THUNDER BAY – Sarah Campbell continues to seek information from Minister of Natural Resources Michael Gravelle on the issue of Ontario Outdoor Cards. During Question Period on Wednesday, Campbell was up in the Ontario Legislature asking why the Ontario Government has out-sourced the Outdoor Cards to Tennessee. Campbell asked, “How many other jobs are Ontarians missing out on because they are being contracted to other countries?”
Minister Gravelle responded, “Active Outdoors, from Tennessee, was awarded the contract in a fair procurement manner”.
Here is the complete exchange from the Ontario Legislature:
Ms. Sarah Campbell: My question is to the Minister of Natural Resources. Ontarians are losing jobs, and just yesterday your government encouraged us to spend more on local products. Yet the MNR is not practising what its own government is preaching, by outsourcing jobs to the United States while reducing programs and cutting staff levels.
A company in Tennessee now handles Outdoors Cards and fishing licences for Ontario. The moose tag draw happens in Tennessee. Deer and other big-game licence applications also have to go through Tennessee.
Minister, how many other jobs are Ontarians missing out on because they are being contracted to other countries?
Hon. Michael Gravelle: There are so many inaccuracies in that, I don’t know where to begin, other than to say that we have rolled out a new, modern system that makes it easier for anglers and hunters to get their licences. It offers more options for renewing licences online. You do it from your home; you can do it by phone.
Active Outdoors, from Tennessee, was awarded the contract in a fair procurement manner. Certainly, all I can tell you is that since December, more than two million licences have been issued to people in the province of Ontario. Currently, all 69 ServiceOntario locations and hundreds of other private sector locations are also issuing those licences by working through the company. The fact is, this has been helpful in terms of the fishing and hunting community.
Yes, I’ll acknowledge that there were some glitches in the process of moving through it, but it is now moving slowly and certainly in terms of jobs. The Outdoors Cards centre in Peterborough continues to be the focus point for us in terms of the Ministry of Natural Resources.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?
Ms. Sarah Campbell: Minister, hunting season is here. We’ve heard from a number of hunters who have told us they’ve noticed a change to the automated response when they call the licensing and draw application 1-800 number. The Ministry of Natural Resources now seems to be going out of its way to show frustrated hunters that their concerns about the storage of their private information will be fielded in Peterborough by the Ontario Outdoors Card team. Yet the system is still in Tennessee, still outsourced to the United States and still subject to the laws of the jurisdiction where it is sourced, regardless of any contractual obligations imposed by the government upon the private company.
Minister, won’t you admit that outsourcing is not the right thing to do? It costs taxpayers more money, it causes privacy concerns and it’s taking good jobs away from Ontarians.
Hon. Michael Gravelle: I’m actually rather surprised that the member would bring up that issue, particularly as she knows full well that Ontario’s privacy commissioner has made it very, very clear that indeed the private information of Ontarians is absolutely safe.
We’ve got an ironclad contract with the company. The privacy commissioner expressed real confidence in the work we’re doing on ensuring that privacy remains secure. We’ve implemented all the recommendations put forth by the privacy commissioner in her report.
I think I need to actually quote what the privacy commissioner said to us when this issue first surfaced in the spring. She said, “There’s a very tight contract. There are very tight service provisions…. And there’s an audit provision so that their use of data will be carefully audited…. I have no concerns about that whatsoever.”
This continues to be an important issue to us. We’ll always be sure that we protect the privacy of Ontarians, and indeed that is the case.