TORONTO — Ontario’s deficit estimate is short by about $5 billion because the government understated the costs of the Fair Hydro Plan and the Ontario teachers’ and public servants’ pension plans.
That’s according to an April 25 report from Ontario’s Attorney General Bonnie Lysyk.
Lysyk said in her report to the legislature that the province’s deficit for 2018/2019 will be $11.7 billion, not the $6.7 billion stated in the government’s pre-election report. She added that by 2020/2021, the deficit will be $12.5 billion, not the $6.5 billion the province forecast.
Lysyk and the province have had a fractious relationship; in March, she told the standing committee on public accounts that “bogus” accounting by the Independent Electricity System Operator meant Ontario’s annual deficit was understated to the tune of $1.3 billion. Lysyk also alleged that her office was obstructed in its audit by the IESO’s board, which the IESO denied.
The province and the auditor general have flatly disagreed on the state of the provincial finances before, like in 2017, when Lysyk concluded that $10.7 billion in pension surpluses could not be considered assets by the province. Ontario called in other experts who concluded they could be.