By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady
By now, you’re likely aware that last Wednesday Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk released her annual report. I scanned the report and media and pieced together what they called highlights—perhaps lowlights may have been a better categorization. Wastage and/or mismanaged funding cut a swath across a variety of ministries.
Hopefully, a little slap on the wrist can re-focus the province on putting money where it is most needed and effective. Keep in mind the Auditor General is an independent non-partisan office of the Legislative Assembly. Lysyk plays an important role in holding provincial public sector and broader public sector organization to account for financial-responsibility, well-managed programs and transparency in public reporting. I appreciate and respect the job Ms. Lysyk undertakes.
The recent report shined a light on the fact about $3.5 billion of the $7 billion spent on COVID-19-related contracts were non-competitive procurements between March 2020 and March 2022.
Further, Ontario wasted 38 per cent of COVID-19 vaccine doses between February and June because it overestimated demand for boosters. The province’s auditor also found the government ran a disorganized booking system and neglected to properly track adult vaccinations. In total, COVID-19 vaccine wastage is nine per cent, or 3.4 million doses. Lysyk pointed out that approximately half of that could have been avoided with better forecasting of demand.
While physicians were paid $13 to administer COVID-19 vaccinations in their offices, doctors administering in clinics earned $170 to $220 per hour compared to nurses at $32 to $49 per hour and pharmacists at $30 to $57 per hour.
The province built a COVID-19 database called COVaxON, which cost us $144 million even though a vaccination registry system called Panaroma already exists.
With no public transport, those of us in Haldimand-Norfolk know full well we pay too much for auto insurance. In fact, Ontarians now pay the highest car insurance premiums in the country—the average premium having grown nearly 14 per cent from 2017 to 2021 to $1,642. Depending where you live in the province can have a huge impact on your rates.
On the roadways, the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) prioritized building four highway expansion projects that its own experts would not have recommended. Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass have been the most publicized.
As for the controversial discontinuation of license plate sticker fees and some tolls—well, they were found to have contravened MTO guidelines.
Invasive species are bad words in our neck of the woods. In Ontario, invasive species have an economic impact of $3.6 billion annually. To combat this, the province spends only $4 million annually.
Oil and gas wells are in issue in Haldimand-Norfolk, often making headlines. Since 2005, only 19 per cent of the province’s 27,000 wells have been inspected. This is unacceptable.
One of most fascinating stories of the AG’s report was that of a sting operation executed in Ontario casinos: the province sent mystery gamblers to several casinos and discovered they could launder money at two casinos. While Lysyk has taken heat on this, I fully support her goal of ensuring money is not being laundered in these establishments.
While the government is agitated by Lysyk’s recent findings, it will, if desired, give the Premier and his ministries an opportunity to improve upon communication and planning, which saves us all money.
Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk