TORONTO — Ontario’s auditor general has looked at the government’s $231 million estimate of the cost of cancelling green energy contracts and deemed it reasonable, though she has not conducted a full audit.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath had asked Bonnie Lysyk to probe the price tag, saying she is concerned the final cost of cancelling 750 contracts could surpass $231 million. The NDP first reported the cost of the cancellations last week, saying the figure was listed as “other transactions” in government documents detailing spending in the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

Lysyk has written to Horwath in response, saying her office looked at those cancellation costs and associated expenses as part of its audit of those financial statements.

“Our work indicated that the estimated cancellation cost was reasonable as at March 31, 2019,” Lysyk wrote.

The office will revisit the costs in March 2020 as part of its audit of this year’s financial statements, Lysyk said, but for a full special audit, the request has to come from a cabinet minister, the legislative assembly or a legislative committee.

The NDP will move a motion to that end at the public accounts committee Wednesday, but the governing Progressive Conservatives blocked a similar one in the legislature earlier this week.

Horwath said the public deserves a deeper look at the numbers.

“They need to have the at look at the real costs, do a special audit, so we can let people know what their public dollars are being used for: breaking contracts again, instead of more long-term care beds, for example, or more front-line nurses in our hospitals and in our health agencies and in our organizations,” Horwath said.

Energy Minister Greg Rickford says the auditor has done her work.

“The public accounts were submitted, and she made precise comments with respect to a consideration of large-scale projects and smaller projects, and she was satisfied,” he said.

The Progressive Conservatives have acknowledged that the cancellations could cost taxpayers more than $230 million, but said the final figure, which includes the cost of decommissioning a wind farm already under construction in Prince Edward County, has yet to be established.

Horwath said she fears the costs could escalate, as they did when the previous Liberal government cancelled two gas plants set for construction just outside Toronto in 2011.

At that time, the Liberals said the cost of scrapping those deals was approximately $230 million, but the auditor general later established that taxpayers were on the hook for about $1 billion.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2019.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

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