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Twelve highlights of the Ontario Auditor-General’s report for 2017

Ontario auditor general Bonnie Lysyk talks about her annual report at a news conference in Toronto on Dec. 6, 2017.

Frank Gunn/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Ontario's Auditor-General released her annual report on Wednesday, shining a spotlight on energy, health care and school boards among other areas. Here are the highlights:

  • Nine coal and gas generators claimed as much as $260-million in ineligible expenses for items including thousands of dollars each year for raccoon traps, scuba gear, carpet cleaning and staff car washes.
  • The Independent Electricity System Operator has not implemented some recommendations made by the Ontario Energy Board which could have saved ratepayers millions over the past 15 years.
  • The report found long wait times for key biopsies to diagnose cancer, with only 46 per cent performed within the Ministry of Health’s 14-day target.
  • The government is spending millions to send cancer patients to the United States for stem cell transplants because of limited capacity to perform the procedure in Ontario. A stem cell transplant costs $660,000 to perform in the United States, compared to the $128,000 average cost in Ontario.
  • A provincial target to provide radiation therapy in 48 per cent of cancer cases has not been met, with 39 per cent of patients actually receiving the treatment in 2015-2016.
  • There are more households on wait lists for social housing than actual people living in social housing in Ontario. The report found there are 185,000 households on the provincial wait list and 167,000 households who on average receive social housing annually.
  • Sick days are up by 29 per cent over a five-year-period at 50 of Ontario’s public school boards – from nine days to 11.6 days per average employee – causing financial and resource allocation pressures.
  • The increased cost of sick leave paid as a percentage of school board payroll rose from 4.2 per cent in 2011-2012 to 5.3 per cent in 2015-16. The change came after the last collective bargaining agreement stopped allowing teachers to bank their sick days.
  • The province is not prepared for a large-scale emergency, the auditor found, and has not updated its emergency preparedness plan or provincial nuclear response plan since 2008 and 2009 respectively.
  • Staffing and budget cuts at the province’s Emergency Management Office have limited its ability to respond to a prolonged event, with the report estimating it could not adequately respond to a disaster longer than two-weeks with current staffing levels.
  • Government advertising spending was $58-million in 2016-17, a 10-year high, with what the auditor describes as 30 per cent of the ads appearing intended to help make the government look good.
  • The government paid almost $19-million in 2016-17 to operate and maintain 812 vacant buildings across the province. Approximately 600 of them were unoccupied for an average of eight years.
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