(BELLE RIVER, ON) – A union representing provincial workers has lost its campaign for the government itself to run a ServiceOntario facility in Belle River. The outlet, which has been closed for a number of months, will re-open at 9:00am tomorrow.
In a tightly-worded bulletin released just before noon on Friday, Ontario’s Ministry of Government and Consumer Services confirmed the office will be operated by the private sector on contract to the Ministry. Its operating hours have been fixed at 9:00am until 5:00pm, Tuesday through Friday.
The new centre will be housed at 195 Ouellette Street. The bulletin noted it will have, “… many accessible features including an automatic door opener, barrier-free access, and accessible parking.”
However, the reopening of the government service centre was not without controversy.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has been vocal in trying to convince the government to take over the operation and staff it with employees on the government payroll. In a February 18 news release the union’s president, Warren (Smokey) Thomas, said the time had come for the government to, “… give the people of Belle River easy, dependable access to a new health card, a new driver’s licence, and the full slate of public services delivered by dedicated professionals.”
Thomas reminded the government about the office’s customers paying, “… taxes, just as any other resident in Ontario. They deserve public services where they live, too.”
Although the re-opening of the office will return counter service for such items as driver’s licences, the government’s bulletin trumpeted the success of its online operation, saying it now has 40 different services available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
According to the bulletin, Ontario is the first province in Canada to allow drivers to renew their licences online. It added that the service has exceeded a 99 per cent success rate for service guarantees.
Last year, ServiceOntario processed more than 17 million online interactions. Despite the union’s protests, when the private sector operator closed the Belle River location, the Ministry promised it would re-open by mid-July with a new operator.
It has kept its promise.