We asked York Region Council to create an Auditor General’s Office again. Here’s why.

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There is no doubt that the Toronto York Spadina subway extension (TYSSE) has been a budgeting disaster.

With an original budget established at $352,000,000, in April 2015, York Region was asked to increase its investment by an additional $60,000,000. Then came word that the Province of Ontario’s “Move Ontario” fund was coming up short – which resulted in York Region taxpayers having to kick in an additional $34,000,000.

In January 2016, the TTC reported a budget shortfall which requires York Region taxpayers to up the ante once again.

This time, an additional $160,000,000 was needed.

In summary, York Region’s municipal government has missed its budgeted target by over a quarter of a billion dollars, yet there is still another year or more to go before this extension is completed.

Do these numbers sound confusing? That’s because nobody seems to know what’s going on.

As of today, York Region’s contribution stands at $606,000,000. Divided over 294,000 households in York Region (as reported in the latest Canadian Census), the cost of this project per household is $2,061.22. Residents living a distance away from Vaughan especially, may swallow very hard at spending that sum when the tab arrives.

The reasons for these cost overruns are plentiful. A worker’s death, labour issues, planning changes, and general mismanagement are all listed as factors. This project was managed by the TTC with York Region taxpayers contributing approximately 20% of the total project cost (the remainder being divided between the federal and provincial governments and the City of Toronto).

What concerns the York Region Taxpayers Coalition is that even though York taxpayers are contractually obligated to approve the additional funds, our municipal council did not take reasonable measures to ensure public money was well managed.

When the issue of value-for-money is considered, York Council must rely on reports authored by the TTC, or one of its contractors. It appears that York Council is not receiving independent information before voting on approving this extra spending, nor did they ask questions that most reasonable politicians entrusted with tax dollars would when they found out. In fact, when we attended the meetings, there was barely a blip from anyone.

And as taxpayers, our organization is equally concerned with the fact that no one seems to know if the additional $160,000,000 will result in more public debt, higher taxes, or increased development charges at this time.

York Region Council does not make $160,000,000 investment decisions every day, let alone making $160 million like this one, where Council is relying on shaky trust of a partner organization who admits publicly and openly to wasting and mismanaging the first $450 million York Region gave them.

The only way that York Region Council can ensure this never happens again is by appointing a York Region Auditor General with the mandate defined as assisting Council in holding itself and its administrators accountable for the quality of stewardship over public funds, and for the achievement of value-for- money in York Region’s municipal operations.

This type of Office exists for the city of Toronto. It’s time York Region had one too.

The York Region Taxpayers Coalition is in the process of arranging information sessions on the TYSSE cost overruns for the following municipalities:

• Aurora:
• East Gwillimbury;
• Georgina;
• Markham;
• Newmarket; and
• Stouffville

If you are interested in participating or helping us to organize any of these sessions, please contact the York Region Taxpayers Coalition via our website for further details.

Watch our presentation to York Region Council here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNBGn0vvAk8

About Maddie Di Muccio