TORONTO, Feb. 17, 2017 /CNW/ - In a stunning victory for nine Ontario communities, most of them rural, the provincial government has announced that their publicly operated ServiceOntario centres, which had been slated for closure, will remain open.
The announcement comes nine months after the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services said it would permanently shutter ServiceOntario offices in Mississauga, Terrace Bay, Guelph, Milton, Minden, Embrun, Morrisburg, Blind River, and Kemptville.
Following an intense campaign launched by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which represents workers in publicly operated offices, the government announced just one month later that it was "reviewing" its decision and putting the closures on temporary hold.
"This is an absolutely remarkable turn of events," said Mickey Riccardi, acting chair of the Central Employee Relations Committee. "It demonstrates the formidable power that ordinary people wield when they rise up against bad public policy. And closing public ServiceOntario centres in small and rural communities is terrible public policy."
This is not the first time the government has backed down on plans to close publicly operated ServiceOntario centres in small communities. Last month, it shelved plans to slash staffing and operations at the public ServiceOntario centres in the northern towns of Ignace and Atikokan after OPSEU, residents, and local officials voiced their outrage to the minister and the government.
"Across the province, people are pushing back on cuts to public services and privatization," explained Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU. "They're hearing – from people like the Auditor General – about the tremendous waste of their tax dollars through outsourcing and public-private partnerships. They're also discovering no one is immune to this assault on public services.
"And this government is discovering that its austerity agenda, ordered up by its corporate friends and inflicted on the people of Ontario, has long passed its sell-by date," he added. "Ordinary Ontarians are angry and fed up with a government that pretends to listen to them at election time, while ex-bankers dictate fiscal and public policy the rest of the time.
"Public services should be delivered by public servants. Public assets belong to the public. We own them. And if the government continues giving bigger and bigger pieces of the public pie to for-profit interests, nothing will save them from an electorate hungry for change in 2018."
SOURCE Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)
For further information: Mickey Riccardi, 519-981-7748