Ford government to close some ServiceOntario locations

The provincial government is closing some ServiceOntario locations and replacing them with something different. Plus, the push to bring workers back downtown seems to be failing. Richard Southern reports.

The Ford government is closing an unspecified number of ServiceOntario locations, CityNews has learned.

The outlets, where Ontarians can do things like renew driver’s licences and health cards, will be replaced by kiosks inside some Staples Canada stores as part of a pilot project first announced last month.

While the government confirmed in a December 7 news release that ServiceOntario kiosks would open in select Staples Canada stores to “reduce the overall cost to deliver government services to the public,” it made no mention of the fact that a number of centres would be closing.

“A number of factors were considered when our government conducted lengthy consultations with retail partners on the pilot, including the size of stores, parking availability, number of locations across Ontario, and willingness to participate,” a spokesperson within the premier’s office tells CityNews.

“Staples Canada was selected as all locations met this criteria and customers will be able to benefit from a 30 per cent improvement to current service accessibility hours.”

The government says all ServiceOntario locations that are closing will have a new location open in select Staples Canada stores and that service will remain uninterrupted.

Sources tell CityNews that some of the soon-to-be-shuttered locations have been family businesses for decades and that owners were given just 70 days’ notice that their business was being closed.

“Employees of impacted private services providers are also being provided opportunities to continue employment with Staples Canada,” the government spokesperson added.

CityNews reached out to Staples Canada for a comment but has yet to receive a response.

The opposition NDP says the move is another attempt by the Ford government to quietly hand over our public services to private corporations.

“This will simply hurt those already left waiting at ServiceOntario to access services such as renewing their health cards, and more,” said NDP Finance and Treasury Board critic Catherine Fife.

“Closing down ServiceOntario locations without details of how many or how service demands will be managed, especially in Northern and rural parts of the province, is worrisome.”

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner calls it another example of putting backroom deals before everyday Ontarians.

“In what world does it make sense to go to an office supply chain to renew your driver’s licence or health card?” asked Schreiner. “And why is this government so dead-set on selling off the public services Ontarians rely on every single day?”

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