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Doug Ford says auditor general should ‘stay in her lane’ instead of engaging in police-style ‘sting operations’

Premier Doug Ford says auditor general Bonnie Lysyk should “stay in her lane” and audit government spending, not run undercover sting operations at casinos that rankle police.

In his first public comments the morning after Lysyk’s annual report to the legislature, Ford expressed concern that she had moved far beyond her mandate to track government waste.

“I can’t speak for the police, but … I’m sure they wouldn’t be happy. Be it the OPP, local police or RCMP, the auditor general has to stay in her lane,” the premier told reporters Thursday at the Michener Institute, where he announced $4.6 million to boost nursing education there.

“Focus on where there’s (a) waste of money. You can’t do a sting operation. You can’t all of a sudden deputize yourself and think you’re the secret service,” he said.

As first disclosed by the Star, Lysyk hired “mystery shoppers” for a sting operation at four Ontario casinos in the Greater Toronto Area, Niagara Falls and Windsor to test anti-money laundering protections at casinos overseen by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.

The ruse was criticized by the Ontario Provincial Police, which Lysyk admitted had told her the force “would appreciate that you don’t do this” because it wasted policing resources.

In spite of being chided by the OPP, the auditor insisted it was “a worthwhile exercise.”

Lysyk noted while some of her agents were nabbed by casino security, other operatives proved that money could be “washed” through gambling houses.

“As part of the audit, mystery shoppers tested how easy it was to launder money and they were able to obtain casino cheques with large amounts of cash without anyone confirming where the money came from,” she said Wednesday.

Ford, echoing concerns former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne’s government had with Lysyk, said she should “focus on value-for-money” audits instead engaging in “jurisdictional creep.”

But the auditor defended what she viewed as her role and was unrepentant about her tactics.

“There’s no creep,” Lysyk said Wednesday.

“We’re just doing our mandate according to our methodology as an office … that is our professional process,” she said.

“Oh my gosh, we’ve been using it for probably 30 years. Each of those audits are done by different teams in the office, so they determine the focus in light and in conversation with the audit team.”

Her 1,083-page report found a litany of concerns with the government’s performance, including that doctors earned five times more than nurses to give COVID-19 vaccinations during the pandemic, and that Ford ignored ministry experts on the proposed Highway 413 between Milton and Vaughan.

Lysyk also slammed the lack of co-ordination among four provincial departments — or “gaps” — that could lead to the increased risk of flooding due to inadequate drainage systems.

As well, she found, there isn’t enough staff to “properly monitor and protect” the Niagara Escarpment and there are problems managing invasive species and plants.

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie


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