nobody is going to understand anyway—certainly not Doug Ford.

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