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Ford government leaning on contingency funds to pay for extra health, justice costs

A provincial watchdog has found that the Ford government was forced to rely on its contingency funding to boost spending in health and justice, among other programs, over the summer.

A new spending monitor released by the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario found the province drew $277 million from its contingency fund between April and September.

The funding was extra money drawn for programs the province did not plan for as part of its annual budget.

Money for new government initiatives can be drawn either by asking the legislature to increase spending or by moving funds around between budgets with the blessing of the Treasury Board.

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The vast majority of the $277 million taken out of the contingency fund — $180 million — was used to fund health programs. A further $21 million went to justice and $76 million to other programs, including housing.

The health funding was largely to support spending on home care, the report found.

In justice, $15 million was put toward the Ontario Police College and $6 million was spent on agencies and tribunals.

A total of $42 million was spent on “national housing strategy programs,” the report found, with $20 million to boost economic development and job creation.

The new report suggests the province has drawn more than $1.1 billion from its contingency funds since the start of the year.

The Ford government has been criticized by the Ontario NDP for its use of contingency funds, which the opposition said were “not transparent,” accusing the government of “stockpiling funds with no purpose.”

The government’s contingency fund sat at $4 billion at the start of the year; it was down to $2.9 by the end of September.

The report also found that overall spending by the province was below projections during the first half of the year. The Ford government had budgeted to spend $85.6 billion over the first two quarters of the year but spent $2 billion less than that.

Spending was $129 million lower than planned in education and $127 below projections in post-secondary education. Children, Community and Social Services posted spending of $209 million less than budgeted, the report said.

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