In July 2018, newly installed Premier Doug Ford announced that noted ex-con and former BC Premier Gordon Campbell would lead an “independent” inquiry into Ontario’s past spending and accounting practices.
Six weeks later, the commission delivered a short report that was obviously not written or much influenced by Gordon Campbell. It recommended approaches that Campbell was loath to implement when he presided at his own cabinet table.
For example, the commission expressed concern that government-backed debt resulted in intergenerational inequity by imposing costs on future generations.
Yet, in British Columbia, Campbell presided over unprecedented growth in direct public debt and quasi-debt that falls on future citizens.
For example, in its first 40 years, during a time of continuously growing demand, BC Hydro accumulated $17 billion worth of obligations, all backed by assets of the publicly owned utility that will remain operational for decades.
In Campbell’s tenure as Premier, 2001 to 2011, a time when demand growth disappeared, BC Hydro’s obligations passed $61 billion, a sum that rose to $85 billion by the time BC Liberals were ousted from office in 2017. Of that, BC Hydro will pay about $60 billion to independent power producers for electricity priced around 3x market value and the utility will gain zero equity in the generating assets created to deliver unneeded power.
Truly, Gordon Campbell had extraordinary expertise in imposing costs on future generations.
The Ontario Commission noted “a deterioration in the relationship between the government and the Auditor General over time.” Campbell waged war against four different AGs, the last being John Doyle who raised serious concerns about financial management, including that by management staff at the Legislature. Rather than eliminating faults, Liberals preferred to get rid of Doyle.
Another of the Commission’s findings was this:
One-time revenues or ongoing losses of income streams from the sale of assets like Hydro One impact the reported deficit and can compromise the usefulness of deficit figures as critical indicators of trends in the Province’s fiscal health.
Again, this pointed at an obfuscation technique that BC Liberal embraced under Campbell and his chosen successor. These politicians required crown corporations to use borrowed money to pay “dividends” to the province, thereby obscuring the true state of BC’s fiscal heath.
Under BC Liberals, sales of public assets were used to reduce deficits and to reward the party’s most generous donors. Last year Auditor General Carol Bellringer noted that 14 parcels of public land on Burke Mountain were sold for $45 million below appraised value to Wesbild, a company associated with major Liberal contributor Hassan Khosrowshahi.
See associated Tweets on this thread: https://twitter.com/Norm_Farrell/status/1146223787886575616