Ford Government Expands ServiceOntario Privatization Plan Into More Private 3rd-Party Retailers

Unlike the previous exclusive arrangement with Staples Canada, which was awarded without open tender, the government now invites retailers to express their interest through a competitive process.

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The Ford government advances its plan to transition additional ServiceOntario outlets to third-party private retailers. Unlike the previous exclusive arrangement with Staples Canada, which was awarded without open tender, the government now invites retailers to express their interest through a competitive process.

According to a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) issued by the Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery, the government seeks to pre-qualify potential partners for a Lease Model retail collaboration with ServiceOntario. This initiative aims to identify retailers of varying sizes capable of providing suitable space and meeting ServiceOntario’s operational requirements.

This shift marks a departure from the government’s earlier strategy, which involved closing small business-operated ServiceOntario outlets and relocating them to Staples Canada stores without open tender. Minister Todd McCarthy justified the new approach, stating that it aligns with the government’s practice of engaging multiple potential partners.

Asked by 680 NewsRadio Toronto why the government is now taking a different approach, Minister Todd McCarthy said the method is consistent.

“We always reach out to multiple potential partners,” he said.

Under the RFQ, interested retailers must offer centrally located, accessible premises with ample parking, cost-effective lease terms, and sufficient space. This move suggests a potential consolidation of privately operated ServiceOntario outlets, where proprietors currently cover rental and employee expenses, as well as store upgrades.

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Minister McCarthy emphasized that the number of ServiceOntario outlets transitioning to existing retailers will depend on the response to the current process, indicating openness to expanding the initiative.

When asked how many more ServiceOntario outlets are moving into existing retailers, Minister McCarthy said that will be determined based on the reaction to the current process.

“I wouldn’t put an upper limit on it at all. I would just say we’re going to hear from as many interested potential partners as we can.”

McCarthy defended the move by saying, “We have a growing population… I have to make sure we have more service, longer hours, more locations.”

Critics, including NDP leader Marit Stiles, express concern over the government’s privatization agenda, arguing that it undermines public service provision and places additional burdens on Ontarians. Stiles highlights the lack of consultation with affected businesses and the potential adverse effects on service accessibility.

The government, however, defends its actions by emphasizing the need to accommodate Ontario’s growing population with enhanced service availability. Minister McCarthy asserts that the objective is to offer more service options, longer operating hours, and increased geographic coverage.

In response to criticisms, the government maintains its commitment to maximizing service accessibility and efficiency, framing the initiative as a proactive response to demographic and operational demands.

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