The Government’s Electoral Reform Bill Opens the Door to Partisan Government Ads

Ms. Catherine Fife: My question is to the Premier. Speaker, the NDP fought hard to ensure that this Legislature and MPPs have a Financial Accountability Officer here. New Democrats believe in independent oversight. When the legislation was written, no one expected the Premier and the Liberal government to deny the Financial Accountability Officer the information he needs to do his job.

This morning, the FAO called a news conference and he said, “It is highly disappointing that instead of looking to maximize the information that the government can provide to MPPs and through them all Ontarians, the government is focusing on how it can restrict disclosure of information.”

Why is this Premier trying to undermine yet another independent watchdog?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Finance.

Hon. Charles Sousa: Mr. Speaker—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

Minister?

Hon. Charles Sousa: We value the work that the Financial Accountability Officer does. We are working collaboratively with them. We recognize the necessity for a timely manner in which information is received. We also recognize the duty that we have in regard to confidentiality requirements in the work that we do. I know the members opposite respect that, and if they don’t they should. We will continue to work with the Financial Accountability Officer to provide the information necessary—

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke is warned.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): You’ve got two.

Hon. Charles Sousa: Mr. Speaker, we’ll continue to work with the FAO, as we always have.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Catherine Fife: The Liberals have tried to undermine the Auditor General of this province. They have fought with the Ombudsman’s office. Now they’re refusing to give the Financial Accountability Officer the information that he needs to assess the financial impact of this government’s decisions.

Mr. Speaker, there is a pattern here. This government seems to have a problem with transparency and accountability and openness. As the FAO has said this morning: “They are saying that they’re an ‘open government,’ and I’m saying, ‘Well, let’s see the data to show that you’re open.’”

The Premier talks a lot—a lot—about openness and transparency. Will she be open with Ontario’s independent, non-partisan Financial Accountability Officer, or will she continue to stonewall?

Hon. Charles Sousa: We will continue to work with the FAO. I talk with him on an ongoing basis. Even yesterday, my officials met with the FAO, because we recognize how important the work he does is and that he must have information on a timely basis within the confines—in fact, the FAO recently said, “I respect the concept of cabinet confidentiality,” that yes, they do need to have cabinet confidentiality. We do require some degree of confidentiality when we’re putting forward some of the issues.

We recognize as well that the FAO, as well as the Auditor General, requires information when it’s available. At this point in time, we will make everything available. A directive is being sent across the ministries to ensure that the officials, which are the non-partisan officials of this government, which does have an ongoing relationship with the FAO—to provide the information that is required within the act that that member approved and supported, Mr. Speaker.