TORONTO — The Ontario government is releasing the 2019-20 Public Accounts and delivering on the government’s commitment to restore transparency and accountability to the province’s finances. For the third year in a row, the Auditor General has provided a clean audit opinion on the Province’s Public Accounts.
“The 2019-20 Public Accounts shows the government made vital investments in health care and other critical frontline services,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, President of the Treasury Board. “Our government’s historic investments ensured we were well-positioned to quickly and effectively respond to the global COVID-19 pandemic and protect the health and safety of the people of Ontario.”
The Public Accounts provides a retrospective look at the government’s fiscal performance over the previous fiscal year, comparing the financial results against those projected in the 2019 Budget. The financial impacts of COVID-19 began late in the fourth quarter of 2019-20, and the majority of the government’s COVID-19 investments will be recorded in the 2020-21 fiscal year.
The Public Accounts reports a 2019-20 deficit of $8.7 billion — $1.6 billion lower than the 2019 Budget projection — reflecting stronger revenue growth led by higher than anticipated employment and wage growth and housing resales in 2019. Total expenses for 2019-20 were $3.7 billion higher than the previous year, mainly driven by increased investment in the health sector, including funding to prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care homes, and the education sector.
In the health sector, the government spent $63.7 billion, including $0.3 billion above planned spending in the 2019 Budget, and in the education sector, the government spent $30.2 billion, including $0.4 billion above planned spending in the 2019 Budget.
“Responsible, prudent financial management ensured our government was prepared for the unexpected crisis caused by COVID-19,” said Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance. “To protect the health and economic well-being of the people of Ontario, we continue to invest in the fight against the global pandemic, including providing support to families, businesses, workers, municipalities, long-term care homes and those on the frontlines of the pandemic. As we reported in the 2020-21 First Quarter Finances, our total COVID-19 response action plan is now a projected $30 billion.”
To build on the government’s capacity for enterprise risk management, the government of Ontario recently created the Office of the Comptroller General, a new deputy minister–level position tasked with identifying and mitigating potential financial and policy risks before they take hold, protecting taxpayer dollars in the process.
The new Comptroller General will start in October, and complement the other important steps the government has taken to ensure value for public dollars, including:
- Enhancing internal auditing through the Audit and Accountability Committee
- Ensuring public sector services remain sustainable by building a government that works for you through Ontario’s Smart Initiatives
- Freezing discretionary spending and curbing unnecessary year-end spending without compromising frontline services
“Our government has placed an unprecedented focus on restoring transparency and accountability to the province’s finances. Through the new Comptroller General position, we are ensuring that taxpayer dollars can be directed to the critical frontline services that are more important now than ever,” said Bethlenfalvy. “By building a responsive, data-driven and customer-focused government, we will continue to make vital programs and services more convenient, accessible and reliable for the people and businesses of Ontario.”