Highlights of Ontario's auditor general's report
TORONTO -- Some highlights from the Ontario auditor general Bonnie Lysyk's annual report:
-- The number of people on social assistance has jumped by 25 per cent since 2009. In 2017-2018, more than 450,000 people received social assistance -- at a cost of almost $3 billion -- and in each of the last five years, only 10 to 13 per cent of recipients gained employment and left the program.
-- Costs for Ontario's Student Assistance Program (OSAP) jumped by 25 per cent in 2017-2018 over the previous year, and Lysyk cautions the program costs could grow to $2 billion annually by 2020-2021.
-- A series of changes to Metrolinx' light-rail projects in the Toronto and Greater Hamilton Area cost $436 million. Lysyk blames the municipal and provincial governments for the loss, saying they made changes to a series of projects, including the Eglinton Crosstown and now-cancelled Scarborough LRT, after they'd been approved.
-- Wait times for MRI and CT scans vary across the province. In 2017-2018, 90 per cent of non-urgent patients in one of health network waited up to 203 days for an MRI, and up to 127 days for a CT scan. If all 108 MRI machines in Ontario hospitals operated 16 hours a day, seven days a week, the province's wait-time targets could be met.
-- The former Liberal government spent $62 million in advertising in 2017-2018 -- the most since 2006-2007 -- and about 30 per cent of that spending was partisan in nature. Lysyk has asked the Tory government to restore her office's powers so it has final approval over government advertising.
-- Legal Aid Ontario spends $20 million a year fighting for clients trying to access, or appeal decisions, related to the Ontario Disability Support Program. Lysyk says it's hard to justify the cost of the legal fights between different arms of government.
-- The Technical Standards and Safety Authority, or TSSA, which promotes and enforces public safety, is failing in nearly every aspect of its mandate. Most elevators are not in compliance with safety laws, and the agency relies on pipeline operators to conduct inspections of their own pipelines.
-- The province is paying consultants to do work that could be done by full-time employees. In 2016, the Treasury Board compared the cost of information technology consultants to similar full-time staff and found that consultants cost government $40,000 a year more.
-- Over the last five years, on average, the Ministry of Health reimbursed Ontario residents just five cents for every dollar they were billed by foreign doctors during out-of-country travel. Lysyk says the province should do more to ensure people know they are not fully covered for the cost of medical care when they travel outside of the province.
-- Lysyk says stakeholders in the Waterfront Toronto-Sidewalk Labs smart-city project should take precautionary measures and conduct additional studies to decide whether the project, which has raised many privacy concerns, is in need of increased government oversight.