Letter: Andrea Horwath calls for Auditor General Review of the Liberal fiscal plan

Today Ontario New Democrat leader Andrea Horwath said it's time to take stock of the province's books and called on Premier Wynne to support an independent review of the Liberal fiscal plan by the Auditor General. 

Monday July 21 2014

Dear Premier Wynne,

As you know, many families in Ontario face an uncertain future as job losses mount and more people find themselves

looking for work.

Last month alone, 34,000 people lost their jobs, many of them young people trying to make a start in the workforce.

Government needs to play an active and effective role in restoring confidence and rebuilding our economy.

Doing this requires a solid foundation. Clear and transparent public finances are a cornerstone of good government.

That is why I am writing to urge that you ask Ontario’s Auditor General to conduct a prompt review of the 2014 Ontario Budget estimates and forecasts, and report publicly on whether the government’s assumptions are reasonable.

It is time for an independent assessment of the province’s books.
A trusted review will help clear the air about Ontario’s fiscal outlook.

In 2004, you supported the passage of a law clearing the way for the Auditor General to review the government’s estimates and forecasts every four years and report on whether the assumptions were reasonable, something the Auditor did at election time in 2007 and 2011.

You supported fiscal transparency and accountability then, in 2004, 2007, and again in 2011. Will you support fiscal transparency and accountability now that you are Premier?

Waiting until the next election season for a report would mean a troubling seven-year gap with no independent review which would undermine confidence in Ontario’s future at a time of uncertainty.

A delay of another four years would also add to the growing questions about the state of Ontario’s finances and the implications of your fiscal plan. New Democrats have for weeks been asking questions about your budget – including your plans for a fire-sale of public assets. But the chorus of questions has spread well beyond Queen’s Park. 

A recent editorial in The Globe and Mail said there was “a very wide gap” between “government’s rhetoric surrounding the budget, and the actual budget”, citing “a lot of confusion” across the political spectrum – including among business and labour leaders, as trusted economic advisers like Don Drummond forecast up to 100,000 job cuts, and ratings agencies question how the government will meet its targets.

Indeed, your Finance Minister has acknowledged there are skeptics who have grave doubts about the government’s fiscal plan.

Ensuring the financial stability of our province is not a partisan issue. Ontarians recognize that uncertainty based on a lack of information about Ontario’s fiscal plan does not serve our collective best interest.

In fact, continuing uncertainty threatens our province’s ability to stand on its own two feet and make the investments families need to see in areas like healthcare, education, and job creation – which underlines the urgent need for an independent opinion.

In keeping with the Fiscal Transparency and Accountability Act, the report by the Auditor General should include a review of:

  • macroeconomic forecasts and assumptions that were used to prepare the fiscal plan;
  • estimates of Ontario’s revenues and expenses;
  • accounting of dedicated funds and reserve funds that the fiscal plan must set aside to deal with unexpected adverse changes;
  • estimated net incomes from government enterprises for the next three fiscal years, including the LCBO, OPG, Hydro One, and OLG;
  • and information about the ratio of provincial debt to Ontario’s gross domestic product.

\nI look forward to hearing from you. 

Sincerely,

Andrea Horwath, MPP
Leader of the Ontario NDP