Ontario’s long-awaited report on public service reform was released Feb. 15 and it makes recommendations to clamp down on education and health-care spending and scrap some popular programs. Nicknamed the “Drummond Report,” the government-commissioned report contains austerity measures to keep a $16-billion deficit from spiraling out of control.
Suggestions include scrapping the Liberals' signature all-day kindergarten program and increasing school class sizes; eliminating electricity bill rebates and a resource tax credit.
The report also suggests the province update its current interest arbitration system. Report author Don Drummond, a former federal finance official who played a key role in wrestling down Canada's large federal deficit in the 1990s, suggests creating an independent tribunal or commission to create and manage a roster or panel of arbitrators. Drummond recommends limiting the timeframe for the process, as well as developing specific criteria that arbitrators would be required to account for when making their awards or decisions.
"The challenge and the solution will have to be pretty much unprecedented in Canadian postwar history,” Drummond told reporters. “It won't work if you just have a mindset of 'I'm just going to take some money out of here and there."
The report also recommends the government implement a voluntary movement to centralized bargaining for municipalities, particularly for police and firefighting bargaining.
“The benefit of this voluntary approach of centralization for municipal bargaining is that municipalities might not be completely ‘centralized,’ but rather become ‘more centralized’ in bargaining,” the report reads. “The larger municipalities, or some groups of them, will tend to bargain together, and, likewise, the smaller municipalities will bargain together but separate from the larger ones.”
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) — a non-profit organization representing almost all of the province’s 444 municipal governments — says it will work with the government to work towards a fiscally sustainable future.
“AMO looks forward to having productive discussions with the Ontario government prior to preparation of the 2012 provincial budget,” says AMO president Gary McNamara.
The suggestions in the report will delay the province’s economic recovery and put more Ontarians out of work, according to the Ontario provincial president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
“Using third-party expert reports to justify unnecessary public service cuts didn’t fool Toronto and won’t fool Ontario,” says CUPE president Fred Hahn. “At the end of the day, the only Drummond recommendations that people need to worry about are the ones that show up in McGuinty’s budget. Instead of putting thousands of people out of work and destroying public services, we need a budget that invests in jobs and growth.”
— with files from Reuters
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