Overview

The Public Accounts is a key accountability and transparency document in the Province’s financial cycle. It is a retrospective document that compares Ontario’s actual performance to what was planned in the Budget.

The Public Accounts include the Annual Report and supplementary information. The Financial Statement Discussion and Analysis section of the Annual Report and the consolidated financial statements of the Province provide financial highlights of the past fiscal year compared to the Budget plan and report on performance in priority areas.

The Public Accounts are prepared by the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Province’s consolidated financial statements are independently audited by the Auditor General every year.

By law, the Financial Administration Act, the Public Accounts must be released within 180 days after the end of the province’s fiscal year (March 31).

Each annual edition of the Public Accounts includes:

  • the Annual Report
  • the Consolidated Financial Statements
  • the Report of the Auditor General on the Consolidated Financial Statements
  • supplementary information

Reading the Public Accounts

If you were to read the Public Accounts from start to finish, the information would become increasingly granular and specific as you work your way through the document. The Annual Report included in the Public Accounts provides a high-level summary of the entire government’s financial activities. The supplementary information tapers in scope to, in some cases, display individual transactions.

Annual Report

The Annual Report presents the Province’s financial results and its progress on the government’s priorities, as well as its activities and indicators of financial position for the fiscal year. It compares the actual financial results to the Budget plan and explains major differences. The Annual Report also outlines financial trends over the past several years and reports on performance in key sectors.

Financial indicators

The Public Accounts’ financial indicators help assess the financial health of the province. Through the indicators’ levels and trends, you can gauge how economic and other events impact the Province’s financial health. These indicators can also show how the government has responded.

The financial indicators illustrate:

  • sustainability to determine the ability of the government to maintain its obligations to creditors without increasing debt or paying taxes
  • flexibility to show the extent to which a government can change its debt burden or raise taxes with its economy
  • vulnerability to illustrate the degree to which the government is dependent on sources of revenue outside of its control (e.g. significant dependence on funds from another level of government)

The financial indicators include:

  • composition of revenue by source to show how vulnerable the Government of Ontario is to changes in external sources of revenue that we have limited or no control over (like transfers from the federal government)
  • composition of expense by sector to show how total spending is divided among sectors such as health care and education. Unusually fast growth in one sector may not be sustainable and could reduce flexibility in overall spending plans
  • spending per capita and as a share of GDP to show government spending as a dollar amount per person, and as a percentage of the Province’s Gross Domestic Product
  • net debt to GDP to compare the Province’s net debt (total liabilities minus financial assets) to the size of the economy
  • foreign currency exposure to show the degree to which the Government of Ontario is exposed to fluctuations in foreign currencies on its debt

Consolidated Financial Statements

These statements detail the financial activities of the Government of Ontario. They are audited consolidated statements, which bundle all the ministries and organizations controlled by the government into one entity for reporting purposes. This allows for a high level view of the whole government’s financial activities against plan and the prior year’s results.

Included in this section is the Auditor General’s Report, which expresses the opinion of the Auditor General as to whether the statements present fairly, in all material respects, the consolidated financial position of the Province as at March 31, 2021 and the consolidated results of operations, changes in net debt, changes in accumulated deficit and cash flows for the year ended in accordance with Canadian public sector accounting standards.

How to read the financial statements in the Public Accounts

In the Public Accounts, financial statements give you snapshots of particular aspects of the government’s finances.

Although this guide discusses each financial statement separately, keep in mind that they are all related. No one financial statement tells the complete story. But when combined, they provide a valuable resource for the public.

There are 5 financial statements in the Public Accounts.

The Consolidated Statement of Operations

This statement gives you a snapshot of the government’s income (also known as revenue) compared to its expenses (the cost of providing programs and services and financing the debt). Ultimately, this statement shows you if the government is running a deficit or operating with a surplus.

On the left-hand side of the statement, the sources for revenues and expenses are listed. On the right-hand side of the statement, the corresponding amounts for those sources are given. The planned amount budgeted, the actual amount and the previous fiscal year’s amounts are also provided. This allows you to compare the actual amount spent or taken in compared to last fiscal year or the planned results presented in the 2020 Budget.

The Consolidated Statement of Financial Position

Otherwise known as a balance sheet, this shows the Province’s net debt, which is an expression of total obligations minus financial assets.

On the left-hand side of the statement the broad categories of the liabilities, financial assets, tangible capital assets and accumulated deficit are listed. On the right-hand side, the amounts are given for both the fiscal year just ended and the previous fiscal year. You can refer to the specified notes and schedules of each of the categories to get more details.

The Consolidated Statement of Change in Net Debt

This statement shows the impact of financing the annual deficit, and investing in capital assets such as highways, bridges and government buildings.

The annual change in the fair value of the Ontario Nuclear Funds Agreement (ONFA) investments is also included in this statement.

The Consolidated Statement of Change in Accumulated Deficit

This statement shows the impact of the annual deficit, restatement adjustments due to changes in accounting standards and unrealized gains and losses due to the changes in the fair value of the ONFA investments.

This statement is essentially a running total of all the annual deficits or surpluses created (see the Consolidated Statement of Operations). The statement also provides a comparison to the previous fiscal year.

The Consolidated Statement of Cash Flow

This statement shows the sources and uses of cash over the fiscal year. Sources of cash include taxes and other revenue, increases in debt and decreases in financial investments. Uses of cash include operating costs and investments in infrastructure and other assets.

The first section looks at the government’s cash flow from its operating activities.

The second section of the statement shows the cash flow from all investing activities, which generally includes sales or purchases of long-term assets like property.

The third section of the statement shows the cash flow from all financing activities.

Notes and schedules

You can refer to the notes and schedules section for more information on the various statements, and a summary of the Province’s accounting policies. To help you understand the financial statements in broad terms, you can read the "Financial Statement Discussion and Analysis" found in the Annual Report. This section gives you a narrative explanation of the Province’s financial performance and position.

Supplementary Information

The supplementary information in the Public Accounts present financial information at a more detailed level.

The Ministry Statements and Schedules contains ministry statements, detailed schedules of debt and other items. This document details where government revenue comes from (taxes, non-tax revenue and income from government business enterprises like the LCBO), alongside the expenses of government ministries.

The Detailed Schedules of Payments contains the details of payments made by ministries to vendors (e.g. third-party staffing agencies, consultants, telecom providers) and transfer payments to recipients that are not a part of the Government of Ontario, ( e.g. municipalities and universities, etc.).

Individual statements of significant provincial corporations, boards and commissions that are part of the government’s reporting entity, as well as other miscellaneous financial statements are available via web link to the organization’s website through ontario.ca/publicaccounts or upon request.

Standards

The Public Accounts are prepared by the Treasury Board Secretariat in accordance with legislation and accounting standards set out by the Public Sector Accounting Board, an independent body that sets nationwide accounting standards for Canada’s public sector.

Key terms

Assets: Resources such as land and buildings, and financial property like cash and loans receivable that are controlled by the government.

Expense: The decrease in economic resources in the period, typically through expenditures or increases in liabilities.

Revenue: The increase in economic resources in the period, typically through the influx of cash or other assets such as receivables (e.g. tax revenue) or decreases in liabilities.

Financial Assets: Property used to discharge liabilities or finance future operations, such as cash, accounts receivable and loans receivable.

Liabilities: Future sacrifices of economic benefits that the entity is presently obliged to make to other entities, typically paid for with cash in the future.

Obligations: Another term for liabilities.

Please see the glossary at the end of the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional and comprehensive definitions.