Opposition asks what Liberals hiding after missing public accounts deadline

TORONTO – Ontario’s opposition parties want to know why the Liberal government is in a fight with the auditor general over the province’s public accounts, which won’t be published this week as required.

The Progressive Conservatives say “something just doesn’t seem right” about the Liberals missing a key deadline for the public accounts, which report on the government’s financial performance against the goals set out in the budget.

Treasury Board president Liz Sandals insists the Liberals “have absolutely nothing to hide,” and says there are talks underway between accountants in her office and those in the auditor general’s office to resolve “a complex accounting issue.”

Sandals says the government is still on track to meet its goal of eliminating the deficit in the next fiscal year, and hopes the financial dispute will be settled soon so the public accounts can be published “shortly.”

PC Leader Patrick Brown calls the situation “bewildering,” and says the delay raises questions about possible “problems with the Liberal numbers” and budget forecasts.

Deputy NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls the delay in publishing the public accounts “inexcusable,” and says it shows the Liberals’ claim of being a transparent government are false.

“If the government’s not showing or providing information, the natural conclusion people start to wonder is: what are they trying to hide,” said Singh.

Sandals said the government would meet the goals published in last year’s budget and in the fall economic statement from a year ago, which predicted a deficit of $4.8 billion in fiscal 2016-17 and balanced books in 2017-18.

“So we’re not hiding anything,” she said. “We are on track to meet our targets.”

During question period Thursday, the Tories said an “insider” told them that Treasury Board was challenging the auditor general’s accounting, bit Lysyk’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

It’s not the first time the Liberals have clashed with Lysyk.

Former energy minister Bob Chiarelli didn’t like the auditor’s work on the government’s $2 billion smart meter program and suggested the electricity file was too complicated for Lysyk, who spent 10 years working at Manitoba Hydro.

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