TORONTO — Some highlights from the Ontario auditor general Bonnie Lysyk’s annual report:
- A series of changes to Metrolinx’ light-rail projects in the Toronto and Greater Hamilton Area cost $436 million. Lysyk blames the municipal and provincial governments for the loss, saying they made changes to a series of projects, including the Eglinton Crosstown and now-cancelled Scarborough LRT, after they’d been approved.
- The former Liberal government spent $62 million in advertising in 2017-2018 – the most since 2006-2007 – and about 30 per cent of that spending was partisan in nature. Lysyk has asked the Tory government to restore her office’s powers so it has final approval over government advertising.
- The Technical Standards and Safety Authority, or TSSA, which promotes and enforces public safety, is failing in nearly every aspect of its mandate. Most elevators are not in compliance with safety laws, and the agency relies on pipeline operators to conduct inspections of their own pipelines.
- The province is paying consultants to do work that could be done by full-time employees. In 2016, the Treasury Board compared the cost of information technology consultants to similar full-time staff and found that consultants cost government $40,000 a year more.
- Lysyk says stakeholders in the Waterfront Toronto-Sidewalk Labs smart-city project should take precautionary measures and conduct additional studies to decide whether the project, which has raised many privacy concerns, is in need of increased government oversight.
- The number of people on social assistance has jumped by 25 per cent since 2009. In 2017-2018, more than 450,000 people received social assistance – at a cost of almost $3 billion – and in each of the last five years, only 10 to 13 per cent of recipients gained employment and left the program.
- Costs for Ontario’s Student Assistance Program (OSAP) jumped by 25 per cent in 2017-2018 over the previous year, and Lysyk cautions the program costs could grow to $2 billion annually by 2020-2021.