Big changes in store for the OPS
There’s some bad
news in the 2011-12 Ontario budget for OPSEU members in the Ontario Public
In essence, the government is saying
that Ontario has turned the corner and things are improving. This means it’s
time to put the emphasis back on deficit reduction. The budget documents make
it very clear that this priority will be achieved in large measure at the
expense of the OPS.
The government is
committed to a further reduction of 1,500 positions in the OPS in addition to
the current five per cent reduction already announced.
In addition, as we
have speculated, it looks like ServiceOntario could be divested or privatized.
The government states that the current model for ServiceOntario as a government
model of service delivery will be “tested against the private sector.”
that deals specifically with the OPS is entitled 2011
Ontario Budget: Managing Responsibly. The following is taken from this
Specific actions to find savings and reform
public service delivery include:
Exploring alternative service delivery
models for ServiceOntario, including leveraging private-sector investments
through a competition. It will also explore opportunities to expand
ServiceOntario’s one-stop delivery network to other lines of business,
including delivering services on behalf of other governments through
Reducing the size of the Ontario Public
Service (OPS) by an additional 1,500 positions between April 2012 and March
2014. This is in addition to the reduction of about 3,400 full-time OPS
employees announced in the 2009 Budget
Cancelling construction of the Toronto West
Courthouse, with savings of $181 million over the next three years.
Closing jails in Owen Sound, Walkerton and
Sarnia, and partially closing Toronto West Detention Centre. Inmates will be
transferred to new, larger, more efficient facilities.
The government will seek new consolidation
Collections: A number of different and
separate collections functions exist within the OPS. The government is
proposing to move towards a more coordinated and centralized collections
function within the Ministry of Revenue to reduce costs and enhance
Audits and special investigations: The
Ministry of Revenue operates a comprehensive compliance audit function for
11 tax statutes. The ministry has also provided audit support to several
other ministries. To enhance regulatory audit compliance within the OPS, the
ministry is proposing to provide a coordinating audit/inspection support
function to all ministries. In addition, the Ministry of Revenue is
proposing to provide support to other ministries and BPS organizations where
forensic data recovery and forensic accounting services are required.
Laboratories: The government currently has
eight laboratories across six ministries, performing a variety of functions.
The cost of these laboratory services is $54 million per year. While
continuing to protect public safety, the government will take steps to
better align laboratory services across several ministries, including
consolidating common testing functions, pooling specialized procurements of
supplies and equipment, and exploring facility consolidation.
Research: The Ontario government conducts
research on a number of fronts. The government will create a specialized
organization with a clear mandate to focus research activities on
productivity growth in key sectors. This will better leverage private-sector
investments and result in estimated cost savings of $3 million over three
Geographic information systems: The numerous
geographic information system-related programs existing across 18 ministries
will be explored for consolidation.
Benefits administration: The Province
provides Ontarians with more than $20 billion a year in income-based
benefits and tax relief through more than 40 programs, delivered with the
support of the federal government, municipalities and BPS organizations.
Multiple application processes make it difficult for some Ontarians to
access these programs. To streamline client access to program information,
the government has created a one-window portal where individuals can find
information quickly and easily. The government is also investigating other
changes to further improve benefits program delivery.
Prison modernization: The government is
constructing two new state-of-the-art facilities with modern features and
advanced technologies that enhance public safety. The government will close
underutilized prisons in Owen Sound, Walkerton and Sarnia, and partially
close Toronto West Detention Centre. It is anticipated that this will reduce
expenditures on the transferred inmates from the oldest facilities by more
than 50 per cent, while achieving over $8 million in annual savings.
Imaging and data capture services: The
Ministry of Revenue will work with ministries across the OPS to leverage its
imaging and data capture services to improve and automate document-capture
and transactional processing for their programs. This will reduce program
costs; speed up the delivery of services to the public; increase secured
access to documents electronically; and, for programs with approved
record-retention schedules, reduce the size of the government’s office-space
footprint by moving millions of paper files to secured electronic records.
Environmental cleanup: Environmental cleanup
is currently carried out through four ministries. Going forward, the
Province will consolidate environmental cleanup activities. Key components
of this initiative will include integrating funding for cleanup activities,
establishing a single inventory of contaminated sites, and developing a
risk-based approach to project prioritization.
Direct business support: The government has
supported the growth of small, medium and large businesses in Ontario since
2003. Now that the government has fundamentally changed the cost structure
for business through Ontario’s Tax Plan for Jobs and Growth, there is less
need for direct business support. Over the coming years, the government will
reduce direct business support while simultaneously moving towards a single
window for direct business support programs across the government.
The Liberals go on to state that they
will be opening up the provision of various services currently provided by the
government to competition. After praising it for improving
service delivery to Ontarians, the Budget suggests big changes are in store for
ServiceOntario: “The government will build on ServiceOntario’s accomplishments
to achieve even greater service and value for Ontarians. The government will
explore alternative service delivery models for ServiceOntario, including
leveraging private-sector investments through a competition, and will explore
opportunities to expand its one-stop delivery network to other lines of
business, including delivering services on behalf of other governments through
privatization of ServiceOntario is a distinct possibility. But the Budget
doesn’t stop there, as this quote from the Budget shows:
One way to
improve productivity is to open up the provision of government services to new
forms of competition. Competition determines whether services could be delivered
more efficiently and effectively by another entity, be it another level of
government, a not-for-profit, a social enterprise or a private sector
organization. Just because a particular government department delivers a program
today does not mean it should deliver it tomorrow. This is particularly true if
another entity could deliver the program more efficiently and effectively, while
maintaining high service levels. Through competition, the government expects to
realize better customer service outcomes. Decisions will be based on a rigorous
assessment of the impact on customer services and efficiencies to be achieved.
The private sector would not necessarily be the delivery partner of choice.
The government will be looking at
new models of service delivery in at least two other areas:
Court enforcement services: Currently
enforcement officers perform duties including the seizure/sale of assets.
The government will look at the feasibility of other delivery agents
performing enforcement-officer functions.
Building on Infrastructure Ontario’s
success: The Province intends to expand the role and mandate of IO into new
sectors and a broader range of projects, which apparently will result in
greater efficiencies and more savings for the province.
The government will also be approaching the
federal government to discuss a realignment of federal/provincial
responsibilities. This could include such things as:
devolving direct funding and responsibility
for immigrant settlement programs to the province;
devolving direct funding and responsibility
for remaining labour-market development programs to the province;
transferring responsibility to the federal
government for all inmates serving sentences of over six months.
The government will also be looking
at new partnerships, especially with social enterprise, which
“uses private markets to pursue public goals.” This seems to be just new
language to describe another way of divesting public services to the private and
Ruth Hamilton, Local Services Supervisor (OPS)
Randy Robinson, Political Economist
Ontario Budget Index Page