Doug Ford promises 'commission of inquiry' into Liberal deficit numbers

Ontario PC leader Doug Ford would appoint an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the $5 billion difference between the deficit numbers of the governing Liberals and the auditor general.

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Ontario PC leader Doug Ford talks to media after a caucus meeting at Queen's Park in Toronto on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (Chris Donovan/Canadian Press)

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford would appoint an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the $5 billion difference between the deficit numbers of the governing Liberals and the auditor general. 

Ford made the campaign pledge Thursday, one day after Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk reported the government's deficit for 2018-19 should be calculated as $11.7 billion, not the $6.7 billion figure the Liberals tabled in their March budget. 

This is "one of the largest financial scandals in Canadian history," Ford told a news conference in downtown Toronto. "In their desperation, the Wynne Liberals have cooked the books."

The Liberals characterize the difference in the budget figures as an accounting dispute over two issues: the funding of their Fair Hydro Plan to cut electricity rates and the expenses related to two provincial pension plans. 

"What we are witnessing is a betrayal of the public trust," Ford said. "We cannot trust anything about the Liberal estimates or projections. Their budget is no longer worth the paper it's written on."

Ford said the inquiry would recommend options to "restore integrity" to the government's financial reporting. 

He likened the inquiry to former federal auditor general Sheila Fraser's probe of the sponsorship scandal. However, he stopped short of alleging any criminal activity in the provincial Liberals' deficit numbers.