Government waste and mismanagement will be exposed once again Wednesday, as Ontario's auditor general issues her yearly probe into provincial spending.
This will be Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk's final annual report on Premier Kathleen Wynne's government before the provincial election in June.
It could provide the opposition parties with fodder to use against the Liberals during the campaign, as previous auditor reports have done with such spending scandals as eHealth Ontario, the Ornge air ambulance service and the cancelled gas plants.
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This year the auditor will examine how the government delivers a wide range of services, including cancer treatment and laboratory testing in the health sector, as well as immigrant settlement services and social housing.
The auditor will dig further into the $200 million that power generation companies overbilled the province, a story first revealed Tuesday by CBC News. The report will focus on the Independent Electricity System Operator's oversight of the wholesale electricity market.
The Health Ministry is the biggest spender of Ontario tax dollars, and it gets the most attention from the auditor's investigation team this year.
Some of the key topics investigated by the auditor to be reported on today:
- Cancer treatment: The auditor will examine whether cancer treatment services are being provided in a timely and equitable manner.
- Public drug programs: The auditor investigates the $5.9 billion spent annually on drug coverage for seniors and low-income households.
- Emergency management: The auditor assesses whether the province's emergency management operations are effective and efficient.
- School boards: The auditor will report on how the Education Ministry oversees the $23 billion in annual funding that school boards spend, and whether the school boards are careful about their spending.
- Settlement and immigrant services: The auditor examines whether newcomers get effective services from settlement agencies funded by the province.
Other probes will include looking at the efficiency of the Ontario Municipal Board, the effectiveness of support to farmers and the government's management of its real estate portfolio.
The auditor also will issue her annual report on government advertising. Last year, she criticized the government for ramping up spending on publicly-funded advertising and for spending taxpayer money on ads that she called "self-congratulatory."
"We have an auditor who's very thorough; she does a very good job. She will pay attention to those things that are important to the people of this province," said NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson.
"I have every confidence the auditor is going to have a report, as usual, that is cutting, that gets to the bottom and makes sure that we get a good bang for our dollar."
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The government gets the auditor's report in advance, so it knows what's coming. Treasury Board President Liz Sandals declined to comment ahead of its release.
"It's her report," Sandals told CBC News. "So out of respect to the auditor ... she goes first."
Sandals has been locked in a dispute with the auditor that has an impact on whether the government is actually balancing the budget or running a deficit. It's about whether certain provincially-administered pension funds should count on the positive side of the government's balance sheet.
"I expect you're going to see the Treasury Board president again attack the credibility and legitimacy of the auditor general," said PC critic Lisa MacLeod. "I think that would be an ugly mess and unfortunate."