What you need to know about Ontario’s auditor general report
Ontario’s financial watchdog released its 2022 annual report on Wednesday, highlighting a number of areas in which the government lost money and could improve in the years to come.
The 1,000-page document contained 15 separate reports about a variety of topics, including COVID-19 contracts and vaccinations, environmental protections, auto insurance rates, and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.
A general theme among the reports is that a lack of communication between government departments, as well as planning, cost taxpayers money and impacted decision-making by officials.
Here’s what you need to know:
3.4 MILLION VACCINE DOSES WASTED
Between the months of February and June this year, about 38 per cent of COVID-19 vaccine doses in Ontario were wasted.
Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk said in her report this was likely due to an overestimation of booster demand.
In total, Ontario has wasted about nine per cent of all COVID-19 vaccine doses.
Four private companies wasted about a quarter of what they were tasked witih administering, with a clinic at the Toronto Zoo and nine others operated by FH Health disposing of about 20 per cent of their doses.
Switch Health wasted 57 per cent of their shots, the report found.
Both those companies were paid a combined $18 million for their services.
Problems with the province’s booking portal, as well as the multiple different systems available, likely contributed to some of this wastage. The report found there were about 227,000 no-shows in 2021.
The province also spent about $114 million on a COVID-19 specific database called COVaxON, despite having an existing registry system called Panaroma, which the government never expanded.
DOCTORS PAID MORE THAN NURSES
The report found that doctors were getting paid five times more than nurses and pharmacists to administer COVID-19 vaccines at public health and hospital clinics.
According to the auditor general, doctors received about $170 an hour to work in a mass vaccination or mobile pop-up clinic operated by a public health unit or hospital, while nurses received between $32 and $49 an hour.
Registered practical nurses were paid even less.
“While the Ministry of Health informed us that it paid physicians more than nurses because doctors generally are paid more, it did not have an analysis to show this was fair given that health-care professionals all performed this task at vaccination sites,” the report said.
MYSTERY SHOPPERS SENT TO ONTARIO
The auditor general sent mystery shoppers to four Ontario casinos to assess money-laundering practices. Throughout the process, the shoppers were able to make away with cheques totalling over $45,000.
Lysyk said that while staff tried to verify whether the mystery shopper had played at the casino, they failed to verify whether the funds were coming from legitimate wins.
Shoppers were able to leave the casinos with almost 98 per cent of the funds they had originally brought in as cash, the auditor said.
$66M WORTH OF PPE EXPIRED OR DAMAGED
The auditor general found about $66 million worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) purchased by the Ontario government had to be disposed of because it was damaged, obsolete or had expired.
The expired or damaged PPE included masks and certain disinfectants such as hand sanitizer.
The auditor also warned the government still has about 100 million units of N95 respirators worth $81 million that are expected to “exceed provincial demand and will expire by March 2030.”
A lack of coordination between Ontario Health and the Ministry of Education resulted in an additional $18.7 million in costs.
ONTARIO SPENT $13M ON ‘PARTISAN’ ADS
The Ontario Progressive Conservative government spent about $13.75 million last year on “partisan” advertising.
In the fiscal year ending in March 2022, the government spent about $69.33 million on advertising. Much of this was dedicated to advertising on COVID-19 vaccinations and related initiatives.
However, two campaigns—which represented about 20 per cent of that advertising—would have been considered as “partisan” under old rules. They were broken out in the auditor general’s reports in a subsection entitled “Campaigns We Took Issue With.”
The first was the “Fall Economic Statement” campaign, which included 36 ads in English and French that directed Ontarians to a website that listed proposed PC investments. While the purpose was to “inform Ontarians about the statement,” the auditor general found the purpose was to “foster a positive opinion of the government.”
The second campaign was the province’s “Ontario is Getting Stronger” initiative and also fostered a positive opinion of the government, according to the auditor general.
ONTARIO IGNORED HIGHWAY ADVICE
The report found the government ignored its own experts when it decided to prioritize building eight highways, including Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass.
The report found the Minister of Transportation directed the ministry to defer six higher-priority highways that had been approved by the Treasury Board.
