Province to review Service Ontario closures
By Chad Ingram
Published June 6, 2016
It appears the Wynne government is reviewing a number of Service Ontario office closures planned for late 2016 and early 2017.
In early May, the Times learned the province would close nine Service Ontario offices including ones in Minden, Terrace Bay, Milton, Morrisburg, Embrun, Kemptville, Blind River, Guelph and Mississauga.
The closure of the Minden office is scheduled for the end of November.
According to a spokesperson for the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, factors including proximity to alternate locations, cost effectiveness and operational logistics were among the factors considered in deciding which locations would be closed.
Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott called the planned closure of the Minden facility another slap in the face to small-town Ontario by the urban-centric Wynne government.
A petition started by a Minden Hills resident protesting the closure on change.org has garnered more than 700 signatures and there has been similar blow-back in other communities where Service Ontario office closures are slated.
According to the Elliot Lake Standard, the manager of the chamber of commerce in Blind River called the planned closure of the Service Ontario office there “disastrous,” and as of late May, more than 1,100 people had signed an online petition protesting the closure of the office.
Hundreds of residents also signed an online petition protesting the closure of the Kemptville office.
It was announced early this week that the government would undertake a review of the planned closures.
“We take all customer concerns seriously and are committed to making the best decision possible,” Anne-Marie Flanagan, a media relations officer with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, wrote in an email to the paper. “It is important for us to take more time and do a further review of this decision in order to ensure that we continue to provide the best service for our customers while being fiscally responsible.”
“It’s not the complete victory we’re seeking, but this is a move in the right direction thanks to the tremendous response from the community in taking a strong stand against this ridiculous closure,” said Scott in a release. “Minden has several businesses, including automobile dealerships, that face increased costs and inconvenience to their customers if they lose direct access to a local Service Ontario centre. Closing the centre would cause unnecessary hardship to families and seniors who do not have Internet access or transportation to attend a Service Ontario location outside of the community.”
While a satellite Service Ontario site is located in Haliburton Village, it does not offer the full list of services available at the Minden location.
Both locations offer driver and vehicle services and issue health cards and Ontario photo cards.
The ministry points out these services account for approximately 88 per cent of transactions at the Minden office.
Fish and wildlife services comprise nine per cent of transactions at the Minden site and, the ministry points out, are available online and at private issuers in Minden, including Minden Bait and Tackle on Highway 35 and Canadian Tire on Water Street.
Other services offered at the Minden office include business registrations, business taxes, providing an onsite commissioner of oaths, employment services, land registry services and the provision of landlord tenant board forms and applications.
According to the ministry, this group of services comprises approximately three per cent of transactions at the Minden office.
The next closest location to access these services is Bracebridge. They are also available online.
Scott has started a petition on the matter, copies of which can be found on her website www.lauriescottmpp.com under the "petitions" caption. The number for Scott’s office is 705-324-6654.