Beware of news releases that talk about reports but don’t post a link to the report so you can see for yourself. As a case in point a news release from the Ontario NDP finance critic Catherine Fife with the headline. “FAO reports Ford government sat on $10.3 billion during pandemic.” The report reads, “a new report from the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) shows the Ford government withheld $10.3 billion from Ontarians during the pandemic, including sitting on over $1 billion earmarked for long-term care and public health.”
Actually, what the FAO report says is, “the Province increased its 2020-21 spending plan during the year by $22.1 billion to $187.3 billion,(but) by the end of 2020-21 unaudited spending was only $177.0 billion. Overall, this was $10.3 billion (5.5 per cent) less than planned.” In other words, the government thought it might need an extra $22 Billion to get through the COVID crisis, but only needed just under $12 Billion, but still spent almost 12 billion more than the previous year.
The NDP release continues: “While our loved ones suffered in long-term care, businesses struggled through painfully long lockdowns, and the province could not keep up with things like contract tracing, the Ford government was squirrelling away billions of dollars that they refused to invest to help Ontarians,” said NDP Finance critic Catherine Fife….the FAO reported Ford withheld over $1 billion in health care funds during the pandemic, plus $368 million in funding for public health and $95 million for long-term care.”
With regard to health care the government spent 6 billion MORE than it had the previous year.
With Regard to Long term care the government spent about $1.5 Billion MORE than the previous year as the new ministry was hived off from Health.
What the NDP news release is referring to as money being “squirreled away,” was in fact deficit spending, that is money that the province did not have to borrow, because the situation while serious, was not as dire as forecast. The government did still deficit spend almost $12 billion more than the previous year to meet the COVID challenge.
Finance critic Fife concludes “The Ford government had the money and they refused to spend it. That’s why we need a full public inquiry into Ontario’s COVID-19 response.”
The news release implies that the FAO was somehow critical of the fact that the government borrowed $10.3 Billion less than it thought it would have to. In fact, the FAO did not express an opinion one way or the other than to say somewhat optimistically, “the FAO’s 2020-21 budget deficit forecast includes higher projected revenue, as the outlook for Ontario’s economy has improved, and lower projected spending, reflecting the more up-to-date information available to the FAO.”
The full report can be found here, https://www.fao-on.org/en/Blog/Publications/2020-21-expenditure-monitor-q4 and includes a massive Excel spreadsheet, which might have been helpful to Ms. Fyfe