Toronto

Ford plans to form special committee to probe province's fiscal situation

Premier Doug Ford says his government plans to strike a special committee to further investigate Ontario's fiscal situation in light of a newly reviewed multibillion-dollar deficit.

Announcement comes days after finance minister says Liberals left $15B deficit

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says a motion to form a committee that will look into provincial finances will be put forward in the legislature on Monday. (Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Calling his predecessor's handling of Ontario's books "the biggest government scandal in a generation," Premier Doug Ford announced plans for a special committee Monday that would dig further into the province's fiscal situation.

Ford's vow to hold the previous regime accountable came in a speech to caucus delivered days after his finance minister announced the province was dealing with a recently revised $15-billion deficit as a result of Liberal accounting practices.

"They do not just get to walk away from this," said Ford, whose Progressive Conservatives won a majority this spring. "We will demand answers about where the money went."

Ford said the committee will have the power to call witnesses, compel documents and gather evidence for a final report expected in December.

On Friday, Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said the province will have to make sacrifices as it grapples with a $15 billion projected deficit for 2018-2019.

"Vic you helped shine the spotlight on the biggest government scandal in a generation," Ford said to Fedeli, who was standing beside him. "We sent a team of experts, an independent commission, to follow the money."

'The hole is deep and it will require everyone to make sacrifices without exception,' said Finance Minister Vic Fedeli in a speech on Friday. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

'Committee will leave no stone unturned,' vows Ford

Ford took no questions on his plans for the committee, which are in addition to the work of the independent commission and a line-by-line audit of government spending that's expected to be finished in the coming weeks.

The premier instead repeatedly criticized his predecessor, Kathleen Wynne.

"We're not just going to look the other way," he said. "We're not going to let Kathleen Wynne and her cronies walk away from their $15-billion scandal because we can't let anything like this ever happen again."

The government said the committee will investigate Liberal accounting practices, decision making and policy objectives. The body will be made up of six government members and three NDP legislators.

"We expect that this committee will leave no stone unturned," Ford said. "Boy I'd be worried to go in front of them. They're a tough group."

Fedeli has explained that the Progressive Conservatives had chosen to adopt accounting practices used by the auditor general and had found greater deficits under the Liberals than had been reported.

The Liberals had disagreed with the auditor general over accounting principles applied to two pensions plans and its Fair
Hydro Plan, a situation the fiscal watchdog said meant the province understated its deficit by billions.

Critics have said Fedeli's message will pave the pave the way for significant cuts to government services.

'I think the responsibility should be borne by this current government,' says Ontario Liberal finance critic Mitzi Hunter. 7:45

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