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Ford government insists ‘no new’ agreements signed in ServiceOntario controversy

The Ford government says “no new agreements” have been signed as part of its controversial plans to relocate some ServiceOntario locations to kiosks inside two big box store chains.

The province has been under pressure after reports emerged that it was planning to close some ServiceOntario locations and open kiosks in Staples stores instead.

On Monday, CityNews reported Ontario was also considering Walmart as part of the plan and would be paying for the retrofitting costs to move ServiceOntario locations inside both Walmart and Staples stores.

In response to questions, a spokesperson for the Ford government emphasized that no “new” contracts had been signed.

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“We are always looking for ways to deliver better, more convenient service to people across Ontario,” a spokesperson said.

“As we do, we’ll continue to engage with partners who can help us deliver on this commitment. No new agreements have been finalized.”

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The news Walmart is also part of the plan to relocate ServiceOntario locations comes after the premier’s office confirmed the government was planning to close some ServiceOntario locations and open kiosks in Staples stores.

The plan, a spokesperson said at the time, was a pitch to “streamline” operations and deliver services in a “cost-effective way.” They said the move came after “lengthy” consultations.

An internal government communication laying out key issues and how to respond to them told Progressive Conservative aides and MPPs that the consultations included the size of stores, availability of parking lots and willingness of stores to participate in the scheme.

“Staples Canada was selected as all locations met this criteria and customers will be able to benefit from a 30 per cent improvement to current service accessibility hours,” the memo, obtained by Global News, said.

The decision to move some ServiceOntario locations inside big box stores has sparked a furious response from opposition parties.

The Ontario NDP accused the Ford government of “rewarding their corporate CEO friends” Staples and Walmart instead of supporting small businesses.

Bonnie Crombie, Ontario Liberal leader, said the plan was an example of Ford “catering to wealthy Conservative insiders.”

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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