Premier Doug Ford is striking a legislative committee to look into what he called “the biggest government scandal in a generation.”
Ford on Monday announced the “select committee” would examine how the provincial deficit ballooned to $15 billion from former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne’s estimate of $6.9 billion.
Saying the previous government “lied” about the state of the books, the premier, who was elected June 7, said the committee would “have the power to call witnesses, to compel documents, and to gather evidence.”
“This was quite possibly the worst political cover-up in Ontario’s history,” he told PC MPPs gathered in the government caucus room.
“Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals lied to all of us. There are consequences. You don’t just get to walk way. The people held the Liberals accountable on Election Day. But their accountability did not end on election day. It began there. They do not get to just walk away from this.”
His comments came after Finance Minister Vic Fedeli revealed Friday that the treasury is in worse shape that the Progressive Conservatives thought.
This is mainly due to a tabulation that counted $11 billion in government joint-sponsored teacher and civil service pension plan surpluses as assets.
Auditor general Bonnie Lysyk, who had sparred with the Liberals for years after they reduced her authority over government advertising, had refused to sign off on the province’s financial statements because the previous administration didn’t abide by current public sector accounting standards.
Lysyk has praised the Tories for agreeing to amend the accounting.
Still, Ford, who had promised $6 billion in cuts to government without any layoffs when the deficit was believed to be $6.7 billion, said he wants to know “who let this happen, who authorized the cover up.”
Opposition politicians warn the premier is using the revised accounting as an excuse for making even more dramatic cuts to services.