I am disappointed in the decision today by the Ontario Court of Appeals. Having read the full decision, their logic is clear. Still, it leaves me with a bitter taste, based on my first-hand experience at several stages of the process.
To give one example, the Court says (para 55), “The Auditor General’s opinion (on the financial viability of the OSEG plan) was not successfully challenged by opinions to the contrary provided by (the) Friends (of Lansdowne) or by any of the more than 100 presenters during the City’s lengthy public hearings.”
I was one of those 100 presenters in June 2010. I have considerable expertise regarding this kind of financial analysis. But most Councillors were not paying any attention to my remarks – they had already made up their minds. Nevertheless, I pointed to serious flaws in the financial analysis the City’s Auditor General had just presented to Council.
His presentation was mainly based on a report and spreadsheet analysis from Price Waterhouse Coopers LLP. But nowhere did he note for Council the qualification Price Waterhouse Coopers LLP attached to their report: “Our work did not constitute an audit conducted in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards, … With respect to prospective financial information throughout this report, we did not examine, compile or apply agreed-upon procedures to such information in accordance with standards established by the CICA (the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants), and we express no assurance of any kind on such information.” Moreover, even though I asked, no one who could have thoughtfully evaluated these spreadsheet results, not even members of Council, was allowed access to these calculations and projections.
My impression is that most of Council at the time simply wanted to get on with the Lansdowne redevelopment, and really did not care whether Ottawa taxpayers were being set up for major liabilities in future. While this behaviour, in the eyes of the Court, might not be “bad faith”, for me it still looks like a multi-hundred million dollar decision being made without reasonable transparency. Is this an F-35 situation in waiting?
Yours – Michael Wolfson