Thursday, June 2, 2016

In Wynne’s Ontario, watchdogs are for muzzling

Ontario Financial Accountability Officer Stephen LeClair: Liberals are refusing
to hand over the figures he needs to do his job.
Ontario’s Liberal government has a problem with watchdogs.

Like all grown-up democratic governments, it recognizes the need to have independent agencies tasked with keeping an eye on its activities. The public expects it after all. And Ontario has the full panoply: an auditor general to keep an eye on programs, an ombudsman to protect the public interest, even a financial accountability officer to double-check the government’s budget numbers and ensure they’re credible.

The problem is that all these independent operations seem to have swallowed the idea that they’re independent, and have a mandate to question the activities of elected leaders. It’s very vexing for the Liberals, which don’t like being challenged, and have a lot to hide. Under Premier Kathleen Wynne they’ve reacted by steadily reducing the powers of the watchdogs, rewriting their mandates, dropping them or simply ignoring their advice and complaints.

The latest irritant emerged Tuesday in the form of Stephen LeClair, the financial accountability officer. Truth be known, the Liberals never wanted a financial accountability officer able to study their books. They were forced to create the office by the New Democrats, in return for NDP support during Wynne’s minority government. Even after accepting the deal, the Liberals stalled as long as possible before hiring LeClair to fill the position. Now, he says, they’re doing all they can to starve him of information.  (more...)


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