ServiceOntario fee increases not justified

March 2, 2016

QUEEN’S PARK – MPP JIM McDonell questioned Minister Orazietti today regarding ServiceOntario’s planned focus on digital services without a concurrent reduction in processing fees.

“The Government expects all fees to be indexed to inflation, however the fee and license revenue is projected to have increased by 30% since 2013, way above the rate of inflation” MPP McDonell commented. “The Auditor-General highlighted that the processing cost of an online application is almost a quarter of the cost of doing so in person, however online users haven’t seen a decrease in the fees they are charged, as was the Auditor’s recommendation. Considering this Government’s focus on taking as much from Ontarians as they can get away with, I suspect those who need in-person service such as seniors, disabled Ontarians and Ontarians on social assistance who may not  have access to online banking or a credit card will find themselves paying an additional premium for in-person service they can ill afford. The Minister avoided addressing the issue of additional costs completely”.

ServiceOntario expects to transition to a “digital-by-default” model where users are expected to complete their transaction online unless special circumstances occur.

“We have seen the Government close down ServiceOntario kiosks and service outlets” MPP McDonell stated. “If, in an effort to raise fee revenue, the Liberals impose an additional tax on in-person service it could spell the end of franchised service locations, known for providing much more personable, prompt and convenient service at a fraction of the cost it takes to deliver the same service at a publicly owned Service Ontario outlet. These locations provide all the assistance a constituent may need because they know their contract depends on customers being satisfied every day.”

The uptake of online services for ServiceOntario remained unchanged at 30% between 2012 and 2015, according to the Auditor-General.

“If our office is any indication, a significant portion of this statistic are constituents who came to our office after being turned away at a ServiceOntario counter without being assisted in completing the forms in any way” MPP McDonell concluded. “We are happy to help them apply online in order to get their documents faster, however it should be up to ServiceOntario to ensure it has the tools, ability and willingness to fully serve Ontarians whose tax dollars built the agency and maintain it”.