McGuinty government slashes redundant agencies
TheStar.com – news/Canada/politics
Published On Tue Mar 15 2011. Robert Benzie, Queen’s Park Bureau Chief
The Liberals are scrapping more than a dozen redundant agencies in the wake of a sweeping report urging better governance of provincial organizations.
And sources told the Star more are on the chopping block with Ontario’s Byzantine electricity sector poised for streamlining.
Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, scrambling to rein in an $18.7 billion budget deficit this year, announced the latest changes Tuesday.
Duncan said he wants to “get value out of every dollar and focus funds on the priorities of Ontario families.”
“We’ve gone beyond the goal we set to reduce the number of provincial classified agencies by five per cent,” he said, referring to the 258 agencies, boards, commissions, councils, authorities, foundations and trusts overseen by Queen’s Park.
To that end, Duncan has taken a leaf out of Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak’s book.
Hudak, who leads public opinion polls with an election set for Oct. 6, has promised “a mandatory sunset review process that forces every government body to justify their existence and continued value to the public.”
The Liberals’ elimination of the 13 obsolete agencies — including melding the Stadium Corporation of Ontario, which managed the province’s interests in the SkyDome, into a previously announced hybrid of Infrastructure Ontario and the Ontario Realty Corporation — will save only $200,000 a year.
The government will, however, reap $4.2 million from the stadium agency’s bank account for provincial coffers, and any additional assets will be sold off.
Gone are the Toronto Area Transit Operating Agency, the Social Assistance Review Board, the Healing Arts Radiation Protection Commission, and the North Pickering Development Corporation, among others.
Untouched — for now — are the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, Metrolinx, Cancer Care Ontario, eHealth Ontario, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and others.
Also not yet being revamped are Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One, though sources confide changes could loom for the Ontario Power Authority in Duncan’s March 29 budget.
Insiders say the Liberals — worried Hudak’s complaint about “bloated hydro bureaucracy” is gaining traction with voters angry at soaring energy costs — are considering some radical restructuring.
That would see the functions of the power authority, which runs green energy and conservation programs in the province, absorbed by both the Independent Electricity System Operator and the Ontario Electricity Financial Corporation.
Tuesday’s move came as the government finally released a report by Rita Burak, the former head of the Ontario public service, recommending improvements to the province’s agencies.
Burak — whose 119-page review was delivered to Premier Dalton McGuinty on Dec. 20 — said Ontario’s agencies are well governed, but in need of improvement.
The former cabinet secretary and one-time board chair of both Hydro One and eHealth found some don’t bother to issue annual reports.
“These time frames were not being universally adhered to,” she concluded.
Her study found inexperienced appointees can cause problems for agencies because “they may not appreciate the full public service ethos.”
Duncan said the government would adopt Burak’s recommendations.
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