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December 15, 2010 permalink

Ontario finance minister Dwight Duncan says the province will be cutting back in many areas including children's aid.



Ont. to cut agencies, perks for public servants

Taxpayer-paid perks 'drive me crazy:' finance minister

Dwight Duncan
Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan says he is eliminating perks for civil servants.
(Canadian Press)

Ontario's Liberal government plans to get rid of at least 12 of its 259 agencies and eliminate perks like golf club and gym memberships for public servants, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said Tuesday in Toronto.

The number of government agencies will be reduced by five per cent as part of the government's cost-cutting plans to trim the near $19-billion deficit, Duncan announced in a speech to the Canadian Club.

"In these difficult times, we need to look under every stone to cut back on agencies with overlapping functions or agencies whose function could either cease to exist or simply be performed more efficiently by other means," he said.

"We are looking in our own backyard, and we are also working with our partners to manage even better, together, in lean times."

The government has already identified more than a dozen children's aid societies that will be consolidated into half that number, and other CAS agencies have asked to be added to the list, said Duncan.

"Change can be difficult, but these changes are essential," he said.

However, the Opposition said there are much bigger agencies that should be eliminated, such as the Ontario Power Authority and Local Health Integration Networks set up by the Liberals across Ontario.

"Honest to God, you could take any three letters of the alphabet, put them in any order that you want to, and you'll get some Ontario government agency, board or commission that you've never heard of but you're paying tens of millions of dollars a year to sustain," said Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak.

"We need to do a sunset review process on all agencies, boards, commissions and government programs to justify their ongoing value, and if they can't, you close them down."

'No money for executive luxuries'

Duncan also announced a ban on golf club and gym memberships, season tickets to sporting events, and lump sum payments for travel without receipts, throughout the broader public service.

"This government wouldn't put up with the box at the Air Canada Centre, and we won't put up with unacceptable perks paid for with hard-earned taxpayer and ratepayer dollars," he said.

Auditor's reports pointing out frills and perks paid for with tax dollars "drive me crazy," admitted the finance minister.

"We don't want to be spending time dealing with ACC boxes, nanny fees and dry cleaning," said Duncan.

"There is no money for executive luxuries."

The rule restricting perks will affect hospitals, universities and all Ontario government agencies, as well as the direct civil service.

"It's important to say that, in my view, the vast majority of public sector workers are very responsible and prudent," said Duncan.

"And they don't take or receive these perks. Now is the time to be extra clear about unacceptable perks, and to specify taxpayer expectations in law."

There was no word on how much trimming the number of agencies and cancelling the perks will save the cash-strapped government, which has also imposed a two-year wage freeze on the public sector.

The province is also cancelling two different awards programs set up in Premier Dalton McGuinty's name, which Duncan said will save about $2.5 million a year.

"Yes, these awards were created by our government, and while innovation is still a priority, these awards are not," he said.

Source: CBC