TORONTO – More
communities in Ontario’s north will suffer a huge loss of service as a
result of government cuts to ServiceOntario counters.
February, customer counters in Wawa, Gore Bay on Manitoulin Island, and
Hearst will have their hours of operation slashed in half from 42.5 hours
per week to 16, 22, and 25 hours respectively. The counter in Rainy River
had its weekly hours chopped from 42.5 to 16 last November. The
ServiceOntario counter in South Porcupine will close Feb. 1. Residents there
will have to drive to Timmins for in-person service.
The five counters
are among the 22 ServiceOntario sites labelled “low-volume” by the
government, 21 of which are in the north. All will see their hours reduced,
possibly in the coming months, as full-time permanent employees retire. The
additional so-called “low-volume” sites are: Atikokan, Blind River, Chapleau,
Cochrane, Espanola, Geraldton, Ignace, Iroquois Falls, Kapuskasing,
Manitouwadge, Marathon, Moosonee, Nipigon, Rainy River, Red Lake, Sioux
Lookout, Terrace Bay, as well as Stratford in southern Ontario.
The wave of
service cuts started in November when four counters in Oshawa, Newmarket,
Toronto and Chatham were closed.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas is calling on incoming premier Kathleen Wynne to
immediately review this government action and start putting priority to
providing good service to all Ontarians, regardless of geography.
use ServiceOntario to get birth certificates, driver’s licences, health
cards, and other government identification,” Thomas said. “Just because
these counters aren’t as busy as those elsewhere in the province doesn’t
mean people should lose what is basically an essential service.”
the service cuts are to make ServiceOntario appear more attractive for a
private sector buyer since the government announced last February its intent
to privatize a service which contributes $2.7 billion to government
revenues. Thomas also warns that the loss of government control and
oversight will put the privacy of Ontarians’ personal information at risk.
public sector workers, our members’ only priority is to provide service and
protect personal information,” Thomas said. “What will happen when a private
company takes over and ‘making a profit’ gets added to the list?”