FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
FINANCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICER OF ONTARIO (FAO) WELCOMES IMPROVED ACCESS TO INFORMATION
TORONTO, October 6, 2016 – Stephen LeClair, Ontario’s Financial Accountability Officer, is pleased that Cabinet has ordered the Ontario government’s ministries to provide his office with access to all of the information that he needs to perform his duties.
“Cabinet’s consent should significantly improve the FAO’s access to information and make it considerably easier for the FAO to provide the Legislative Assembly with timely and relevant economic and financial analysis,” says Mr. LeClair.
In the FAO’s 2015-2016 Annual Report, which was tabled in late July, he raised concerns about ministries’ overuse of the Cabinet records exception to their duty to provide the FAO with information. In particular, the FAO expressed concern that ministries seemed to claim that all forecasts of future revenue and spending were Cabinet records and therefore could not be provided to the FAO unless they had already been made public. In his annual report, the FAO recommended that the government and the Legislature make the necessary changes to ensure that the FAO has access to all the information he needs to perform his duties.
Following the tabling of his annual report, the FAO entered into discussions with the government aimed at narrowing the use of the Cabinet records exception to ensure that he could access all information he needs to perform his duties, while continuing to protect the confidentiality of Cabinet deliberations.
“The discussions were extremely successful,” says Mr. LeClair. “Cabinet has consented to the FAO having access to information contained in certain Cabinet records.”
Once Cabinet or one of its committees, such as the Treasury Board, has made a decision and publicly announced that decision, the FAO will be able to access the economic and financial information and analysis submitted to Cabinet in support of the decision. For instance, once Cabinet approves a bill and a minister introduces it in the Legislative Assembly, the FAO will be able to access any costing of the bill that was submitted to Cabinet. The FAO will then be able, whether on his own initiative or at the request of an MPP or a committee of the Legislative Assembly, to provide the Legislative Assembly with an analysis of the financial costs and benefits of the bill.