‘Left high and dry:’ Former ServiceOntario owner shocked over closure after 23 years

A ServiceOntario owner who had their business of 23 years closed by the Ford government speaks to CityNews in a broadcast exclusive. Richard Southern with why she feels like she's been "thrown in the garbage".

By Richard Southern and Meredith Bond

The owner of the ServiceOntario location in Welland, one of 11 being shut down by the provincial government, said she has been left high and dry in the deal that will see the locations move to Staples and Walmart kiosks.

Klaudia Savona has run the ServiceOntario location for 23 years and worked at the same spot for 17 years prior. She tells CityNews just over two months ago the Ford government informed her in an online meeting that they would be terminating her contract.

“I’m now tearing everything down and just clearing out. I have no job. No pension, no unemployment,” explained Savona. She had four full-time and one part-time employee that she had to pay severance to but said she has not received a dime from the province.

“I had no words. I couldn’t even think of a question to ask them. I was in such shock and the coldness that I felt from them was just disheartening.”

CityNews learned earlier this week that the provincial government was giving Staples $1.75 million for retrofitting the kiosks as officials said the deal would save $900,000 over three years.

Savona said she didn’t know where the savings would come from as she was responsible for all the costs of her location.

“They have never paid one cent towards my rent. I have to pay the rent, the hydro, the gas, the phone, the employees. We personally constructed all this, probably cost me upwards of $40,000 of my own money,” she said.

She calls the idea that Staples, a U.S.-based company, is receiving funds to retrofit the new ServiceOntario kiosk a “kick in the gut.”

The Ford government has not responded to multiple requests to see the business case or share more information on where the savings will come from.

Premier Ford has said one of the main reasons for the move was convenience as Staples Canada and Walmart will be offering evening and weekend hours. But Savona said they were never asked to extend their hours.

She said owners of some of the other locations feel the same as her.

“They’re in shock. They can’t understand what the government is thinking. I felt like I’ve just been treated very poorly as well as the other owners. We’ve all had conversations and it’s just like we’ve been thrown right in the garbage,” she said.

All three opposition parties have urged Premier Ford to provide more transparency for the sole-sourced deal while the Green Party and Ontario Liberals have asked the Auditor General to do a value-for-money audit on the move.

In a letter addressed to the Premier on Thursday, Liberal leader Bonnie Crombie urged Ford to start answering questions about his government’s deal and “end the ServiceOntario cover-up.”

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