THUNDER BAY – “Managed competition” is a term that Peter Shurman is sharing lately. The Ontario Progressive Conservative Finance Critic says, “Ontario needs to unlock a ton of potential, and a goal for government is to embrace a philosophy of getting the most bang for the buck. We don’t have to own it and operate it to do that”.
“I have a vision of an Ontario where we lead the world with faster treatment for our patients and higher test scores for our kids,” Party leader Tim Hudak states. “But our debt is set to triple, draining scarce taxpayer dollars from priority services. These things will only be possible if we get government focused on the core services that matter most to people – and out of the businesses that don’t.”
“Government should take advantage of areas where strong competition already exists to open more services to competitive bids that offer better service at a better price,” adds Shurman.
In Path to Prosperity, a white paper released by the Ontario PCs, there are several proposals.
The PCs state, “The years immediately following the next election must be a time of major change for Ontario, a time when we all work together to get our province back on its feet and creating jobs again. To achieve that goal, we must rethink how we run government so that it provides the services we need at a price we can afford. Ontario’s $14.4-billion deficit tells us that we are a long way from that position now. Without urgent action, the services we truly care about are at risk.
“That’s why we are proposing a New Deal for the public sector. By focusing on the core services that matter most to taxpayers, we believe we can create a leaner public service that delivers more value for less money. Our New Deal will have a clear direction that sets goals, measures outcomes, and then rewards the individuals who help us achieve those outcomes. We will value individuals’ innovation, hard work and delivery of top quality customer service. What we won’t do is give performance bonuses to 98 per cent of managers, just for showing up”.
The PCS will freeze the annual compensation of all employees in the public sector for two years. “We propose a rigorous program review that will examine every provincial expense and transfer payment. Unlike the blue ribbon panel headed by economist Don Drummond, our program review would actively integrate the work of elected officials and senior public servants. This will lead to a budget that actually reduces spending; decreases the size of the government workforce; gets out of activities the government no longer needs to be involved in; and introduces innovative service delivery models”.
“Taxpayers deserve to know why they’re being asked to pay more for government compensation costs. No arbitrator should consider that the ability to tax gives government an infinite ability to pay. For all public sector cases, independent arbitrators should be required to issue written decisions within tight timelines that explain their reasoning. These decisions should be made public in a central online location”.
The PCs state that they want to “Measure productivity and service quality, just like the private sector does, and reward people with outstanding performance accordingly. Once the pay freeze is over, we propose a tightly managed system of performance pay that encourages employees to exceed expectations”.
There are several areas that the PCs are looking to explore new directions with regard to how Ontario does business. One is the Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG), although it likely would not stop there. Shurman points out that there are, at present different processes in place for GoTrains and GoBus in Ontario. The implementation of a ‘bidding process’ would allow both the union and the private sector to try for jobs or contracts.
Shurman pointed to a process in place at present in Toronto where the Toronto District School Board is forced to pay up to $2000 to replace a wall plug because there is no competitive bidding process. There can be a bigger bang for the buck achieved by outsourcing some of those kinds of processes to the private sector. “Our goal is clear. We need a smaller government that focuses on the things that government can do best. We will do less, but do those things better”.