QUEEN’S PARK — During question period Monday, NDP MPPs Catherine Fife (Waterloo) and Lisa Gretzky (Windsor West) revealed that the privatization of employment services in Peel Region was already attempted once in a failed, 15-year-old Liberal pilot program.
For its employment services privatization pilot in Peel, the Ford government hired for-profit provider WCG to run Employment Ontario, Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) employment services, this being the exact company the McGuinty Liberal government used for its employment services privatization pilot from 2005 to 2007 — a program the Liberals abandoned after an independent report deemed it unsuccessful.
“Community providers have spent weeks raising red flags about this government’s plan to privatize Ontario employment services,” Fife said. “Now we learn that not only is the Ford government putting good local jobs and the well-being of vulnerable Ontarians in jeopardy, it is repeating the same mistakes made by the previous Liberal government.”
Gretzky added: “An independent report following the Liberal privatization pilot found that it was both ineffective, and did not save the government money. The result? The Liberals were forced to abandon the plan.”
The amalgamation and contracting out of employment services to companies like WCG, a subsidiary of an Australian-based company, is expected to lead to an erosion of service levels and local job losses. Findings from the independent report found that jobs secured by WCG were low-paying or short-term, and that the “results-based payment structure” meant clients were often inappropriately placed in ill-suited jobs.
“It’s clear that first the Liberals and now the Ford government have no interest in prioritizing the needs of unemployed Ontarians and people receiving OW and ODSP,” Fife said.
Gretzky noted, “Doug Ford has created a system where taxpayers will pay for foreign-owned employment services companies to make a profit, all on the backs of Ontario’s most vulnerable individuals.”
- WCG International Consultants Ltd. (WCG) is a private social service delivery corporation that was announced as the chosen provider of Employment Ontario services for the Peel region, one of three pilot areas.
- WCG was actually chosen to deliver the JobsNow service from April 1, 2005 to May 31, 2007 to six Ontario Works pilot sites including: City of Ottawa, City of Windsor, Regional Municipality of Peel, Regional Municipality of Durham, City of Hamilton." (PAGE 1)
The results, according to the Evaluation of the JobsNow Pilot Final Report:
- "… the results-based payment structure may have unintended negative effects such as encouraging placement of clients in inappropriate jobs." (PAGE 11)
- "Ontario Works staff did not buy-in to the philosophy of a private sector approach to providing services to their clients. They expressed concerns that a performance-based approach would lead to less emphasis on the needs of the clients." (PAGE 14)
- "There were three issues with respect to the pre-screening process. The first related to inappropriate individuals being assigned to JobsNow (e.g. serious health issues, in school full-time, etc.)... The second issue raised by key informants was that some clients were less job ready than others." (PAGE 15)
- "The average span of employment for JobsNow participants who found employment was nine months while they were in the pilot.” (PAGE 24)
- "According to the focus group participants, the key barrier to leaving Ontario Works was that most jobs secured through JobsNow were low paying or short-term jobs." (PAGE 26)
- The reduction in Income Assistance (IA) payments to the JobsNow participants resulted in a $7.6 million performance fee to be paid to WCG. Since there was a similar decrease in IA payments for the control that received regular Ontario Works programming, there were no incremental reductions in IA that could be attributed to JobsNow." (PAGE 35)