A new report from Ontario's Financial Accountability Office (FAO) found that in the first quarter of the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the province failed to utilize any of the money in its $2.7 billion COVID response program.
Released on Wednesday, the report from the province's FAO provided information on Ontario's unaudited spending during the first quarter of the 2021-2022 fiscal year, April 1 to June 30.
The report notes that Ontario spent $36.9 billion in the timeframe above, which was $2.6 billion less than anticipated. The province's health sector spending, for instance, was $1 billion below initial estimates, including $691 million less in "Population and Public Health."
Most striking is the finding that within the health sector, Ontario "did not spend any of the $2.7 billion COVID Response transfer payment."
As CP24 reports, the Financial Accountability Office has admitted that they do not have details on the identities of the program's intended recipients.
A spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliot noted that the $2.7 billion in question is for the entire year and that, "Just because it wasn't recorded at the time of the data request by the FAO doesn't mean that spending hasn't occurred." She added that expenses occurring in the first quarter of the fiscal year would likely show up in reports in the second quarter.
The Health spokesperson said some expenses, such as $773 million for lab testing that occurred in the first quarter, would likely be registered in the second quarter under the program.
The FAO also found Health spending was higher than planned for long-term care home operations and development, but lower than planned in payments to physicians and in health services.
Nonetheless, critics of the Ford government were quick to pounce on the Financial Accountability Office's findings.
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said in a tweet that he believes Premier Ford "had the money to save lives" but "chose not to," adding that "Ontario deserves answers on where the money went."
According to CP24, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath also expressed her displeasure, calling the lack of spending "disgraceful."
"He doesn't like to spend money," she added.