Ontario auditor general's report shines light on problems in the north
Hydro One outages, dearth of medical specialists, lack of investment among problems noted
The scathing report released by Ontario's auditor general this week points to multiple issues affecting the day-to-day lives of people in northern Ontario, from finding a doctor to dealing with power outages.
Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk's 773-page report released Wednesday lays bare a litany of problems under the Liberal government, but a few will resonate with northern Ontarians more than most.
In terms of health care, the auditor general says the province is losing medical specialists: about a third of surgical specialists trained in the province leave.
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Meanwhile, there are 200 permanent medical specialist positions vacant in the north — and a growing patient demand.
The report also found the north is consistently relying on short-term replacement doctors on locum as a long-term solution.
Gilles Bisson, the NDP MPP for Timmins-James Bay, says specialists may get fewer patients in the north, so the government should adjust how those doctors are paid.
"What government has not done is figure out a way to be able to level the playing field," he said.
Half the outages for a fifth of the customers
Lysyk also slams Hydro One for having longer and more frequent power outages despite increasing costs.
Almost half of Hydro One's outages happened in northern Ontario from 2010 to 2014, even though the province's north represents less than 20 per cent of Hydro One's customers.
Bisson said the Liberals didn't fix aging infrastructure because they were planning on selling the Crown corporation.
"The government has known it was going in this direction, and wasn't about to spend the money to do what had to be done on an ongoing basis," he said.
Ignoring the province's north
The auditor also says the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure ignores the north despite having the mandate to serve the entire province.
In the last 10 years, the ministry has spent $1.6 billion but only funded one northern project.
The auditor says the ministry told her most northern companies are too small to qualify for the ministry's larger funds.
Nipissing Progressive Conservative MPP Vic Fedeli scoffed at that idea.
"Whoever gave the comment that there aren't big enough companies throughout the north has never seen a pulp and paper mill, has never see a mining operation," he said.
The auditor general also criticizes the government for having no co-ordinated plan or funding strategy for the cleanup of contaminated sites.
The report says the government has no recourse against companies like Vale if the mining operation fails to follow through on obligations to rehabilitate land.