Ontario Energy Ministry or the Freedom of NO Information
For some time the interest in the release of the Ontario Electricity Finance Corporation’s (OEFC) annual report has been on the minds of many of Ontario’s ratepayers. The OEFC’s year-end is March 31st and in line with the annual budget an audit of the OEFC is a requirement of the Electricity Act 1998 (Act). According to part” 81. (1)” of the Act; “The Financial Corporation shall, within 90 days after the end of every fiscal year, submit to the Minister of Finance an annual report on its affairs during that fiscal year, signed by the chair of its board of directors. 1998, c. 15, Sched. A, s. 81 (1).”
By this date (mid July 2013) the public should have had acess to the March 31, 2012 and March 31, 2013 annual report but we don’t. Now if one delves further into the Act we note that: “The Minister of Finance shall submit the annual report to the Lieutenant Governor in Council and shall then table the report in the Assembly. 1998, c. 15, Sched. A, s. 81 (3).” Insofar as the March 31, 2012 annual report is concerned the Minister responsible would have been our now retired and private sector employed former Finance Minister, Dwight Duncan and for the March 31, 2013 report it would have been the current Finance Minister, Charles Sousa. Needless to say neither of the past and current Finance Ministers have, as suggested in the act, submitted “the annual report to the Lieutenant Governor in Council” nor have they followed up by “then table[ing] the report in the Assembly.”
With the foregoing in mind I submitted a request to the “Freedom of Information Coordinator” of the Ministry of Energy, on June 24, 2013 in which I asked for the copy of the annual report for the year-end March 31, 2012 for OEFC. As the letter preceded (by 6 days) the “90 days” applicable to the 2013 annual report I thought that the FOI request would carry more weight.
As it turned out my request was forwarded to the FOI Coordinator at the Finance Ministry Office and I received a phone call on July 9th alerting me to that fact. During my conversation with that individual I was offered a choice of future actions; the first was that they could return my cheque for the $5.00 and I would get no information or they would cash my cheque and send a letter that would tell me that under “Section 22” of the Ontario FOI Act they would respond that: “(b) the head believes on reasonable grounds that the record or the information contained in the record will be published by an institution within ninety days after the request is made or within such further period of time as may be necessary for printing or translating the material for the purpose of printing it. R.S.O. 1990, c. F.31, s. 22.”
I opted for the latter and then checked Hansard to determine the next “Legislative sitting” which has been scheduled for September 13, 2013 or 81 days after the date of my letter. Presumably the hope of the FOI officer responding to my letter is that Finance Minister Sousa will in fact table the March 31, 2012 OEFC annual report to the Lieutenant Governor before Sunday September 22, 2012.
While I appreciate that bureaucrats, no matter their political stripes are concerned about their job I find it appalling that the new Wynne Liberal Government who claim to want a “conversation” do not wish to table these annual statements from OEFC that annually bill 4.5 million Ontario ratepayers for approximately $1 billion. Two full years have passed and the take on the “stranded debt” from the ratepayers of the province is about $2 billion and we have had no accounting.
It begs the question where has our money gone and why are they keeping it a secret?