Lysyk added the ministry did not have a strategy when the province removed fees from highways 412 and 418 before the costs could be recovered.
AUTO INSURANCE PREMIUMS JUMPED 14%
Average auto insurance premiums in Ontario jumped by about 14 per cent between 2017 and 2021, the report found.
"Despite several reports providing recommendations over the past decade to improve Ontario's private passenger automobile insurance framework and lower premium costs, the (regulator) and the Ministry of Finance have not sufficiently improved the framework to provide less costly private passenger automobile insurance to Ontarians," Lysyk wrote.
Lysyk found that little action had been taken by the government following a 2017 report that recommended several changes to reduce fees. However, she also said the pandemic may have hindered the government’s commitment to lower costs.
Ontario’s auto insurance rates are the highest in the country.
INVASIVE SPECIES COSTING PROVINCE $3.6B
Ontario is spending $4 million annually to fight invasive species, despite the fact they cost the province about $3.6 billion in damages.
The audit also found that conservation officers are not well-trained to identify invasive species. In the last six years, officers issued 11 warnings and laid zero charges.
In addition, dozens of invasive species are not tracked by the Ontario government.
“We found that 33 invasive species identified as high risk by nearby jurisdictions were not systematically tracked by the Ministry and have been found in Ontario,” the report found.
The auditor general also found the percentage of urban land classified as green space has declined by 94 per cent in the province’s large and medium urban centres.
OVERRELIANCE ON INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
Lysyk found an overreliance on international students could put the financial health of 23 universities at risk.
“Because of the reduction and freeze on domestic tuition in Ontario and lower domestic per university student funding in Ontario compared to the rest of Canada, the universities are turning towards international student revenue for financial stability,” she wrote, adding that universities need to adjust recruitment strategies.
An audit of four universities – Nipissing University, Algoma University, Ontario Tech and University of Windsor – shows they are operating in a financially-stable manner.
A breakdown of each university can be found here.
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Would you pay $300 a year for quick access to a nurse? Dealing with demand, Ontario doctors get creative
Paid subscriptions to on-demand care are among the many strategies primary health-care providers in Ontario are adopting in order to meet increased demand for access to doctors in the past year, while also managing staffing shortages.
Justice Minister David Lametti says he will "look at" a federal policy that restricts gay and bisexual men from donating to sperm banks in Canada, after CTV News exclusively reported on Wednesday that a gay man is taking the federal government to court over it.
The federal government is seeking to delay the extension of assisted dying eligibility to people whose sole condition is a mental disorder until March 17, 2024. Justice Minister David Lametti introduced a bill seeking the extension in the House of Commons on Thursday.
Nestle Canada says it is winding down its frozen meals and pizza business in Canada over the next six months. The four brands that will no longer be sold in the freezer aisle at Canadian grocery stores are Delissio, Stouffer's, Lean Cuisine and Life Cuisine.
Will we see six more weeks of winter, or an early spring? Here’s what some of the groundhogs (and one human) have predicted so far, from coast-to-coast.
A former 'Dances With Wolves' actor accused of sexually abusing Indigenous girls and leading a cult must remain held without bail until his next court hearing, a judge ordered Thursday morning.
The United States has answered President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's plea for rockets that can strike deep behind the front lines of the nearly year-long conflict with Russia. Now Russian forces will need to adapt or face potentially catastrophic losses.
A former commander of Russia's Wagner mercenary group who fled to Norway told Reuters he wanted to apologize for fighting in Ukraine and was speaking out to bring the perpetrators of crimes to justice.
An assistant nursing professor at the University of New Brunswick says there is a crisis-level shortage of sexual assault nurse examiners in the country.
Quebec is changing its vaccine strategy: public health officials are now recommending booster shots only for people who have never had COVID-19.
The next few nights are expected to be frigid in Montreal, with wind chill factors dropping to -30. In order to prevent anyone experiencing homelessness from ending up outdoors, the City of Montreal is announcing the opening of two emergency shelters.
After an extremely mild month of January, the province is bracing for a blast of arctic air that will move in tonight and last until Saturday. Environment and Climate Change Canada has issued extreme cold warnings that covers most of the province with wind chills expected to be between -38 and -42 across the South and -50 across Northern Quebec.
