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Premier Wynne to reveal cabinet plans in bid to boost transparency

Premier Kathleen Wynne will this week make public the written marching orders she has given each of her cabinet ministers – notes that have traditionally been kept secret – in a bid to show her Liberals are ramping up government transparency.

Mark Blinch/The Globe and Mail

Premier Kathleen Wynne will this week make public the written marching orders she has given each of her cabinet ministers – notes that have traditionally been kept secret – in a bid to show her Liberals are ramping up government transparency.

The mandate letters will reveal everything from Ms. Wynne's plan for tackling climate change to her priorities for transit construction to her suggestions on where the government can find the savings necessary to balance the budget, insiders said. They will be released Thursday at a cabinet meeting in Sudbury.

"We want to be a government that works for the people of this province – and with them," Ms. Wynne writes in a common preamble in the missives. "It is of the utmost importance that we lead responsibly, act with integrity, manage spending wisely and are accountable for every action we take."

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The move is part of Ms. Wynne's attempt to break from the Liberals' allegedly secretive past practices. After the cancellation of two gas-fired power plants, her party was accused of covering up vital information on the cost, which has since been estimated at $1-billion.

Each letter, between four and five pages long, contains a list of priorities Ms. Wynne wants that minister to work on.

"There is a fair level of specificity because it's about what the expectations the Premier has for that minister on achieving the goals of the government in their area of responsibility," an official in Ms. Wynne's office said. "It will allow people on a regular basis to check in … and see exactly what progress is being made against the objectives that have been set across the government."

Some priorities have already been detailed in this year's budget. Others will be new, including instructions to Environment Minister Glen Murray on creating a climate-change strategy, which has so far not had much discussion, the official said.

The letter to Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca outlines the government's highway and transit construction priorities, including electrifying the GO regional rail network. The instructions to Deputy Premier Deb Matthews, whose task is to steer the budget to balance, lays out where Ms. Wynne expects her to look for savings: in controlling labour costs and in reforming government agencies, and squeezing as much money as possible out of them.

All the mandate letters outline four overarching priorities for the government: job creation; "investment" in "talent and skills" – such as education and training; infrastructure-building, including public transit; and creating a "dynamic business climate."

"I ask that you continue to build on the strong relationships we have with the Ontario Public Service, the broader public sector, other levels of government, and the private, non-profit and voluntary sectors," Ms. Wynne writes.

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She also warns ministers not to overspend, and to do their part to erase the deficit: "It is essential that every area adheres to the program-spending objectives established in [the budget.]"

Crafting the letters involved a back-and-forth between Ms. Wynne's office and individual ministers over the summer, a government source said. Ontario is the fourth province to make its mandate letters public, after British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

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