Ontario didn't spend money from COVID-19 response program in first quarter: watchdog

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TORONTO — Ontario's fiscal watchdog says the province didn't spend any money from a new $2.7 billion COVID-19 response program in the first quarter.

A Wednesday report from the Financial Accountability Office found that the province spent a total of $2.6 billion – or 6.6 per cent – less than planned between April and July.

The report says health spending was $691 million lower than planned in the area of population and public health because the province didn't spend funds from the pandemic program.

That provincial program, called the COVID-19 Response transfer payment, was introduced this year to support public health.

A spokeswoman for the watchdog's office says the FAO did not have details on the program's intended recipients.

The Ministry of Health did not immediately response to a request for comment.

Health spending was higher than planned for long-term care home operations and development, but lower than planned in payments to physicians and in health services.

The report says spending was higher than planned in two sectors, education and justice.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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