The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) has issued its first Cold Weather Alert of the year. The Alert will come into effect just after midnight as wind chill values plunge to -23 C by midday Friday.
One person has died after a two-vehicle crash in south London Wednesday night. Police were called to the scene on Bostwick Road around 7:20 p.m. and say there were five people injured in total and all five were taken to the hospital with injuries ranging from serious to life-threatening.
Wiarton Willie has predicted an early spring! The groundhog in South Bruce Peninsula didn't see his shadow at 8:07 a.m. on Thursday morning, meaning spring is on the way.
A blast of cold Arctic air is expected to reach southern Ontario Thursday night, according to Environment Canada.
Wiarton Willie made his prediction his spring prediction Thursday morning at 8:07 a.m. The groundhog did not see his shadow, meaning we could get an early spring.
Ontario has released a new 'connected' and 'convenient' health-care plan aimed at shortening wait times and localizing access to care across the province.
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. is holding a big reveal Friday morning: the winner of a $48 million Lotto 6/49 Gold Ball draw.
Nearly 130,000 Helly Hansen sweaters and hoodies have been recalled in Canada due to flammability concerns.
Highway 11 in northern Ontario is closed Thursday morning from Highway 66 near Kenogami Lake to Matheson after a collision involving several vehicles, police say.
EXTREME COLD WARNING
EXTREME COLD WARNING | Here's when frigid temperatures will arrive in Ottawa
Environment Canada has issued an extreme cold warning with Ottawa expected to see its coldest temperatures in years.
Bylaw Services officers issued 9,217 tickets for violating the winter weather parking bans in January, resulting in more than $960,000 in fines for drivers.
Ottawa's airport is getting a transatlantic flight for the first time in nearly three years.
As Windsor muddles through its coldest week so far this winter, an outreach centre in the city is reminding of increasing need.
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) has issued about 6,654 suspension orders to students who do not meet immunization requirements.
Chatham-Kent council has approved the 2023 budget with a 5.64 per cent tax increase.
Convicted pedophile Shayne Lund, now 31, revealed he is recently married and took part in a day and full parole review in a videoconference hearing Thursday from the Ottawa area.
A mother and daughter from Sarnia are under arrest and facing charges associated with animal abuse.
Dufferin OPP responded to the call of a fire on the 8th Line in Amaranth, south of Shelburne shortly after 6 a.m.
On the day that Shubenacadie Sam predicted six more weeks of winter, there are warnings and statements cautioning that the coldest air of the season is about to arrive in the Maritimes.
Nova Scotia's utility regulator has defied the provincial government and approved an average 14 per cent increase in electricity rates over two years.
N.S. reports three new COVID-19 deaths in current reporting period, decrease in hospitalizations, cases
Nova Scotia is reporting three new COVID-19-related deaths in its weekly update.
A man is dead following a fire that broke out in southeast Calgary Thursday morning.
Authorities say an Airdrie, Alta., man faces several charges related to the sexual exploitation of a young family member.
Investigators say a fight between two women at a Calgary LRT station Wednesday night left one of them with serious stab wounds.
The son of Jim Carr, the Liberal member of Parliament who died last year, is seeking the party's nomination to run for his father's seat in an upcoming byelection.
The Province of Manitoba intends to spend more on K-12 schools in the province next year.
An overnight fire at a Winnipeg retirement home left some residents trapped inside the building, and sent six people to the hospital
A search warrant executed at a Surrey business allegedly being used as "a front for drug trafficking" led to the seizure of thousands of potentially fatal doses of illicit drugs, according to Mounties.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has issued a recall for Falooda Drink with Almond Flavour because the product contains milk that is not listed on the label.
Three vehicles were vandalized within a two-day period in Summerland over the weekend, say Mounties, and an investigation is underway.
Hudson's Bay has announced it will close its Londonderry Mall location later this year.
Three people have been charged after more than $400,000 in drugs and cash were seized from two homes and a vehicle after a seven-month-long investigation in Edmonton.
Saskatoon Police Services (SPS) have charged an Edmonton man with sexual assault that they say occurred at a Saskatoon faith-based school.