Civil service cuts on agenda

PUBLIC FORUM: Forum set for Jan. 10 and 11 in London to champion public servants as necessary for quality service in Ontario

Last Updated: January 5, 2012 7:15pm

Fearing the axe is about to fall on Ontario's public service, civil servants are bringing their concerns to London -- among more than a dozen communities.

The Public Services Foundation of Canada is holding forums and hearings to champion public servants as necessary to ensure quality services remain available for Ontarians.

The initiative comes on the eve of a report from former banker Don Drummond, who will deliver his tough prescription about how Ontario can balance its books by 2017.

Drummond was retained last March by the Ontario government to recommend ways to eliminate the $16-billion provincial deficit. His Commission on the Reform of Public Services in Ontario will suggest sweeping plans to save money.

Leaks suggest Drummond will slash spending on health care and education and Drummond himself has warned his prescription will be painful.

"There's pain in every single chapter," Drummond told a Toronto newspaper this week. To another, he predicted "anger" at the wide-ranging cuts he will suggest.

It is believed he will propose turning back reduced class sizes and pay freezes for physicians, among other austerity measures.

Premier Dalton McGuinty has said belt-tightening is coming. "We're all going to have a role to play," he told reporters. But the decision about what cuts will be made and where will rest with his government, he said.

Judy Wasylycia-Leis, commissioner of the Commission on Quality Public Services and Tax Fairness, is bringing her public forums and hearings to London Jan. 10 and 11.

Her group says Drummond was needlessly handicapped when appointed, by not being allowed to consider increased revenue through tax reform and he will focus his efforts on the hides of public servants.

The forum will hear from community leaders, experts on tax reform and public service providers and a hearing is for the public to share ideas about how improvements can be made.

A large advertisement seeking submissions from concerned citizens has been placed in The Free Press.

The Drummond commission has worked behind closed doors and its work is due to be released within a month, in time to be considered in the Ontario budget.

The public service group complained about the secrecy and is touting its own openness.

"We will gather their evidence (from presenters) and make our own recommendations to the finance minister in time for this year's provincial budget," says a release from the Public Services Foundation.

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If You Go

What: Commission on Quality Public Services and Tax Fairness

Town hall forum: Tues. Jan. 10, 7-9 p.m. London Public Library, 251 Dundas St.

Public hearing: Wed. Jan. 11, 9:30 a.m to noon, London Public Library, 251 Dundas St.

For more information: www.standupontario.org