London MPP wants to know how Ontario Liberals made $70M collected from hunters and anglers disappear

Dan Brown, Postmedia News

A provincial fund of $70 million in public money doesn’t just disappear.

One way to find out for sure would be to call in Auditor-General Bonnie Lysyk, which is just what a London-area MPP wants to do.

Progressive Conservative Jeff Yurek, who represents Elgin-Middlesex-London, has requested help from Lysyk — the independent watchdog who monitors how taxpayer money is spent, or misspent — to determine where the cash collected from Ontario hunters and anglers through licensing fees has gone.

“I’m hoping the auditor general gets back to us in a week or so,” Yurek told The Free Press Wednesday. “Really, I have no understanding of where the money is going.”

The money was earmarked for use by the Ministry of Natural Resources for hunting and angling.

Instead, a local citizens’ group, the Aylmer District Stakeholder Committee, discovered through freedom-of-information requests that it had been spent on things such as the purchase and sale of a house ($65,000) and psychologists ($12,251).

Yurkek said he “honestly can’t picture” any circumstances where those expenses, paid out of a so-called special purpose account, would qualify as legitimate expenditures.

Yurek also said Wednesday that an FOI request on the subject of local expenditures came back with a response of “No records exist,” which would be a breach of the rules that govern such funds. Receipts must be kept for every withdrawal, Yurek said.

“Basically I’ve been trying to find how the money in the special purpose account was spent,” he said. The process has taken years.

Based on his experience with Lysyk, Yurek expects she will get back to him fairly quickly.

The easiest way for her to investigate the fate of the cash would be to cover it in her annual report, a yearly media event that frequently generates numerous headlines.

Otherwise, she would need approval at the committee level or from the legislature as a whole, which doesn’t seem likely given the Liberal majority and the stonewalling so far.