11/19/2014 03:42 EST | Updated 01/19/2015 05:59 EST

Liberals Pay Nearly $500-Million For Labour Peace With Teachers: Auditor General

Chris So via Getty Images
TORONTO - MAY 22: Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne listens to questions from members of the Toronto Star Editorial Board during lunch time campaign stop. May 22, 2014. (Chris So/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The provincial government spent nearly $500-million to buy labour peace with school teachers in 2013.

That figure comes in a new report from the auditor general, released on Wednesday.

The provincial Liberals took on teachers back in 2012, imposing contracts that, among other cutbacks, ended payouts for unused sick days. The government said those measures would save nearly $2.5-billion.

Auditor general Bonnie Lysyk was asked to investigate if the Liberals were exaggerating that amount.

"We have concluded that the estimate was reasonable," she said in her report.

However, after the contracts were imposed — amid labour unrest — the Liberals made new deals with teachers. At that time, they promised the deals would not cost taxpayers anything.

But the auditor tallies those deals at $468-million.

So the government’s original cost reduction estimate of $2.4-billion, made in August 2012, was revised to $2.1-billion after the contract negotiations. Lysyk repeated that was reasonable.

"The government made reasonable estimates based on accepted accounting principles and on the information available at the time," she said.

Progressive Conservative MPP Lisa MacLeod said the money spent on the teacher deal could've changed the outcome of the summer election.

"It is clear that the Liberals didn't want to tell the whole truth, particularly before an election," she said. "I think if mothers and fathers had've known about this in June, they would've made a different decision."

Education Minister Liz Sandals highlighted the confirmation of the cost-savings figure. "We saved what I said we would save," she said.

Despite the givebacks to teachers, the bottom line remains to be around $2.1-billion, continued Sandals.

There are 215,000 school board employees in Ontario.


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